Boundaries

 

Ever heard someone say, or maybe even said yourself, “I really need to create better boundaries.” Typically, a statement like this will come up whenever we feel as though we are being taken advantage of, or maybe because we are giving away too much of ourselves. Likely we have all been there. It seems only natural that there will be those places where we will need to draw a better line, keep something back for ourselves, say “No,” or just in general, do less.

Or maybe more to the point, do only what is ours to do.

How do we even begin to figure that out? For surely if we really knew what was ours to do we would not be in need of creating better boundaries. So perhaps there is more to this whole boundary thing than just keeping something out. Or in. Depending, of course, on how you do what you do.

Boundary setting can feel as though something must be erected; built strong enough in order to keep things out. It might even feel like it is something placed outside of us; like a giant, electrified fence with a big “KEEP OUT” sign and some barbed wire at the top. It can feel like this especially when we have let things go too far. So far, in fact, that we imagine ourselves on one side of our fence, with others on the opposite side; feeling like if we do not get very strict with ourselves and others we will be taken advantage of. That something will be taken from us, or that another will enter where they are not welcome. Or that we will abandon ourselves, giving away too much, doing what is not ours to do, only to be left depleted, resentful, and used up.

Seeing it this way though misses the point. Partly because it puts us at odds with both ourselves and others; creating a kind of battle where there is a winner and a loser. Someone protected, and someone protected against; with the subtext being that it is because of the other person, or our level of sensitivity and openness, that we must guard ourselves by drawing a hard line. That something is being done to us, as opposed to us choosing for something. As in ourselves. For when we place the emphasis on the boundary itself, we miss the most important thing of all. That being, that when we are fully with ourselves, fully occupied in who we are and what we are feeling, fully accountable for our experiences in life, right-sized boundaries naturally, effortlessly, precisely and perfectly arrange themselves moment by moment by moment.

But this can only happen when we are fully inhabiting ourselves. Fully sovereign unto the  experience we are having. Fully occupied, as in, not having left ourselves vacant. It means not having extended beyond ourselves, nor having shrunk back leaving a void for something or someone else to occupy. When we inhabit ourselves in this way, there is no leaking out, or invasion in, for there is quite literally no room for the territory of you to be overrun, occupied or given away because you are so fully filled with who you are.

This is not easy to do. Many of us are so used to confusing our needs and wants with other people’s needs and wants that it can be very, very tricky to figure out where I end, and you begin. It can feel almost “natural” to give ourselves away. To over-do. To overcompensate. Which is exactly the point. For when we are fully claiming who we are and where we are in any given moment, we do not extend ourselves erroneously, nor do we leave a void to be filled by others expectations or demands. Instead, we create the long sought after journey of fully being all in with ourselves. Which then leaves interactions with others more clear. More known. Less confusing. And with far less boundary-problematic co-dependency between us.

Here is something to try. As you move throughout your day, occasionally stop and ask yourself, “Where am I?” If you find that you have left yourself out of the equation, are doing more than your share, are taking the brunt of something, if you feel overrun by what other people think or want from you, come back. Right then and there. Come back. Locate into yourself in that very moment. Connect to what you are thinking, feeling and sensing. Then proceed.

 

The Yin Turning Yang

 

As I step outside before the sun comes up to go for a walk in the woods, I am met by a bright moon on the waning side of full. The moon is setting in the west, while the sun has yet to come up in the east. Standing between these well-known polarities is also as it is now with the season. For while we are still moving towards the darkest depths of winter, at the same time, minute by minute each day, we move towards more light.

And yet, even with the light steadily, noticeably and undeniably increasing, we are still not even at the half-way point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. I see all of this reflected in my own internal process where I am not yet “out of the dark” with some longstanding issues, while simultaneously I cannot deny that ever more the light is making its way back in. The Celts might call this a “betwixt and between” time and space. Not really exactly somewhere just yet. Not really on the other side of something, but somewhere in between.

