By Nikki Rollo, PhD, LMFT
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.- Rumi
The idea of love and boundaries has been on my mind lately. As I have been diving deeper into my own practice of yoga and meditation, my understanding of Love has become much more expansive. One of the things that often is generated from the practice of yoga is the creation of space. Space is opened up in the tight muscles of the physical body through the various poses and the organs have more room to function effectively at their maximum capacity; however internal space is also opened up through the quieting of the mind. This is the space I want to focus on here. This space is about increased capacity to feel, breathe, and ultimately space to love.
When I use the word Love here, I am not just referring to romantic love for a significant other, but also to loving kindness for oneself, for the earth, for animals, for other souls who are suffering throughout the world, for family and friends. I invite you to explore with me this concept of love at a deeper level than we often think of it.
At the core of our humanity is a desire to love and be loved…to find belonging and connection. For most of us, somewhere along the way we have experienced pain as a result of attempts to meet this need and built up barriers against the longing for love. It seems a bit absurd when you really think about it–we have this deep desire at the innermost center of our being and yet we build barriers that keep us from accessing and fulfilling it. Of course, the reality is these barriers often make a lot of sense. Somewhere along the way we have experienced hurt, pain, rejection, betrayal of love, and broken hearts that have initiated these barriers as a much-needed protective response.
Eventually these barriers can close us in so tightly that we can become quite lonely. There isn’t space for engagement with others or even ourselves with these barriers up around us. As we engage in healing efforts such as psychotherapeutic work or mindfulness practices, what often results is more openness: to ourselves, our therapist or teacher, to our loved ones and to the earth. Healing from our emotional wounds starts to bring down the barriers to love for self and others and create openness to receive love from self and others.
Now this is a wonderful thing! We absolutely can experience healing and love; however I have become curious about this following question: How do we maintain an emotional openness to a deeper exploration of love for ourselves and others, yet simultaneously maintain emotional safety?
I believe that the answer to this is found in the difference between Barriers and Boundaries.
Let’s look at how these two things are defined to help us understand the difference.
A barrier is defined as an obstacle that prevents movement or access.
A boundary is defined as a line that marks where one area ends and another begins.
So, how do we really love others? And really experience internal capacity to love ourselves deeply? Begin with yourself- here are some ideas for a little exploration into boundaries, barriers, and loving big.
- Get Curious: Look internally and ask what kind of barriers to love have been built up inside of you? Honor them….take the time to thank them for what they protected you from, recognize their value and how at one time they were needed.
- Be Honest: Be honest and upfront with yourself. Visualize yourself looking through eyes of love at yourself as you ask: Are these barriers still needed? Or is it fear that is keeping them in their place?
- Identify Your Needs: There is no right or wrong answer here. Make a list of your desires in the relationships that mean the most to you. Respect your feelings, desires, and needs by spending time with the statement, “I want to strengthen my boundaries in __________”.
- Communicate Clearly: Setting boundaries is about telling people how they can treat us, what we will allow or accept relationally. This is actually an act of love, for yourself and the person with whom you are in relationships. Try journaling what you will say, visualize it, or practice with a trusted friend.
In this kind of relational connecting, the kind with boundaries instead of barriers, people can still reach you and very importantly you can still move and are free to be the fullest expression of yourself in the relationship. So, love big, love deep, but do so with healthy boundaries, taking care of yourself and then others.