Tami Simon: Welcome to Insights at the Edge produced by Sounds True. My name’s Tami Simon. I’m the founder of Sounds True. And I’d love to take a moment to introduce you to the new Sounds True Foundation. The Sounds True Foundation is dedicated to creating a wiser and kinder world by making transformation education widely available. We want everyone to have access to transformational tools such as mindfulness, emotional awareness, and self-compassion. Regardless of financial, social, or physical challenges. The Sounds True foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to providing these transformational tools to communities in need, including at-risk youth, prisoners, veterans, and those in developing countries. If you’d like to learn more or feel inspired to become a supporter, please visit SoundsTrueFoundation.org.
In this episode of Insights at the Edge, my guest is Mara Bishop. Mara is a shamanic practitioner, an intuitive consultant, teacher, author, and artist. In private practice, she uses her personal evolution counseling method to provide an integrated approach to spiritual healing, personal growth, and emotional wellbeing. Her books Shamanism for Every Day: 365 Journeys and a book on Inner Divinity: Crafting Your Life with Sacred Intelligence are resource guides for spiritual practice. And with Sounds True, she has created a new audio learning series. It’s called Shining Bright Without Burning Out: Spiritual Tools for Creating Healthy Energetic Boundaries in an Overconnected World. In this conversation, Mara and I talk about how we can learn to actually value our sensitivity instead of feeling overwhelmed and burdened by it, through the creation of what she describes as healthy, energetic boundaries by knowing our energy archetype, our energy personality archetype, and using that as a baseline of self-awareness for how we interact with other people. Here’s my conversation with the very creative Mara Bishop.
To begin, Mara, tell me how you first became a shamanic practitioner. What’s the journey that took you to that?
Mara Bishop: The winding path. I can tell you the moment of my first shamanic journey.
MB: I think maybe that’s a pivotal moment. Then we can work backward and forward. I was lying in a field in New Hampshire with a couple family members, my mom and my grandmother, and a group of really special women. A friend was teaching us how to journey and go and look for, ask to connect to an animal spirit. And I really didn’t have a whole lot of context for this. I was quite young, so I was kind of wide open, just like OK. And when I was greeted by this particular spirit, I knew them. I had seen them before in meditations and in other places. And it was this kind of recognition. It was this coming-home moment of this being is here, but this being is other places too. They’d come to me before. And it felt like my world just opened up.
TS: Now a couple things here. What were you doing when you say, “I was lying in the field,” and you were journeying, what were you doing?
MB: This friend who was kind of trained in the shamanic world in core shamanism, she was drumming for us to help us shift into our kind of different state of consciousness. And we had been given some basic instructions about how do you kind of move into those other realms? You know, we could talk about the lower world or the shamanic state of consciousness. How do you shift your state to be in a place where we can perceive a little bit differently, where we invite contact from helping spirits?
TS: Then you mentioned that a being appeared. Tell me more. Describe this being.
MB: Yes. To be somewhat blunt, I wrote about this one. So, I will just kind of blurt it out. I feel a little bit shy sometimes about talking about the specifics of journeys or about these kind of encounters with helping spirits. Because those experiences feel very intimate. So, I appreciate your question. This is not at all like, “Don’t ask me that question.”
TS: No, but it’s kind of like I’m asking you about your sex life in front of other people or something. And I have talked to people on this podcast about their sex life.
MB: Right. And there’s no reason why we shouldn’t talk about our sex lives or talk about our journey experiences. But I always do a little pause to kind of feel out, does this feel OK? And also, it’s a relationship. So, specifically, with some of my helping spirits, it’s OK to talk about it. With some of them, I will never disclose.
TS: Well, I want to be respectful. So only as it feels right to you.
MB: Yes. And you are, and I did write about this particular helping spirit in Shamanism for Every Day, in my book Shamanism for Every Day. It’s not like it’s a big secret. If you come to my house, you’ll see there’s images of this being around.
This particular spirit is a tiger. And when I saw them, in high school, it’s like in going into those quiet moments of formal meditation—of really informal meditation, because I didn’t know what I was doing back when I was a high schooler, or after college, or whatever, very young—there was something that was so confirming about that. Even if I didn’t quite understand what the relationship would evolve into or how helpful it would be in my life over the decades, seeing them in these different ways just was so inspiring to me. So impactful.
