BOUNDARIES– what does this word really mean? I once heard a speaker at a spiritual conference refer to boundaries as a joke. I remember hearing this person scoff at the word and laugh in front of hundreds of people while she issued her commentary on lifestyle magazines and their “silly” articles. I remember immediately thinking- really? I actually was quite surprised and felt sad that there were so many vulnerable people around me learning that “boundaries” in a spiritual context were something dreamed up by the mind and trying to maintain them was ignorance.
It bothered me because I was someone that had very poor boundaries growing up, and was still someone struggling to understand what they really meant in my relationships- particularly with my boyfriend (and past boyfriends). That conference was years ago, and I am still learning- but fortunately, years later- I have really owned up to my lack of boundaries and my former lack of awareness.
When I first started hearing about this word “boundaries”, I remember feeling like it was a word from an alien language. I eventually learned that as a very sensitive person that learned to be the balancer in my group of siblings, I had a real problem blurring the lines between my feelings and someone else’s, leading to a deep lack of understanding that other people are capable of taking care of themselves and I am not responsible for how other people handle their consequences and reactions. I lived a life of co-dependent relationships, lacking the ability to provide any accountability for behavior that was not in line with my definition of integrity. I constantly compromised myself by being in relationships with people that also had bad boundaries and would do things that didn’t feel “right” to me.
It is easy to take the nihilistic point of view here and interpret the understanding of emptiness in a way that can be extremely dysfunctional. Things do exist in the way that we see them from our point of view- but that is our reality and it does not mean that our point of view is any less skewed than another person’s because if we are living in an ego-driven reality then we are all delusional. But it is also important for extremely empathic, compassionate people to understand that we are not responsible for another person’s choices and all we can do is stand in our own integrity and simply love by loving the Buddha nature of that person.
When we hold someone in that space, we are doing more than we realize, and we don’t always have to do anything else. When we correct our mind, we help others correct their mind as well. If we choose to not engage in another person’s drama and allow them to experience their karma through their gift of free will, yet love them by healing our inner-divide, we are doing them a greater service than trying to be involved in a relationship with them that is based on you being accountable for their state of mind. For me this was revolutionary, and for the first time in my life I had real clarity when I was able to say in my heart that this person before me was capable of being responsible for their reactions, not me.
One morning in my journey to work I heard a clip on the radio from the interview with Rihanna and Oprah. In the interview Rihanna was talking about how all she really cared about was that her abuser was happy in his life, and that was what mattered the most to her. As I listened I realized how co-dependent this person still was, and it made me feel deep compassion for her. I also felt sad that this was not brought up by Oprah in the interview because it seemed so clear to me. She was still living out the same pattern with this person- and she was still feeling accountable for how this person felt- whether it was happiness or sadness. This is the reason many people stay with abusers- another blurry line.
That speaker I heard years ago can mock me too if she would like to, or compare me to a silly lifestyle magazine. But I feel it is extremely important in my work as a life coach and teacher to remember that there is a gradual process in understanding how our ego-driven mind can block us in understanding what the Buddha nature is within ourselves and how we share it with one another as spiritual beings innately connected with one another. Until we can heal that which is broken within us emotionally, we are blind to our oneness.
It begins with recognizing the Buddha nature within our hearts and having compassion for our own suffering, then others. And compassion is not about giving your power and energy away in an effort to ease someone’s suffering. It is about seeing someone’s suffering and understanding that it is your suffering as well. It involves seeing that we in our ignorant mind may not understand fully the dynamics of a karmic situation, but we can end dysfunction through the free will and choice that we have, and choose to live our life in a healthy way free of dysfunctional self perception. This leads to forgiveness and no attachment, and without attachment we are able to see our true nature, our Buddha nature.