Rock Boundaries


Away on retreat several weeks ago, I ran into the “Rock of Gibraltar.” This was the nickname given to an enormous boulder that sat at the junction of three trails meeting. It was quite a spectacle sitting there in the middle of the woods. So much so that someone had written a poem to this behemoth and staked it off to the side for people, or maybe it seemed for the rock itself, to enjoy.

I stumbled across this monument on one of my days out hiking, and I was struck by its presence. If ever you could imagine the physical embodiment of strength and grounded-ness, this was it. If ever you wanted an extraordinary example of steadiness, stillness and solidness, this was it. It was as if it knew its place and knew how to hold it well. It truly was the kind of thing that made you want to sit there and hang out with it for a while. And so I did.

What I noticed first was despite its rock-hard, exceedingly clear edges, things were growing all over it. Delicate little flowers. Florescent green mosses. And lots of things were crawling on top of it while other things were momentarily resting there. Yet none of this changed the nature of Gibraltar. Not by even one iota. It continued to be itself; unharmed, undisturbed, unperturbed and most of all, unchanging.

In that moment I was brought to think about boundaries. About how difficult it can be to know when and where to draw a line with others. About how often we either collapse our boundaries to acquiesce to some demand or expectation, or on the other end of the spectrum, how we harden up and armor up to protect ourselves. And then there is good old Gibraltar, doing the only thing it knows how to do. Be itself. Fully and completely. No apologies. No accusations. No explanations. No permission requested.

That is when it really sunk in for me. How when considering or working on boundaries with others, we can make the mistake of believing that we need to begin with our edges. Or worse yet, that we need to begin outside of ourselves. Both are incorrect. We need to begin with our center. With the core of who we are. With the deepest essence of our truest nature. In a phrase, we need to be fully established in the truth of who we are, then the rest just naturally takes care of itself.

This is not easy to do. It would be far easier to believe that others should act the way we want them to. It would be far easier to believe we have to be at war with others, protecting ourselves against their violations and onslaughts. It would be far easier to just cave into the demands to keep the peace. And yet, to do any of this would be to violate our best and truest natures, which by extension, then goes on to skew and contaminate our interactions with others.

That big, beautiful rock stands as a powerful symbol for me. One that says it is possible to be in harmonious and symbiotic relationship with all of the life on us and around us when we never, not for one moment, cease to be ourselves.