TS: OK. So, in your first experience with your mother and your grandmother there, which is just beautiful, lying in a field, this helping spirit as you describe, a tiger appears in your inner sight. Now for someone who says, “Helping spirits, really? Do I have helping spirits? Do we all have helping spirits? And, Mara, if you believe we do, can you give me right now a way I could contact my helping spirit. Because I’m not convinced that I have one.” Let’s just say someone’s having that question.
MB: My first response is kind of like a pre-response to that, which is I really try not to convince anybody at of anything. I always try and be respectful. I’m not there to proselytize, or lobby, or inflict my views. Also, my views are changing. Right now I feel like I might put this label on that experience. But I also think that I’m kind of enough of a baby in the spiritual spectrum of things that what I think is truth right now I may realize, “Oh wait a second, I had this wrong.” I change and grow. Right?
What I would say to someone who is having that kind of question of how might I connect? Do we all have [helping spirits]? I would have the theoretical answer of if you look to so many of our historical religions and spiritual practices, there really is a common thread. It’s a pretty frequent belief that we do have some kind of benevolent presence, whether we are aware of them or not. Whether we are consciously having some kind of communication with these beings, whether some practices or religions might call them angels, whether they’re guardian spirits, whether they’re power animals. There is this thread that there is some kind of spiritual presence that is connected to us often from birth.
When we think about maybe developing a shamanic practice for ourselves, one way to do that in a personal way to have that experience kind of like I did in a personal way rather than a theoretical way would be through journeying. It would be through really direct revelation in whatever form. And that’s at the heart of when I think about shamanism, right, and shamanism is complex. We can talk a lot about how do we practice shamanism authentically, and how do we avoid appropriation. There’s a big conversation there. But if we looked at direct revelation and having our own direct experiences, I would just say well if you’re interested, let’s maybe learn the practice of journeying and see if you have that experience for yourself. See what comes.
TS: OK. S,o for somebody who is relatively new, and they’re saying, “There you are, you’re lying in the field. The practice of journeying.” Can you just describe it briefly what that means? You’re not taking any plant medicine or anything like that. You’re listening to the sound of a drum and somehow you enter some type of natural trance state or something like that?
MB: Yes. I mean, there are some very specific steps. And I would say working with a teacher or working with, I mean there are lots of resources through books and through courses. But yes, there would be some deliberate steps to have a grounded practice of first doing something to shift us out of our ordinary state of consciousness. I would say drumming is one of those cross-cultural global ways, percussion of some kind. We know that that helps shift our brain state. Some people might use plant medicine, but you don’t have to do that. Something to bring us out of our ordinary state.
Then a set of steps where you experience yourself. In core shamanism, we talk about ordinary, the ordinary state of consciousness, and the non-ordinary state of consciousness. You have the intention of going to meet a helping spirit, and you have some practical steps to do that. You do your kind of preliminary work to shift out of our regular going about our business state. Then you want to come back into that ordinary state. So that we’re grounded, we’re not just kind of spacing out and just kind of going out into la-la land. We want to be deliberate and then we want to come back.
TS: Sure. One of the things, Mara, that I think’s always interesting is right now, are you in an ordinary state or a non-ordinary state, or is it a little bit of a mixture? That’s always interesting to me. How would you answer that?
MB: It is. I actually feel like I haven’t really hit on the words that I want to use. I love this question, because I think our ordinary state of consciousness is extraordinary. To have that, no disrespect to those two terms of trying to distinguish. But the lines are not that clear. Right?
I have this practice, going outside in nature, for one example. I may not be deliberately trying to alter my state, but I experience—and I know many other people do—this kind of ecstasy sometimes. It’s just being there. And I do have deliberate practices. I mean, I have this thing called “ennatured,” which is a deliberate way of being in the natural environment to get guidance or to develop relationships. And people describe how they enter into a kind of altered state there. But it is a blurring. I think that that line as you’re bringing up between altered and not, consciousness is a such a fluid and extraordinary thing.
TS: Sure. With Sounds True, you’ve created this new eight-session audio series on Shining Bright Without Burning Out: Spiritual Tools for Creating Healthy Energetic Boundaries in an Overconnected World. And I wanted to understand more of all the topics you could have chosen, this topic of the creation of healthy, energetic boundaries. Why did it seem to you like, “That’s what it’s time for me to focus on right now”?
