Boundaries. They are something I've struggled with finding the right dance with most of my life. I've either built up iron walls and boundaries so strong that no one can come in, or I've swung the door so far open that I open myself up to unexpected pain and suffering.
It's perhaps one of the most difficult tangos I'm trying to learn to dance in life. I used to think it was pretty simple. In moments when connections with others are not serving the expansion of both parties, boundaries need to be renegotiated. In moments when people are guarding their hearts in fear, they require softening. This is true, but perhaps it isn't quite so simple.
I'm always learning the lesson that life is grey. Not so black and white. It doesn't matter how many times I stumble on this lesson, it somehow has a huge weight and impact on me each time. And lately I've been wondering what's the grey in receptivity and boundaries. What's the middle way of staying open and being mindful?
During my 800 hour training with Sri Dharma Mittra in New York earlier this summer they spoke about why it's so important to be present during meditation. If you start falling asleep during meditation, you should either go to sleep, do something else, or reset and start meditating again. Why? Because in the practice you are aligned, open, receptive, but as much as you need to practice receptivity you need to remain present...connected to your center...to protect yourself from harmful energy. This is why we're asked to be mindful in any spiritual practice like meditation, prayer, reflection, chanting or otherwise to be present. To be both sit in receptivity with healthy boundaries.
Here's the thing. In moments when I think I need stronger boundaries, I need to catch myself and reflect. Do I need healthier boundaries because I'm overextending myself too much? Because I'm in a toxic situation? Or am I closing myself off from someone I care about from a place of fear? In moments I open myself up, am I staring fear daringly in the face and deciding to be vulnerable anyways? Or to be more receptive with the expectation that something comes in return? When the mind moves into ego patterns, it's tricky. And the more I practice, the trickier they become.
As I continue to walk my path of self-exploration, I'm asked more with each step to face the honest challenging, sometimes not so pretty truth of myself. Like I've said before, joy comes from grit. From digging in the dirt of our souls and working with the darkness as much as expanding the light. Perhaps doing the dance of receptivity and boundaries is as much about the dirt digging of facing our shadows as it is about expanding our light.
For this Joy Tip Wednesday I'm inviting myself and others to take an honest look at receptivity and boundaries:
- What refrain are you hearing in your life? Is your inner voice telling you that you are too closed off? That you've overextended yourself and need to develop healthier boundaries?
- Get clear on what the "ask" is of yourself. Are you concluding that you need to distance yourself from a certain situation or person for your own well being and theirs? Are you recognizing that you've closed yourself off to someone who is sharing their heart?
- Dig deeper. Look under the hood and get clear about whether your conclusion is motivated by fear or love. Be honest with yourself.
- If your conclusion is motivated by fear, wait. Acting from fear is the number one destroyer of joy in my life. It causes me and those around me suffering and in the end, no one wins. As a "doer" and "problem solver" it can be challenging for me to patiently wait. But when I do, I never regret an exercise is patience and trust in the Universe.
- Take a small step. Once you have clarity that you are in alignment with love. With kindness towards yourself and others. With compassion towards yourself and others, take one small step. One small action of change.
- Observe. Observe yourself, others, and the results of your action before deciding to shift your dance with boundaries or receptivity further. If you're anything like me, your mind tends to try sweeping changes one after the other without pause in between. But the pause is where feedback happens and wisdom comes.
- Trust. Trust the process. Trust that you will be led to creating a middle way if you are patient, present, and open.
So many of us struggle with patterns that cause us to swing one way or the other in this delicate practice of receptivity and boundaries. I hope the practice this week may bring us some clarity in our own middle way, shed some light on the shadows we aren't facing, and inspire us perhaps to pause a little more in life.