Boundaries are literal, actual THINGS that exist on every plane - the physical, mental, and spiritual. Simply put, boundaries determine what is me, and what is not me. Boundaries are also our personal code of what is ok and what is not ok. On the physical level, there are numerous examples in our bodies of boundaries: cell membrane, the tight junctions between cells that form the gut barrier, the gap junctions between cells in nerves and muscle, the blood-brain barrier - and the immune activity taking place at all of these boundaries. Imbalance here can lead to chronic immune issues. Boundaries are also energetic, since our bodies are electromagnetic fields. In Chinese Medicine, the energetic boundary is called Wei Qi.
Qualities of healthy boundaries
Flexible, fluid and situational - respond to the needs of the moment. Can be moved in very close to your body in dense or tense situations, more expansive in others.
Provide information - boundaries give you information about the environment; intuition or ‘gut sense.’
Semi-permeable - let in what you want in, let give what you want to share. Like a cell membrane they draw in what nourishes you, and expel or repel what is harmful or unhelpful for you.
Surround your entire body/energy body
Respond to your needs rather than the needs of others - take the shape and properties that best support you in living your purpose and using your power effectively through your day. Negotiating boundaries is a normal and healthy part of any relationship, boundaries by default take the form that best supports you in any situation, and then take into account others’ needs if necessary.
assessing the state of your boundaries
The first step in cultivating healthy boundaries is to understand how our boundaries currently function on an average day, and how our boundaries are optimally operating when they are fully supporting us. During the following assessment, notice without judgement if any of the following arise:
- Cords/attachments with other people
- Information, sudden knowing
boundary Assessment technique
This is a simple meditation on assessing the state of your boundaries. Get comfortable, sitting in neutral position. Close your eyes. Hear the sounds of the room, take a moment to tune out the sounds. Feel the air on your skin, feel the earth beneath you supporting your weight, and surrender to gravity. Gently turn your awareness inward. Take a deep breath into the center of your head, visualizing a ball of light in the center of your head. Let the ball of light fall to your throat and take a deep breath. Let the ball of light drop into your chest and take a deep breath into your heart. Next, breath deeply into your solar plexus as the light descends to your belly. Lastly take a deep breath into your pelvis. Take a moment to notice the space surrounding your body. Feel the electromagnetic field of your body, how far out it extends. As you scan, notice if there are holes or disturbances anywhere, or if some areas feel more or less strong than others. Use all of your senses to scan your boundaries. When this feels complete, take a deep breath into your belly and pelvis, then deep breath into your heart. Bring yourself back to awareness of your skin and the sounds in the room, the weight of your body supported by the chair. Open your eyes, and write down any impressions from your experience. You may wish to follow this exercise with any clearing or grounding modality you choose to work on repairing the condition of your boundaries.
Negotiating boundaries requires a special kind of warriorship. It requires the willingness to stand in vulnerable space and express openly what you want or need, make a request and wait for the response. It requires cultivating the willingness to be in discomfort or vulnerability with an open heart. And it requires the ability to practice honesty, with kindness. Tools from Non-Violent Communication (NVC) can be helpful here, using “I” statements (I feel, I need) in establishing boundaries. Try not to presume another’s boundaries, instead communicate yours and ask how they mesh with another’s. Resist the urge to compromise to diffuse conflict.
The Power of NO
One of the most helpful teachings I’ve heard about boundaries is that someone always has the right to make a request, and we always have the right to say no. Internalizing this simple boundary lesson, especially when 'no' is framed as a ‘kind no’ or ‘detachment with love’ was life-changing. How many times had I begrudgingly agreed to something with silent resentment? Try out the following exercises in practicing the power of NO:
Before responding to someone asking you to do something, take 3 deep breaths. In the space of these breaths, picture yourself doing the thing that is asked of you. Bring your awareness to your gut, the instinctive center for the primal yes or no response. Allow how your body feels about doing the thing to inform your response and the action you choose to take.
Tell the person who is making the request that you need 24 hours to sit with the question and get back to the person. Taking time to think takes pressure off the immediate moment and allows us to separate ‘no’ from the emotional projections we place upon it in the moment.
Like Brené Brown, use a mantra: “I need something to hold on to—literally—during those awkward moments when an ask hangs in the air. So I bought a silver ring that I spin while silently repeating, ‘Choose discomfort over resentment.’ My mantra reminds me that I'm making a choice that's critical for my well-being—even if it's not easy.”
Radical self-care requires radical self-honesty about our limitations with how we spend our energy and resources. So often we agree to take things on when we're already feel overstretched. Practice saying ‘I can’t take that on’ or ‘Sorry, my plate is full right now.’ Like any new habit, practice makes it easier to fall back on when under pressure.
© 2018 Diana Quinn ND all rights reserved