Shut up Boundaries

mangrove tree

This whole “have good boundaries” thing can just stuff it.  I don’t even know what that means, I don’t know how to do it and I’m sick of hearing it go off in my head.  And I’ll tell you what else.  I don’t know that if I ever did decide that I know what this boundary business is really about, that my healthy boundaries would look like anyone else’s.

In some ways, my “boundaries” have manifested in the unhealthy manner of lock-down.  In an attempt to be boundaried, I have actually just sequestered some aspects of myself off in a secret place somewhere in there.  These “boundaries” don’t create a safety within which I get to be more myself.  Whatever this is that I have going on just leaves me compartmentalized. Thanks a lot.  These dysfunctional “boundaries”can keep me from opening and softening in a relationship.  The ones that look like me protecting myself from I don’t even know what.  This is the boundary that might look like a really tall cinderblock wall.  I’m thinking about The Secret Garden here. Remember that garden that was only for one guy and his wife to go visit but then his wife died and he locked it up tight and it was only rediscovered when an orphan child came to live on the widower’s depressing estate by forcing herself through some tiny secret door? Those boundaries need to be broken down by the innocent, endearing, loving and blameless orphan-type character.  Gook luck with that.

I also want boundaries to suck it because sometimes, other people have really clear ideas about what a good boundary is and where I need to find some, but I don’t actually feel it.  I’d be faking it if I agreed or tried to impose someone else’s ideas of boundaries in my life.  Like this blog, for example.  I’ve had a few people cringe at how and what I talk about here and in one recent conversation, I had that nervous and insecure thing strike. It’s that thing that happens when you are a kid and you didn’t know about a rule but you broke it and if you had thought it through it would have been so obvious but now you are stuck with the consequences.  “I can’t believe you can do that!  You are really brave.  And that is supposed to be your professional website. wow, and you write like that… “  and I thought, “did I totally ruin my  chances of having a good life?”  Insecurity sucks.

In all fairness, I do have some healthy expressions of boundaries.  I manage my time well and rarely over-commit to stuff.  I’m also pretty good at setting boundaries for my girls. .

Leslie Kaminoff did a great job at bringing up this topic of boundaries in his presentation this week.  I was feeling like maybe I could revisit this in my life, but I don’t feel that so much in this moment.  I just feel hostile.  But I’ll still walk you through my interpretation of his ideas on this.  He defines breathing as shape change an the two places where we do the most shape changing is in the ribcage and abdomen.  He explains that our ribcage is like an accordian, changing volume as we breathe air and below that, the abdomen, in relation to the breath, behaves like a “water balloon” that can change shape but does not change volume.  If we squeeze it in one part, it bulges out somewhere else.  He also talks about the directional energy that we have going on in our systems: prana and apana.  With regard to the breath, prana moves in through the nostrils and down and apana moves up from the lowest part of the belly and out.

This is relevant because at the center of these two moving forces, is a fire… it’s agni.   This is where we burn shit, the kind of stuff that has to move with the force of cleansing ritual, both sacred and powerful.   It sits under the diaphragm, between the forces of prana and the apana.  This is an important place because we feel a whole lot of stuff right here.  There’s even a book about all the information that comes from here called, The Second Brain.   Our digestion happens there.  That’s very important.   Did you know that in our abdominal viscera, we have more of the neurotransmitter, seratonin, than we have in our brains? A lot more.  So we are communicating a LOT with our nervous system through this agni-space.  What about this: we have an organ in there that is called the greater omentum?  Mr. Kaminoff described it as this apron that can hangs down from the bottom edge of the stomach and the transverse colon (top of abdomen) and body-studiers don’t really know what it does.  It seems to have some immune function, it is highly vascular AND it has the ability to move around inside the abdomen.   MOVE AROUND!  Sometimes when people go in for abdominal surgeries, that omentum is hugging up on some organ that needs some omentum love.  Isn’t that crazy? Body-studiers also don’t know how or why it moves around, but it has these myofibrils that could make the tissue motile.  MOTILE! Crazy right?!!! That right there was worth all those benjamins I dropped for the training… and I just gave it to you for FREE! LK rocks…Perhaps that was a digression.

Point is, this lower diphragm area is the seat of great emotional sensation.  When the sensation is difficult, or traumatic, many of us cope by shutting this space down.  Mr. Kaminoff argues quite convincingly that this area of our body gets bound up, sometimes in the form of a brahma granthi  (the creator knot which creates all other knots or blocks in the system)and then we can’t breathe into the space.  The shape of this part of our body can’t change shape to receive the breath it is locked into the shape that keeps us from feeling the stuff we don’t want to feel.  Our breath is affected because we can’t find space and movement there.  In order to be able to be spacious and for the apana to come right on up to that sacred fire and get burned so it can move on, we have to be able to feel.  Feel and move.  If the breath can go there and snuggle on up with the omentum and the agni and the seratonin and the emotion, and we can stay with it all without shutting down the sensation, then that’s something.

Boundaries need to be in place so that it is safe to go there.  Healthy boundaries with the people that make us what to shut and lock the door are probably a good idea.  Knowing how much, when, why and with whom to go in there is related to this whole discussion, too.  How do you figure any of it out?  Mr. Kaminoff, and yoga itself, says that it’s through the process of svadyaya or continual self-reflection and tapas, the practice and discipline needed to make space and change, that we begin moving the body in order to figure out where the space is and where it isn’t.

But I don’t want to talk about it.  So shut up already.

18 thoughts on “Shut up Boundaries

  1. You have a terrific inquiry going here, Amanda. My two cents: For your svadyaya, keep it open. Resist driving to conclusion or judgment – that just narrows your vision. And keep the love in it. And on prana flow and boundaries – do you need more bricks, or do you need a big hammer? You are working it, girl!

