Hello and welcome. Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Rachael Shaffer. Rachael is a healing practitioner and the owner of Urban Empath.
At Urban Empath, Rachel specializes in supporting empaths, highly sensitive people, intuitives and artists to create successful relationships, find a true sense of purpose, and transform their lives. They do this through vibrational medicine, aromatherapy, coaching and more.
Rachael, I am so excited to have you here. Thank you so much for joining us.
Rachael Shaffer: Thank you. It’s such a pleasure to be here.
Ashley: I’m really excited to talk to you today. We are going to be discussing something that I think is going to be so pertinent to everybody who’s listening on the podcast and watching this video: the journey to healing the empath wounds.
Could you start by telling us a little bit about your own journey and how you got started doing this work?
Rachael: Absolutely. It’s been a long journey. I started back when I was maybe, five? Of course, it started before birth. But at five years of age, I started playing classical piano. That’s when I became sensitized to my energy system. When music becomes fluent, as a language, you start to soften your gaze and get into a meditative trance.
I felt my crown chakra opening. I didn’t have the words, but I had the sensations.
It felt like it was happening to me and that it was in my physical body. It had felt like someone was touching my head basically. I would always run out of the room when that would happen. So, that was the start of me having the sensitivity to energy.
In school years, classroom settings would get me disoriented. I was overstimulated constantly and I still didn’t know why I lacked the sense of belonging. It wasn’t until I moved to New York City from Pennsylvania to attend a musical theater conservatory, but ended up making a slight detour into working in a metaphysical bookstore for a time. That was boot camp for me. It was the first time I heard empath.
It was right in the Union Square area of New York City in front of 5th Ave. It was probably the most famous bookstore called East-West Living. It’s no longer there, but it was very famous. I had no idea how to protect myself.
I was constantly dissociating from my body because it was so intense, and I began handling crystals daily when I hadn’t worked with them previously.
Ashley: This is super interesting to me because I actually had a really similar journey of my own story. I really started to open up when I started working in a metaphysical bookstore. So, that’s really cool that that’s a part of your journey. So, where did it go from there once you realized that there were these people out there called empaths?
How did this evolve into you discovering this whole journey for yourself and where did it lead you in your work?
Rachael: At first, I labeled myself. It was a label and I associated it with, “Well, it’s the plight of the empath and this is what I’ve been dealt.” And through inner work, working with mentors, working with crystals, essential oils, and vibrational sound, empaths have this affinity with energy and ability to tune, but that’s also our weakness. It’s our strength and our weakness in that we don’t have a solid sense of self. We don’t embody easily. Oftentimes, we get enmeshed with other people.
Being an empath in and out of itself is not a wound. It’s a psychic ability. But the core cause of it can be a wound.
I’m still discovering more and more about it as I go along, but I’m learning that the most significant aspect is learning boundaries. Our energetic boundaries are very porous, and the wound can develop when we’re still an egg in our mother, as she’s a fetus. It can start that early, depending on the source of the wound.
It can be a break in the bond with the mother. It can be growing up in a very tumultuous environment and having to predict, so we enmesh emotionally with others. It becomes a very strong skill, but then we disassociate from our own needs. We want to be good.
Ashley: How did you find this wound or what does it look like? How does it manifest in different people’s lives?
I imagine it can be quite diverse, but what are a few of the most common things that you see related to this idea of the empath wound?
Rachael: It can be a complete dissociation from the physical body and the physical experience on your plane. It can be being completely neglectful of our own needs, and not even in tune with them, not even in touch with them. The needs of others come first. It can be this unspoken agreement that I take care of you with nothing in return. It can be I show up and my role is to feel the emotions of the room and I just feel all the emotions, particularly in healing settings.
If you see the people in the room that are the ones crying and processing all the emotions, they may be an emotional empath. These are just signs of how it may show up. It shows up in the physical body. It can be related to gut health. If we have leaky gut, that is the physicalization of forced boundaries. If we have issues related to the sacral chakra, that can be with the emotional enmeshment. It’s also associated with the feeling of not being enough. I have to do more. I have to give more of myself. And then, it pulls us out of whack because we’re not listening to our own needs.
Ashley: So, is the wound then itself like that lack of boundaries that you’re creating between yourself and others?
Is it that a lack of boundaries in your emotional life? Like no matter how it manifests, is that really what’s at the core or is there something more to it than that?
Rachael: That’s at the core. That is the core of the wound. It’s not a solid sense of self. Not a solid sense of differentiation. I take on your emotional pain as my own and I don’t know the difference oftentimes. I take on your physical sensations. If you have a wound, I can take on the pain, and I carry it in my own body and I feel this obligation. It’s unspoken. It’s unconscious most of the time. I carry it for you. I heal it for you. And that doesn’t work but we try.
Ashley: Yes. No matter how much we want to be of service to others and care for others, we do need to have those boundaries in place. We do need to have that separation.
So, once we recognize, first of all, that we are empaths, and second of all, that we may have this empath wound, how do we actually go forward and start to heal that in our own lives?
