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Blessed are the meek and sensitive

St. Panteleimon the Healer, 1916 - Nicholas Roerich

The history and present reality of sensitive, artistic, visionary, intuitive, deeply-feeling and -loving people is laden with scorn, misunderstanding, devaluation and even oppression. It is said that "no prophet is accepted in his own country"; this metaphor applies to countless sensitive, creative, and deeply spiritual people who are surrounded by those who do not understand them, or, worse, disparage and discourage them.

Many such people were born with a temperament known clinically as sensory processing sensitivity. They are commonly referred to as highly sensitive persons (HSPs). Described extensively by psychologist Elaine Aron, HSPs constitute about 15-20% of the population, and are born with a nervous system that is especially perceptive, considerate, deep-feeling, and deep-thinking. They are especially gifted and challenged by taking in and processing a lot more information -- sensory, conceptual, social, emotional, etc. -- than the average person. People with this temperament tend also to be highly artistic, intuitive, empathic, and spiritual. Dr. Aron envisions for this significant minority a special place in our increasingly global and often violent, materialistic society -- she imagines HSPs as a "priestly class" of "royal advisors," lending their unique gifts to help the human community spiritually and physically to live out its deepest values.

These would-be visionaries, healers, artists, and leaders are often barred from the roles they are best suited to, being dismissed as neurotic, shy, weak, idealistic, or crazy. Indeed, highly sensitive people, especially those who have lived through traumatic experiences, or who have not been taught to care for themselves, with the emotional and physical challenges that accompany their gifts -- whose gifts have not been valued and nurtured -- often struggle to function and fit in, let alone pursue the deeper dreams and ideals through which they might serve as much-needed "royal advisors" to those with other temperaments.

These people are often judged harshly for their struggles, and instead of being honored and consulted by those with more socially accepted (and often less perceptive, compassionate, or creative) temperaments, highly sensitive people in our world are often made to feel alienated and ashamed of who they are, afraid of sharing their vital gifts with a world that truly needs them; or they are simply overwhelmed and bewildered at how to navigate life and function like a "normal" person.

Sensitive artists and leaders are sometimes recognized and embraced superficially -- for being intelligent, skilled in their work, conscientious, kind, etc. But often they are not truly respected or encouraged to express the authentic flavor and extent of their visions, values, and passions. Rather, they are asked to use their gifts in service of paradigms and institutions that maintain the status quo, that are lifeless or even toxic. I think of this old Psalm of musicians in exile from a homeland where their gifts and visions might have been understood and appreciated, asked to entertain their captors with a superficial performance that would desecrate that bodily temple that houses their authentic voices:

By the Waters of Babylon, 1882 - Evelyn De Morgan

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,

yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song;

and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying,

Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" (Psalm 137:1-4)

How can we sing or create genuine beauty and healing in a world where our ideals and dreams are mocked and misunderstood, a world that asks us to use our talents for others' agendas, and not our own; a world that often feels like a strange land, unsympathetic and inhospitable to our true spirits?

It is time for sensitive people to find strength and a home, to feel how much they are needed; to let their voices and visions emerge plainly and freely; to turn the eyes and hearts of their community toward deeper and higher things; to no longer be overwhelmed, afraid or ashamed to manifest and share the songs and dreams of their hearts. Indeed it is time for sensitive leaders to encourage not only each other, but anyone whose voice and unique way of being has been ignored or disparaged, who has not been appreciated for the beauty and integrity of both their differences and commonalities.

Tree of Life - Guido Vermeulen-Perdaen

"Have you not seen that unto the Beloved One

glorifies whosoever is in the heavens and the earth,

and the birds with wings outspread (in their flight)?

Each one knows its own (mode of) prayer and praise.

And the Beloved One is aware of what they do." (Surah An-Nur, 41-42)

It is time for sensitive people and all people to celebrate themselves and each other in their uniqueness; to be unshackled from the burdens that silence and stifle them -- burdens from culture, family, trauma, and ignorance, that would have us disparage our beauty and hide our love. Highly sensitive people are especially suited to and charged with protecting and guiding humanity in the diversity, integrity, and joyful potential of its collective heart.

It is time for sensitive people to sing their authentic songs from the honesty and nuance of their souls, to nurture and uplift the world in love. While non-HSPs make the world wonderful in countless ways, their personalities and lifestyles can tend to neglect bigger, subtler, or deeper considerations that HSPs naturally consider and feel strongly about. As non-HSPs forge ahead with their endeavors, accomplishments, and traditions, they often need HSPs to help them navigate the complexities of human nature, the mysteries of the divine, and to remind them what it's all for.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,

and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass,

or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy,

and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge;

and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains,

and have not charity, I am nothing." (1 Cor 13:1-2)

Red Heart - Benjavisa Ruangvaree Art

The powerful technologies, industries and arts in which humanity is ever excelling hold great potential for good and evil. HSPs are especially equipped to help anchor such human endeavors in the love and beauty that make any of it worthwhile.

I am one sensitive musician working to advance the liberation and encouragement of sensitive voices, and of all human voices in their precious uniqueness. I am doing this in my small way, through some weekly therapeutic coaching sessions, through thinking and writing, through gathering resources and bringing together like-hearted people. But I hope that my team will be ever-expanding with colleagues, known and unknown, who are in their way helping sensitive leaders to step into their gentle and truthful power, onstage, in classrooms, in houses of worship, in families, in galleries, in clinics, in libraries, and in the myriad other settings where HSPs share their influence, shepherding our human family toward greater heights of creativity, inspiration, and love.

"and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;

and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;

and a little child shall lead them." (Isaiah 11:6)

What dream lies waiting in your sensitive mind? What song does your sensitive heart long to sing? Is something holding you back?

There is help for your situation, from me and many others!

cherry blossom - artshock

1 Comment

Sep 01, 2021

Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring vision of the world! It really touched my sensitive soul, and was a beautiful reminder of that ‘better heavenly country’ I’m seeking as a ‘stranger and pilgrim’ here. — Hải

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