I Am Highly Sensitive
Please just stop for a moment.
And promise you’ll never ever say that again.
Saying “I am highly sensitive” is exactly how the struggle continues. By affirming this, you just put another label on yourself (one of the many you have already collected over your lifetime). Until recently, that’s what I did, too.
The Highly Sensitive Person: An Aha Moment
I came across Dr. Elaine Aron’s work on the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and I was totally absorbed. I felt like my horizons suddenly expanded in recognition—“Aha! I am not the only one.” In fact, what I was experiencing had a name—HSP. This “type of person” is more sensitive than others, among other definitions. Most of which end up causing “them” struggle in modern life.
The Real Struggle with Being Sensitive
I realized that I was one of “them.” But, that understanding didn’t diminish my struggles—actually, it was just the opposite. After a while, I had to admit I started using this label as a way to hide from life. At least now I had a “valid” reason why I felt overwhelmed so easily and didn’t like to be around large groups of people. “I am HSP,” so I couldn’t help being tired of everything or being a “party pooper,” always fleeing social engagements. It became like a mantra for me, so I wouldn’t have to face life and could hide from people.
Because “going to a party really wouldn’t be good for an HSP,” I thought, blaming the big bad world for my struggles.
Another Way to Look at Being Sensitive
Now, five or six years later, when I look back on that—let’s say—“phase” of my life, I see that it was a first step towards realizing that “there’s more beyond the length of my nose” (a Dutch expression that means that there is more than we sometimes want to see, or more than what we are aware of in a specific moment).
I have been exploring this realm of highly sensitivity in depth. I read many books on the topic, had an HSP coach, and attended a variety of workshops before finally ending up discovering yoga and its philosophy. Which explained it all for me.
More and more, I have learned to let go of preconceived ideas and started seeing how easy it is to identify with different resonant ideas, saying “Ah yes! I am like that, too.” And before you know it, you are a whole lot of things. Just think about it for a moment… How many labels have you put on your forehead today?
In reality, by releasing all the labels and layers that weigh on you, you simply become aware. Your forehead is blank and the light of awareness shines through. This brings true sensitivity and the intuition of Who You Really Are, without the attachment to being “this” or “that.”
Opening the Door to the Heart
For centuries, ancient mystical traditions have shared inspiration for remembering who you are—naturally. Inviting you to feel it intimately in your heart. To trust your gut feelings and be sensitive to life. That’s all!
Everyone is born sensitive. You might have just closed off because of the way life around us you, and you were not aware that by closing off from your sensitivity, you were closing your heart to the full experience of life. So, instead of just labeling yourself with another beautiful label, focus more on what it truly means. Go deeper in this sensitivity. Allow yourself to be who you are. And, open the door of your heart again to let life be lived intensely!
Isn’t that what you are longing for? Don’t you want to live and enjoy life, not hide away from it, closing, contracting, or resisting? Try the other way, open more… and more… and more. Personally, I’m longing to finally meet everyone in this space—between the birds, and the bees, and the flowers, and the trees…
I’m sure it will be astonishing!
The Real Work for HSP’s
For me, being sensitive now means that I am in tune with life, with the present moment.
Showing up again and again where life invites me. And I know what that is, because I feel it deeply!
The feeling of being overwhelmed (which triggers a tendency to contract and withdraw from life) just shows me that some protection mechanisms and tendencies are still active, after being developed throughout the years.
And, that’s the real work. To become aware of all these contractions and, without judgment or fear, bring them to the Heart, where they can be released. They are no longer needed.
5 Tips for Being Sensitive in a World that Isn’t
It may feel super challenging to live with a wide-open heart only to encounter a world that seems to be the complete opposite.
I’ve been there, and I am still here with you. That’s why I’d like to share some of the most precious tips I have learned along the way. They are based on direct experience gained through an intense Heart-based practice mostly coming from the non-dual teachings, Self-Enquiry, spiritual healing, and Hridaya Yoga and Meditation.
1. Live with an Open Heart
This is definitely the most precious invitation I’ve ever received in my life. This message was transmitted in silence by my teacher and biggest inspiration, Sahajananda, the founder of Hridaya Yoga.
How this relates to being sensitive is that it is so easy to point the finger outside yourself. But from today, always remember this: you were born sensitive and open. And you still are. The conditions in which you grew up were unique—everyone has their own journey. Seeing every situation and every person from this perspective, you shift from looking at the world with the mind to looking through the eye of the Heart. This gives you the opportunity to stay open and see every situation and encounter as an opportunity for deeper Self-Enquiry and love awareness.
When you find yourself in a situation in which you feel contracted or overwhelmed check-in with yourself for a moment: Are you looking through the eye of the mind or from the Heart? You might ask: “How would I know?” Just remember that the Heart never judges, contracts, or resists. If you do, then that means you’re in the mind. By allowing the moment to be as it is, you immediately feel a shift and relax. The ability to do this comes from the Heart.
3. Practice Self-Awareness
Become aware of what is truly alive for you in each moment. Ask “Who am I?”—and be honest. Is it a tendency or habit that is acting, or is it truly you?
If you recognize you are taken by a habit or tendency, acknowledge it with love and kindness. Maybe it will not mean a change right there and then. But, you just made a first step towards becoming aware of it. Now, it’s just a matter of taking the time to train yourself to shift your awareness away from the habit and transform it into a practice of awareness. Who is doing this? Who am I? With this, you create an open space from which at a certain moment there’s a choice: Is this how I want this moment to be, or would I like to act another way? Or, maybe not act at all?
4. Train the Heart
Centering yourself in the Heart throughout the day, again and again, is a way of keeping your attention on your Self. And, it prevents you from being all over the place. This brings an inner foundation to depart from and come home to.
5. Avoid Self-Pity
When things become difficult and uncomfortable, they can easily be blown out of proportion because there is a tendency to go into self-pity. But, self-pity doesn’t really help. It just further dramatizes the situation. Of course, things don’t always feel good. But that’s not a big deal. It’s okay not to feel good. Allow yourself to not feel good all the time and release all plans and expectations even more. This last tip is an invitation to relax into the moment and make space for whatever arises. Making space for yourself to just be. Without changing anything. Just resting in the now. As the Sufi poets said, “This too shall pass.”
It’s true! Trust and you’ll see.
Uma is a Hridaya Yoga teacher. This spring, she will join the administrative team at the Hridaya Yoga Center, serving as our Karma Yoga Manager.