MB: At this point in my life, and in general, it’s been this way for a while. And particularly now, I want anything that I do to be a labor of love. I want everything to be something that has really been impactful for me. In some ways, I mean I would say since I kind of found shamanic practice, that has been my life. I’m not doing something as a task. I’m doing it because I love it, and it’s had such a profound impact on me.
That holds true with this work on creating healthy, energetic boundaries. There was a time in my life where being someone who is sensitive, empathic to a degree, who picks up a lot from other people. I mean, that’s part of my work. Being with people and having intuitive insights about them. Being able to kind of understand what’s going on energetically to a certain degree. But like everything, there’s upsides and downsides to that. I’m sure there’s a lot of people you in your world who are empathic. That sensitivity can be a tremendous strength if you work with it and you have tools to work with it. And it can also be a really painful liability if you don’t have any control over it.
In my early life, I didn’t have any control over that. I took in a lot, and I experienced a lot. When I got some tools for how to work with it and not have to shut down in the presence of other people’s pain, or really challenging people, or situations, but to be able to be present. But to also hold my own, be in my own energy. To not lose myself. When I was able to do that, my life got so much better.
TS: I think this topic is so timely, Shining Bright Without Burning Out. It seems that somehow during the pandemic—and I don’t know if it’s that there’s just been such an acceleration of our awareness of the fragility of our lives, the fragility of our ecosystem, the amount of political divisiveness—but I do think many, many people are feeling overwhelmed and burned out by the impact they’re feeling, especially sensitive people, by the outer world. And there’s a lot to talk about here. But to start, I know you make a distinction between burnout, and overwhelm, and just plain stress. What is that distinction?
MB: Yes. I just have to say yes to everything you just said. So many things are coming to a head. And at the same time, we’re realizing our interconnection, which is also such an important part of this is that we are so interconnected. We’re seeing it in this pandemic time. With our technology, we’re so interconnected. Our ecosystems are so interconnected. It feels like it’s getting more and more intense. The burnout rates are going up. We’re in this Great Resignation. We’re all exhausted and overwhelmed.
The distinction [is], there are shades of overwhelm, and exhaustion, and talking about compassion, fatigue. We can all get tired. That’s a natural thing. We can get exhausted, and then do some normal self-care things, and come back up to a place of replenishment.
When you start to edge into the burnout territory is when those things that normally buoy you back up—you get really tired, you get a good night’s sleep; you have a nice dinner with your partner; you go for a walk; you spend some time out in nature; you pet your cat; you go for a run—whatever your go to self-care things are—or take a weekend off. When those things bring you back up to a functional level, that’s being tired. That’s needing a break.
When you are sensitive and you perceive something about somebody else, but you’re able to distinguish, “Oh, OK. I’m feeling basically OK. I went out to lunch with my friend. They were sad. I came home. I’m feeling sad. What is this about? Oh, it’s them.” Then you stop. That’s not burnout.
When you have such a prolonged period of stress and overwork, I would say whether it’s in a professional setting or not. I know the World Health Organization has their very specific definition of burnout that’s in a professional, in the workplace, where you’re feeling depleted and exhausted, where you have negative and cynical feelings about your work or your life, where you’re feeling like you’re not succeeding, like you’re ineffective.
In general, what I would say—and this is kind of my broader definition of this—is that burnout is a response to too much input. This is where the boundary piece gets so important. We’re well familiar with how we set good physical boundaries with people. We teach our kids about physical boundaries. We think about emotional boundaries.
But this is kind of the spirit side of the body, mind, spirit triangle when it comes to boundaries, is when we start to hit that point of burnout, we have this snapback reaction to too much input. This is where it starts to get really potentially dangerous. It becomes not just about us. We don’t just start to have these internal feelings of, “OK, I’m tired. And I’m overwhelmed.” It’s particularly for people who are responsible for others, is we start to push back. The person who is normally compassionate and caring about other people, they start to really not care that much. A therapist who is hitting burnout is not going to be as compassionate as they once were for their clients who are on the edge and really need some kind of intervention. The parent who’s hitting burnout is not going to take as good of care of their kids because they’re done. They start to be frustrated. I think those are some of the distinctions.
TS: Now you mentioned that this topic became so important to you in your own life journey of working with your own sensitivity. Tell me a little bit more about that, your journey of figuring out how to be I guess, I would call it a healthy empath versus an empath who is collapsing under the inputs from other people.
