Our online blog started off as a personal blog recapitulating Dianna's past, and now posts more broad spiritual and wellness articles from Dianna Hardy and others in the field, as well as updates on all courses and workshops.
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If you've wandered here by chance and do not know what an empath is, take a look at the post: Embracing Life as an Empath
This post is specifically written with empaths and highly sensitive people in mind, but anyone can use these grounding methods at any time as they are practical and can be ingrained into everyday life. In later posts, I'll talk about more spiritual and meditative / visualisation-based approaches to protect yourself and your boundaries, but in this post, I'm listing very "normal" things that you can do (that won't raise eyebrows!), daily, and quite easily, to help balance and ground your emotions, and ease any feelings of overwhelm. All of these things work for me - I use at least one method a day.
(Disclaimer: I will not be liable if you decide to take to the streets dressed as Thor!)
Hopefully someone will find the above list helpful to a degree. It sounds so simple when I write it all down, but these are things we forget to do with our busy lives - that we let slip so often - not least because, in order to work to their maximum effectiveness, they need to be done often and regularly. The ones that work for you best - they need to part of a routine. We're so rarely able to keep something up regularly in this day and age - it's one of the reasons shamanic and pagan [ceremonial] rituals were so prized: on a very practical level (not even going into the spiritual reason, here), their regularity - the routine - encouraged security, unity, and a sense of value, integrity and support in the community and for the self. (I'll also cover this aspect a bit more when I blog about meditative and spiritual approaches we can use to strengthen our balance and boundaries.)
By forming some kind of routine with the above, we can give that back to ourselves.
First, the difference between having empathy, and being an empath. In simple terms: Having empathy is the ability to resonate with another's feelings; to be in tune with someone's emotions. Being an empath is to feel what someone else feels as if the feelings are your own, and I mean this literally. (Empaths are seen as fictional by most - not real.)
I know a lot about the Otherworld - I've been journeying there ever since I can remember and in many ways, it feels more like home than here. (I will be writing about those journeys and my experiences in the Otherworld - please bear with me - it takes time to fill a blog, and there's a lot to write about.)
But, it should be noted to anyone reading this post, that I've only very recently admitted to myself that I'm an empath.
I'm an empath.
I don't remember that word (or term) really existing when I was researching spiritual things in my late teens. I remember reading about emotional vampires and psychic protection; I remember reading about those who are of a sensitive disposition; but I don't remember coming across anything about being an empath - that it was actually a thing in its own right.
Saying it out loud brings tears to my eyes because I've always shut it out. So, the section called 'Being an Empath' in the menu (into which this post will also be linked) is an experiment; it's a journey of my current exploration of this part of me I've always denied, or always attributed to my connection with the Otherworld rather than to being here in this world. These posts may be messy and ugly, or beautiful and magical. I'll include protection and balance exercises that work for me as I go, and whatever else I think needs sharing. It's all a journey about how to exist in this world as me.
When I was about five years old, and walking along a busy pavement with my mother, I stepped on a worm. I heard it scream before I looked down and realised that I'd stepped on it. As bizarre as that might sound to anyone not spiritually-inclined, that's exactly what happened. I was so upset because I knew - obviously - that I had hurt it. It also wriggled under my sandaled foot, trying to escape before I hastily lifted my foot off it. I remember telling my mum I heard it scream. (I think she humoured me with a non-committal noise.) I've never stepped on a worm again - I literally take great care not to. I can't stand killing any animals, although I sadly admit that flies and mosquitoes sometimes meet their end in my house - not by my hand if I can help it. Whenever possible, I let them out the window. And I insist on keeping spiders in the house rather than shoo-ing them out so those flies and mosquitoes meet their end as part of the natural food chain. My cats help with that, too!
It's only now that I understand I felt the worm's pain - perhaps my brain translated it into a scream? I have no idea, and to me it doesn't matter because our five senses are just different ways of experiencing the same thing. To me, feeling the worm's pain is exactly the same as hearing it scream. It's only now, embracing the empath in me, that I understand my ability to feel nature and the world's happenings in this way is a part of who I am, and perfectly okay. In the Otherworld, among its entities, pain is always owned, and creatures can speak to you, so it's very easy to understand what is yours and what is someone else's. I thought I didn't belong here on this planet because the balance I so easily found while dreaming and journeying, I could not find here. My physical body was a barrier to my sense of self; every corporealised human soul seemed lost and adrift in their own suffering, existing as a manifestation of that suffering.
