If you follow any of the traditional, classic spiritual training schools, one of the foundational practices is the attempt to dissolve the personal will. To destroy the illusory ego. You’ll be asked to fade the boundaries of self and dissolve into the will of the whole. In practice this means to say yes to the teaching and the teacher and a firm ‘no’ to your own desires, wishes and dreams.
You are taught a gradual process of losing the grip around your own personal boundaries while following the strict constructs of the boundaries set by someone else. The training into “spiritual boundaries” happens in stealth. It begins as an invitation to change your life style and your choices. By and by you are offered more invitations to transcend, transform or transmute your current reality into a more “enlightened” way of being. Before you know it, your circle of self-influence, your boundaries and emotional opening have been shifted into a reality that no longer reflects your true nature and freedom of choice.
In a way, when you follow a dogma, a religion, a defined spiritual teaching, you are given a set of dos and do nots. A set of rules that promise a better tomorrow. The now, the present, where you are at, needs to be shifted, changed and revised in order for you to be happier, better, more pure and eventually enlightened. The inherent flaw in this perspective is the inevitable destruction of your own sense of self, which you have built over years of refinement. You have tried and tested reacting with the world around you and built a complex set of boundaries in order to protect yourself and offer a sense of solidity when interacting with others.
Many of the spiritual traditions attack those constructs and explain that those boundaries are exactly what holds you back from experiencing life as it is. The explanation given is usually around having those mental constructs act as colored filters between you and reality.
If we examine this closely we might realize that in many cases this might be true. Our sense of defensiveness is over-reacting and creates a much thicker wall between the other and us than actually needed. Yet, a complete dissolution of these boundaries is taking a deeply violent act, which will be more harmful than constructive. In all of my years of spiritual development and teaching, I have seen much more destruction and pain coming out of these boundary deconstructive practices than any other abuse I’ve ever witnessed. The main reason for this is that in this case there is no perpetrator and only victims. You become your own executioner and the sense of guilt is more than overwhelming. Once those boundaries are challenged deeply enough, it is almost impossible to restore the balance and offer self-love and acceptance back to oneself.
The sense of I and thou, the ability to discern our own preferences, liking and inclinations is the deeper metaphysical meaning to life. We have morphed into a dual reality from a cohesive sense of oneness. What the east calls Brahman, the state of nothingness which contains all is the origin of this existential sense of two-ness, of the necessary sense of separation we need in order to appreciate each other, life and ultimately the profound experience of self. Self implies other and other implies self. These are not complimentary terms but existential implications.
We are not here to return to oneness, but a sense of oneness in pursuit of experiencing itself within the duality and variety of life. That is a very profound statement, because if you are willing to open to this concept, not only that your spiritual boundaries are important, those are necessary.
Your boundaries define who you are. They allow you to be you so I can be me. My boundaries allow for me to be me so you can be you. Studying compassionate communication and other non-violent communication tools allow us to express our need for healthy boundaries without over-stepping someone else’s need for respect or being heard.
In my years of experience, there is no better spiritual practice than investing in learning to communicate. Our external ability to converse, listen and hear another is truly the same relationship we will have when having our own inner dialog. The difference between treating your own mind as a friend or a foe can sometime be just one communication tool away.
In summary – spiritual boundaries, the understanding of choice and freedom, the ability to express our preferences and likings are a crucial and foundational step to a healthy development of any spiritual aspiration. As one of my teachers, Monique Darling says- “No is a complete sentence”. You are not more developed if you can only say yes. If you do, your nos actually have no meaning. Only when you have a strong sense of self, a strong sense of your boundaries, your yes, your invitations and offerings, would actually mean truth.