It was late, almost midnight. Mark and I had performed two evening shows and neglected to book a hotel room. “Don’t worry,” a young patron said. “Here is a key to my place. Save your money and stay there. I’ll be gone a few days, so slip the key under the mat when you leave.” We’d been touring for a year and I was delighted by the idea of staying in a home instead of a hotel. But my visions of warmth and welcome quickly faded when his key opened into a bachelor pad full of clutter, dirty dishes, soiled rugs and a hungry neglected cat. The bedroom was dark and fearful. “What shall we do?” I asked. “It’s too late to find another place.” Mark shook his head, “Nothing to do but crash here.”
To say that I am sensitive to space and energy is a monumental understatement, so this was like dropping into the jaws of hell. I went to the van, found a packing blanket and placed it in the center of the living room, then sliced lilacs branches from a bush near the entry, making a circular mound around the blanket. With resignation and anger, I lowered myself onto the hard surface, willing nature and beauty to transport me into protected sleep. The scent and sight of the flowers helped but could not prevent absorption of the indwelling essence of the owner.
That was an extreme case but unfortunately not unusual, since staying overnight anywhere other than home, can have dire consequences. A year of hotels and restaurant food left me ill and unable to continue. I had too many evenings sleeping in my car like a pretzel, rather than submerged in the unwelcome energies left in hotel rooms, where sheets are changed and tended but rooms are seldom aired or cleared. I have only to touch the bed spread or walk on the rug in bare feet to feel the energy of all who have passed before. Such heavily used rooms are an energetic Chernobyl for an empath or energetically sensitive person.
The Oceanside Inn has been my only vacation place for decades, because the owner leaves the windows open between renters, allowing strong ocean air to whirl and spin-clean the space to pristine levels of purity. When forced to stay in difficult lodging, I have tried sage and candles, chanting and intention, which all help but can not rid the space of left over dreams. When I am in these environments, I slip into another’s dream field and wake unrested and worn down. Being in someone else’s dream field is like sleeping in a scratchy shirt, while experiencing the heaviness of their emotions, hopes and unfelt pain. It is tolerable with a life partner, but extremely unsettling with an absent stranger.
The only time this trait has been remotely useful was when I accompanied my partner Thom to a therapy session and he could not remember the content of his last dream, so I did it for him. It took no effort to recall the whole thing, since I had been in his dream field. In this way my retelling helped him remember and gain understanding from the content. In case you hadn’t already guessed, having a live in partner can be difficult for an empathic person. For example, when Thom got a toothache, I was taking aspirin for the pain without understanding the pain was his.
Today I’m traveling again so the awareness of this problem has returned, otherwise, I conveniently forget. My room at the Land of Medicine Buddha Retreat Center was clean and lovingly tended so the unseen effects were minimal, but still there was disrupted sleep and little rest. The lingering dream voice that remained in my room had a loud masculine quality, not at all like my own. This voice was bold and without refinement, as if stomping through a meadow in uncaring boots.
Pondering this puzzle makes me think of Collette, a student I met teaching an Intuitive Wisdom class at Marylhurt University. “You know, Karen,” she said, “when I first had a session with you I thought it would be so wonderful to be as open and knowing as you are. I wanted to have the skills you had, but now that we have finished the class, I am grateful that I do not, because I see and understand that yours in not an easy road and that every gift comes with a price.”