Nature helped. Nature was always beautiful and true, and I always found the deepest peace among it. My emotions attuned to nature readily without battle, and more so, nature always responded (still does) by attuning itself to me. (That is how it feels.) Being in the deepest parts of nature (in forests, woods, at the beach, amid mountains, rivers, valleys, and so on, is the closest way I can think of to describe what journeying feels like for me.
But I digress... back to being an empath...
My mother used to tell me that when I was around three years old, I could be seen in the playground of my school hugging everyone who was upset. And I actually do remember this. There was always at least one kid crying (there always is in the playground when you're three!), and I distinctly remember feeling their pain. I would go right up to them and hug them because, at three, hugging was what I knew took pain away. I'd do this every day - every time someone was crying. I also remember thinking that if I was happy, they would feel my joy if I hugged them. I had no understanding that not everyone could feel what others feel.
When I was four years old - at my mother's wedding reception, I think it was - I was sitting next to a girl, who was sort of a friend, who I admired no end. I really liked her. She was a tomboy, and brave, and she wore her hair short (which not a lot of girls did), and I thought she was awesome. I don't remember what we were doing - I think she might have been trying to apply lipstick on me, or something(!) - but I felt a sudden rush of love for her; this massive wave that washed over me, and without thinking about it, I leaned forward and gave her a hug.
She said, "Eeeeeew!" really loudly and pushed me away. I felt her disgust like it was my own and was devastated I'd caused such a feeling. I didn't hug anyone again for ten years - not a proper hug. I remember my mum complaining, so sad, that I refused hugs from her from that day. In my mind, I just didn't want to hurt anyone with my hug ever again - I couldn't stand to cause that kind of pain. That's how a four-year-old empath's mind works.
That was my first lesson in understanding that I needed to set boundaries, and that other people had them, too, and had the right to set their own. I didn't see boundaries before then - it's very hard to see them, or understand them, when you feel what others feel.
Over the next few weeks and months, I'm actively working to "undo" the negative mental patterns and scars that such childhood experiences leave you with. (We all have them.) Embracing my empath is the first step. I've told off that child in me so many times over the past three-and-a-half decades - for stepping on that worm, and for hugging people who didn't want to be hugged. I've told her off so much for causing pain. But it wasn't her fault. It really wasn't. She couldn't help who she was and her perception of the world at the ages of three and four; five and six.
I'm embracing her now. She was an empath and still is. Ever since those incidents, I have found it awkward and difficult to walk in this world - made of bodies and opinions and harshness, and so much repression that it cuts me in half. We have no idea who we are - as individuals and as a race of people. "Luminous beings", says Yoda, and I'm inclined to agree. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all embraced the thing that made us luminous? Actually manifested it and lived it?
That's what I'm going to do, and I've debated whether I want to make myself potentially vulnerable by writing it all down. But there's great strength to be found in vulnerability. If my messy life journey can help or inspire someone else to be luminous - to be their authentic self - maybe I can walk in this world after all.
*Recommended reading at the bottom of this post.
When I was a child, I used to sit on the floor, cross-legged, and, unintentionally, rock back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth. I would always wander off into a daydream whilst doing this, and I never knew I was rocking until I came back from the daydream and caught myself rocking.
My mum would hate it. I remember her walking into my bedroom more than once, because I did not respond to her calling my name (I didn’t hear her – I was off dreaming), and she’d find me rocking. She’d exhale sharply, and say, “For goodness sake, stop rocking like that – you look like one of those neglected orphan children!”
I suppose I had a sad look on my face? I never really knew what she meant, but it obviously pressed her buttons (more than once). For some reason she associated rocking with trauma.
I never felt sad or lost (or traumatised) while rocking, or daydreaming. I felt calm and balanced. I rocked a lot, right up until my teenage years, and even now I sometimes catch myself doing it without knowing straight away. It was years later, at the age of about twenty, when I discovered through reading and research that many shamans rocked (to drumming, to chanting, or to silence) as a way to reach trance state so they could journey.