MB: I knew you were going to ask that question. Let’s see. Honestly for me, a lot of it is around relationships and how to have healthy relationships. I think learning to set better boundaries in relationships would be one of my very primary things. And that took different forms. That’s my short answer. I don’t know that I have a great anecdote for you.
I can give you the anecdote actually that was kind of the genesis for me of knowing that I’m empathic. It’s a little bit tamer than some of my relationship stories that I don’t particularly want to share.
When I was in high school, I was in church with my parents. I grew up Catholic. And I was sitting kind of in the middle or towards the back of the church. We were just waiting. And people were coming in. This guy walked into the front of the church and was coming to sit down. I’d never seen him before. And I felt this punch-in-the-gut kind of emotional pain feeling. I didn’t know anything about him, but I just knew he was in terrible pain. And I didn’t have any context for that. I wanted to make him feel better. There was no appropriate way to react. It was just upsetting and confusing to me. I felt like I should do something, but I couldn’t do anything. But it was this kind of direct empathic absorption moment, where I had a direct experience of being connected to somebody else, and feeling helpless about it, and very uncomfortable in my own body about it.
TS: You mentioned, Mara, that part of the basics for you of learning to have healthy boundaries happened in relationships. Even without hearing the stories of the relationship dynamics, what would you say were the key principles of having healthy, energetic boundaries in relationships?
MB: Right. Part of what’s really important is to understand where we are at baseline. And this kind of gets into how we work through this set of tools that’s in Shining Bright. It depends on what your unique archetypal makeup is. In Shining Bright and in the energy ecosystem work that I do, I work with a set of energy personality archetypes. And we’re not just one. We have a number of different ones. But they help to illustrate who we are as individuals, because what’s going to work for me is not necessarily going to work for you. The first part is how do we start to sense our boundaries and be able to change and adjust them?
For me, or for anyone, having a sense of how do we begin to sense our energetic bodies? Then how do we prepare for the situations that we are moving into, whether that’s a one-on-one relationship, or whether that’s a group that we go into? Because how you might respond to a challenging situation or a particular person may be very different for how I would respond energetically.
One of the archetypes is the chameleon, as an example. As you might imagine using the chameleon, it’s about how people with that archetype really change based on environment they’re in. And all of these archetypes have the light and the shadow as all things do. The benefit of this particular archetype is that you can be really adaptable. Of course, it’s a great survival skill like it is for the chameleon. But you become really adept at sensing and perceiving different situations. If I sit in a room with you and I’m the chameleon, I may really understand, how can I be in best relationship with you, Tami? What do you need? Or I might be able to go into a work environment and very quickly pick up what’s the corporate culture there? How do I adapt?
The downside is I may change so much from when I’m with you, or when I’m with in this work situation, or when I’m with other friends that I start to lose my center. It’s something that kids who grew up in really unpredictable homes tend to have is they’re so used to using that as a survival skill say if a parent who has anger issues or maybe substance abuse issues comes home, and that kid needs to be invisible to not have problems. Not everybody with this archetype has that background, but it’s just a common pattern.
The shadow side is if you change so much, you may lose sight of who you are. So, in relationships, if I had that archetype, one of the ways that I would start to create healthy boundaries would be to get clearer of who I am in my home base state. That might not be the issue for you. The issue for you might be one of the other patterns.
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Now this whole system of energy personality archetypes, how did you come up with this? Is this something you created, or what is this system?
MB: Yes. Yes. It’s something I created.
TS: Tell me how that came to be.
MB: Well, almost everything for me is the natural world. That’s my joy. So, in working with people over time, and the source for the Shining Bright Without Burning Out work—and I think the burning out in many ways, that part was not the primary. That’s kind of evolved. The source of this work was courses that I’ve been doing for many years called “The Energy Ecosystem.” It’s about how do we really just understand the energy ecosystem that is your individual being. Then the energy ecosystems that we create when we relate to others. Our family’s an energy ecosystem, our workplaces are. And how do we move through those most effectively?
I would see over time in working with people that there were some baseline tools. And phases of working through creating healthy, energetic boundaries that we talk about in the program. Three different phases. And kind of some standard tools that I would say are good for everybody. But then I would see over time, there were these qualities repeating. Maybe somebody else would see them in some other way that weren’t related to animals, but I think we can look to nature as a model for just about everything. And in this way, they presented to me mostly as animals. And it’s kind of evolving a little bit. It’s going to kind of expand into plants and elements and other things too.