All of it continues to show up in my mind in that I am both excited to be getting into the woods before sunrise, and also a little apprehensive. It is still dark after all. Who knows what moves in the dark? There is a back and forth between sensing the mystery of this time of day, and a fear of the dark and what it holds that ping pongs around in my mind until I stop on the trail in an attempt to stop the match in my mind.

Right next to me is an enormous boulder, a symbol of those things that are steady. Those things that are not subject to the made-up machinations of the mind. Directly up and to my right is the moon, and directly up and to my left is the sky just beginning to brighten. I cannot help but see the metaphor in standing exactly between these two powerful and primordial forces; the light and the dark. Neither good, nor bad. Neither one better than the other. Both with its own particular sets of gifts and challenges to offer.

And while many of us might prefer the light, there is so much to be had from the dark. So much to be discovered in the depths of Winter’s shadow. Thinking all of this I round some bend, and suddenly there is just so much more light. A small part of me is relieved, while a part that longs for something more grieves the loss; not just of the dark but of the time I have spent being afraid of it. For I recognize that in my fears of being in the dark, and wishing it were light-filled, that I am missing something when I wish it was other than it is. That the dark is not a place to be missed, avoided, feared, wished away, or navigated half-heartedly. But instead, something to be deeply honored. Accepted. Welcomed in even.

Good news. We are still in winter where darkness prevails. Which means we still have plenty of time to gather the teachings and the healings that are only possible in the darkest of times. While never easy, it cannot be avoided. For as sure as there is light, there is dark.

Surrender

 

I have a friend who picks a word to work on for the year. While it has intrigued me, it was not until this year that I decided to give it a try. Initially, I chose “gratitude.” Sounds good, right? Who could argue with being grateful as a focus for the year? Well, I could when it turns out not to be your word. For on the very same day I chose “gratitude,” I was in an end-of-the-year yoga class, and I got the very clear sense that my word was not gratitude, it was surrender.

When it came to me, I was moved to tears. I felt so connected to my life and to Source. So ready to surrender it all. Until that is, several hours later when my laptop died, and I was convinced that my daughter had initiated the demise.

It was truly amazing to watch how just a few short hours after the calm surrender of the yoga class, I was instantaneously catapulted so easily straight into an all out war with the reality of the moment. The exact opposite of surrender.

You see, I “needed” that lap top to get a playlist together for a class I was teaching two days later in a brand new location. Right away my mind went to what it would mean about me if I wasn’t ready to teach. Right away my mind went to the “fact” that my laptop had been working just fine until my daughter downloaded an app on it. And right away my mind went to that at least it had been working in a limited way until my daughter got on the phone with the Apple tech, who after he instructed her to do something, left the computer unable to even turn on.

Oh! My! God!!!!

As all of this played out, I swung between irritation, anger, resentment and moment by moment mental reminders to let it go. That it was not a big deal. That it would all work out. Except, that I did not really, actually believe that. That is, until my husband called to share some difficult health news about a friend, at which point I quickly hung up and went to tell my daughter that I was not mad at her. At which point both she and I both burst into tears while we stood there clinging to each other like survivors of some catastrophe.

I am emotional just writing this. For in that moment, what revealed itself was that all the fighting against reality had put me in a position of being at odds with someone I loved. And how often do we all do that? Make some stupid thing more important than the relationship. But when that perspective shift came in, I could not get to my daughter quick enough. And God did it feel good. Right. Exactly where I most wanted to be. Much better than being the one wronged or inconvenienced. Much better than being upset with someone. And much, much better than being right.

Admittedly so, I am a little worried about what I have signed up for. And yet, I know that I am all in because of what transpired between my daughter and I in that moment. Don’t we all need this? A way into where we most want to be that is stronger than the habits and conditioning of the ego, with all of its plans and strategies for holding and defending a position?

