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This morning, I re-read this post that I made on my Riley School of Integrated Somatic Bodywork blog two years ago today.  Although I don’t post on that blog any more since I have retired, this particular post seems like it’s a good reminder for me, and maybe for some other people as well.

Bridges, Barriers and Boundaries  July 21, 2013

Over the past couple of years, my internal work has been centered upon not only what works in my life and what doesn’t, but why it’s working or not working.

Sometimes we get stuck in psychological/ emotional/ spiritual patterns that become repetitious and habitual, much in the same way that a way of moving or putting on the left shoe before the right can be something we just keep doing (being) over and over without thinking about it.  Taking an unbiased look at paradigms we have known in the past is a good way to bring ourselves forward in to the future. We may have missed something, or there may be an idea we formed a long time ago that does not serve us now.

Alvin Toffler, who wrote Futureshock (1970), is quoted as saying

Tomorrow’s illiterate will not be the man who can’t read; he will be the man who has not learned how to learn.

He is paraphrasing a quote from Herbert Gerjuoy:

The new education must teach the individual how to classify and reclassify information, how to evaluate its veracity, how to change categories when necessary, how to move from the concrete to the abstract and back, how to look at problems from a new direction — how to teach himself.

They are referring to the data-centered culture of fast change; however, when I came across that quote recently, I put it in the context of what I have been doing: this re-searching in my life… searching again for what makes sense for me (on all levels).  The easy part has been to see what still works/ fits for me.

I have kept my spiritual understanding pretty much the same as it has been.  I did reach across the bridge of time and re-connect with a teacher with whom I had lost contact over a decade ago, and it feels good to have that particular guidance in my life once again.  The connection is much deeper now, and that serves as a catalyst for further growth and understanding.

I also looked at what I was doing professionally, made some changes based upon the angst of dealing with the corporate mindset, and re-redirected my focus back to my love of teaching and volunteering. I put myself in an arena where the cutting-edge approach I manifest was honored and supported.  It felt good, and it gave me the energy and desire to do more research, study and integration in order to teach more, and teach better.

Ani Pema Chodron, in The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times (Shambhala Classics) writes,

There are times when the only way to bring down barriers is to set boundaries.

When I first read the quote above, I read it differently than I did when I re-read it recently.  As I looked at the patterns of my own behavior that allowed people to consistently take advantage of my empathic nature without giving even the most basic understanding of who I am in return, I took a hard look at myself.  What I wanted to know was:  What was it that I was doing — What barrier had I created? — that was preventing things from changing, from getting better?  What boundary did I need to set?

I realized that my part in it was my lack of making firm statements in each relationship about my needs and expectations. I made certain that I began to voice my self to them in a way that showed compassion for them and for me.  The shock value of their complete indifference was amazing.  And then, it went even further: in a two-year period, I was asked first by two different employers and then by two different family members, to do things that were uncomfortable for me and went against what I believe in.  When I declined, all of them told me that I was burning the bridge(s) between us.  I suppose I knew that if I did not do as I had been asked, I would be sacrificing the relationships. My choice was that if losing the relationship was the price to pay for staying in my integrity, I was willing to pay it.

Interesting thing about integrity: it is either a part of a person, or it’s not.  There is no half-way.  Even though my integrity has led me to situations where I had to let go of something (a job) or someone (a friend or family member) in order to honor it, I have always felt the better for it.  If staying in my integrity could burn a bridge, it was a bridge to nowhere, anyway.

It turned out that in these instances, I needed to actually create a barrier in order to hold a boundary. Holding a boundary that said “You no longer have my permission to hurt me.” could only be done by creating barriers that meant not having a certain job or family members in my life. Although it was painful and extremely sad for me, the feeling of release, and the lack of feeling the burden of constant boundary infringement, was healing in that it exponentially increased my feelings of emotional freedom and self-assuredness.

As I continue to study and learn more things, I am more discerning in what the teachers are saying as they teach, and as they talk about things not directly related to the subject matter of the class.  A long time ago, a teacher once told me that learning is like going to the farmers’ market: one picks and chooses what fits their needs and leaves the rest.  I am better at that, now.  I have honed my skill to be able to hear what is being said and take in only what fits for me, and leave the rest.  The trick, of course, is to listen and really hear everything so that it isn’t a case of picking and choosing to support one’s own close-mindedness. Ideas and attitudes need to be fully understood and processed in the context of one’s self.  While the change and the growth of new knowledge still must be in accordance with one’s personal code of spiritual/ emotional ethics, one needs to open their boundaries a bit in order to receive new information. Sometimes we need change the boundaries of what we know in order to experiment and see how things work for us.  For instance, when I would show my students a way of releasing a muscle that was new to them, I gave them the encouragement to try using it on a client and see what happened.  The guideline was to not make any judgment on it until then: see how it feels, how it works, or doesn’t, and then decide.

In my mind’s eye, I see a pattern of bridges and boundaries and barriers, some of them form protection and some of them create an opening.  All of them weave to form a mandala that looks pretty good…and will undoubtedly continue to change with time.