| spiritual mapping: let it grow |
"Boundaries both contain and preserve the integrity of what they are safeguarding, be that physical, psychological, emotional, social or spiritual. Without them there is no relationship and therefore no development, no evolution." - Spiritual Bypassing, Robert Augustus Masters, PhD
Some people are very close and personal with their emotions. It seems simple. You tune into your body, check in on what’s going on in the ol’ interior and connect. The GI is feeling good. Great. Tightness deep in my neck. Check. Achy, low lumbar is a little chatty. Got it. I notice the sensations in the body but connecting them with how I actually feel? Not so much.
For My Inner Lighthouse, springtime is the season of boundaries. If you want greater freedom in your life working on your boundaries is the way to get there. The source question for this important compass point is what do I feel? What do boundaries have to do with feelings? Everything. Ignore what your body is telling you at your own peril! (Download the Spiritual Mapping Compass.)
Each day in meditation, the masters had plenty to say about feelings and boundaries. They all agreed on one thing: simplify. Start with the basics. Shed the related topics for now and what’s important for the reader will surface.
What are feelings? Energy pulses traveling through or residing in our bodies. They can teach us plenty and are our first line of defense when things are off. There are plenty of flavors of feelings. Examining boundaries begins by looking at your feelings. How do you feel? I believe in the theory of "constructed emotion." Our brain goes through a continuous process called interoception which is a bodily round-up of all sensation. It sends this composite through an ongoing prediction and correction analysis from all prior experiences to give our bodily sensations meaning.  What happens when you feel in the moment? The energy moves in and out, through your body. This is a process where the energy finds its natural end. It is important to try not to identify with our feelings. They run through us but shouldn’t run us. What happens when feelings get repressed, stuck or ignored? Energy runs through many different routes of neural circuits or roads. When we knowingly or unconsciously bypass our feelings, certain roads become favored highways. Ever been in a rut? ^ _^ Sometimes these roads cause spots in the body to tighten or constrict. This can bring discomfort, dis-ease, numbness, or even pain. If areas don’t find release through some form of opening (i.e. movement, stretching, therapy, breathwork) they become susceptible areas for further breakdown. As you age, what happens with these isolated areas? That depends upon many factors. The amount of support & love you received from family or caregivers when you were young, what challenges you faced and when, genetic predispositions, how active and healthy your lifestyle is, and your current support network can all play a vital role in how you and your body adapt. For me, bringing shame out of its shadow has been very tricky. Its presence can be so subtle and at the same time, crack the vase of my mind with the slightest of pressure. And it can be a chameleon. It sneaks in and out, changing form in the blink of an eye.
Feeling your feelings is the most courageous thing you can do.
-Mary Magdalene, The Way of the Rose
To begin your own thoughts about how feelings and boundaries effect your life, I wanted to share a recent conversation in a meditation with Parvati, the Hindu goddess. * I follow Parvati to the Circle Garden at Gentlewood. She is wearing mauve silks and is barefoot. I am, too. This is new. It feels strange and liberating. She steps through the gate with a wicker basket of gardening tools. Some tulips are in bloom and some hyacinth. We stop before the “river,” a pebble stone path symbolizing prana moving into the house, garage and back onto the path to town. She sits down and begins to rake the dirt with a small hand tool. (Gardening is a whole new world for me so forgive me when I don’t know the tool names.) Parvati: You will learn to love your time in this garden! Wait and see. I watch her attack the soil with gusto. I haven’t read much about Parvati because I want to get to know her on my own terms. She is a triumphant Hindu goddess with a complicated story. She came into my meditations a few years ago to help me adapt and accept positive change. Parvati: I am here to teach you about devotion. The garden seems like a perfect place to begin. Tell me about your compass as I prepare this soil. Sally: Well, Spring is the time to “let it grow.” Move into the sunshine, get back into community and generally start fresh. Take lessons from the flowers and the earth. It is a time to look at boundaries. What needs attention after this long, harsh winter? I lost some plants. My beach crept up. For my work, it