With any disaster, be it natural or manmade, empaths (like me) have a broad-spectrum struggle.

We take the “can’t look away from the train wreck” mentality to the extreme, studying and following the most minute details so closely that we embed the event within our souls.

I have often questioned why I do this. Who benefits? I do not outwardly share the pain I experience as a result of this empathy, so I am not doing it for any self-gratification or to attract attention from people around me. That’s not how empaths function anyway. I wouldn’t dream of comparing my empathic experience to those who are directly impacted by something like the Waldo Canyon fire – the people who have lost their homes, the firefighters who are wearily yet steadily fighting what must at times feel like an incredibly discouraging and losing battle.

Given the rampage of fires within close proximity to me and places that I love here in Colorado, you might imagine that I’ve spent some time thinking about this. I suppose I’ve come up with some vague and unconfirmed answers.

I draw energy into myself. I transform it and expend it back into the universe. It’s like breathing. Like pulling something from the air, and turning it into something more peaceful and sending it back out. The energy I pull in comes from the air itself, from the fire, from the heat, from the silent, or not so silent cries of people who are suffering, from their own energetic emissions of pain, fear, and loss. I breathe in the negative energy, I breathe out the positive energy. I absorb the negative energy and transform it into life force energy. That sounds a little uber-woo-woo, even for me. I guess it’s hard to find the words. I try to soothe others by taking on their energetic pain.

This unconscious exercise – and it is unconscious, second nature for me – is wearisome, yet rewarding.  It’s like giving a gift with no idea who the recipient will be, or how it will benefit them, just knowing that it will.  But my body and spirit exhaust themselves, even as they are enriched by the process.

I am like a sponge, absorbing the energetic pain of people I will never see, pain that I just pick up from the winds, pain that I intuit from pictures.

And at the same time, I throw psychic energy at the flames, in an attempt to stop them. This enters into the realm of magical thinking, which any therapist worth his or her salt will tell you is not beneficial in any way to anyone. But a belief in magic and the powers of the unseen world are part and parcel of being an empath. While I do not think that my thoughts alone can stop (or start) a fire, I do wonder if the collective healing energy sent directly  into the universe by people can impact something like a fire. I suppose Christians would translate that into the power of prayer. Although from the Buddhist perspective, I should know that things like this are beyond my control, and I should just be with it, doing what I can to help.

Fire, especially a wildfire, has its own unique energy, its own life force, highly connected with nature.  In many cases – such as the Flagstaff Fire in Boulder and (hopefully) the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs – such fires are sparked by nature and fed by nature, and it is a challenge for man to contain them.  Fires draw their strength from trees and brush, from wind and the heat of the air, all this natural energy that feeds it and that it in turn emits – a balance within itself.  I believe that empaths, who are sensitive to both the energy of nature and the energy of man, pick up very strongly on that entity that is a fire. We absorb some of its energy as well, and are disturbed by the very violence of its nature. Combine that with how we pick up on the energy of people who are suffering and you have a thick energetic pudding that we find ourselves swimming in.

It’s tough to keep your head above the surface when you’re swimming in pudding.