Boundaries don’t keep other people out. They fence you in. Life is messy.
The first time I recall the day I disrespected someone's boundaries was on a cold winter morning and I was going to school with my sister. We had to cross a busy street, where cars and buses were zooming by. There was a traffic light, but it would always be red for us. We had to wait for a long time, until the white man flashed on the screen. That was the signal for us to cross.
But that day, I was being extremely impatient. I wanted to get to school early, because I had to get to a test. I didn’t want to waste time standing on the sidewalk, watching the cars pass by. I wanted to take a shortcut, to run across the street when there was a gap in the traffic. My sister stood there telling me she didn’t want to cross with all the cars.
I was not ready to listen. I told my sister to follow me, and I dashed across the street. I didn’t look left or right, I just ran. I made it to the other side, feeling exhilarated. I turned around, expecting to see my sister behind me.
But she wasn’t there.
She was still standing at the divider, shaking and looking around confused. The immediate regret I felt pushing her past what she wanted to do. I finally waited for the cars to stop and went back to go get her.
I learned about boundaries that day. Looking back at that, I don’t know what could have happened if she had listened to me or whether it was a good idea for me to push her.
But I do know that Amy Dickinson said, "Healthy boundaries are important, but sometimes you may be building a brick wall when a picket fence would do." We need to be aware of our and others boundaries and respect them, but we also need to be open and flexible. There’s this sweet spot in between that focuses on our individual needs and circumstances. We need to be able to communicate our boundaries clearly and kindly.
As Rumi said, "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there." That field is where we transcend our boundaries and connect with others on a deeper level. That field is where we are able to discover new perspectives and possibilities. That field is where we can experience the true beauty of life.
How does our over reliance on boundaries limit our spiritual growth, human connection, and self-discovery?
We are all spiritual beings having a human experience. We were not made to be confined by the limitations of our physical reality, but to explore the infinite possibilities of our spiritual nature. We are here to connect with our true essence, our divine source, our higher self.
Every so often, we forget who we really are. We get caught up in the illusions of separation and scarcity, of fear and judgment, of attachment and ego. We create boundaries that keep us from experiencing our true potential, our true joy, our true freedom or taking our relationships up a notch.
Boundaries are the walls that we build around ourselves and our groups, to define who we are and who we are not, to protect what we have and what we value, to exclude what we fear or what we reject. They are the products of our insecurity, our pride and our prejudice, our greed sometimes even our selfishness.
Despite all of this, boundaries are the sources of many many many problems and challenges that we face today. Boundaries create division and conflict, violence and oppression, injustice and suffering, isolation and loneliness. Boundaries limit our level of awareness and our understanding, our compassion and our love, our creativity and our expression.
Boundaries are the lies that we tell ourselves about who we are, but they are not the only lies, nor the most convincing ones. I have specifically noticed an overdoing of boundaries around Gen-Z.
To elaborate on this, I think that cutting people off quickly is a sign of immaturity and lack of empathy. It shows that you do not want to deal with the complexities and challenges of human relationships, and that you are quick to judge and label others based on your own expectations and standards. It shows an unwillingness to learn from your own mistakes and grow as a person, because you are living off of avoidance.
Cutting people off quickly leaves you without the opportunity to experience the richness and diversity of human connection, and leaves you without a chance to develop meaningful and lasting bonds with others. It is a blockage from discovering the beauty and potential of other people, and from appreciating other’s uniqueness and value. But the worst of it all is that it prevents you from discovering yourself, because you are limiting your exposure to different perspectives and experiences.
Instead of treating cutting someone off as a good way to set a boundary, we need to be trying the route of good communication: the honest and respectful exchange of thoughts and feelings, to understand each other and resolve conflicts. This is an essential for any relationship, because it will allow for an expression of our needs and wants, to listen and empathize, to compromise and cooperate, to trust and support.
I believe the place where we fail is treating most people as inherently bad people, when the truth is that they’re just human. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, their own joys and sorrows, their own hopes and fears. They make mistakes and they learn from them. They deserve compassion and forgiveness, just like we do.
