Is it possible to care too much for others? Many of the world’s religions and inspirational humanitarians encourage us to be compassionate to the people in our lives. Yet, it is difficult to find tangible tools on how to refill our hearts when Compassion Fatigue set in. I am not referring to the burnout from working too much or from excessive stress. Compassion Fatigue is the strain that your heart feels when you are in prolonged caregiver roles. Nurses, Teachers, Physicians, and Therapists are people known for experiencing this heaviness in their heart from the countless, heart wrenching stories they hear. Yet any parent who has been in an emergency room waiting room more than once can also relate.
As a Healer, my experience of Compassion Fatigue is that my heart gets dry when I see too many people. I get grumpy, and my normal filters begin to wane. In this depleted state, my heart becomes a magnet for the heavy stories of the people I help. Another way to say it is that when my emotional endurance dips, my clients stories somehow become my stories. Before the session, I might feel happy or bright. After the session, I may feel heavy or tired, even though the client had a great session. This is my indication that I have taken on something from my client.
Though Compassion Fatigue is so prevalent, I am surprised at how little practices are out there for remedying a burdened heart. The cure to Compassion Fatigue clearly requires self care. In other words, you need to love and care for your own heart even more than you love and care for the hearts of others. But how do we make this shift? How do we tend to our tired hearts?
At the end of each week, I have a personal ritual that I do to release any heaviness in my heart from the deep emotional work. In Hawaiian, they call this Au Au Kai, (cleansing to the ocean).
The first part of the Ritual is the Exhale, or the release. I think of each client that I have worked with one by one while feeling my body. If I took on any burden from them, I name it. I express anything I am feeling to the ocean out loud, whether I feel confused, hurt, angry, sad, or anxious. It doesn’t matter what the feeling may be, I just fell it and release it. By letting myself express these things uncensored, the charge or heaviness in my body can move into the ocean. For me, saying them aloud makes it more powerful. Then, I make a wish for that client based on what we did in the session. By doing this, I ensure that I do not carry the heaviness of my clients into my own life. It’s just good Healer Hygiene.
The next part of the Ritual is the Inhale. This is where I let the beauty of my surroundings, that fresh, tropical mana, to flow into my body. I don’t just breathe through my nose and mouth. I also soak up the sun through my skin and feel the ocean mist go into my chest. It is the Celebration of my own life which is separate from the suffering of those I help. The Exhale creates the space for Gratitude, and the Inhale Celebrates it. What makes this ritual powerful is the clear intent to care for your own heart and the consistency of making that space for your heart to breathe. It prevents you from dumping these hard feelings on those you love.
At times, I sing an honor song to acknowledge the ancestors of those I work with. I recently worked with a survivor of the Holocaust, so I sang for their family to the ocean. A moment later, a pod of spinner dolphins raced across the water, squealing, playing, and breaching. Joyous.
Join my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/people/G-Kamana-Hunter/669812856 I am available for personal sessions by phone if you would like to create your own Heart Cleansing Ritual. email firstname.lastname@example.org Be good to your heart!