To complement “Energy Awareness: Tune in to Your Body’s Messages” in the October 2016 issue of MASSAGE Magazine.
Boundaries: Healthy ones are at the core of your meaningful and joyous life.
A boundary is nothing more or less than an expression of what aligns with your true nature. How to have healthy and clear boundaries is the driving question behind all self-care. This is by far the number-one issue massage clients and students bring to me, even if they can’t put it into those exact words.
The simple truth is that a kind, compassionate and generous understanding of just how worthy you are of a meaningful and joyous life, of kindness and patience, and of, dare I say—forgiveness—is at the very heart of all healthy boundaries. This understanding is what frees up your ability to say no when you mean no, to say yes when you mean yes, or to say you don’t know when you just simply don’t know.
This understanding is what allows you to know what feeds your spirit, and equally important, what doesn’t. Getting to this understanding of your true nature, your true worth, is, my friend, our common journey. I say common because this is a journey best taken with friends.
Remember That You Are Worthy
Here’s a radical concept for many of us: Understanding your inherent worthiness frees up your ability to live with your heart’s desires as the driving power in your life.
I see over and over in my practice, and in life in general, how so much of life’s joy is squashed by boundary distorters such as guilt, shame or beliefs in retribution or obligation; all those misunderstandings tell you in one way or another that you are not enough, or are not worthy of having enough. Well, that’s nonsense. You are worthiness itself!
You know when you are connected to your innate sense of worth because you experience peace, joy, meaning, enthusiasm, ease in relationships, and a sense of belonging and care. That’s what your life looks like when your healthy boundaries are intact and are naturally driving your actions and attitudes. This is when the wisdom teaching of “what other people think of me is not my business” rings true and settles naturally in your psyche. This is when you are living your best life, and living it with a sense of wonder. This is when healthy boundaries become intuitive interaction and less of an intellectual decision.
Choose Not to Suffer
You might say, “I know I sometimes have trouble saying no, but other than that, how do I know if my boundaries need help?” Well, here’s what happens when your sense of boundaries is clouded, or not fully developed.
In a word: suffering. Plain and simple suffering. Suffering shows up as stress, confusion, angst, worry, co-dependency, addictions, pre-occupation with other people and life circumstances. Suffering shows up anytime your connection to self-worth is lacking.
This puts you in what I call pinball mode, and it happens when all of the confusion around worthiness keeps your mind bouncing around from one place to another in the stories in your head, never letting you really rest. This pinball mode kick-starts your chasing mode, and you then experience a need to chase after life, to chase after significance, to chase after certainty or belonging. Or, this pinball mode kick-starts your lamenting over whatever it is you believe is lacking in your life.
All of this runs quite contrary to compassionate empowerment, which happens naturally as your connection to your true nature deepens and matures. So, if you find yourself distracted from your worthiness and the kindness of life, take heart, as the poet Rumi reminds us: “That which you seek, seeks you.”
Willingness to let what you seek find you takes a bit of courage.
Sometimes that courage needs to be borrowed from another who has some extra to share, hence the wisdom of choosing your friends wisely. We all tend to become more like the people with whom we surround ourselves.
Spending more time with people who radiate that sense of humble worthiness, whether in person, reading their books or blogs, or watching them on YouTube wakes up your ability to know how healthy boundaries feel; it’s an energetic resonance that lets you soak in the essence of worthiness. Where your attention goes, your energy goes. Where your energy goes, your life goes.
Getting caught up in distraction, all of the effort in creating a worthy you, is what makes it nearly impossible to even know when saying yes is healthy or when saying no is healthy. So, any outward focus on searching for belonging or joy or meaning is clue number one that your boundaries are calling for your attention—your kind and compassionate attention.
Answering this call for attention, and encouraging healthy boundaries, is done through peace, the peaceful feeling that lives in the quiet stillness of the mind at rest. This stillness, this peace, is the antidote to pinball mode.
Turn Inward and Create Stillness
It’s one thing to understand this intellectually, quite another to feel it at a deeper level. It’s at this deeper level that healthy boundaries take root and grow from the inside out. This is where turning inward comes in to help.
Yes, inward—the direction those misunderstandings warn you to never go. This turning inward is best practiced during times when you are not in crisis mode. We all tend to fall to the level of our practice when we feel pressured or stressed. It’s part of our human nature.
You have the perfect instrument for tuning in to this inward movement: your body. Turning inward is as simple as following your breath. Especially following it to that place of pause between your exhale and your inhale. This is my go-to starting point for re-centering and calming the pinball mind.
There is a beautiful, lingering place after the exhale that lets you settle into non-doing, non-thinking, if even for a moment. Even if that moment is just a slight hint of a moment. Your intention is a powerful thing. This resting after your exhale gives your inhale a chance to happen at a more natural pace, a pace that settles your nervous system.
Every moment resting in this pause is like hitting the reset button on your electronic devices. And, every turn of your focus and attention to this resting place develops and strengthens new pathways for the firing of neurons, letting the habitual pathways fade.
This resetting, this resting, this lingering is the compassionate attention that feeds and grows kindness—the kindness your caring self wants you to know from the inside out, the kindness that seeks you.
This is the kindness that creates your healthy boundaries, the ones that ring clear and true.
As a dean at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, a certified Martha Beck Life Coach, energy practitioner and hospice volunteer, Ann Dionne helps clients and students find peace from the inside out. She makes her home south of Chicago, Illinois, with her lifelong love, Rex, and his two cats. She wrote “Energy Awareness: Tune in to Your Body’s Messages” for the October 2016 issue of MASSAGE Magazine.