How do ancient spiritual philosophies challenge the concept of boundaries, and how can transcending these barriers lead us to spiritual awakening and a deeper understanding of our interconnected existence?
In the cosmos of spirituality, boundaries take on a completely new meaning, more subtle. They don't just exist as physical barriers, instead, they weave themselves into the fabric of our emotional and spiritual experiences. Ancient wisdom, religious teachings, and spiritual philosophies, throughout the centuries, have provided us with insights into these invisible walls.
In the Eastern philosophy of Taoism, it represents the natural, effortless flow of life and universe. Lao Tzu, in the Tao Te Ching, illustrates that rigid boundaries, whether they are social, emotional, or mental, can hinder one’s alignment with the Tao. Instead, he encourages adopting wu-wei, the principle of 'non-action' or 'effortless action,' suggesting a surrender to the natural flow of life, the dissolution of forceful boundaries that resist this harmonious dance with the cosmos.
Similarly, Buddhism speaks of Sunyata or Emptiness, the inherent emptiness of all phenomena. It posits that the boundaries we perceive between ourselves and others, between happiness and suffering, are illusory. These distinctions stem from an ignorance or Avidya, clouding our perception of the true interconnectedness and interdependence of all life—the doctrine of Pratītyasamutpāda or Dependent Origination.
In the realm of Sufism, there’s also a concept of Fana, or annihilation of the self in God, which speaks of the ultimate dissolution of boundaries. The Sufi seeks to erase the boundary of the ego, the 'I', to merge into the boundless ocean of divine love.
These ancient spiritual teachings invite us to examine our personal boundaries. They challenge us to discern the self-imposed barriers that encumber our spirit, stunting its growth. Our fears, our prejudices, our attachments—they all form invisible yet potent walls that obstruct the path of self-discovery and spiritual enlightenment.
The spiritual journey is a sort of voyage towards boundlessness, a quest for the expansion of consciousness. It is a sacred pilgrimage that requires us to shed the layers of our conditioned beliefs and limiting boundaries, to reveal the core of our true, limitless self. When we create boundaries, we confine our experiences within a narrow spectrum, inhibiting the full expression of our spiritual potential.
Our spiritual growth is in our ability to transcend these self-imposed boundaries, to embrace the boundless nature of our being and of others, to dance in harmony with the cosmic rhythm. We need to acknowledge that we are not separate threads but integral parts of a whole, interwoven with the magic of existence.
Boundaries are but illusions in this divine dance, and realizing this is a crucial step in our spiritual awakening. As the great spiritual teacher Ram Dass once said, "We're all just walking each other home." Home, beyond the illusions of separateness, beyond the fences of the ego, into the boundless expanse of Oneness.
How do self-imposed boundaries hinder us from embracing life's inherent chaos and limit our spiritual growth, and what teachings can we draw from religious scripture to guide us beyond these barriers?
The fact is that life is messy and unpredictable. We never know what will happen next, what challenges we will face, what opportunities we will encounter. We live in a world of constant change, of uncertainty and complexity, of chaos and disorder.
But chaos is not necessarily a bad thing. Chaos is where we find the unexpected, the surprising, the miraculous. Chaos is where we learn, where we grow, where we evolve.
Many of us are afraid of chaos. We seek to avoid it, to control it, to impose order on it. We create boundaries that limit our exposure to chaos, that keep us in our comfort zones, that protect us from the unknown. We create boundaries that define who we are and who we are not, what we can do and what we cannot do, what we believe and what we reject.
But the part that people do not care to focus on is how harmful unreasonable boundaries can be. They isolate us from others, from ourselves, from God. They prevent us from expanding our horizons, from discovering new possibilities, from realizing our potential. Boundaries can limit our self-discovery and our spiritual growth.
As Jesus said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” ( John 3:8 )
Remember, boundaries are the walls that we build to block the wind of the Spirit. Boundaries are the deafness that we suffer by ignoring its sound. Boundaries are the blindness that we endure by not seeing its direction.