Boundaries & Containers

Last week I had an interesting experience at work. A coworker of mine, who I’ve let drain me of energy for quite some time now because I never had the courage to tell him how he really made me feel, left an inappropriate piece of correspondence on my desk. Without going into specifics, this piece of paper made me extremely uncomfortable. It was a distraction during the middle of the work day. But more than that, the content of the correspondence made assumptions about my lifestyle as an unmarried woman in her 30’s. And so I did what any rational (fed up) person would do. I got red in the face, told him I was extremely offended by his actions, and abruptly shut my office door in his face. Then I reported the incident to my supervisor.

I have never been what you would call a “rock the boat” kind of woman. But I do know this: there comes a time in our lives when boundaries must be instituted for our own well-being. And for our sanity. The way that the boundaries are created or reinforced is up to the individual.

In yogic philosophy, it’s important to understand that setting boundaries is not the same as creating walls. On the contrary, setting boundaries is another way of defining our true selves. It may surprise you to consider boundaries as a gateway toward revealing our vulnerabilities.

My experience last week definitely did this for me; only through standing up for myself did I make myself vulnerable to repercussions.

“In order to hold and bear the acute experience of vulnerability, you need an appropriate container. The practice of consciously putting up boundaries is part of creating a container. Creating a boundary can mean something as simple as maintaining a physical distance between you and another person, setting personal limits, being able to say “no” appropriately, and understanding whom you’re willing to let into your intimate inner circle. Another form of container is a relationship of trust—certain friendships, your teacher, or a practice community can help you find safe spaces in which to open.

… by reclaiming and occupying your vulnerability, by letting yourself truly feel it, going down to the depths of it, you come to the place where you are truly invulnerable.”

(Source: Yoga Journal “Protective Services”)

By speaking up and insisting that my “container” not be contaminated by an emotional vampire, I was being true to myself. And despite the fact that I feared what would happen if my vulnerability were exposed in the aftermath of this experience, I reclaimed my voice and felt stronger than ever.

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