I’ve been thinking a lot recently about personal boundaries and the manner in which our ability to create healthy boundaries has the potential to improve the quality of our lives, our relationships and general wellbeing.
Then I bumped into a friend the other day who shared with me that she was having boundary issues with a colleague, and that she needed to tighten these. This didn’t come as a surprise to me, as I had watched from afar and was curious to see where their working relationship was headed as there was an imbalance in the energy.
I had a sense that my friend was giving away some part of herself, without necessarily realising that she was doing it, and disempowering herself in the process. So in many respects it was heartening to hear that my friend had recognised this, and further highlighted the tricky nature of boundaries in any relationship, personal or otherwise.
For as long as I can remember I have always had a tendency towards poor boundaries and a weak solar plexus (the seat of our ability to create healthy boundaries). Before yoga came into my life, I used to suffer with depression and my solar plexus was like a dark and deep empty hole; the life force had been sucked from it. I was insecure, anxious, vulnerable, disempowered and I lacked the ability to say no.
As a result, I ended up getting into relationships I didn’t want to be in, I took jobs I didn’t want to take, I attended social events I didn’t want to attend, I studied for exams I had no interest in taking, I spent my spare time doing things that I didn’t want to do like umpiring netball matches, playing softball, making up numbers in charity sports events, and meeting people for coffee who held little interest to me, just because my solar plexus was weak and my boundaries poor – I couldn’t speak my truth and say no!
Unfortunately, each time I did something that I didn’t want to do, not only did I get angry and frustrated at myself, sinking my spirit even further, but it felt like a part of soul withered too. The combination of irritation at myself and the fact I was spending my time doing things that I didn’t want to do, just served to further disempower me, and my solar plexus became weaker and weaker as a result.
It wasn’t only my inability to say no that was damaging; my boundaries were poor. I constantly gave too much of myself to others. I have always had this strong sense of truth, but I didn’t understand that being truthful didn’t mean that you had to share your secrets and innermost private thoughts with the world. I felt this rather ridiculous need to tell everyone everything, including the ins and outs of my relationships and the dramas that accompanied this.
Furthermore, because my solar plexus was so wide open (or that’s how I imagine it in my head, like this bit gaping hole) that it attracted lots of energy vampires, eager for a piece of me. There were many toxic friends in my life back then. People who thrived on my insecurity and the fact that they could so easily manipulate and control me.
I was a lost soul adrift. Unconsciously I had given all my power away. There was nothing left.
Fortunately, yoga came into my life and saved me and I am grateful to the yogic teachings for this. I am passionate about yoga for this very reason - because it actually works! It changes lives and makes life worth living, and that counts for everything when you once considered that perhaps there was no point to any of it.
The journey that yoga has taken me on, coupled with the magic of Reiki, has helped me in so many different ways, but it has especially helped to strengthen my solar plexus, enabling me to establish healthier boundaries and find the strength to say no. The practices also helped me to recognise the manner in which I was giving my power away. This didn’t happen overnight and it is an ongoing process of learning and discovery!
When I first started teaching yoga and practicing Reiki, I didn’t even know what boundaries were. It wasn’t a subject, or a concept that was discussed or taught on my various trainings. Perhaps it was assumed, I don’t know, but when I look back I laugh at my naivety and the manner in which I so easily exhausted myself by not having effective boundaries in place.
I have always been so keen to help people, that I didn’t consider the impact that my ‘trying to help people’ may have on me. An hour’s Reiki treatment would turn into 2 hours or maybe 3 hours as I sat there listening to clients offload onto me. I wasn’t even aware at the time of the ‘hands on, hands off’ approach that I have since learned, in so much as once the session has finished, then its time to switch off, you don’t then ‘carry’ the client with you.
Instead, I would ‘carry’ them, weighing myself down, thinking about them and their issues and doing what I could to help support them, long after the session had finished. The often thin line between client and practitioner would blur, and I would end up in the dangerous territory of creating some form of dependence, and confusing the client/practitioner relationship with one of friendship – only that it was never true friendship, as it was never two-way.
It was the same with yoga. I was a classic caretaker I later discovered, trying to care take people’s problems, do the healing for them, ease their pain. It’s not healthy, and I did finally crash and burn. We only have the capacity to hold so much, and the more we do for others, the more we might question what we are avoiding in ourselves. Why do we need to feel needed? What unfulfilled needs are we ignoring in ourselves?
Over the years I have learned (and continue to learn) that we need to take care of ourselves first and foremost and in particular, ensure a healthy solar plexus. We can do this in many ways, but from my perspective, yoga, Reiki, ki massage (shadow work) and Ayurveda have all been extremely helpful. We also need to be mindful of our boundaries and the manner in which we give ourselves away to others (including our children and other family members, let alone colleagues).
We need to find the courage to say no. We also need to find the strength to stand up for what we believe in, and to honour our truth and our inner knowing. We need to walk away from relationships that don’t nourish us, and have no qualms in leaving jobs that deplete us. It’s about discernment and taking ourselves seriously, and it’s about connecting to our gut too, and listening to it - more on this next time…