Want to join me in this “little” experiment? I know it won’t be easy, but this experience that I am writing about has clued me into something. That being, that when we are not clinging to the wrong things or trying to force Life to turn out a particular way, there is more space for… EVERYTHING! Including most of all what it is that we want most of all.

 

A Careful Time

 

So, here we are again at that time of year. That being, the time of resolutions. The time where we set intentions and make commitments to ourselves and others with so much hope and resolve. Equally, it is the time when our resolutions can become lost and forgotten as firmly as they first came in.

Recently, while away at a training, every day as I went to class, I would pass this quote: “You are carefully designing the person you are right now. It’s time to take ownership of that creative process.” Yes, I would think inwardly each time I went by it. Yes, this is what I want more than anything else in the world. Yes, I resolve to take this up with a firm commitment.

Then, Life would show up in the form of longstanding thoughts, beliefs and habit patterns that ran contrary to this lofty and much desired resolution. Life would show up in the form of interactions with other people that challenged the process I was trying to carefully and deliberately design.

And there’s the rub. Creating a resolution or intention is one thing. Living it is an entirely different matter. Which is why it is so easy to make one, and so very, very challenging to keep one.

What I have found is that in order to deliberately create a new habit, belief or way of being requires a breaking down of the goal or the aim into the down and dirty of the moment. As in, how does this commitment show up in the gritty reality of Life versus the fantasized version of what it will be, look like, or take.

What that meant for me was breaking that quote down into the specific qualities of the person I was intentionally designing. For me, this broke down into two categories: Being who and what I am, and being a well-wisher of others. With that as my guide, each time I noticed my mind cycling back to old thoughts and patterns, I would wonder to myself, “Does that thought/feeling/action/belief get me closer or further from who and what I am? Does that thought/feeling/action/belief make me a well-wisher of others? When the answer was no, as it was each time that I tuned into what was happening, I would shift away from what I was thinking or feeling. I would drop it as quickly as I had noticed it.

It was exhausting, constant and time-consuming to work with myself in this way. And, it was powerful, life-changing, and exactly where I most want to be. That being, in alignment with taking full and complete charge and responsibility for who I am and how I move through the world.

Try it. What do you want for yourself this coming year? Once you have it, break that down into something manageable that you can reference in any given moment to discern whether you are there or not. For instance, looking for love? Where and when do you push it away, or set yourself up as unlovable? Looking to be seen? Where and when do you hide or diminish yourself to yourself or others? Looking to feel healthier? Where and when do you indulge in the wrong things?

The trick here is to catch yourself in as many moments as possible acting out of alignment with what you most want. Not in a punitive or judgmental way, but as a correction. One meant to take you back on course and towards the person you are carefully designing yourself to be, in a way that most lines up with the satisfaction and the magnitude of fully claiming the creative process of your life.

Memory

 

We memorize ourselves into existence. And we do this through all that has come before; giving us a sense of solidness and known-ness. A kind of comfort and stability that comes with years and years of thinking and doing our lives in the same way, leaving us in the position to say “This is who I am.”

And as much as we all desire this place, it is ultimately limiting.

For what if there was something more? Something beyond what you were told, and what you now go on to tell yourself? Something that somewhere deep down inside you yearn for? More to the point: You Are. Or could be.

It would mean, of course, learning to know yourself as more than the familiar concepts and constructs. And it would mean taking a chance. A big one. It would mean being curious and open. Brave and alive. It would mean being nothing less than who you truly are.

But given the filled-to-the-brim and fast pace of so many of our lives, this can be all too difficult to tune into, never mind respond to. Luckily though, we are in the season that knows all about this. Winter. The deepest, stillest and most essential of all the seasons is right at our finger tips. And if we can learn to align with this powerful rhythm, we will be naturally drawn into its downward and inward ways.

Try being with this kind of energy for just one minute each day throughout the long winter months ahead. You can do it by intentionally sitting yourself down and allowing yourself to be. As you are. Do not try and do anything to yourself. Do not look to fix. Do not even move. And when you feel a settling all the way down to your bones, wonder gently to yourself about your relationship to nothing-ness, stillness, and quiet.

