QUESTION: A healer recently treated me for a heavy period. I was unusually emotional and she suggested that I try and not take the emotions too personally because a lot of it may be other people's karma that I am carrying around. She continued to explain that people, especially women, voluntarily take on others' karma. I was surprisingly resistant to the idea and replied, “possibly, but I’m working a lot on myself right now too".

Over the next few days, her words kept coming back to me over and over as I softened into them. And then the light bulb turned on - from about the age of 13 to 21 - I held the hands of, and walked closely alongside, many family members and friends who were undergoing intense and tragic periods/events. Death was very familiar, and helping people stand up and “persevere” or comfortably pass away became a full time job that I assumed readily. My soul volunteered, for whatever reason, to take these burdens on, but now I’m ready to release. For the past couple of months, I’ve felt I’ve been doing some solid releasing. But now that I have more of a conscious understanding of things, my gut says I could use a more formal release. Possibly writing specific names down or events, or visualizing, I’m not sure. Could you point me in a direction to any methods, rituals, etc.?

ANSWER: We can not “voluntarily take on others' karma”. Certain masters are purported to have been able to do so. For the rest of us working stiffs, it is a case of good old-fashioned dancing for our meal. This caretaking or taking on of other people’s emotions is learned/taught behavior from a young age, and is not voluntary but totally unconscious. Hence, the rage. We tend to do it because it brings us some kind of kudos at the high expense of not forming authentic relationships. As you have experienced, it has a myriad of negative consequences. One of the most detrimental is our ability to numb our own emotions by diving deep into that of others. There are no winners here, as the person being taken on loses as much as the person doing the carrying. It is a dishonest relationship at its root. (As a side note, my female shamanic teachers always warned female shamans to energetically protect their womb during the healing of others, as that organ was susceptible to holding on to the energy being released).

Stepping back from these situations and assessing one’s role is a significant step. Doing a ceremony can be a powerful conscious exercise, but it is only a start, not an end. I wish it were that easy, but there is much work involved here. You could do a fire ceremony where you write down the names of the people and take some time (as in days, if not weeks) writing where and how you got so deep. When you are ready, burn the paper. These energies tend to get stuck in the second and third chakras, so you can also visualize releasing these people from those areas in your body.

Now you have to stay hypervigilant, as your unconscious will keep looking for more subtle relationships where these patterns can be repeated. That is the nature of this detox. Spend some time at regular intervals and watch where you might be repeating these patterns. That would be the real ongoing ceremony.