Finding this information was like coming home. I remember feeling overjoyed; someone understood; I’d found solidarity! And the more I read, the more I identified. All these things – rocking, dreaming; all my very many dreams I’d had, ever since I could remember – the flying dreams, and floating dreams, and falling dreams, and the people and creatures I connected with through them – now meant something.
It’s a strange thing to feel overjoyed and deeply sad all at the same time. I felt sorrow that I had no tribe; there was no village and no elder to recognise what I was doing and guide me through it, and I wouldn’t be the only one – most children with shaman tendencies, growing up rocking and dreaming in the year 2000, would have to find their own way. It made me realise how much we'd truly lost amid the growth of technology and everything that takes us away from nature and from our spiritual selves.
So I did what I’ve always done: I taught myself. I read everything I could on shamanism and its practices, from Native American, to Celtic, to Siberian, to African. I identified with Native American and Celtic the most, particularly remembering my Native American spirit guide as a child, and the sense of safety and familiarity I felt while in his presence. How I wished I could remember all the words he breathed into my ear when I was three. I could only remember a fraction, but I knew he taught me a lot in my dreams.
In those pre-internet days, I found someone local – a shamanic teacher by the name of Ivan, who was running a training programme. I wasn't one for seeking out teachers, but I felt a need to do everything I had read; to somehow put it into practice so I could grow outside my own mind. But I didn't and never have believed in "gurus" - one should always follow their own path with their own mind. Ivan never portrayed himself as a guru, or as knowing everything, which was good. I liked him on our first meeting. Fair enough, this wasn’t going to be a testing month-long trek through the Amazon Jungle with native shamans teaching me their ways, but it was the year 2000, most tribal villages have been decimated and their shamans (and their teachings) lost to us. It was a start. (And the Surrey Hills was magical enough!)
That was when I found myself on a seven-month long shamanic warrior “death and rebirth” course with Ivan McBeth (now passed away), and while I was doing this, I was still reading and studying. I’ve always been eclectic with my studies – I think how I grew up in my early childhood demanded I look at many different cultures and viewpoints. I eventually found myself reading about the practices of druidry and witchcraft in England, and I found yet another path I could follow. Whereas shamanism spoke to my soul and my undeveloped abilities, this other path spoke to my creativeness and dramatic flair: the path of the witch.
I discovered it was entirely possible to be a solitary witch, and the idea of a coven never appealed to me anyway, for I felt too ingrained with my shamanism through my spirit guide to be fully immersed in the teachings of a coven.
So, in the years 2000 and 2001, respectively, I happily dedicated myself to the path of a solitary witch, while I was also initiated as a shamanic warrior. In essence (and if we’re going to go by labels), I suppose I became a shamanic witch.
I'll go into the witchcraft aspect more in later posts.
I have read so much, and some books were from the library. Some books were given away or lost amid house moves over the past two-and-a-half decades, but I remember some of what I read and still have a lot of those books. The below are a short list of books I found inspirational and helpful while studying and practicing shamanism. Of course, I didn't agree with every single thing in every book, but who does? Books are supposed to make you question, think, and find yourself, and they did just that. (Note: I read these in 1999 / 2000 / 2001 - times have changed, as have I - but they opened doors for me at the time.)
When I was around twenty-one, I paid rent to live in a self-contained room in a house. The bathroom was separate, but all the kitchen equipment was in the room. The room was on the second floor and had a beautiful view across a green hill and a couple of fields.
I had a wooden, carved snake. A cobra I think. I bought it from an ethnic African store on the High Street of some town in London - it could have been Richmond. It was a couple of feet tall. I’ve always loved snakes – they’re one of my totem animals (a guardian one in fact, but that’s a post for another day). I placed this snake beside my door, inside my room. It was, to my mind, the guardian of the door – I often told myself this jokingly, and I would usually give it a pat on the head when I left the room before locking the door behind me.
I’m sure we all have small, slightly daft things like this we do, that don’t really mean a lot at face value, but we do them anyway for whatever reason that might be. Sports people are well known for having little rituals before a game or a match – it focuses and balances the mind; it makes you feel better, too. Actors will say “break a leg” before each theatre performance, and so on.
