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Live Your Calling

How many times have you done something because someone else wanted you to? Or maybe you felt like they wanted you to and that was enough to change your course. I often fall into the second category because I am such an empath. I’ve got this gift of being able to feel what people want and to feel how they feel. For much of my life I was unclear how to turn that into an asset instead of viewing it as a problem.

When you’re an empath you are super sensitive to the energy of others and can deeply perceive and understand what they are feeling. In case you’re wondering if this is you or not, it is. We’re all empathic to a degree and we can become more so my recognizing it as a valuable skill and cultivating it further.

As a younger person I was very ungrounded. Because I am so sensitive and had no boundaries, it was really easy to get all caught up (read: enmeshed) in the energy and feelings of others. I took on the pain and suffering of many people around me and that left me totally drained. It also made it very difficult to make decisions for myself. Living without boundaries often left me in this messy web of energy that didn’t belong to me. I let that energy guide many of my choices and after abandoning myself one too many times, I recognized it was time to change.

Learning how to ground myself and create boundaries has been years in the making. It is a process and the more consistent I am, the quicker I change. Grounding myself in practices like meditation, yoga, and gratitude make it easier for me to not take on the energy of others keep very clear boundaries. When I am grounded in who I am, I am present with the truth that I can only life my life. When I am grounded, it rarely occurs to me to make decisions that don’t have my best interest at heart.

In my late 20’s I was at a crossroads. I had been out of graduate school for years and was teaching and working as an artist. I wasn’t 100 percent happy with my life and I started listening to what the people around me wanted. Some people close to me were pushing hard for me to fully embrace being an art teacher and make that my career. I started the process of researching PhD programs, got applications, and emailed professors. Every time I sat down to write my essay about why I wanted a PhD in art nothing came out. I literally could not even write one sentence.

One rainy Portland afternoon I sat across from my therapist and she asked me point blank: do you want to be an art teacher? At first it was hard to give her a straight answer. I hemmed and hawed about wanting to have a stable job and how some of these European schools seemed pretty cool. She knew I was full of shit and kindly asked me again, do you want to be an art teacher? In that moment I was ready to let go of what other people wanted for me and said out loud what I wanted: No. I don’t want to be an art teacher.

Phew. Sigh. Relief.

Here’s the deal: we can only live our life. I’ll write it again because if you’re anything like me it’s worth repeating: we can only life our life.

We all have a calling. For some of us it is a distinct feeling in our gut, for others it’s a vision, and for a few of us it’s a sound. However we access our calling, it is our job to live it out.

Today I use my skills and as an empath to connect with clients and students in amazing ways. I know what they are feeling often before they can put words to it. I have a way of seeing the big picture of their lives with a incredible amount of clarity. These are skills that I have always carried with me, but it took some practice to learn how to use them properly.

When I tune into what I am called to do and set aside what I think other people want me to do, the world opens up. Putting attention on my calling helps manifest and shape it into a life beyond my imagination. Being willing to ground in and connect my feet to the earth gives be the strength to observe the energy of others without needing to take it on myself. This has been one of the most life changing practices of my recent years. Instead of being a sponge and absorbing everything around me, I can take a more balanced approach to energy and have learned to stay close to my heart no matter what other people are pushing for.


Photo: Marielle Chua


  • Conrad

    Ah you’ve done it again Ashley. Can totally connect with what you have written.

    I probably spent the past 15 years as a habit, being on the end of people that needed help, mostly due to my nature however it also got the better of me with the the initial “help” request from new friends or even partners turning in reliance and then just exploitation. Of course I was just a much to blame by maybe seeing the exploitation as attention or affection (first time to admit.)

    To extend on what you wrote. “You can only live one life, and that life is yours and yours alone.” I cannot live my life through someone else and they can’t live their life through me. However the caveat to that is, to which my own journey is now taking me on, that you have to clearly understand the deep roots planted of your own life path first, before you can safely navigate recognizing the differences between support and empathy compared to reliance and exploitation.

    As they say, we all learn the hard way.

    • ashley

      Great to hear from you again Conrad. I totally agree with you that we have to do our own growth and healing first before we can support others. Becoming aware of our own deep roots is the first step towards being able to understand the sometimes very subtle differences you mentioned. I am happy to know you are on this path of self-discovery and learning to be autonomous. It’s such a challenging and fascinating ride! Wishing you a peaceful weekend. xoa

  • Kelly

    Wow, Ashley! Your words resonate with me so deeply. I have been in the crossroads you described for a while and I’m building towards moving forward from it. I’ve allowed so much of my self worth to come from others instead of embracing what’s real and true for me. I am so inspired by your shift to listen to your heart. When I do the same, I notice a strong pull back towards others and putting their needs (known by me or imagined by me) first. Thank you! I wish you still lived in Portland so we could connect in person.

    • ashley

      Hi Kelly! Thank you so much for reaching out. I completely relate to what you wrote. It is really all about that shift back towards the heart that you beautifully described. The practice is a gentle coming back, again, and again and again. Here’s to continuing to showing up for ourselves and making a decision to stand in our truth. One moment at a time. Lots of love from down here. xoa

  • Hi Ashley, thanks again for such a great post. Since I am experiencing the same lately and recently found out that I might be a so-called High Sensitive Person, I have a question: How do you keep being grounded? Cause even if I am practising yoga and meditation I can feel destracted or bad (when focussing on my needs) easily and therefore feel confused very often. Thanks and have a wonderful Sunday! Corina

    • ashley

      Thanks for writing Corina. I can relate to what you’re going through. When I practice yoga and meditation I ground myself in the breath, meaning I keep my attention on my breath as much as possible. When I notice my mind is elsewhere I gently bring it back to my breath. It’s a practice that I’ve been working with for years and the more consistent I am the more grounded I feel. Please keep me posted and have a beautiful evening. xoa

  • Ashley,

    The Universe put me right here on this page, reading this post today because it knew I needed it.

    I am so grateful for that.

    The last few months have been a major struggle for me and I am such an empath – I just sat here nodding my head as I read through this post. I feel everything so deeply. I, too, sponge up energy and problems and tension and emotion. And it’s wearing me out. Wearing me thin. I had a better grasp on my boundaries before our move, but the chaos and changes that came with said move have left me completely off-balance. I needed this today to remind me to get back to myself, get grounded, and “put my ear down to my heart and listen hard.”

    Thank you, good heart. This was just the soul medicine I needed.



    • ashley

      I am so grateful for you Ashley! Thank you for sharing, it warms my heart to hear from you and know we are in this together. Moving is a huge deal and I know from having moved a ton that boundaries can easily get off balance during such a major transition. The practice is all about grounding in, rooting down and creating a new chapter in your journey. I love what you wrote about putting your ear down to your heart, that is the truest essence of it. I always have to remind myself it’s a process, it’s okay to slow down and be as gentle as possible.

      Wishing you a peaceful Thanksgiving and lots of time spend with loved ones.

      Love and light,

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