TS: Interesting. Interesting. The energy personality archetypes that you introduce in the series Shining Bright—the hermit crab, the puppy, the cat, the octopus, the bull, the mouse, the hummingbird, the butterfly, rabbit—I thought, “Well, where’s this list going? Is there an end to it?” These were the ones you introduced.
MB: Right. And these are my list. These are ones that I see often that are really evolved at this point. I have them for elements as well. We just didn’t talk about there, and for some plants too. For pairings, because so often we’re in paired relationship dynamics. And some of those are the most challenging to work with. We talk about those in the course as well.
TS: Can you give me an example of pairing?
MB: Predator, prey. Sociopath, empath. That’s a big one. But I also would encourage people to come up with their own. Just like with everything. I don’t think I or anybody else is the be all and end all and the authority about something. So those are mine. But then in classes too, I would say let’s think about which of these do you relate to? But then also we can be creative. People can come up with their own and see where they see where they take it. I see this as something that’s going to expand over time for sure.
TS: Tell me a little bit about the octopus personality archetype.
MB: They’re such incredible creatures. And they’re really having a moment in recent times. I’m not I’m not a biologist, so I have to always be careful to kind of stay in my lane, [but] their whole neurological system is different. How they process information is very different, but they’re fantastically intelligent.
Octopus people often feel like they are brilliant and otherworldly to me. That they are sometimes maybe a little complex and hard to relate to. But fascinating. I’m going to give you a very brief one on this, but very fascinating people to be involved with. They do have some of the chameleon, of being able to change to their environment. But they perceive in this very broad-spectrum way that some empathic people do of understanding things from wholly different perspectives than the average person would. Having a different kind of sensing. One of the challenges of being in relationship, either being in relationship to an octopus person or being one yourself is the tendency to kind of shut it down very quickly. Dash off very quickly. You’re there and then you’re gone.
TS: Once we know which of these personality archetypes energetically we connect with, maybe it’s one of the ones that I mentioned that you teach about in the series or something else that occurs to us, you mentioned it could be plants. So maybe I relate to who knows, the willow tree, or it could be all kinds of things. How does that information then help me? How does that serve me?
MB: Right. Which is a great question. So if I was working with someone or if you were taking a class or working through the audio course, the more that we can know about ourselves at baseline—and this applies to the archetypes. It applies to sensing your energetic body. It applies to everything. It applies to some of the exercises that I’ll walk you through in the audio course about reflecting back on patterns. The more we can understand ourselves energetically and understand our patterns, the better equipped we are moving into the future with our current relationships or with future relationships, which is the whole point of this. How do we get better at creating resilience, creating healthier relationships to ourselves, and to other people?
I’ll come back to the chameleon. We don’t want to give them all away. If you understand what the light and the shadow qualities are about these archetypes, you want to play up the light, and you want to bring light to the shadow. You become aware that the shadow side can be a liability, and you want to capitalize on what’s a native strength. It’s just like in positive psychology, you want to work with your character strengths.
Focus on what’s naturally good about you. Just like in nature in general, in the animal kingdom, in the plant kingdom. I don’t think the animals are struggling over what they’re not good at. They’re doing what they are naturally good at. So when you realize what your positive qualities are, you really want to work with that, but you also then want to say, “Oh OK. Here’s where this might be an Achilles heel for me. This might be actually creating problems for me in my relationships, or in my relationship to myself or others.” Once you’re aware of that, then it’s in your power to take active steps to change it.
TS: All right. Well, let’s just talk about one more. Let’s talk about the puppy. And I think that maybe it’s easy for us to connect with the positive, energetic qualities. I love puppies. What’s the shadow side of the puppy personality type?
MB: Yes. Who doesn’t love a puppy? Puppies are wonderful. One of the things that I think most of us love about puppies is how they love us. They are forgiving. They are playful. They are so open and vulnerable to us and keep coming back. Right?
Those things that make puppies so endearing make you vulnerable if you have the puppy archetype. So just the shadow side of the puppy can be that sometimes, they have a tendency to go back to people in relationships who aren’t really that good for them is one. Also, puppies, this can be endearing, it can be fun, but puppies sometimes have a little struggle with self-regulation.