At first it can feel like a kind of death; some kind of intolerable exercise in the painful. And it is. But if you look deeply enough, what is dying are all of the things that get in the way. What is dying is the noise. What is dying are the ways we have memorized the wrong things about who and what we are.

I think the reason that winter can feel so long to us, is because of all that it asks. Because of the way that it calls for a kind of reckoning. And because it can leave us crawling our way to the end. For sure it is a task master. But it is one that will gift those courageous enough to be with her, with many, many insights and blessings for years to come.

“Just Because”

 

Do you ever do anything just because? We used to. As a matter of fact, many of us used to do it regularly when we were children. As in, just because it felt good. Just because the urge arose. Just because something bubbled straight up out of us in the moment. No reason. No explanation.

Everything does not require a reason. An agenda. A goal. Not everything is an opportunity to get ahead or to spin ourselves in a certain way. Take giving for instance. Do you ever give just because? Not in order to receive anything in return. Not because you have to, or because you think you should. Not because you are expected to or because it makes you a good person in your eyes, or in the eyes of another.

But just because. Like a child who has created something, and was thinking of you in the making.

This is not easy to do. We all have our ideas, hang-ups, and habits around what it means to give. Maybe you do it as a way to keep people close. Or keep others from rejecting you. Maybe it is how you feel good about yourself, or somehow superior to others. Maybe you do it to satisfy what you will not give to yourself. Maybe you do it in the hope that your gesture will be reciprocated. All of it creating an ends to a means where the true spirit of giving gets obscured.

In the season of the often loaded nature of gift-giving, and amidst all of the confusion and unconsciousness that can surround why we give, what would it be like to get more clear on why and how you give? Would it mean spending less? Obsessing less about the price of the gift and what it means about how you feel towards the recipient? Would it mean opting out all together, or partially, or creating a new tradition as a way to choose something more authentic?

It has long been a source of sadness to me to know that the average family will spend to such an extent at this time of year, that they will spend the next year trying to pay off the debt. Only to clear it just in time to start all over again. This does not seem like generosity or love, but instead a kind of insanity based on some very warped ideas around what giving is.

Notice yourself as you make choices around giving. What qualities are present for you? Pay attention to the feeling you are having in the purchase, the anticipation of, and then the moment of giving. The thoughts and feelings you are having are an important piece of information; giving you clues about when you are coming from the “just because” place of a child, and when you are coming from obligation, resentment, conditioning, debt and the like.

Sense Care

 

I am in an Ayurvedic training where I am learning about the the ancient system of Indian health and healing. Right now I am steeped in an area Ayurveda calls “sense care.” This includes a paradigm, practices, and ways of being that recognize the essential role that our five senses play in physical health and psychological well-being. It is an understanding and a deep respect for the powerful impressions that get made on us based on what we take in from our environments through our senses.

Think about it like food for the mind and the body that comes in through the five doorways of hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell. With the information that comes in possessing the power to either nourish or starve. Uplift or degrade. Bring balance or chaos. Calm or unrest. Healing or disease.

With this as a recent and welcomed back drop to how I am experiencing the world, I cannot stop thinking about the children. The ones who are coming up now in The Age of Technology. The ones whose senses, particularly sight and hearing, are literally being assaulted, obliterated, violated and distorted. Innocence stolen. Minds overrun with harmful images and messages. Insidious impressions weaseling their way into our children’s minds and bodies. With all of what they are taking in setting the standard for what it means to be fed.

Maybe you think I am overdoing it?

Well, how about the statistic that recently made its way to me that says that two thirds of our 7 year-olds have already seen porn? Need I say more? Once a child has taken in that level of sense impression, and at such a young and tender age, where does it go? What does it do to them? How does that not foul a once open, curious and pristine mind? How does that one ever get undone?

I’ll tell you how. It doesn’t. It does not get undone.