Patting the head of my snake before leaving the house was my little thing.
One day, I was on a train heading to somewhere I can’t remember now, but I was going to be out all day, and I remembered, with a sinking heart, that I had forgotten to lock my door.
Now, this was a room where one of the neighbours – a man in his mid-thirties – had walked in by “accident” before. He then apologised, saying he thought it was his room and he wasn’t paying attention to where he was going. (It was the middle of the day, and I hadn’t locked the door because I was awake and busy, and I didn’t see the need.) I was never truly sure if I believed it was an accident – not least because I had been stalked before by someone who did intentionally break into my bedsit (a different one) a couple of years before this.
Regardless of whether it was an accident or not, I didn’t want it to happen again, and I had always made sure the door was locked from then on, even during the day when I was in.
So remembering I had not locked the door, while on this train, made me feel quite upset. There was nothing I could do. Except there was something I could do…
I closed my eyes, and went into that dream state (like meditation) I’ve always been very good at slipping into, and I focused all my energy on my wooden snake that guarded the door. In my mind, something similar to a “spell” formed, and I concentrated my intention on the snake, speaking to it in my mind and willing it to guard the door and attack any intruder who might enter.
I did this for at least five minutes; maybe ten. Time is never something I’m properly aware of when I’m in this state. In my mind, I was feeling for the right time to pull back and end the trance – I wanted to be sure the “spell” - my intention – was fully complete before I pulled myself out.
There was a very loud CRACK to my left that made me jump right out of my dream state with a gasp. I looked to my left, and the entire window pane next to my seat (I was in the window seat of the train) had been shattered by something, and the glass had formed a pattern across the whole pane: tiny diamond-like shapes stretching from one side to the other that looked very much like snakeskin.
That was the answer I was looking for. The logical explanation, of course, is that a tiny stone, or piece of grit had flown up from the track, caught the glass pane at a specific angle (at that exact moment) and caused it to crack.
To my mind, however, the other, metaphysical explanation was also one hundred percent valid: my snake had answered my call, and the spell was done.
Which is the “correct” explanation? The answer is both – they are both correct. Because, as the saying goes among witches, “as above, so below”. We live on the material plane and everything that is “other” is connected to it. The scientist will find logic for the artist’s art (even if the artist does not need it), and the artist will find a spirit for the scientist’s experiment (even if the scientist does not need it).
I long for the day we can – as a collective – accept and appreciate this about each other without disagreeing and arguing. We all walk the same path, just from different sides of the track, and as far as I’m concerned, both explanations – both viewpoints – can exist in complete harmony. As with all things, acceptance is the key.
Whichever view you lean towards, my intention to protect my home came to fruition. The rest of that day went well. I accepted my spell had worked and I let it go, forgetting about my unlocked door (no longer “unlocked” to my mind), and when I came back home, everything was in order, no one had been in my space, and none of my items were missing. Perhaps everything would have been fine anyway, but that wasn't the point - the point was my well-being and balanced state of mind. We can always help ourselves, even if we think ourselves helpless. Many laugh at the thought of "prayer", but prayer with intention is very similar to what this was - if done right, it is energy focused and directed. The power of the mind is phenomenal and the second greatest tool we have as human beings. (The first is the ability to love.)
My wooden snake … I can’t fully remember what happened to it. I think it broke at some point over the past twenty years and went to wooden-effigy heaven (yes, that’s a joke). I didn’t feel particularly sad about it because I don’t believe items hold power on their own – only the power we give to it – but writing this down has made me think it would be nice to get another snake.
Perhaps this time, I’ll get a real one.
This website has shifted. I have shifted. (I write shifters for a reason!) I am forever shifting, dying, transforming and rising - change and transgression are part of my path; walking with Death, so familiar it feels like the path home every time.
I don't want to write too much "About" me for this reason - read my About page, and that will tell you everything you need to know about what goes on behind the scenes of my books and in the valleys of my soul for the now. I just want to write and let the posts show you my "About".
Some of the posts on this blog will be written as streams of consciousness; some will be written like a practical how-to guide; some will be snapshots - pictures and quotes; some will be ... whatever comes to mind. I don't want to limit myself.
