We often create boundaries because we believe that we have something to hide, something to keep safe. In so doing, we create all kinds of walls around us, both figurative and literal, keeping others out. While simultaneously, we yearn for human connection: love. We look to the sky, telling ourselves that to meet beings from other planets would be the most significant event humans could experience. While here at home, we continue to keep secrets, to hide/ isolate and protect ourselves from each other. What to do?
Find Your "Spot"
In her book "Dance", Oriah Mountain Dreamer recalls a dance class she partici- pated in, where each participant was assigned a "spot" on the floor. This was their "home base". They could breath only while on this spot, not while out on the floor, dancing. They could return to this place whenever they chose. When participants left their spot, they held their breath and danced. Initially, people were hesitant to go far from their spot. But, as they relaxed into the reassurance that their spot was always available, they moved further away, taking progressively longer periods on the floor.
I liken this to how we are in our relationships. We tell ourselves that we first need to be and feel safe. We want to determine if the people in our lives meet our requirements for safety. In other words, that we feel comfortable and not threatened in their presence. Once this is established, we gradually reveal aspects of ourselves/our lives, to see how they will react. If they are accepting, compassionate, and supportive, we continue to reveal ourselves. To the degree that they show us acceptance and compassion, is to the degree that we allow ourselves to relax/open up in their presence. We then trust/hope that they'll continue to be accepting of these aspects of ourselves.
The Illusion of "Trust"
What do we mean when we say that we "trust" someone? Through our experiences with them, they have exhibited behaviors that meet our definition of "trustworthy". As long as they continue to behave within our definition, we'll "trust" them: we will feel relaxed/ safe with them. The catch here is that when we look for a person to behave as they have in the past, we compare their present behavior to their past behavior. When we have expectations on anyone's behavior, we're sure to be disappointed!
In truth, there's no trusting other people; just degrees of comfort with ourselves in their presence. Take this "trust" expectation off of them and recognize what aspect of yourself you are uncomfortable with, in their presence. The degree one is comfortable in the presence of another, is the degree one trusts their own ability to stay connected to their "spot", while in anothers company. Their "spot" being the feeling of peace generated by a comfort with the Life within us and around us.
The Healthiest Boundaries
In my time with Swami Muktananda, I had the profound honor of witnessing his capacity to remain completely in his "spot" at all times, with anyone. Because of this, he welcomed all people. Because of this, he had quite the motley crew in his inner circle. It wasn't just the "good" people, or the people who were on their best behavior. There were people hungry for power, fame, and money. There were people who were mean, aggressive, and deceitful. This was quite a wake up for me, as I had always prided myself on being a "good boy". I thought that attempting to wear a halo all the time would bring me closer to him and God.
Another teacher, Oriel, taught that within each of us is the potential for every human expression: from the Christ Consciousness (Unconditional Love) to the Hitler (hatred/ condemnation). In my earlier life, I allowed myself to feel and express only smiles and happiness. With the support of this teacher, I saw how I was denying an essential part of myself. I had tried to hide/deny/avoid my anger, grief and shame thinking that these were "dark/ low/bad" expressions of myself, only to learn that these are integral aspects of my humanity. It's not that there are aspects of myself that are bad. It's how I express them that can be either destructive or freeing.
I recognize that this entire spectrum is available within me. This is quite freeing.
To the extent that I am comfortable with this spectrum within myself, am I comfortable with it in others.
"I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own,
without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it."
~ The Invitation, Oriah Mountain Dreamer
Just Say "No"
Having healthy boundaries is the ability to recognize what you don't want and express it. Simply said, the ability to say "no". But we often don't, for fear of rejection: what others might think, say, and do about/ to us.
We behave in ways that we think others will approve of...
*because we are yearning for acknowledgement/ approval/ acceptance...
*because we're afraid/believe that they will reject/ abandon/ even abuse us...
*because we believe/ fear that they will validate our thoughts/ beliefs that we are unlovable & unworthy.
These thoughts and beliefs dampen our natural ability to express healthy boundaries: to just say "no".
Sometimes we say "no", but then if things don't go our way, we throw in the towel. We then say "yes", when we don't feel it. Sometimes we hope that others will just "read" us and know what we don't want. In fact, we even become passive aggressive when they don't!
I've heard it said that with children (as with adults), we may have to repeat ourselves 10,000 times, to get a point across. Of course, this is an exaggeration. The point is that when we are comfortable with the world in and around us, we advocate for ourselves, we speak what is true for us. This won't change just because the response we got wasn't what we wanted.
To not take personally what others think, say, and do about us is one of the biggest steps we can take to be free.
"I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul."
~The Invitation, Oriah Mountain Dreamer
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson