A Dharma Glimpse by Alison
I’ve been contemplating the importance of boundaries since moving into the temple. The subject has come up a number of times and different people have referred to their need of them. It seems that boundaries are an important topic and that most of us find putting in boundaries, when relating to others, extremely difficult. I am no exception.
What is a boundary? It’s a protective zone, or space, we can imagine having around ourselves to keep us safe and stop us from becoming hurt, or hurting others. It might take the form of limits we need to put in place that show other people how far they can go in their interactions with us -what’s appropriate and what isn’t.
Our parts (parts of ourselves, especially the vulnerable ones) need boundaries to feel safe – we need to make them, but – we also need them made by others. We need to feel walls on all four sides of us to feel safe. If we don’t set boundaries, others will step into our space, especially those parts of others that are either vulnerable; needy; seeking love, or to be liked; needing attention; wanting to feel special and also those parts wanting to feel superior, prove a point, or to rescue another and to be useful. Sometimes we need to reign parts in that seek to burrow holes as deep as they can without obstruction. Healthy boundaries provide safe space for all to manoeuvre – space to grow. I’m imagining how it is for the plants. They need space to grow, unfurl leaves, space to stretch their roots in the soil, to drink the rain and to reach up to the sunlight.
When we give enough space we allow growth. Having space allows us to grow into our selves, just like the plants in the flowerbed. The sun’s rays can reach out to all the plants, shining down on every part of them, no matter how perfect or imperfect they are.
In order to be able to give ourselves, and others, this space, we can do as the plants, bringing all of the parts of us, including those vulnerable parts, to the Buddha or to Self (as it’s called in Parts Work or Internal Family Systems). These parts can be met by self compassion, or the warm compassion of Amida, in the same way the plants are greeted by the sun. There’s enough room for every part and all parts are received, just as they are. Perhaps, if we can learn to love and value all of the vulnerable, flawed parts of ourselves, we can show others how to do the same.
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