September 24th, 2012
Boundaries are an essential part of life. They delineate and maintain needed borders and separations, making differentiation possible at every level. Boundaries both contain and preserve the integrity of what they are safeguarding, be that physical, psychological, emotional, social, or spiritual. Without them there is no relationship and therefore no development, no evolution. But despite this clear truth, we often fall into the trap of believing that boundaries hold us back, preventing us from being free or realizing nondual consciousness — whatever untroubled, idealized state we may aspire to. If we thus equate having boundaries with being limited and if being limitless is a cherished goal for us, we will tend to view boundaries as a problem, an obstruction to freedom, something to overcome.Real freedom, however, is not about having no limitations; rather it is about finding liberation within—and also through—limitation (as when the apparent constraints of committed monogamous relationship actually enrich and deepen the relationship). Real freedom does not mind limitations and in fact is not limited by them.Boundaries make freedom possible by clarifying what must be worked with, not just personally and transpersonally, but also interpersonally. Since everything — everything! — exists through relationship, it is crucial that we learn to work well within relationship, both with others and with our own needs, states, and identity. This work is not possible if our boundaries are not clearly delineated and skillfully maintained.Whether our boundaries are collapsed, blurred, abandoned, trampled, disregarded, nurtured, overpoliced, cemented, or honored, they determine our edges, limits, borders. Boundaries may be overdefined, underdefined, or ambiguously defined. What really matters is what we do with our boundaries: Do we use them to fortify our ego or to illuminate it? Do we lose ourselves in them or hold them in healthy perspective? Do we use them to keep ourselves from love or to deepen our capacity to love? Do we concretize them or do we keep them flexible? Do we allow them to be overly permeable or do we allow them to be as solid as circumstances require? Do we use our boundaries to isolate ourselves or to create and deepen connection?Without healthy boundaries, we cannot have healthy relationships.Without healthy boundaries, we stunt our growth.So what are healthy boundaries? They are steadfast guardians, serving both to contain and preserve the integrity of what they are safeguarding. Boundaries don’t just hold space; they make and honor space by keeping it appropriately compartmentalized. They keep particular aspects of us enclosed until they are sufficiently developed. A premature rupturing of self-encapsulation (as when we are forced into adult responsibilities when we are young children) interferes with our development, leaving us with leaky or otherwise dysfunctional boundaries.A healthy boundary is a psychophysical presence — a kind of energetic membrane — possessing the necessary firmness to protect us from invasion, intrusion, violation, and other dehumanizing or life-negating forces, as well as the resiliency to soften and open to what is beneficial for us.Healthy boundaries serve our highest good. They are akin to the loving parental hand that holds our hand as we take our first child-steps along a seaside wall or a playground ramp, gripping us neither too tightly nor too loosely. That touch, so reassuringly solid and steady, gives us the courage to venture farther afoot.
Read the whole excerpt from Spiritual Bypassing.