One has to begin to wonder what this is doing to their vision. And I mean this in the broadest sense; as in what their life and the life of the world looks like to them looking through the images they are receiving across a screen. And what of their precious hearing? What is all of this training them to listen to? And for. Could this be part of the reason that the generations coming up now are so riddled with so much anxiety? For the truth is, the words and images that our children take in matter. A lot. Far more than is currently being recognized and addressed.

And while I am rolling out the big guns here with the porn, there are countless and daily examples of how our children’s senses are being overwhelmed. Examples large and small, seen and unseen, idiotic and damaging. Don’t take my word for it. Just pick up your own head and look around.

When a human being is young, the predominant brain wave states that they are in are highly suggestible. Makes sense, right? We want the young of our species to be moved by, informed by and molded by the environment that they find themselves in. We want them to learn based on what they are ingesting via the experiences of the world around them.

And for a very long time this made sense. It made perfect sense when we were being shaped by a natural world. But now that the predominant experience of our young is coming more and more from something man-made, and by something that is far too often a very disturbed representation of what man can make, our children are in trouble. For they do not yet possess the essential defense mechanisms, cognitive maturity, nor coping skills to sort through and make sense of what is coming in. Instead, it all just goes in.

Can you imagine it? Can you imagine all of the images and the words that our little ones are ingesting now that have absolutely nothing to do with health or beauty or truth or love? Everything, literally everything, that they take in is shaping and forming them. What if we really, really knew this? And what if we acted on their behalf as the gatekeepers who kept  out what is not fit for the innocent eyes and open ears of a child?

Common sense around the senses would dictate that we would never want to expose our children to what is harsh, frightening, overwhelming, or just overall beyond their ability to digest. To come back to our food connection, would we give a steak, alcohol, cocaine or soda to a newborn? We would not because we understand that it is beyond their capacity to handle, and with certain inputs, even dangerous. That any of these things would only harm them, even if they were not inherently problematic to a more mature being. But too often, we are assuming that something is fine for our children based on looking at it through the eyes of an adult with a developed brain. But this has got nothing to do with what children actually need.

Look through their eyes. Listen through their ears. Sense through the heart. Then decide.

 

 

Strength Beneath The Surface

 

I want to talk about winter and why I love it so. I want to talk about it through the walk I took this morning after a two day snow storm, that had dumped upwards of two feet, was finally over. And I can sum it all up in two words: depth and stillness.

As I stepped out onto the road, the hush that came through the snowy cushioning on the trees and on the road was palpable. More than palpable, I could feel it to the depths of me. I felt it in the sound my boots made as they met the un-plowed road, and I felt in the quiet of the forest with animals hunkered down and un-moving. The power of this cushioning came into full relief when I did not even hear the car that had come up behind me. Even with a big, weighty, noisy machine, winter and its ways had dampened and subdued its impact. It is times like this when I almost have the feeling of traveling under water. Of moving at the bottom of a big, white, beautiful ocean of space and stillness.

And then there are the trees, and the way that you can see right through them. The space that opens up once the foliage is gone, offering the opportunity to see right down to the bone. Both inside and out. And the way that the sound then both travels differently, and is lessened; giving rise to a feeling of immense spaciousness both within and without.

At my turnaround point, I laid down in the road. It was so still. And this is why I do it. Why I make it a point to get outside all through the winter. For out of that stillness comes healing, creativity, inspiration and a deep, deep knowing beyond the push-pull of the mind. Beyond the inner and outer expectations. Beyond the noise of the world.

Align. Align with this energy and watch what happens. There is a reason for phrases like “winter wonderland.” A reason for why we have stories that talk of the magic that only comes out of deep and wintery places.

