In India, 2 years ago this February I was fortunate enough to travel and study the Chakras and Subtle Body. While there I experienced one the most transformative yoga classes of my life from one of my teachers, Deb Langley. It was second chakra day (MY FAVORITE) and she conducted a meditation called “The Campfire” (which I’ve outlined below).
Imagine yourself by a campfire. As you gaze in the fire tap into your memory mind, your past. Bring to mind an interaction with someone in which you did not speak your truth – one in which your voice was not heard, or you chose not to speak up but wanted to. As you paint the scene, absorb all that comes up (if it becomes too intense then come out and stay with your breath). After a minute or two, gaze back into the fire, as your vision pulls back out bring back the memory, but now change the narrative. As look at this other person, say what you wish you would have said. Walk away if you wanted to leave. Say no if it wanted to. Set a boundary. Speak up. Let your voice be heard. Allow the memory to serve as a reference point for how you did not speak your truth, and a reference point in which you now have to assist you in making yourself heard during future interactions.
I remember coming out of this meditation (as did several of my peers) having a lot to say to people. During our break several of us literally went back and wrote emails to people we needed to speak our truth to.
This experience was a perfect depiction of BOUNDARIES. The B word… this one is tough. For simplicity let’s define boundaries today as saying YES and NO without feeling the need to justify yourself. Is saying one or the other, easier or harder for you? Let’s look at a few things surrounding boundaries.
First off, let’s lay one thing out there. You are allowed to say YES and NO to anyone you want to (keep in mind however, that sometimes compromise is a key component of relationships). One thing we have been conditioned to believe is that we are not allowed to set boundaries with people we love. WHY? Society has conditioned us to believe, “If you loved me, you would (FILL IN THE BLANK).” This a certainly an unfair statement.
I determine my love for you, not my boundaries.
It’s unfair of you to tell me my boundary is an act of “un-love.” I get to choose my intention for my action, not you. So, don’t let society tell you that it’s morally wrong to set boundaries with family. We are allowed to protect our own energy. I am not saying disregard your relationships, but do something you want to do because you want to do it not because you feel guilty. It’s as simple as a mother having separate time form her child and not feeling guilty for it. What if by taking time away from your child, you’re teaching them independence? That mommy loves you but also loves herself. WOW! You might just be saving your child from condition codependency (think about it, if you constantly entertain or rescue your young child you may be telling them that this is what they should do in relationships. They grow up and then people please).
That’s the other thing… GUILT! When we say no, sometimes we feel guilty – like we are letting someone down (you’re actually only letting yourself down).
I often tell people that guilt is a MANAGEABLE emotion, and often the price of freedom.
Sure, it’s hard to say no initially. People feel we’ve let them down. They might say, “If we were a better spouse, sister, daughter… you would have said YES.” Why? Because it is what they wanted? We can still be good people and not always be a “YES person.” We are allowed to pass, skip out on dinner plans, etc. because it is valuable for us to care for ourselves. Yes, it will feel different at first, but this is because it’s unfamiliar to you (especially if you’re a people pleaser). What is familiar is often not comfortable, so be aware of how you interchange the two. With practice the smokescreen of guilt subsides and people adapt to your boundary setting, realizing that saying no doesn’t mean you don’t love them at all, it’s just that you love yourself first.
Let others do for themselves (you’re not helping them… you’re taking away a learning opportunity for them). A great depiction of this is in the book "The Giving Tree." The little boy in the book comes to the tree over and over again asking for things. First he asks for his leaves. The tree gives his leaves. Then the boy needs his branches. The tree obliges. Then the boy needs his bark. Then his body. The tree gives until all that is left is a stump. The tree thought it was being kind. Not only did the tree give himself to the point that there were nothing left, he also prevented the boy from learning anything along the way. You see if the boy never learns, the next time the boy needs to live, he doesn't have the tree to turn to AND he hasn't learned how to care for himself. If the tree would have just said no, maybe the boy would have thrown a fit at first, but he would have saved himself from being a stump. And eventually the boy would adapt and do for himself.
I invite you this week to practice setting a boundary – even if it is as simple as “I know you want Mexican food, but I don’t tonight.” So, let go of guilt. Start by saying no. Ask for what you want.