TS: Right. Makes good sense. Now you mentioned that you teach on three different phases of creating healthy, energetic boundaries. What are those three phases?
MB: Yes. It’s kind of before, during, and after. Or preparation in the moment and cleansing. There’s a lot of things that we can do to prepare ourselves to have boundaries that are flexible, to have boundaries that match the circumstances that we’re going to be facing. To be dressed appropriately for the energetic climate that we’re going to be in, so to speak.
There’s preparation work. Just like anything, the more prepared we are, the better off we’re going to be. OK? So part of the work, part of the audio course is about what do you to prepare yourself.
Then there’s what happens when you’re in a situation. We can all be ready to go and then we’re home and we’re just chilling out. We don’t know. We haven’t faced anything. So what happens in the moment? And sometimes, that’s a circumstance that you’ve planned for. So you’ve prepared. It’s something that you’ve anticipated. And then there are things that catch us off guard. We want to have some tools that are both quick tools and then things that you’ve layered on.
Then what do you do after the fact? How do you cleanse yourself if you’ve taken on energy that isn’t yours? I’ll give you an example of this. And this kind of goes back to my own relationship question, which I know I kind of side stepped a little bit earlier. And this actually just happened. I was on the phone with my mother, and she was telling me about a particular pain that she was having. It was a fine conversation. And I love my mom. And a little while later, I had a pain in the exact same place that I didn’t have before.
That was empathic absorption. It was very pretty benign, mild example of I wasn’t putting up particularly, I hadn’t kind of prepared and braced myself for this conversation for my mother. It was just like we were having a casual conversation, but I had taken on something into my body through my empathy with my mother’s pain. And I would do anything I could to help my mother. I love my mother. But me having that pain wasn’t doing any her any good. And we talk about this a lot in the course is the difference between compassion and empathy. Which one’s useful and which one’s really not that useful, that we want to modulate.
In that instance, in previous years before I got into this work, I might have had that pain for a while once it got there. But at this phase in my life, it was like oops. I had some tools, and that would be phase three tools to clear off what wasn’t mine.
TS: I think people have a lot of confusion about this difference between empathy and compassion. It’s something that I think there’s a lot of new information about. How do you see that, Mara?
MB: I think they’re quite different. And there is a lot of new information, and there’s a lot of research through. Through neuroimaging, those two things are processed differently in our body. And the distinction is really important. I mean there’s certainly a whole lot about empaths, over the last decade or so, that’s come up a lot. We’re used to thinking about empathy as being this wholly positive thing. When you look at the definition in the dictionary, some of it is about we’re just having sympathy for a person. But much of the definition of empathy technically is about having a lived experience of somebody else’s experience. A shared experience of it.
Compassion, on the other hand, is really, it’s having positive feelings towards someone. It’s having the desire to help, to be present, being in solidarity with your fellow beings. But it’s not about absorbing and taking on somebody else’s pain. What the studies show is that when we move into that state of true empathy, that absorbing and taking somebody else’s experience into our body, that actually inhibits our capacity to be of use. Not only does it make our experience generally of moving around the world more exhausting and more painful, because boy, we know there’s a lot of suffering in the world. There’s a lot of joy in the world, but there’s a lot of suffering. It prevents us from serving our other people and ourselves the way we want to.
If we can make that distinction more and more that yes, we want to be present. We want to be compassionate, but we don’t need to take it into our body to do that. And that is really the crux of when I’m talking about healthy, energetic boundaries. That’s what I’m talking about. It’s not about “I’ve got to set up boundaries and I’ve got to cut these people out of my life.” It’s not about “everybody’s toxic”—not that there aren’t toxic relationships. It’s not that there aren’t situations where somebody needs to be practically set up a physical boundary. That’s part of my lesson too.
But there’s a very big difference between a boundary being everything’s got to be the other, and it’s got to be pushed aside, and my boundaries have to be all or nothing. And being able to stay present. I think real resilience is not about cutting out all of the challenging situations and people from your life. Real resilience is about being able to increase our ability to be with difficult people, and difficult circumstances, and be OK.
TS: Now let me ask you a question, Mara. When you discovered “Oh, empathic absorption with my mother,” the mother daughter thing, I can totally get that. And you were like, “OK, I have taken in her physical symptoms.” What did you do then to have it released from your body?
