For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a certain type of sensitivity that felt different than the folks around me. Loud noises would catch me off guard and scare me to death, bright lights always felt too bright, thriller movies hit me harder than the other girls at the sleepover (after watching the Sixth Sense, I wouldn’t shower with the curtain closed for months). Now I’m in my late 20s and I am still as sensitive as ever. I regularly pick up on other people’s energy. When a friend is upset, I have trouble not taking on their feelings. When I read about hard times in the news, I feel the weight of the world in a way that makes it hard for me to get out of bed in the morning. And for whatever reason, I’m always that person that strangers tell all of their secrets to. I used to feel confused by, and even ashamed of my sensitivity, but then a friend introduced me to Jordan Catherine Pagán, a healer and medicine maker behind Ostara Apothecary. Within minutes of meeting Pagán, she told me what an empath was and that I, like her, might be one, too. Not only that, she explained that my sensitivity was my superpower.
Drawing upon her Yaqui heritage and connection with the natural world, Pagán makes plant and stone medicine to heal people on multidimensional levels. She also practices Pranayama Breathwork, Reiki, 13th Octave LaHoChi, and Tarot as tools for soul transformation, and hosts healing circles and herbal medicine classes around New York.
When I found out she was hosting an Empath Empowerment Workshop at Myths of Creation, a spiritually inclined boutique in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I immediately had to sign up. In this interview, I talk with Pagán about the moment she knew she was an empath and what are the signs you might be one, too.
What is an Empath?
An empath is a person who is highly sensitive to the world around them and are able to receive information on an energetic, emotional level. They are able to easily pick up on the energies around them, especially when it comes to others’ emotions. An empath can feel others’ emotions acutely as if they were their own, and it often can affect them physically. Empaths are also very intuitive because they can feel everything that’s going on.
What are the signs that someone is an empath? How can you find out if you are one?
Everyone is an empath! Really! Every human can feel things on a “gut” level (intuition) and can pick up on the vibes in a space. As children, we learned about the Five Senses, which is how we use our physical body to experience the world around us. But we are more than just physical bodies. What’s more, those physical bodies are capable of receiving so much information, far beyond what we can see, hear, smell, taste or touch. However, not everyone is connected to these abilities or as sensitive as those who are labeled as an ’empath.’
If you think you might be one, you’re right! If you feel easily overwhelmed by large groups or crowds, can walk into a room and feel the vibe of exactly what’s going on, are sensitive to loud noises, bright lights or strong smells, people seek you out for comfort and to confide in you, your mood is easily changed after being in certain spaces or with certain people, people get “stuck” in your head, and/or have trouble figuring out what’s yours energetically/emotionally… then you are an empath.
How did you first realize you were an empath?
I don’t actually remember how the word “empath” came into my consciousness! But it was in my first year of living in New York, where I was constantly surrounded by people all the time for most of my day. It was exhausting and I started to need more and more time to myself to rest and recharge. I remember being on the train one morning on the way to work, in the middle of the summertime, and someone fainted from the heat. They were maybe about 10 feet away from me in my peripheral vision and suddenly I felt a falling sensation and then intense fear, and then I noticed people were reacting and rushing over to help them. It was very upsetting, overwhelming and confusing as I had felt physically fine! I couldn’t shake it for the rest of the day. Later on I remembered one of my teachers had mentioned something about being a ‘physical intuitive’ and immediately started searching for ways to clear my energy.
What are the benefits and the more challenging aspects of being an empath?
Empaths always know what is going on. Energy doesn’t lie. They are deeply connected to the world around them and are able to access other consciousnesses if they want to (plants, animals, etc.). And people like to confide in empaths, so they often know a lot of secrets.
Sensitivity is actually a strength. The world has taught us that we need to be hard, we need to be tough in order to survive and be successful. Look at Wall St. culture – it is the epitome of those beliefs – and a very stressful, cutthroat place to be. There are variations of this mindset everywhere and everyone receives the message that this is how to make it. So the challenge is that a sensitive, intuitive person doesn’t do very well in this type of world. We are told that the way we are (emotional, introspective, soft, etc) is wrong. We internalize these messages and believe there is something wrong with us and deny or suppress our true nature. We disempower ourselves to fit in – which never works! Humans have all sorts of ways to numb themselves from their feelings and sensitivity – drug, alcohol, caffeine, over or under eating, or simply wishing they were somewhere else and not acknowledging their true nature. And they feel alone. The irony is, we are all like this. We all feel alone, like we are the only one, and we’re not.
Highly sensitive people can create a world of beauty and joy and understanding, which is what all humans truly seek. Everyone wants to be understood, seen and connected. Most empaths become healers in one way or another, to help and empower others. And to be an empath is to have access to information about the world around you. Everyone wants to be in the know, and empaths are always connected in.
Since empaths pick up on others energies so easily, what can they do to protect themselves?
Find a few energy clearing and protective practices that resonate with you. Something that you feel good doing. It’s important that you do your own research (online, take a class, work with a teacher) to get ideas and see what works for you. We all need someone or something to show us the way!
Ground daily, and call in a protective energetic shield. The Violet Flame is a beautiful way to get started, as it clears and protects all in one! Archangel Michael is protective and healing, and you can call him in and visualize him surrounding you in a brilliant blue energy. I also recommend carrying black tourmaline, hematite or smoky quartz with you, using flower essences like yarrow or black-eyed susan, and clearing your energy with sage and palo santo. Get creative, play around and see what works for you! It’s important to find a couple things that are easy and enjoyable to work into your daily and nightly routines, just as you would brush your teeth or wash your face!
Accepting who you are and loving yourself is something we all struggle with. We simply were not taught how! But once you embrace your sensitivities and abilities, you take your power back. Standing fully embodied in who you are is the most magnetic, powerful, subversive thing you can do, and all the world will come to you.
How can one become more empathetic?
To get in touch with your intuitive abilities, it takes time and patience. Slowing down and feeling into your body and receiving the information it’s giving you. What does your gut tell you? Be honest about those feelings, especially if it seems at odds with the world around you. Really think and feel before you respond. Take time to rest and connect with yourself. Remember to be patient with yourself as you bring these abilities back online – they have likely been dormant or suppressed for years! Any feelings of “I don’t know!” are illusions, because you do know. Trust yourself.
Feature image via Vanessa Granda