begins by feeling into my life and relationships. What needs attention? Parvati: I understand. Yes, there is a cycle to all things. Like the greeting card you just bought: sow, grow, reap, eat, preserve. What are your feelings now, Sally? She stops her work to look at me. Shaking the loose dirt from her hands, she waits. I shift to a more comfortable position and take a deep breath. I poke the dirt with my fingers. This isn’t my natural habitat. Sally: I feel a little afraid. Mom just received an early Alzheimer diagnosis. While I am not really surprised, it's hard. I’m trying to remain optimistic. Stay present. There is so much to be grateful for in her situation. She is so healthy otherwise— When I look up from the dirt, her garments are now a teal blue. I am a bit confused but continue: Sally: —and there is so much support from Dad, Kim and the family. I listen to Mike. I hear his fear. I do my best to let things go… Parvati: Hmmm…I understand. The unexpected can be hard. You are feeling into the fear. That is good! Emotions seek a path through the body. Acknowledge this feeling and you allow life to unfold in you. You honor life. Let me teach you about the feeling "states": there is comfort, discomfort and…ease? Ah, let’s say…neutrality. When things are easy, it is easy to feel. To accept things as they come. You walk the path, it is comfortable and you can feel your steps. Then— On my right hand, I feel the unmistakable: a spider is crawling across the forefingers of my right hand! I freeze as my eyes dart to my hand. My fear of spiders is primordial and what keeps me from being in the dirt, keeps me from walking barefoot… Parvati: —something frightens you and it is as if nothing else matters. Sally, I’d like you to look into my eyes. I pivot my head a little and then move my eyes. She is now wearing an arresting bright yellow. Parvati: Now, I’d like you to take a deep breath. Good. Sally, do you believe you are safe with me? In this meditation? (I nod a little) Nothing can hurt you right now; however, feeling may be difficult. Sometimes, our body takes on different functions to accommodate what is happening for our protection.
You see, how you feel, when you feel, how much you feel is an important part of the lesson of incarnation. Feelings are not a part of you. They are the wisdom to be gained from your circumstances.
As a devotee, I will teach you how to discern these feelings to better navigate the path. The proper boundaries will come. Feelings are where we begin. So, you can find comfort. Ease. Only then will you discover freedom. You will grow great roots in this world. You will see. I no longer feel the spider. I look to my hand and it is gone. I see a worm coming out of the dirt near where the spider was. I begin to smile. Parvati taps the dirt between us with a spade. She is now wearing chartreuse. Parvati: Time to get to work. Take this and begin to turn over the dirt around you. It could use some air. That’s when I see it. A small scorpion is at the edge of her silks, its tail pointing up! Has that thing been there the entire time we’ve been talking?! Parvati: Yes. Ignore it, Sally. It will not bother you. It sometimes comes along with me. Not everything you fear is warranted. And sometimes, what shows up in a pleasant costume is what should be most feared. Now…let’s enjoy the light while we still have it! Parvati digs into the soil with renewed vigor as I watch her silks melt into a powerful scarlet red.
"If you want more freedom then you must befriend fear."
- My Friend Fear by Meera Lee Patel
Do you have a question for the Masters on FEELINGS or BOUNDARIES?
As we grow our community and outreach, we are looking forward to sharing more content and channeled conversations on our upcoming YouTube channel. Share your questions for the Masters with us and we'll feature up to 3 answers in our upcoming recording due out in June.
Spend a few quiet minutes by yourself. Review your past few weeks and see what emotions rise up in your body. Ask which emotion is seeking your attention the most. Focus on this emotion without judgement.
What are you feeling? Where do you feel it in your body? What is it related to? Have you felt this feeling before? When? Let your intuition guide this process and witness what comes through your body and mind.
Afterwards, you may want to journal about this experience or incorporate your wisdom into your high/low practice at the end of the day.
Are there feelings that tend to surface for you each spring? Are they related to an underlying pattern?
Are there boundaries in your life that need attention or maintenance now that you've come out of winter?
Feelings and fears are important nutrients and fertilizer for the soil in our spiritual gardens. What needs attention in your garden? What fear can you "befriend" to grow more freedom in your life?
 How emotions are made, Lisa Feldman Barrett, p 63.