You think you need to heal the whole world.
I know this, because I am that way too.
You can’t listen to the news because the problems seem to big. When you hear about the world’s problems, you don’t just see how it affects you and where you might be responsible, you see how it affects your family, your community, plants, animals, the whole world – and you feel like you have to heal it all. All the parts, all at once.
Which is impossible.
And so, instead, you freeze.
You get overwhelmed, your creativity stops, you get tired, and grouchy, and hungry, and you drink some vino and go to bed and wake up feeling heavy.
You are not alone in this.
This is something that many of us highly sensitive people do, especially those of us who are healers or who have co-dependent patterns. We’re not sure what to do because the problems around us seem SO! BIG! And we get crushed under the weight of it all.
Maybe you run off toward spiritual platitudes touting love and light as the answer to the world’s problems. Maybe you start participating in circles that call for “good vibes only” as a way to try and banish the fear that the world’s problems will collapse in on you, so you push them away with all the positive vibrations you can muster.
So that when others start to talk about the problems, and your uncomfortable feelings crop up again, you brush them off and tell the others to quiet down and to find a higher vibration and to meditate on love and light and if we just heal ourselves then surely the world will heal, too, right?
We cannot just do inner work expect the world to change. It doesn’t work like that. That’s called spiritual bypassing and it’s basically magical thinking.
In fact, arguments like this remind me a lot of political conservatives touting “trickle down economics,” the idea that if we let rich people stay get richer, they’ll make investments that “trickle down” to the poorer of us and we’ll all benefit. Which has actually never worked in a provable manner, and most likely won’t ever work, because it’s an economic system based in theoretic thinking rather than what happens in the real world. This system ignores real, factual economic data about how wealthy people and companies actually affect the economy.
“Raise your vibration and heal the world” is the same thing. It’s the idea that if we raise our vibration through meditation, staving off “negative” emotions, surrounding ourselves with “good vibes only,” and thinking positively, the high vibration of our subtle body will travel through the ethers to affect everyone around us. But is that really true?
Yes, and also a big resounding NO.
Let’s break it down:
Yes, as you work on yourself the vibration of your subtle body changes. It gets higher, lighter. But it doesn’t get this way through avoiding negativity and thinking positively or eschewing the darkness in favor of love and light.
You become a more whole, healed and complete person (aka a “higher vibration) only when you can sit firmly in your darkness and address it, one shadow at a time. Love and light are only affective tools if you are in the dark. If you’re afraid of the dark and have all the lights turned on all the time, a flashlight isn’t going to do you much good. In fact, it will blind you.
A high vibration happens through doing the dark work – the shadow work – the work of sitting with and addressing the ways that you contribute to the problems you want to solve in the world. The work of not getting frozen when you look at the ways you’ve been complacent. The work of being able to hang onto your sense of worth and enoughness even as you address your wrongdoings and be accountable to change. The work of listening to the voices of those who have more information – the everyday teachers – without getting defensive or shut down. This is how you raise your subtle vibration.
Your energy body is one of the most subtle components of you. As a highly sensitive person, you will feel and understand vibration more than the dense sensors of the world because you are more sensitive to it. You already retreat from too many loud noises, too many loud emotions, from vibrations that are just too much. Others don’t – they run into to huge crowds and loud music and sensation after sensation after sensation, letting it all into their body. Their dense-sensing body. (Not wrong, not worse, just dense as opposed to your subtle sensing body).
Let’s say you’ve done the work and your vibration is high. It does have an affect in the world. But if it were as easy as raising your vibration to affect those around you, wouldn’t Donald Trump spontaneously burst into an angel when he sat next to the Dalai Lama? Wouldn’t your racist cousin suddenly have a come-to-Jesus after sitting across from you at holiday dinner?
I hear the skeptics saying, “But Anna, it has a subtle effect on them. It works slowly.”
Yes. Yes, you are right. It does.
But what happens in the time between raising your vibration and waiting for others to notice? Glaciers continue to melt, women continue to be silenced at the hands of powerful men, people of color still take on the brunt of dismantling a racist system that is the job of white people to dismantle, toxic masculinity runs rampant and sensitivity continues to be a dirty word.
