The Tao of Carrying Groceries

...or, "How a Simple Chore is Helping Me Become a Better Person"

If you’re like me, rather than dividing the collective load into smaller, more manageable trips, you would rather heave eight bags of groceries from the car into the house in one go. Sling one bag over each shoulder, two bags in the crook of each elbow, clutching the last two in one hand as you fumble your keys in the other and pray you don’t smash the more delicate produce.

I exhibit this same inability to take baby steps in other areas of my life as well. If I wish to cultivate a skill, I pour myself into practice so that I can master it as quickly as possible. If I need to prepare a dish for a party or gathering, I choose the most complicated recipe to try. When confronted with a new idea or concept, I obsessively spin it around my consciousness until I have seen it from all sides. All of this as quickly as possible, of course.

However, the area where this “carry-all-the-groceries” attitude appears most notably is in the context of my own personal growth. Since I work in the field of personal development, energy healing and Spiritual mentorship, I love nerding out over the minutiae of human consciousness, and I am my own favorite subject. Plumbing the depths of my own psychology, emotional intelligence and mindfulness absolutely fascinates me. Why do I make certain choices in my words and behavior? Why do I respond to triggers in a certain way? What, truly, constitutes free will? How am I living as a sovereign being, as opposed to demonstrating the cumulative effects of decades of social conditioning? You know, the easy questions.

Naturally, when a challenge arises in the area of “how can Michelle be a better person,” I throw myself into it with the same determined vigor as I would hauling my eight shopping bags into the house, regardless of whether or not this is actually the best approach.

I discover some hidden emotional wounding from a random event in my past? Unpack all that baggage and sort it out immediately! A challenge arises in my relationship? Jump in and fix it right away! Getting together with my family brings up old dynamics and pushes everyone’s buttons? Let’s all sit down right now and create space to share until everyone feels heard and gets along again!

Based on my extensive self-analysis, the best hypothesis I can offer as to why I must accomplish things as quickly and efficiently as possible comes from a variety of personality traits that somehow add up to me staggering under the burden of a carload of groceries, when any sane person would take two trips. The first of these traits is sheer optimism in my ability to accomplish the task at hand. “Only eight bags of groceries? Of course I can manage that!” cries my inner decision-maker with complete confidence. The second trait is that I love being right. Once the eight bags of groceries are slung around my body, there’s no way I would ever admit to picking up more than I could handle. Reevaluating, taking some off and trying again would mean that I was wrong in the first place. The third trait is the hardest for me to admit, but I am secretly very competitive. This trait has softened over the years, so I am no longer ubiquitously competitive, but if there is a skill that I feel that I SHOULD be good at, I hate being anything less than rock-star caliber. In terms of my own personal development, my competitiveness is of epic proportions. I am well aware of the irony there.

One of the worst parts of my “carry-all-the-groceries” attitude is my own ridiculous hypocrisy. I tell my clients without hesitation to take baby steps as they work through personal challenges. “Be gentle on yourself as you move through your process,” I assure them. “Everything happens in its own space and time. Practice patience and presence, and give yourself permission to not get it perfectly the first time.”


I have finally decided, after years of not following my own advice, to give myself some credit as an expert in my field and treat myself like a client. Don’t I also deserve to be gentle on myself as I move through my process of growth and development? Bringing patience and presence to my journey of self-discovery sounds great!

So, in true Taoist fashion, I am practicing carrying my groceries in two (or more) mindful trips. Rather than holding my breath to ensure the stability of a carton of eggs perched on top of a precarious pile while leaning just far enough to the side to ensure that fourth bag doesn’t slip off of my shoulder, I will instead take the space and time to carry a manageable, comfortable amount. It might take 30 seconds longer, but isn’t it worth the grace and peace of mind? Instead of worrying about satisfying the competitiveness, the need to be right and the blind, unrealistic optimism of my inner perfectionist, I actually get to take my time and feel more relaxed.

Giving myself permission to practice carrying groceries in multiple trips has offered me opportunities to cultivate patience and ease, and treat myself more kindly through unfolding the facets of my very human psyche. In short, I am finally taking the advice that I have long been offering my clients. Personal perfectionism notwithstanding, I deserve to grow in my own space and time, just as I deserve to bring presence and peace to all aspects of my life, including carrying the groceries. Even a simple chore can be a wonderful teacher and opportunity for growth.

Rage and Constructive Destruction

Originally published on Eagle Song February 12, 2016.