When I started writing books, I started with poetry, and with Mind, Body, Spirit books. When my fiction took off (paranormal romance and dark urban fantasy), I unpublished the Mind, Body, Spirit books because I didn't want to confuse my audience and blur the lines between non-fiction and fiction, and to some extent, you need "focus" in order to grow. Fiction was my focus. I wanted to grow as an author; I wanted to grow my career, and I did.
More recently, I've gone through (am going through) a big personal shift. As the political and social climate over the past 5+ years has become more and more divided, I have found a deep-seated need to become less so. I am many facets, not just one. A diamond shines best with around 58 facets, so perhaps I need 58 facets to shine; to be whole.
My spiritual nature has been with me far longer than my books - I was dream-journeying from the age of three (possibly earlier, but I don't remember too much before three, other than my very first proper memory at the age of one). I've never known any other way. And I've realised something the past few months: I've worked so hard to make my books take off, to manifest a stable career for my family, for my daughter, and for myself, that without realising it, I've tried to fit my alternative self into a mainstream world in order to be accepted - to have my books accepted - when I'm not mainstream at all. I never have been. By nature I never have been.
It's time to stop.
I caught a cold virus in December that threw up issues I needed to let go of, dating back from my childhood - issues that, once I throw off - I know I can flame into the future unhindered. That virus shrouded me in dark dreams to show me the way, and the points in time I need to heal.
Another thing I realised with more clarity is that my nature has never been separate from my fiction - it's all in there in some form or another, although I have always been hesitant to say so because I don't ever want people to see the author when they read - I want them to see themselves and the story - that's the whole point of fiction. Enjoy the books for what they are and nothing more unless the "more" calls to you specifically.
But every author puts some of themselves into their stories - every author. It's impossible to create anything without the seed that comes from YOU.
This blog, I set up, with the intention of helping me live authentically - WHOLE - in this increasingly divisive world that has dug its way into my heart and made me feel sad. Very sad. I've always been empathic; sensitive; and when you feel so much, those divisions are something you armour against, or you're cut by their harshness. I'm not willing to let those who covet division have that kind of power over me. I am not just talking about political issues, I'm talking about how we allow those issues to define us without realising we're doing it - in our manner, in our speech, in our subconscious thoughts - and it then filters into society. It also filters into social media - that's a whole other type of society we feed from. The irony of it all is that division is an illusion - it need not exist at all. None of us are born divided. It's an illusion used for the purposes of power and control.
I have a daughter I cherish. She will never be "normal" - ever. (Normal to me, yes, but not to the mainstream, and why should she be? It's our differences that make us who we are.) I can't teach her how to be strong and true when I'm trying to fit my very round self into a very square hole. By doing that, I am perpetuating division. All the difficulties she will face, I need to face them within myself, so I can help her walk her own path. That's not the sole reason for this blog, but it skirts around the edges of my mind as important - our children are our future. What are you teaching yours?
I used to get teased by my friends (in fun, not in malice) because I would find it hard to decide which side of any debate I wanted to be on. They saw me as sitting on the fence, but that wasn't my own view. I saw myself as having wide perspective, able to see all sides of the story. Of course, sometimes, I'm very clear on which side I fall on - we all have hard limits. Seeing every perspective does not mean you fight for none. It means you have compassion for what you're fighting against.
At the point division meets is an uncomfortable place to be - people will try to knock you out of that place - but it's also a powerful place to be. When you're between fire and ice, you connect with every facet, and transcend every barrier into Oneness.
Oneness is a damn good thing. That's where authenticity leads - it can only lead to wholeness, and when you're whole - when all your 58 facets work as one - you're unbreakable. At that point, I shall probably Ascend as there might be very little point in being here in the duality of incarnation - who knows. Is group Ascension a thing? Can we Ascend as a collective of enlightened, whole beings? I don't know. I've never reached that point. But if anyone's willing to join me for the ride, my door to Oneness is open, and wide - I think quite a few of us can fit through. Here's hoping.
Upcoming Courses & Workshops
Crash Course in Using Bach Flower Remedies - 3 hour workshop in South Hampshire, UK.