My friend Kaitlyn sends me her beautiful photos to use in the Listening Post. Last month she sent me this photo along with a note that said,
“I haven’t been able to pick up my camera lately…so I decided to share with you this hand painted mandala longboard I finished last week. I’ve doodled them for a few years now and decided to take it to the next level: it’s my version of meditation.”
Pondering this, it hit me that every highly sensitive person I know has his or her own “version of meditation.” Kaitlyn encounters the numinous through photography and mandala painting. Another friend of mine finds it hiking and skiing in the Adirondack Mountain backcountry. My dad is moved to tears by the numinous quality of certain pieces of music.
HSP spirituality: deeply personal and vulnerable to talk about
Elaine Aron has observed that HSP’s share a yearning for contact with the numinous. We gravitate towards experiences that have a spiritual quality. For us, the world is full of spiritual energy and events.
If we all share this, why do we show such caution, even reticence, in talking about it?
Because it feels really exposed, risky, and private—that’s why. This article serves as a case in point: I started trying to write it over two months ago. I couldn’t find a way to write it that felt right, but I couldn’t stand to write about anything else either. I got my knickers in such a twist that I actually missed publication on February 7! (I’m probably the only one who noticed, but it got my attention: it wasn’t like me. I hadn’t missed an issue since I started sending out The Listening Post in September 2014.)
Wow! Why the exposed, risky feeling? I can think of three reasons I feel that way (and you can probably add more):
- My spirituality is deeply personal. This is true for many sensitive people. If I’m going to talk about this topic with another person, I want to honor it by doing it in a way that facilitates a respectful, subtle exchange of meaning. I’d want to slow things down since it is so easy to leap to assumptions. It’s not easy to do this, and not a common way of relating.
- I don’t want to expose this sacred place to judgment, or inadvertently sound like I’m judging others who have different views, beliefs, or practices. (I know I’m not alone in this as a sensitive person: because we ponder our spirituality deeply and tend to put ourselves in others’ shoes, we are less likely to be rigid, formal, or doctrinaire about faith and spiritual practice.)
- Spiritual expression is an evolving thing for me. So to write about it, I have to find some way to express, “This is what I’m thinking/doing/practicing right now, but it comes from a context of such and such I’ve done in the past, and will surely evolve in the future…” This is pretty complex and subtle, and given the hesitations #1 and #2 bring up for me, I get to this point and say, “Ah, forget it.”
So why bother trying to talk about spirituality?
It would certainly be easier just to let this go. But it would be a mistake. I’d be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
My personal experience and my work with many sensitive people has convinced me that a sturdy connection to our spirituality is essential to our well-being. We need this connection to guide our decisions and our actions, and to manage and make sense of our intense emotions. Spiritual connection is the “mother skill” of all the skills we need to thrive.
It is a core HSP need to honor and cultivate our relationship to the spiritual. We need to hang out regularly with other people who “get” this, and we need to develop the listening skills to fully hear each other on this profound, essential, subtle topic.
In my next article I’ll write about the key importance of strengthening spiritual connection through a daily practice.
Photo by Kaitlyn Wyenberg, firstname.lastname@example.org