I became fascinated by the concept of boundaries about fifteen years ago. The first time I heard that I had a choice about what to let in and what to let out I was shocked! It had never occurred to me to slow down enough to actually examine how I was impacting others and how they were impacting me. I just knew that when I was in contact with other people, I had all sorts of reactions, sensations and emotions and was often overwhelmed by the experience. Slowly, I learned about taking responsibility for my experience and as I got further into recovery, I relaxed enough to get curious about my contact with others and what was actually happening. I began to tune into how I was filtering (or not filtering) energy coming in and energy going out. I learned language that was non-shaming and non-blaming and I learned pause and look at my thinking in response to a stimulus. For example….when you slammed the door, what I thought was, I am in trouble and about that I feel fear. These shifts had a powerful positive effect. Then I got to go deeper and started to really tune into body sensations. I became more interested (more of the time than not) in what was going on inside more than my story of what was going on outside. This has profoundly changed the way I think about and most importantly the way I experience my boundaries.
I now experience boundaries and energetic channels that connect me to other people rather than a fortress behind which I protect myself from others and protect them from me. I actively work towards the middle path rather than vacillating between walls and no boundaries. I have learned to pay attention to these channels and to how I experience them as sensations in my body. I experience them on a spectrum of constriction and relaxation. The constricted channels feel like a tightening in my chest and belly and the relaxed channels feel spacious, emotive and pleasurable. I have learned that a constricted channel will lead to a “blow out” like a pipe that is unclogging where a rush of too much energy goes in or goes out. This is where I become a victim or an offender. The relaxed channels are not clogged and allow for a free flow of information, energy and emotion.
This understanding has changed and deepened my understanding of boundaries and turned them into a bodily experience I can actually track rather than a concept. Boundaries have changed from “what you should do” or “what I should do” into a more subtle and enjoyable practice that yields tangible results. If I am aware I am constricting, I have a profound choice to make. I can stay in the mind and focus on my story of what is going on outside as my internal tension mounts or I can look inside and soften in order to come back to a healthy boundary or “filter” that is relaxed and permeable enough for moderate exchange. This practice results in a profound sense of personal freedom where my sense of well-being is not dependent on outside circumstances. As one of my great teachers and friends has eloquently put it: boundaries are where I make contact with those around me, not necessarily where I break contact. As we go into the holiday season and contact with family and loved ones, I hope you will find this useful. Let me know!