Monday, October 17, 2011


When one tugs at a single thing in nature he finds it attached to the rest of the world. ~John Muir (Thanks, Val Baker, for this beautiful quote!)

I've been trying, for days, to write a post about healthy boundaries. I thought I didn't have it in me to do so, most likely because my own boundaries are weak at best, even though I have worked diligently for years to cease and desist being codependent. It's a work in progress.

I'm not the only one with uneven boundaries, of course. It's a challenge in this society in which we are allegedly independent, separate individuals. Of course we aren't! We are empathic by nature, hence we tend to merge, emotionally and psychically, with those closest to us. But because we believe we aren't merged, it's easy to confuse what someone else is feeling with our own emotions. This is not healthy.

Even the use of the royal "we" is an aspect of merging, hey?

In massage school, there was little preparation for the merging that can happen during a session. My teachers talked about it a little bit, mostly telling us to stay centered and grounded in order to keep from taking on the energy of whomever was on the table. But no one taught us HOW to center and ground. Pretty words that didn't really help.

A couple of my teachers resorted to truly draconian techniques. One said that when working on someone in emotional distress, to imagine them inside a hermetically sealed cube, our hands inside gloves, simlar to the way techs work with radioactive materials. Whoa. Kind of extreme, hey?

I'm lucky to have trained extensively in sensate intuition with the luminous Cybele in San Francisco, also with Wendy Palmer, a great teacher as well. We practiced staying centered over and over again, first on our own, then in various situations of engagement, both emotional and physical. I always use those techniques during sessions - they work very well. I do NOT take on the trials and tribulations of my clients!

One of the simplest techniques for staying centered is to imagine yourself standing in the center of a column of light at least three feet in diameter. Begin to take some nice clean breaths. Imagine that by breathing in this way, you can expand your life force to fill the column. Make sure you have just as much life force behind you as in front, on the left and the right, above and below. Imagine the column has very clear edges, like a spotlight would create, for instance. This exercise is simple, but powerful.

In personal relationships, perhaps needless to say, it's much more complicated. If I try too hard not to fall into the center of someone else's gravity, I become distant and rather cold. When I plummet into another's center of gravity, I lose all sense of myself; I become a satellite orbiting the other person. That's never pretty! I'm a lot better at it than I used to be, but it's not easy with those I love dearly.

The Buddhists know we are all interconnected. Their practices of non-attachment create something rather different than what we non-Buddhists would call healthy boundaries. Buddhists are OK with being merged, as long as they can keep from grasping. Damn those Buddhists are so smart!

May you rest comfortably at the center of your own beautiful self! May it be so. Shalom.


Shelley said...

Thanks for sharing the technique for staying centered and grounded. I needed that! I've heard it explained before, but the way you describe HOW to do it really makes it clear. I'll be practicing this one a lot!

Great post on boundaries, very timely for me this week.

Reya Mellicker said...

Did you watch the Monty Python clip? Made me laugh out loud. Laughter is a great boundary creating technique.

Kerry said...

Yes! "We're all different!" I love the Life of Brian.

I imagine that it would be difficult to maintain boundaries when you're working one-on-one with another person who is under stress & coming to you for help. But you have to, don't you.

Reya Mellicker said...

Kerry it is rarely difficult, but I've had a lot of practice.