Category Archives: Empathy

Dark circles and bright ideas

Have you heard the good news?

“Stop. Just stop. I do not want to hear this.” It was all I could think to say to the woman behind the counter. Considering how shocking her aggressive sales pitch was, I’m astonished that I could say anything at all.

She was also shocked that I — that anyone — would not want her free medical advice and (loud and public) diagnosis of what had caused the dark circles under my eyes, because, in her view, she was being insightful and supportive.  She kept trying to come back to the topic, because she couldn’t believe her ears:

“Allopathic medicine can’t help you, but I know exactly what to do about your dark circles!”

I had to keep saying, “No. Stop it.”

“My husband had the same problem for years and…”

“Please stop!”

She was shocked by what she saw as my rudeness and stubbornness.

She seemed to have no workable frame through which to view me, so I paid for my friend’s prescription and got out of her compounding pharmacy as quickly as I could.

My theory is that I'm listening to the first person to mention my dark circles. Riveting!

My theory is that I’m listening to the first person to mention my dark circles. Riveting! 50 years later, not so much.

But outside in my car, I had to shake off like a cat who had smelled something bad. Here it was July of 2013, yet I had stepped backward forty years into the wild-eyed, fundamentalist era of alternative medicine, of intense certainties and promises of miracles, of ungrounded ideas promoted with evangelical fervor, and of a categorical distrust of anything conventional or, in the terminology of the community, of anything from “allopathic” medicine.

It was an era — and a mindset — that I knew very well, and really didn’t want to revisit.

However, I live in Northern California, where alternative medicine is a given; it is everywhere. I’m completely surrounded by it, and though I’ve made a kind of peace with it, quietly moving over to conventional medicine (thankfully, relievedly, happily) and away from metaphysical and paranormal alternatives, I sometimes witness people espousing views about health and medical care that are very concerning to hear.

Fasts, repetitive detoxification rituals, extreme diets, megadoses of supplements, miracle foods — these are normal and accepted behaviors in my community, and they concern me.

I’ve become very skilled at dissociating slightly so that people can’t see me react in sadness or frustration, because I remember what it was like to believe in all those miracles and wonders. Now, I just practice non-attachment while people talk about whatever new miracle cure or super food is going to change the world and heal every possible ailment, and I wait until the sermon ends.

But this woman, sitting behind the counter in her compounding pharmacy, surrounded by books from people like Suzanne Somers and Jenny McCarthy, went crackerdog about the dark circles under my eyes — I mean 1970s Jesus-freak street theater intense: she was going to bring me salvation from my dark circles and heal me. There was no way for me to escape a direct confrontation.

“Please stop it.”

From her point of view, she was helpfully giving me a free diagnosis based on what she fervently believed. From my point of view, she was being thoroughly inappropriate, violating HIPAA privacy rules (there were other customers in the pharmacy), and loudly proselytizing about a worldview that I no longer find helpful at all — and through which I and my loved ones have experienced untold suffering that we were never allowed to talk about, and that almost no one in the alternative medicine community wants to hear.

Hello darkness, my old friend

I’ve got dark circles under my eyes. I’ve had them since I was a baby, and they’re just a function of how my eyes are. I have deep-set eyes, a high bridge on my nose that casts shadows, and pale, thin skin that lets you see right through to the purplish blood vessels and darkness inside my eye sockets. I’m partially transparent! Continue reading


Filed under Alternative medicine, Empathy, New Age

A message to followers of my earlier work

Hello and welcome!

In this blog, I’m focusing on a sea change I made in my work. In 2003, I ended my psychic healing career so that I could return to college and study the social sciences. At that time, I pulled all of the books I controlled out of print (and the wonderful people at Sounds True allowed me to take all of my titles with them out of print too, the excellent humanitarian sweeties).

photo of Your Aura and Your Chakras bookHowever, one book remained. It’s called Your Aura & Your Chakras: The Owner’s Manual, and the publisher of that book didn’t want to let it go.

In July 2010, I added this introductory note to that book:

A note from the author: This book, written in 1997, represents an early version of my work with empathic ability, trauma healing, and the channeling of emotions. I have since moved completely away from metaphysical concepts, and I now understand that my empathic ability is neither psychic nor paranormal. Empathic skills like mine are considered unusual because people are very confused about emotions; strong empathy can look exactly like a psychic skill. However, empathy is a normal attribute present in all humans and many animals.

After a seven-year sabbatical that included extensive research and a degree in the social sciences, I resumed my public career in 2010. My work is now focused on teaching empathic mindfulness skills that help people interpret the messages and gifts inside their emotions so that they can increase their empathy and emotional awareness. While the particulars of my work have changed considerably, the essence is identical now to what it was then: I want all of us to live as intelligently, as compassionately, and as deeply as we can.

I send you many blessings,
Karla McLaren

Okay. I no longer include metaphysical or paranormal concepts in my work, so let’s look at that.

A caveat before you begin

If you’re very invested in paranormal and metaphysical explanations of the world, you get to keep them. I’m not here to change your mind or suggest that you’re not thinking clearly if you believe different things than I do. For me, after more than thirty years in the New Age, I needed to look at alternative explanations for things that have been attributed to paranormal or mystical causes, and this is what my thinking is now. Salud! Continue reading


Filed under Empathy, Metaphysics, New Age