This is a very personal and passionate book about a subject that touches many of us deeply but that isn’t often addressed in the popular media. It begins with a thorough exploration not just of what empathy is, but how it functions within a spiritual framework. It turns out, many of us “sensitive spiritual types” are natural empaths, so we need tools to help us deal with this side of our nature. The author discusses ways to expand on the positive attributes of empathy, minimize the negative, and find balance in your personal life, spiritual practice, and life in general. The overall thrust of the book is to help you find the power and joy in empathy so you can come to view it as a gift and a strength.

This is a how-to book as much as it is an informational resource. Each section includes a personal anecdote from Digitalis’ life, an explanation of that facet of empathy, and several activities. The activities range from Hoodoo-style herbal cleansings to Qabalistic visualizations to guided meditations. There are also practices for honing and clarifying your empathic abilities as well as grounding and protecting yourself. I found this setup very satisfying: I learned about empathy but I was also able to do something about it in my own life.

The author includes a quiz to help identify whether or not you’re an empath. I already knew I was an empath before I began reading the book, but boy was it striking to run through the questionnaire and check nearly every box. Of course, empathy is a continuum, not a set of pigeonholes; everyone except sociopaths has some level of empathy. It’s just that for some of us, it’s a strong enough trait that it can be overwhelming at times. The information and activities in this book helped me get my head around the idea of empathy and how it connects me with the world (and ways I might choose to disconnect at times for my own protection and sanity).

The book includes an extensive discussion of how empathy relates to psychic ability, clairvoyance, and other metaphysical attributes. I was interested to discover that, unlike other metaphysical abilities, empathy is scientifically verifiable via neurological research and testing. The author also puts a lot of emphasis on finding your own balance in order to achieve groundedness and protection. These are especially important for empaths since emotion plays such a major role in empathy. One of the hardest things for me to do, as an empath, is to recognize which emotions are mine and which are ones I’m picking up on from the people around me. Digitalis includes a series of helpful exercises for learning to step back and become objective about this very issue. He also shares a lovely, simple series of mudras (hand postures) for balancing and grounding, complete with illustrations.

Meeting your own needs— making sure you’re fulfilled before helping others— is a cardinal rule and one that empaths often forget. Just like the flight attendants’ advice to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting anyone else, self-care is an important aspect of living with empathy. The author addresses issues of anxiety and depression, conditions that go hand-in-hand with a sensitive, empathic personality, and offers helpful tips for dealing with those and related conditions.

After he addresses the internal issues of empathy, the author goes on to talk about empathy in our lives as we interact with the rest of the world. There’s some good information here about discernment and protection, since empaths tend to think everyone is well-intentioned (We wouldn’t hurt anyone else, so why would they?). As with the other subjects addressed in this book, this one includes activities and ways to take action to create emotional safe space. There’s also a helpful section on using empathy in a variety of service-oriented career paths.

In addition to the mental, emotional, and psychological side of empathy, Digitalis also addresses empathy in a magical context. He offers good advice about integrating the facets of an empathic personality into magical practice. There’s a helpful selection of magical symbols, stones, and other tools, including ways to use them specifically in an empathic context, as well as deities that work well for empaths. I especially liked the section about using magic plus empathy to help others, then following through with real-life volunteer and activism work.

The overall theme of the book is awareness, both of what’s going on inside you and of what’s going on around you on all levels: physical, emotional, mental, energetic. Just practicing awareness makes for a more mindful life with more groundedness and balance, and that makes empathy and its side effects much easier to deal with. Overall, this is an excellent and much-needed resource for so many of us who need some effective tools for integrating our natural empathy into our daily lives.

~review by Laura Perry

Author: Raven Digitalis
Llewellyn, 2016
pp. 349, $19.99

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