Your high vibration is all great and grand, but those who will be receiving the vibration are often in a denser place. Have you ever spent time in a presence of a great spiritual teacher, someone like the Dalai Lama who had their spiritual shit together? Someone who practically bathed you in the golden light of their aura? And then when you left their presence, you couldn’t quite get that feeling back?
Yeah, because while you could match that higher vibration for a while, you haven’t done the work required to stay at the level of vibration. And neither have most of the people you’re hoping to change through your high vibes.
No, this doesn’t mean you should double down on your vibration raising to try and have a more lasting effect.
It means that you also have to do the on-the-ground work of channeling your high vibration into embodied action.
Many of the Eastern spiritual traditions and religions that bring us the basis for an energy body and vibration-raising are focused largely on liberation – of figuring out how to transcend the body and the physical world. Which is all great and grand if you live in an ashram or a monastery, or don’t really care about the fate of the world, or don’t have children, or bills, or a job, or friends and family.
If you are a householder – if you are someone who lives in a home and participates in society at large, then you don’t have the liberty of eschewing your physical body or your physical needs. You have to eat as well as do your personal work. You have to buy groceries, and pay bills, and work, and manage relationships, and solve problems and get from point A to point B while you do the work of raising your vibration.
You must do both.
You must be embodied. Meaning, you must actually live the high vibration in physical form. You can’t just theorize and meditate about kindness – you actually have to practice it. Like, with real people. Who might not be practicing kindness. You can’t just pray for peace and an end to racism, you actually have to have difficult conversations and stop centering whiteness and listen to people of color. You can’t just hope to save the whales, you also have to pay the organizations who do that and spread the word and post on social media.
That is how the world gets changed. Through personal work and action.
Theoretical and subtle actions combined with the physical and dense ones.
Anything else is a bypass. Anything else is an excuse to turn away from discomfort.
Maybe you’re saying, but I’m too sensitive for this. I wasn’t built for this.
I get it, I really do. When I first learned to understand my sensitivity, I became empowered to ask for what I needed in order to honor my sensitivity. But I went to far, sometimes, and used my “empowerment” around my sensitivity as a way to bow out, to protect myself, to give me a reason to take a bath and read a book instead of dismantling my white supremacy or face the ways I was complicit in sexism and patriarchy.
My intention was self-care and self-work. But the impact I had was complacency in systems I abhor. The impact I had was trauma to others who didn’t have the privilege of taking a break.
We all have an inner capacity. We all have a finite amount of stress and work we can handle at any given moment. And, as highly sensitive people, our capacity might be lower than others. We all need to take breaks from time to time – of course we do. As humans, we all need rest. Our physical bodies and our minds need rest.
But just because we’re at capacity – just because we are sensitive – doesn’t give us a pass on doing the work that needs to be done in the world.
When we do our work, when we take action and we build relationships with others who are doing the work, then we know when we take a break for a night shift our focus for a little while, our community can carry the load for us. And when they need a break we can carry the load for a while. We share. But we don’t bow out with excuses. We don’t give up. We don’t freeze.
The world needs to change. I know this. You know this. I know you know this because you are sensitive, and the world lives within you. The pain of the world is felt within you like trauma; you cannot avoid it.
You do not need to try and heal the whole world. That will break you.
Or, worse, it will freeze you and you’ll remain motionless.
Heal the world by finding the one thing you can do inward, the work on yourself, and the one thing that you can do outward, in the world, today. Right now.
You must do both. Always, both. Inner work without outer change is disembodied. It’s ungrounded. It’s formless. It’s a bypass to the more difficult, dense work that must be done.
Inner work with outer change is solid, stable and creates momentum.
Work on yourself – yes – but don’t stop there. You must participate in the broader world in order to have an impact.
Yes – pray on love and light but also call your senators and representatives. Yes, meditate and chant and have your personal practice and then also sign petitions. Yes, envision a peaceful planet and then also clean up trash and protest oil pipelines.
Find the one thing you can do – inner, and outer – and do it.
That is how we start. That is how we get unfrozen. That is how we tackle the big problems that we see radiating out into the world – we come back into the present and we pick the one thing we can do.
Then we do it.
Love, Light and Action,