Growing up, I was often told that I was “too sensitive.”
I could walk into a room and feel all the emotions of everyone there. I remember that when my dad would come home from work, sit down, and have a martini, I felt stressed, anxious and uneasy, and I would wonder why.
When my parents entertained, I was told, “You are to be seen and not heard.” I’d feel social anxiety and unease in rooms where they entertained. It was not uncommon for me to feel overwhelmed when I was in a mall, large restaurant, or at a social gathering.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was actually taking in other people’s energy through a phenomenon called clairsentience (clair meaning “clear” sentience meaning “sensing.”).
When I was 11 years old, I discovered a new dimension to this phenomenon. Being treated for cancer, I prayed to God one day and felt two things in response: a deep peace pour through my body and the presence of something greater with me. Both of these feelings created a knowing, a certainty, that I was going to be okay in spite of my illness and the fear I was experiencing in the hospital.
That was the first time I realized the inexplicable bodily sensations I experienced so often could, in fact, be supportive. In the case of my prayer, the sensation I felt brought messages from my internal wisdom, which was connected to a higher source. And I trusted it.
Trusting involves opening and listening to our internal wisdom and guidance. This internal guidance can make itself known to us in a variety of ways, including messages we hear in our mind, messages we see in our mind, or sensations we feel in our body. Throughout my adult life, I have continued to receive internal guidance in the form of bodily sensations.
In my mid-twenties, I started having nightmares where I was about to take my last breath. I would sit up in my bed gasping for air. Eventually it became clear to me what the guidance in these very physical messages was: I still needed to process the emotional experience of having had cancer a decade before.
One night back when I was a child, I was laying in bed in a cold, austere hospital room. Alone and frightened, I heard the medical staff rushing into the room across the hallway to help another child. I later heard from staff rumblings that a young child had died that night. Fear coursed through my body.
At the time, no one talked with me about what I’d heard that night or how I felt about it, much less what I was experiencing or feeling throughout my cancer treatments. None of the adults in my life discussed what I was going through, and I had no way of dealing with all those strong emotions on my own.
So all those emotions remained stuck there, in my body, throughout the rest of my childhood and early adulthood. My inner guidance was telling me that if I didn’t process and deal with them now that I was an adult, I would not live. In response to those vivid, clairsentient messages, I dove into self-reflection and found a therapist who helped me not only integrate my difficult childhood experience, but also strengthen and integrate the understanding that my mind, body, and spirit are all connected.
When I was in my thirties, I began looking for a new career. My body started physically shaking while I held the informational materials about the theology program at a local university. That sensation was my internal guidance confirming that this program was the next step on my path.
This guidance was reconfirmed via clairsentience as I sat in my first class: a deep feeling of warmth and familiarity washed over me as we discussed Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, and other saints and mystics in the “History of Christian Spirituality” with Professor Ed Sellner.
After I became a hospice chaplain, the intuitive gift of clairsentience continued providing me with helpful information. I often felt the energy in the room shift when a patient was about to die. In those last moments, their spirit often moved up through their body and then out. I could feel their spirit hovering in the bedroom.
In addition to my patients’ spirits, I’ve also felt the presence of many spiritual helpers, including angels, and spirit guides in the room, assisting the dying person. From these experiences, I learned that we all have helpers on the other side who come to assist us when it is our time. I also learned that our internal wisdom can teach us about the many dimensions beyond our physical bodies, if we are open to receiving this information.
Thirteen years ago, when my father was dying, I was sitting at his bedside and thought to myself, “Okay, Dad, I am ready.” Suddenly, a surge of energy rushed through the bedroom, like a gust of wind. My dad, who had been unconscious, turned his head, looked at me, and then breathed out his last breath. The energy then swept up and out of the bedroom. I felt no fear, only peace. I felt my dad’s spirit leave his body and float up and out of the bedroom. This experience taught me on a deep level that death is not to be feared and is not an ending, but rather a transformation.
We all have intuitive gifts, and learning to trust the guidance that comes to us via these gifts is a life long journey. Our body is always in the present moment. To feel messages that our inner guidance is sending us through our body, we first need to understand that we are not our mind. With that understanding, we can step back and witness the many feelings and sensations arising in our minds and bodies in the moment. Only when we are in the present moment can we open to our inner wisdom and guidance, where true love and peace reside.