    1. “Keep the love in it.” Bharat, this is so helpful. Sometimes I get serious or fed up or annoyed with myself and I forget about that part. The openness and the love are really important parts of the svadyaya process, aren’t they? Thanks.

  2. Amanda, if you take apart any system without knowing exactly what and why it was built as it was, it is confusing. Man, that guy sounded confusing. The gut works with the brain and endocrine system quite handily. Why make it so complex and put a bunch of confusing words to it, without a good reason?

    About me and boundaries; Some things others do, makes me feel unconditionally good. I let it in. Some things other people do or I do make me cringe. Keep em out! Other things that people do confuse me in the middle ground. I am curious but careful to protect myself. I seldom say no, but often ask why before I agree. Be it my best friend, wife or parent, I always ask why if it feels questionable. Yes and no are two faces of the same card and I show people one or the other at my discretion, not theirs. My gut, my mind and my heart must agree with what I am doing or it is wrong for me. I never listen to my cold feet!

    John Wood

    1. John, It sounds like you have clarity and practice in your work with boundaries. I imagine that comes with knowing yourself well and trusting the messages that come from heart and gut and mind. I like your vibe and thanks for sharing your perspective.

  3. I just wanted to stop in to say that, as a yoga teacher, you are never at risk of over stepping a professional boundary when you are exposing your inner most uncensored thoughts and feeling as a vehicle for inquiry and then sharing it freely with others. I’d say, that’s pretty much your job description. I hereby vote that you keep doing exactly as you are. If you do, I’ll keep reading.

    1. I guess in a good application of boundaries, we have a safe space to explore our vulnerability and that lovable authentic self. I’m thinking about what we do as teachers and as parents– we establish good boundaries for others to help them to grow and develop. Apparently, it is more of a challenge and process when we try to do that for ourselves.

  4. Hi Amanda. Wow, I love it. Period.
    I relate to this really well, and am happy to hear you enjoying Leslie’s work – i get emails once a week from them as well through distance learning and have found them immensely interesting but yes, challenging. It’s certainly a different approach. One is really pushed to examine ones life by Leslie I believe. Brene Brown writes very well on boundaries and here is a youtube link of hers … I just wrote a post with some citation of hers as well.

  5. Okay, I’m signed up for the newsletter. Thanks for that. This was the second workshop I’ve taken with Leslie and I realized, hearing some of his foundational ideas again, in new ways and with deeper insight that so much of how I teach and think of the body and the breath is from that first workshop with him. His teaching has been uber-influential in my practice. I’ll be paying attention to the ways that his new material and the learning I did this time around will make it’s way in. So good.

    I really like Brenee Brown. I’ll check out the link. I couldn’t find your blog! Can you include a link here or to my email/facebook.

    Glad you liked the post!

  6. I love this piece because you related information you learned in a way I understood. I’m not sophisticated in my understanding, but I have more insight because of information you shared. Your posts often give me, ordinary girl, building blocks of insight that inspire me to learn more. That’s gold. And the comments people leave also rock today! You bring a lot to the table with your posts.
    thanks. ~m

    1. Inspiration to learn more??!! That is one of the best complements I could ever get. Thanks, Meredith. I love that. And I, too, love the comments. I learn and think about so much thanks to you and the others who take time to chime in. That’s part of what makes blogging so much better than just having the conversation with myself in my head.

  7. I would strongly disagree with J Brown, if he refers to sharing “inner most uncensored thoughts” in a Yoga class. As a Yoga instructor, the class is not about you. Your blog, sure. I don’t agree with western psychotherapy’s stance of maintaining sterile separation between the client and healer. However, the practice of Yoga has taught me to keep my mouth shut while doing my inquiry and not vomit it up to whoever happens to be around. (I am not inferring anyone who has posted here has done that, rather full disclosure to my rather embarrassing past.)

    Anyway, your post was interesting. Not sure I made sense of it. I use awareness of my breath to clue me in to an emotional response. But, that’s not enough. In order to make sure I’m sharing with people who are receptive and not making the same mistakes I have in the past, I think of it as a question… “Do I have the right perception?” (Of the person, the conversation, the context, etc.) That has helped me be much wiser of how much I reveal and to whom.

  8. This query of how much talking and sharing to do in a yoga class is an ongoing inquiry for me and I really appreciate your point of view! I love and remember the day when I really saw and understood how little the yoga classes I teach have to do with ME. Not only was it less exhausting and less performative for me as a teacher, but I think it gave students more space to have their own experience.

    Sometimes sharing personal experience in class does is an important part of making the teachings of yoga accessible and real. Chase does it. His teaching style has helped to make yoga deeply meaningful for me. I do it and sometimes I think it is very appropriate. Still, even when I share in this way, the teaching, even the personal story isn’t “about me.” The intention is to speak to the shared experience and to give a context for the teachings.

    1. My favorite Yoga instructor is great at offering a slice of personal narrative and then leaving it open for interpretation, all the while still touching on it or expanding the theme throughout the class. A friend of mine, my while not directly criticizing my poetry, commented once that she felt good poetry was not too articulate. It created the scene, but left enough room for the reader’s story. That’s my goal if I offer something from my personal life when I teach.

      PS: I work in a psychiatric residential treatment facility for children. We talk about boundary issues All. The. Time. Some of these kids have been incredibly damaged by poor/inappropriate/violated boundaries. I totally relate with your post and also understand why there’s this hyper-vigilance about boundaries as well. Enjoying your blog!

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