In the room where I do my daily practice, the wall behind where the wood stove will go has not yet been finished with the stone that will eventually cover it. Today, sitting on my mat after my walk, I looked up to read the words, “Strength Beneath The Surface.” And while this is the motto for the drywall company, in that moment I knew it was also the motto for winter. For that is what resides in the roots; beyond the dressing of the foliage and beyond the activity of doing. A kind of deep, still, quiet strength that can only make its way to the surface when we choose to align with the depth and stillness of winter.

What would it be like for you to take a cue from this season and all that it knows?

A Sacred Act

 

We all know we are in a season identified in our culture as a time of giving. But what about receiving? For without this end of the equation, something that has been given cannot find a place to call home. It cannot land and be welcomed in. It cannot be expressed in any kind of a meaningful way.

It is interesting to note then how much emphasis gets placed on the one giving, along with what and how much is given. And then there is the built-in hierarchy where the giver gets the loftier position than that of the receiver. We focus on the generosity of the donor; the one who is doing for others. We even have award ceremonies where we single out, and celebrate the most generous among us. The message being; these are the truly gifted ones.

But there is no giving, no generosity possible without the receiving. Without the magnanimity of the one opening themselves up, often even submitting or surrendering, in order to receive. There is no generosity of the giver possible without the full and equal generosity of the receiver. So where are the award ceremonies for those of us who excel at receiving? No where to be found actually. Instead, those that are on the receiving side of the equation sometimes hold the undesirable position of being seen as “less than;” evoking pity, contempt, suspicion, superiority, and more.

To receive is to permit to enter. It is to take in. It is to welcome, to greet, to accept, and to serve as a receptacle for. When viewed from this perspective, receiving is a holy act. A sacred exchange that requires both sides. And this is true whether we are talking about our relationship with All That Is or what happens between us and other people in interactions large and small, visible and invisible, easy and difficult.

So how about it? What would it take for you to see the precious nature of receiving? More to the point, what could you start doing about that? Does it require a change of heart? Of identity? Of habit? Whatever it calls for, one thing is certain; for many of us, receiving can be far more difficult than giving will ever be.

Unsubscribing

 

In the span of one week, I unsubscribed from two newsletters, and bowed out of an online group. I had signed up for the newsletters because I was interested in learning more from these two people. However, one bombarded me so often with so many tips about living better that it would have made me sick just to keep up with the sheer volume of suggestions. The other newsletter turned out to always be selling me something, hard, and all under the guise of ancient wisdom. It was gross, exhausting and deeply unsatisfying to wade through.

Then there was the online group. In theory, it seemed like a good match. But ultimately, I decided that it fell short of what I actually need and most yearn for when it comes to community. That being, person to person contact in real time; gathering over something meaningful and significant with people I value.

While you would never know it to look around you, this is the season for slowing down, doing less, and perhaps most importantly of all, cutting away what weighs you down. This is the time for turning inward, reflecting, thinking deeper thoughts, and living more simply. It is the time of naked trees, root health and bare essence.

But who could possibly find their way there in the midst of the buying, the shopping, and the keeping up? Always the keeping up.

Which is why, despite my typically clear boundaries around my inbox, I had signed up for the newsletters and online group. I wanted to keep up in the areas I am passionate about and find inspiring. Areas I want to be proficient in for myself and those I work with. Only, these days even the “healthy” stuff, the inspiring words, the worthwhile topics, the must-sees can be a source of overwhelm. A false reflection of how you are not keeping up. A false reminder that you are not enough, not doing enough, and that other people are more together than you are.

Long ago I read something from a famous sage who said that you do not need to know everything. You just need to make use of what you do know. Can you imagine that as your guiding light in the Information Age? In a world enchanted by volume? Can you imagine choosing for what you can actually digest and make use of? To actively and consciously choose to know “less”? As in less is more.

What if, for the next several months, until the first growth, smells and movement of springtime, you just didn’t. Didn’t try and stay up to date. Didn’t try and keep up. Didn’t. Didn’t. Didn’t. But instead, chose to watch Nature and her quiet, inward and simple winter ways.

And if you would like to put this into action, what could you unsubscribe to?