“I am out here studying stones / Trying to learn to be less alive … To keep my face blank / As a stone that just sank.”
I listen as people cast stones, and I too try to slow the blood in my veins. I am an empath: discernment is a skill I’ve had to learn; condemnation is not possible for someone like me. As an empath, my world does not include black and white, rather I am constantly saturated in life’s many shades of every color—your experience and emotions are as real to me as though they were my own. Born with a psychic sensitivity to the energetic vibrations of people, places, animals, plants—and even things—I live in a unified world without borders. Boundaries, another skill I’ve worked to acquire.
Those of you familiar with my story, know that I moved to Buffalo beckoned by intuition. I came to a city with low self esteem to raise my own—keenly aware of the interdependent relationship between my energy and my environment’s. Fear spreads, enthusiasm catches; every action begets a reaction. By healing myself, I heal my community.
I did not spend my first winter on the East Coast in Buffalo, instead I retreated to my family’s lake house in the Pocono Mountains. I needed to re-center and be alone; to be surrounded by the calming effect of nature. Friends with only the postmaster, the municipal employee at the town dump and the owner of a small natural foods store, I lived alone in the woods without television, Facebook or even possessions, which remained packed in storage. My only diversion that winter was a spontaneous outing to Scranton to hear Ani DiFranco perform. Despite my history with her music, I had only seen Ani one time, in Oregon, just before embarking for Buffalo.
As I sat alone in the auditorium waiting for the show to begin, I surveyed my surroundings; overheard snippets of snide conversations and studied the audience. Suddenly overcome by bleak feelings of depression, I feared I’d made a mistake. Everything about the energy that wintery evening felt ugly and coarse to me, and I regretted not only the concert, but having moved east. Like a poison entering my veins, I felt myself becoming despondent and bitter.
The show began, and at first, sitting there felt like a chore. Uncomfortable and unhappy, I considered leaving. Attuned to the downside of being an empath, I chose instead to pass time by playing with the experience—to consciously merge my awareness with Ani’s perspective. What happened next, I can only describe as magical.
I noted Ani’s passion as she talked about Obama’s recent election and felt an authentic joy fill me as she began to play. As I gave myself over to the experience, the heaviness lifted and with each new song I found myself being swept up in a wave of enthusiasm. The next thing I knew, Ani had jumped off stage with her guitar and was dancing and hugging in a gleeful crowd—people rushing from their seats to join the throng. Through her unbridled joy, Ani raised the vibration in the theatre that evening, catalyzing a healing experience of shared, amplified love.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, the why never comes first, if it comes at all.”
I wrote Studying Stones, the original, while in Maryland helping my father care for my mother. Completely consumed with the experience of my mother’s dementia—a full-time, exhausting job—I knew nothing of Ani’s Righteous Retreat and the fan fire blazing online. I dreamt of Ani. I am a lucid dreamer and in my dream Ani was cat sitting my mother’s cat Fava Bean, and I introduced myself. Fava Bean’s fur is called smoke: it is white with black tips, giving him the appearance of a black cat until you pet him and realize that he is neither black or white. When I woke in the morning, I googled Ani, absorbed the recent events and felt compelled to repay a debt of gratitude.
Curiously, the night before, I dreamt of my friend Griffin Brady who runs the Slyboots School of Music. Griffin partners with the Dagara Music Center in Ghana, West Africa and every year he takes a group of students to Ghana. Included in the experience is a trip to the slave castles. Griffin, and friends who have gone with him, have shared with me reflections of what can only be described as a profound, conscious-altering experience that defies language. Griffin arranges the castle visits for the middle of the trip, which is largely a cultural immersion adventure filled with music, dance and celebration. He told me that after visiting the castles, he brings guests to a beautiful beach, in a peaceful setting to afford time and space for each person to process and recover from the haunting, transforming energy felt standing at the epicenter of such unthinkable history.
As I’ve written many ways, in different posts, intuitive intelligence demands trust: it means surrendering to a higher unfolding and it requires integrity to personal truth—even when that truth flies in the face of convention.
I am left to wonder if Ani’s venue was a mistake, and suspect it wasn’t. Alive and steeped in their own history, places, like people, attract energy. What if Ani was called to Nottoway Plantation, as I was called to Buffalo? What if she had brought to that place scarred by fear and abomination her conscious awareness and capacity for joy? Born in a city that was the last stop on the road to freedom, who are we to say that Ani wasn’t intended to travel the underground railroad back to it’s beginning and complete some healing of her soul’s own making? Personal truth means it is yours, and yours alone. Each of us must find our own way; live our own story. Only you can heal your broken heart, mend your wounded mind and set your spirit free.