Every now and then I fantasize about a certain superpower. These fantasies start whenever I hit a certain level of righteous fury, usually after I’ve read several articles and had conversations about politics, violence, misogyny, oppression, manipulation, wealth inequality, rape culture, environmental and human rights atrocities, etc. At that point, my heart starts burning and my muscles knot and I fantasize about screaming my rage so powerfully that people can’t bear it and they cover their ears, cringing away from the sound of complete destruction. Glass starts exploding all around me and as I keep screaming, fissures open in the ground beneath my feet, buildings start to tremble and I literally crumble the establishment with the power of my voice.

However, since the most success I’ve had with that in my life so far has been setting off the glass-break alarm as a screaming infant, I will have to strive for a less literal interpretation of that particular fantasy. I still plan to crumble the establishment with the power of my voice (with all of our voices), but maybe that will take place through my words, rather than through sheer decibels of burning fury.

I talk a lot about something I call “the fundamental wounding of humanity.” Anyone who has hung around with me long enough has heard me discuss at length how any manifestation of violence, inequality, or just treating each other poorly, can be traced back to this fundamental wound: separation. The belief that we are alone. The belief that we are disconnected from anyone and everything around us–this is the root of abuse, neglect, apathy, hatred and cruelty. Humans have a history of defining themselves (ourselves) based on what they are not. A human looks at a wolf. “I am not like that. That is an entirely different being from me.” And through separation, the potential for fear is born. A member of one tribe encounters a member of a different tribe. “I am not like that. That human looks different from me. He behaves differently from me. We have nothing in common.” And through distancing ourselves, the potential for fear is born. Fear grows into hatred for everything that we are not. Through separation, we give ourselves permission and justification to abuse animals, because they are not like us and do not experience emotion. We give ourselves permission to hate people from other cultures and ideologies, because they are not like us and they can’t be trusted. We give ourselves permission to clear cut forests and burn thousands of acres to the ground because we are separate from the earth, and plants feel no pain.

When I read these articles and have discussions about the state of the world, I see how there are so many people invested in keeping things the way they are. Right now, we exist in a system designed to make people slaves and perpetuate the belief that we are separate, and therefore powerless. If we lived in a world where empathy and connection was the norm, many of the atrocities that we see every day would not exist. They simply do not fit with the idea that we live in an interconnected Universe. This would not exist.

And neither would this.

And neither would this.

And I don’t have an article for this one, but I was speaking with a friend the other day who told me that her partner worked for years with a medical research company developing technology that was less invasive and more successful than our current model of surgery. Guess what? The technology was abandoned after it was found to be less profitable than the current treatment protocols. In a world where we prioritized compassion and empathy, such an occurrence would not exist.

And neither would many other things. But I’m not here to list everything that’s wrong with the world.

What I am here to do is to channel my rage into a constructive avenue. I call upon the super power of my voice to bring complete destruction to the corrupt establishment.

And how does that happen?

Through healing the fundamental wound of humanity. Through remembering that we are all–humans, animals, plants, elements, energies, Earth–more deeply connected than we could ever imagine.

I call upon the super power of my voice to teach empathy and compassion. I call upon the super power of my voice to reach people with Truth and love. I call upon the super power of my voice to penetrate to the darkest corners of our collective being so that we may call for the complete destruction of all that which does not serve the Highest and Greatest Good of All That Is. I call upon the super power of my voice to channel my compassionate rage for the purpose of constructive destruction. I call upon the super power of my voice to inspire people to discover the miracle of connection within themselves, so that they can connect with others and the world around them. I call upon the super power of my voice to heal myself, so that I may heal the world.

*Glass shatters.*

Photo: Screaming Rage by Silvie Tepes

Advanced Empathy: Moving Energy for the Collective

Originally published on Eagle Song October 27, 2015.

I began writing this article exactly two months ago. I set it aside for awhile, but since then, new insight has come forward to lend itself to greater understanding. Here is the original portion of the article from August 27th:

I had one of those Universal “Oh, duh!” moments today about an idea that feels so important I can’t believe it hadn’t consciously occurred to me before. Or rather, it probably has, but never in such an obvious way that highlighted its perfect truth.

My day today was full of experiences which contributed toward a feeling of hypersensitivity–I had a fantastic long run this morning in which I felt strong and present in my entire body, I enjoyed a very expansive meeting with a client, and I drank a lot of tea (a somewhat psychedelic pu’er) while talking for hours with a friend about communication, connection, Spirituality, interpersonal dynamics, etc. All in all, by the time I got home this evening, I was in a heightened state of awareness and receptivity.

So when I discovered that an acquaintance of mine had taken her life a few days ago and witnessed the outpouring of grief from those close to her, I felt myself immediately get swept into an intensely emotional space. I recognized my natural empathic response and started the process of identifying “What is mine? What is not mine?” in regards to the cascade of feelings. Like always, as soon as I put a name to “I am channeling the collective consciousness of grief on behalf of all of these people,” I felt better. I have spent many years practicing emotional and energetic boundaries so I don’t take on other people’s stuff.