MB: I mean for me, so much of these tools are happen so quickly now, that it was a moment of awareness. And then some of my energetic cleansing methods to let it out of my body. In that instance, it’s working through visualization with that particular spot of where it was on my body to make the distinction of what’s mine and what isn’t mine. I layer things on. I call on help. I envision what’s there and what shouldn’t be there. And I work with different, I think I was working with the element of water in that particular instance. But a lot of times I’ll call on working in partnership with elements as well.
TS: This question, what’s mine and what isn’t mine, I think that can sometimes be really confusing for people. “I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s mine or if it’s not mine.” How do you get an accurate answer to that question?
MB: Yes. And I think it is really confusing. And it’s blurred. Maybe this is a genetic issue. “Maybe I’m about to get this thing.” So, I am very open to things being more complicated than at first.
In that instance, it was able to feel relatively straightforward and why I would use it as an example in that it was not there, there, now it’s not there. We may find at some point in the future that it’s more complicated.
In some ways, everything is all ours. I think to your point, that insight and that shared, we have shared boundaries. I think as humans, we try and make sense of things often by putting labels, and putting boundaries, and trying to order things. And don’t let me forget to come back to that exact question, because this is a slight side tangent. But I think about this with shamanic practice too. And cosmologies. And are we really going up? Are we going down? It’s like everything is kind of holographic. I’m sure there are people who understand the way the whole universe works. I feel like we’re babies. I’m a baby in this work in general. So, I always want to be really careful to leave space or definitions that are not too rigid.
TS: Sure. I appreciate the humility. I think that, though, I’m looking at it from a very pragmatic standpoint in terms of how people work with themselves when they’re trying to sort out this symptom, this issue. How do I know? Yes. How do I know?
MB: Right. There are different ways that I would approach that. Part of what you’re asking gets to one of the things we talk about right away in the course is this idea of one and all one. It’s paradoxical. We are discreet beings. We are individuals, and we do share.
To be practical, there are different ways that I would help somebody get the best knowledge that they could about something. I mean, even to the point of honing our intuitive abilities. So that’s kind of another area of work that I do. And some of those can be very simple. There are some ways that you can get at even asking yourself very precise questions. And this gets to the prep work and seeing how those feel in your body. Before you have an urgent question about is this complicated sensation mine or not mine, if you have done your prep work to say, “How does my body react? What is the cue that my body gives me when something is true or false?” you’re ready. That becomes a tool for you. And then when you need to find out if something is true or false, you’ve already learned. It’s like your own personal dictionary of a sensation. Ask yourself things that you already know are true, things that you already know are false. See what happens in your body. And then when you need to ask yourself something that you’re not really sure about, see what happens. That’s one.
TS: Now one question I want to ask you Mara, I’ve worked with an energy healer before who talks about how we have an egg around us, our own little world that’s our personal energy. And I wonder if you experience that or not.
MB: Do I experience that we have our own personal, I do think we have our own personal-
TS: Like an egg. Kind of shaped like an egg, and that we can fill that egg shape around us with our own frequency and light. And that it’s valuable to do that.
MB: Yes, I do think so. One of our meditations is about that. When I talk about shining bright, there are different ways to kind of interpret that and work with that. One of the things that I think is important about that radiance and that inner light, it can be egg shaped. It can take different shapes, but that the light is coming from the inside. Yes, the energy that infuses our physical bodies is part of our signature. It’s part of who we are. And I think that the more that we focus on it, pay attention to it, stoke it up, that itself becomes a protective factor. That becomes part of creating a stronger, more resilient boundary. There’s a part of me that I don’t like the word “boundary.” I always kind of think of how do we come up with other words for that? Some boundaries are hard and fast, but we want to think about do we work with them in a way that’s flexible. Some boundaries are porous.
If you’re working to create this kind of radiant egg—or maybe it’s a cocoon that you form from the inside. Then it becomes less about you’re taking something from the outside to be protective of you. But you can work with it all different ways.
TS: When it comes to shining more brightly from the inside, you have this phrase “powering on.” How do people amplify and power on so that there’s more radiant light coming from the inside?
