Updated: Jan 9

Boundaries for the most part are abstract. Physical material boundaries do exist, but the ones that affect us the most in daily life are the mental and emotional ones. We generally see boundaries as something that protects us, but in truth the intention behind them makes a difference. Boundaries can protect us, allowing us to be nourished, nurtured and safe, but conversely boundaries can separate, limit, suppress and exhaust us.

As we have explored before, our lives, emotions and circumstances are in flux all the time therefore it would be wise to see boundaries as a form of stability that can be adapted as our lives change. This builds resilience - the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. Looking around us we can find lots of examples of boundaries in nature, boundaries that are there to serve a purpose but adapt with the changing cycle of the seasons.

This time of year familiar walking routes are often muddy, so muddy we may need to find an alternative route or risk getting stuck. Boundaries can be viewed like this, there to guide us but not define us. Circumstances in life may force us to take a different path, which may seem difficult and unfamiliar, but the alternative is getting stuck, trapped in the familiar, which is comfortable but going nowhere.

Setting boundaries and staying within them can be hard to navigate, so it’s important to make them simple and meaningful. The knack to making them meaningful is to take the time to work out where boundaries are currently serving you, but more importantly where they are not.

The interesting thing I notice as I look in nature right now is how nothing is wasted.

If we fail at working with a specific boundary, if we make the wrong choice or make a mistake, let it fall away, let what's left nourish and support our future endeavours.

Like a tree that has fallen or a plant that failed to thrive, it returns to the earth to support the existing plants, trees and wildlife.

To make simple meaningful boundaries we need to get to know ourselves, recognise physical cues and emotional triggers. Our physical body has its own boundary system to keep us alive:

  • The automatic nervous system (ANS) which among other things controls our breathing and heartbeat, is on constant alert, scanning our internal and external environments; subdivided into our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) - fight or flight response and our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) - rest and digest response.

  • The immune system detects and responds to a wide variety of pathogens, distinguishing them from the organism's own healthy tissue.

  • The enteric nervous system (ENS) has been described as "the Second Brain of the Human Body". Among other functions it senses chemical and mechanical changes in the gut and plays a key role in immunity, as well as mental and emotional health.

We must also then consider the other aspects of our humanness. How we interact -

  • externally

  • interpersonally

  • Internally

‘Externally’ concerns our behaviour, how we show up and interact with the world. How much energy we give to others.

‘Interpersonal’ relates to how other people's behaviour and energy affects our own. How easily we absorb others' energy, good or bad.

‘Internally’ concerns how deeply connected to our sense of self we are. How connected we are to our intuition and our deepest needs.

The more we understand our own patterns, the better able we are to see where boundaries could serve us towards finding balance and well being.

A lack of meaningful boundaries can lead to imbalance in our well being. If you regularly experience any of the following, there's a good chance you need to re-evaluate your boundaries:

  • anxiety

  • depression

  • increased heart rate

  • exhaustion

  • overwhelm

  • negative self talk loop

  • intense emotions,

  • ungrounded

  • scattered

  • indecisive

  • disconnected from your own needs and feelings.

So, we are starting to see that meaningful boundaries need to be set from the inside rather than being externally driven. Unhelpful boundaries often originate from the inside too however. For example: self limiting beliefs are the negative internal loop that keeps us stuck.

Existing boundaries may need to be dismantled first, however, breaking those boundaries requires a lot of energy. Choosing an alternative route or overcoming unhelpful boundaries in stages, has a longer lasting effect and cultivates resilience.

Consider our earlier image of finding a path less muddy or visualise using a stile to cross a boundary. In short, resiliency is your ability to recover or adjust easily from stressful events, things or people.

Let's consider the steps we can take to change unhelpful boundaries and create meaningful ones.

  1. First we need to regulate the SNS (sympathetic nervous system), our fight or flight system, and decrease stress. We can do this by stimulating the vagus nerve , focusing on diaphragmatic breathing and lengthening exhales to activate the PSN (parasympathetic nervous system). Including restorative poses in our yoga practice and making time for any other mindful activities that promote relaxation.

  2. Secondly we practice present moment awareness in the body - embodiment. Connecting to our own bodies through mind - body meditations. This helps to ground and connect us to our sense of self. Strengthening our mind-body connections helps us to recognise the signs of anxiety, anger, overwhelm etc before they take over.

  3. Thirdly we develop a present moment awareness in our energetic body. Developing an awareness of our energetic body and our gut-brain - gut feelings and intuitions.

Taking these steps will enable you to feel where your limit is. You can learn to appreciate that at different times your boundaries will be different. The more you are able to feel and respect yourself, the better your resiliency becomes. It may sound strange but learning about your own boundaries will lead you to more freedom.

The core elements of our yoga practice this month will be, grounding, strengthening practices that calm the nervous system and cultivate internal awareness.

There is a metaphor about yoga that also applies to life in general: it is like a bird. For a bird to fly and reach soaring heights, the bird needs two wings; one wing is Grace, and the other is your own effort.

Walking this week I kept seeing feathers caught in branches of plants, caught in grass or mud and it reminded me that feathers without birds are pretty, but they are going nowhere. When the feather is attached (connected) to the bird, it has the ability to fly, to feel the pulse of life.

To give yourself the ability to metaphorically fly, to feel the pulse of life; connect all your intentions and boundaries to your source of life - whether that’s your Self, your family, nature, faith or something else. It’s whatever gives you strength, a sense of connection and makes your heart beat.

Stop the words now. Open the window in the centre of your chest, and let the spirits fly in and out. - Rumi

I look forward sharing this practice with you in January

Om shanti



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