And yet, it occurred to me that maybe having solid emotional and energetic boundaries is only part of what it means to use empathy in a healthy and constructive way. As soon as I delved into this thought spiral, I felt a deep resonance with the idea that someone who has practiced grounded and self-aware empathy will be able to use their gift to move and transmute massive amounts of energy on behalf of others.

This is where the “Oh, duh!” moment occurred. In fact, now that I think about it, a few examples immediately come to mind where I have done mass-consciousness-level healing in the last year by channeling the wounds of the collective through empathy.

Let’s look at the layers of understanding around empathy (and here I use “sadness” as an example, but it could be anything):

  1. Unconsciousness: I have feelings! Sometimes I feel sad and I’m not sure why.
  2. Awareness: Other people have feelings! I feel sad when other people feel sad.
  3. Identification: That feeling of sadness does not belong to me.
  4. Separation: I am holding my emotional and energetic boundary so I can witness your sadness in compassion, but not feel it myself.
  5. ***HEALING*** (this is the new idea): I recognize the sadness and wounding of this individual or collective group of beings and, knowing and trusting in my capacity to let it flow through me, I give permission for it to do so in order to transmute this energy on behalf of these people and for the benefit of all beings.

When I tuned in to Spirit for any guidance on the subject, I received confirmation in a big way. Yes, this is part of the purpose of empathy.

That is where I left the article at the time. Fast forward to this morning (October 27th), when a close friend of mine tells me about a profound healing experience she had over the weekend. This healing allowed her to release the energy of shame around sexuality that she had been holding onto since her childhood. She told me about what it felt like to process this shame for herself and to let it go, and then went on to describe how she felt the sexual shame of all women flowing through her to be transmuted and released in the same way.

I told her the ideas I had about “Advanced Empathy” and how someone practiced in holding their personal boundaries could move a step beyond the separation and allow the energy to flow through them to offer healing for the benefit of all. She was intrigued by the idea and agreed wholeheartedly, I remembered this forgotten article, and here we are.

Let me note that I call this idea “Advanced Empathy” for a reason. Both my friend and I are extremely practiced healers who have spent years cultivating healthy boundaries and learning how to safely move powerful energies. Most empathic people, when they discover that their capacity for empathy makes them susceptible to the feelings of others around them, take steps to learn how to protect themselves from being overwhelmed (Separation: #4 on the list above). This is both a totally reasonable and completely necessary tool for forming constructive boundaries. I remember learning in my late teens and early twenties that having solid energetic boundaries was the only way for me to comfortably live in the world.

But what is the true purpose of empathy? Humans evolved as a cooperative species in which the survival of the group depended on each individual feeling connected to the community, cared for and invested in the well-being of others in the tribe. We’ve moved beyond some of the nitty-gritty aspects of survival, but still, feeling other peoples’ emotions is essential to the human experience. It is when a person doesn’t have empathy for other beings that they are capable of unkindness, inflicting pain, cruelty, murder or genocide. The purpose of empathy, then, has to do with not only sensing the feelings of other people, but with using it as a means of connection and healing, rather than as a cause for separation.

And it is only through “Advanced Empathy” that we can go about healing some of the massive wounds that exist in the collective consciousness. When I learned about my acquaintance who ended her life, I used empathy to offer healing not only to her, but to all those who grieved for her passing. And really, to all those who needed help moving the energy of grief. When my friend experienced her healing and release of sexual shame, then felt the energy of the sexual shame of all women moving through her, she was using empathy to heal the feminine collective consciousness. When I channeled Joan of Arc a few months ago and felt the energy ripping through me, I was offering healing by holding empathy and transmuting the wounds of all those who had suffered, who had lived in fear or who had been killed for revealing who they really were. That’s another story in itself, but there’s the short version for now.

Where do we go from here? Learning healthy and constructive boundaries is always a good thing. People who can hold a safe energetic container and who have practiced a high degree of self-awareness will be in a great position to take empathy to the next level. There are so many wounds that exist in the collective consciousness, and the more that we can transmute this energy into healing, the better. The times I have worked with channeling empathy for healing of the collective, it was pulled out of me unconsciously. My personal goal is to move into a place of conscious empowerment around empathy, when I can use my healthy, grounded boundaries and say, “I recognize the wounding of the collective consciousness and, knowing and trusting in my capacity to let it flow through me, I give permission for it to do so in order to transmute this energy on behalf of these people and for the benefit of all beings.”