MB: Well, we layer on the tools that we use. The powering on, it’s a sequence. I think that is part of the preparation work in thinking about what’s my day going to be like today? How do I want to go outside right now, or inside? Or how do I want to get onto this meeting? What state do I want to be in? Is this a conversation or interaction where I want to be as wide open as possible? Meaning I feel completely comfortable. Maybe I’m at home. The equivalent of I’m at home, and the weather’s balmy, and I feel totally safe. And this is a state where I want my boundary to be totally permeable. Things can come in, things can go out.
Or is this a state where I want to be present and aware, but I also do want to be protective. I want to keep everything that’s happening on the outside, on the outside in this meeting mostly. Or is this kind of a full lockdown situation where whatever I’m layering on in this, I want to be in a power posture where I’m very aware. I’m very vigilant, and I don’t want anything to come in.
In that process of powering on, right, you’re having some discernment and decision-making over how you want to be in the world. And we kind of also get to decide how we want to shine. Sometimes you want to be shiny, and bright, and fill up space, and anybody can perceive it. Other times, you might decide that you want to be a little less visible, right?
Going back to my favorite example, the chameleon archetype is sometimes there’s a benefit in being less visible. There are other archetypes that use this visibility-invisibility thing too. There’s nothing wrong with holding your energy close. The introvert-extrovert energetic dynamic is kind of classic duality there. The introverted people tend to, their energy often comes a little closer. And people misinterpret that. Puppy energy—being expansive; sometimes cat energy is held in a little closer. It doesn’t mean it’s any more radiant or any less vibrant. But people sometimes perceive it a little differently.
TS: Now I wanted to ask you one very specific question that’s embedded in the subtitle to this new audio learning series that you’ve created. So Shining Bright Without Burning Out: Spiritual Tools for Creating Healthy Energetic Boundaries in an Overconnected World. How is it that we’re overconnected?
MB: Yes. Overconnected world. We are extraordinarily interconnected in so many ways. On every level. We think about that on the personal level, on the spiritual level, ecologically, technologically, financially. On every possible level. So I think when we are connecting the concepts of burning out and overconnection, there are so few places where we get a break from our interconnection that everything starts to feel overconnected. Most of us can’t come home. Now we’re home all the time after work and not still feel that we’re connected to the workplace, because we’re required to be on 24/7 because we still have our phones. Right?
Many of the spheres that we operate within are blurring together in ways that can feel overconnected. I think the subtitle there—we could use “interconnected,” we could use “overconnected.” But the feeling of being overconnected can lead us to the sense of overwhelm, that can lead us to the sense of burnout until we learn to navigate the intense and pervasive interconnection that we have.
TS: Finally, Mara, you write about how a shamanic practitioner is someone who can see through the eyes of the heart. And I was wondering what that experience is actually like for you. What does that mean to you when you think, “In this situation, I can feel. I’m seeing through the eyes of the heart.” What’s that like?
MB: Yes. Yes. And I think that’s in so many different cultures, the words that describe a shaman or in what you’re asking a shaman practitioner is about perceiving differently. Whether it’s through the heart or seeing in the dark. For me, it’s about sensing with our full capacity. So often, the information that comes to me, it comes in different ways. Sometimes it’s images, sometimes it’s words. But so often, it comes through this— it’shard to translate, which is why I’m pausing here. But this sensation that feels so utterly loving towards the person that I’m working for. That the compassionate spirits who come forward to be of help to either give information or do healing work are so loving towards us, that it’s like being a vessel for that love and compassion coming through. And then it’s my job to somehow either communicate that to the person, or just let it flow through. And it’s very powerful. It becomes wordless, but it becomes this just very, very loving feeling.
TS: Wonderful. I’ve been speaking with Mara Bishop with Sounds True. She’s created a new eight-session audio learning series that’s called Shining Bright Without Burning Out: Spiritual Tools for Creating Healthy Energetic Boundaries in an Overconnected World. And it’s a whole toolkit and a progressive path of training so that you can learn to yes, create healthy, energetic boundaries, and celebrate your sensitivity. Thanks everyone. Thanks for being with us.
Thank you for listening to Insights at the Edge. You can read a full transcript of today’s interview at Soundstrue.com/Podcast. And if you’re interested, hit the Subscribe button in your podcast app. Also, if you feel inspired, head to iTunes and leave Insights at the Edge a review, I love getting your feedback, being in connection with you, and learning how we can continue to evolve and improve our program. Working together, I believe we can create a kinder and wiser world. Soundstrue.com: waking up the world.