Rachael: That’s a great question because there are so many different paths. For me, it started with Reiki. The reason that it started with Reiki for me was I happened to be working at a center and I experienced a breakup. And for an emotional empath who’s completely associated with their partner, that was devastating because I had no sense of self. No sense of myself without this person. I had created this whole future for myself. So, that’s codependency.
So, it began with Reiki the first time I ever felt fully embodied. The first time I ever felt the sensation of an energy being cleared out of my system that I was carrying that wasn’t mine.
Ashley: So, when we are doing this healing from the empath wound, it sounds like a lot of that work can be energy-healing-based. Are there other avenues for other types of empaths?
I’m just trying to think outside of the box here. Could it heal through creative expression like writing or art, or could it be through something like gardening, hiking, connection with nature? Are there different types of avenues depending on the person, or do you think that specifically energy healing works, whether it’s Reiki, or aromatherapy, or crystals, or some other form of vibrational therapy. Which of these do you think is the most beneficial? Or does it depend on the person?
Rachael: I think it’s so individual. Everything has resonance and I think that’s what we specialize in as empaths.
The part of getting to know yourself is the vital part.
So, if inside of you, you have this affinity with plants, like Dr. Judith Orloff who writes and teaches a lot about empaths. She talks about plant empaths, people who are very in tune with plants, and herbs, and even food, so it’s really a unique path. For me, dancing helps. Anything mind-body really, because we can’t forget the body.
When you’re attuned to the infinite, the physical world becomes less manageable. That’s really what we’re learning to do, still be the infinite being that we are and manage the physical world with all of its challenges.
Ashley: You pointed out something really important which is just really understanding yourself more as a person, and I think that if at the core of this empath wound is this lack of boundaries, then it makes sense that anything that gets you to do more of that self-discovery and understanding who you are, and understanding maybe where that lack of boundaries comes from and working toward healing that, that’s at the core of how to find more balance and be more in alignment with the universe as an empath.
It sounds like that’s something that you’ve done in your own journey through your exploration of these different healing modalities. You mentioned before we started talking that one of the things that you work with pretty much every day is crystals.
Could you share a few of your favorite crystals that would be most supportive of empaths as they’re going through this process of healing the empath wound?
Rachael: Absolutely. Crystals are also a unique relationship. There are ones that the properties are, on paper, great for empaths, but it’s such a personal relationship. You’ll be told, “Work with black tourmaline. Jet is excellent for empaths. Selenite is great when you take on physical pain. It moves it right out of the body. Just put on a bunch of selenite and it’ll move right out”. I’ve had that experience. Selenite is one of my favorites.
It’s also a very personal thing sometimes.
There was a time where I was still learning the properties of crystals at this metaphysical store, and I was proclaiming that malachite was so grounding.
I was like, “What a grounding stone!” The other people there were actually crystal experts, and that was not my expertise, so the customers would come confused to them and say, “Is this a grounding stone? You didn’t tell me that.” They’d be like, “No, it’s not. It’s not really a grounding stone.” But for me, it was because it’s about emotional release and healing emotional trauma. If you heal that, it does become easier to be embodied. So, for me, it did become a grounding stone.
Malachite is huge for emotional empaths.
It became a huge companion I would take with me daily. For boundary work, I sometimes just carry a big citrine. I also have septarian. It’s one of my favorites. I’m carrying that now as we’re speaking. Confidence in speaking. I carry a lapis lazuli for communicating boundaries. And I have a ruby right now for vitality and grounding.
Ashley: All of those sound so supportive, too, for all the different ways that this empath wound can manifest in your life. I love what you said about this being a more personal journey and personal connection to your crystals. That’s very much in alignment with the way that I teach.
It’s interesting to hear you say how these crystal experts at the store you worked with said, “No. Malachite is not really a grounding stone.” But I’m more aligned with what you said. It was grounding for you and that is what is so valid because that is your personal truth and that’s part of your journey, and your relationship with your crystals, and I really appreciate you sharing that.
Now, I did just want to say, Rachael, one of the things that you do is spiritual consultations for other people. And you’re offering something really special for our podcast listeners and blog readers…
you have a special discount code for your spiritual consultations or readings if people are looking for a little intuitive guidance, and the code is ‘loveandlight’. I was wondering if you can tell people where they can redeem that little code, what they’ll get and where they can stay in touch with you online?
Rachael: Yes. Thank you. Absolutely. So, I created a special discount. You can use it at urbanempath.com/services. It’s redeemable on either an intuitive reading or a spiritual consultation, which I call strategic revitalization. Both are an hour long. Just whichever way you prefer to work. You can also find me on Instagram at urban_empath. I’m also on YouTube at Urban Empath where I share a lot of tips, information, and things that helped me on my journey.
Ashley: You have a beautiful YouTube channel, so I really encourage everyone who is watching or listening to check you out there, and connect with you on Instagram.
Rachael, again, thank you so much for being here and sharing your wisdom and your journey with all of us.
Rachael: My pleasure. Thanks for having me, Ashley. It’s so nice to meet you.
Ashley: You as well.