Boundaries ARE Spiritual!
Today, I want to talk about healthy personal (and spiritual) boundaries. I'm sharing this because I truly feel this is a teachable moment about a very important matter--healthy boundaries.
I’ve noticed a pattern over the years within spiritual communities. It’s the tendency to shame or shun people for setting healthy, reasonable boundaries. There are so many genuinely confused spiritual-seekers out there who think that boundaries are un-spiritual, unnecessary, and unloving. Their spiritual mentors and gurus have literally modeled and taught lack-of-boundary behaviors, and encouraged followers to shame and shun anyone who steps outside of this very normalized dysfunctional behavior. As a result, popular spiritual communities are filled with overt boundary violators who literally have no understanding that what they are doing is unhealthy and harmful. When one’s spiritual mentor has taught you how you should be, who would question that, right?
As someone who was raised in an abusive home where boundaries were never recognized or honored, I’ve spent the past 30+ years learning how to consciously work with healthy boundaries. Over the years, I’ve learned how to figure out my needs and expectations, and how to communicate those to other people in a clear and honest way. I’ve also learned a lot about people who don’t set clear boundaries, and people who break boundaries. And so, I’ve spent a LOT of time thinking, observing, and practicing around this topic of healthy boundaries, and I have a lot to say about it.
One observation has been crystal clear to me over the years. Lack of boundaries is a normalized (and even praised) behavior within many spiritual communities. It is so normalized that many spiritual seekers have no idea they are even doing it.
So, here's the "story" behind what prompted me to write this particular blog. (Although this blog is not really about the story, but about the larger idea. Still, real life ideas are always easier to relate to.)
The Instagram Troll
I had just checked my Instagram posts from the other night. I'd posted an inspirational meme about being an empowered spiritual-seeker. When I checked my posts, I found a comment from someone who was angry that I had unfriended them on Facebook. Their comment started with, "empowering spiritual seekers means not twisting their comments into an attack on yourself. you snubbed me when you unfriended me and snubbed yourself too in the process. i deserve an apology....." and it continued on in that manner.
Here was my response. (I'll discuss the larger issue in a bit.)
"Your Instagram handle does not tell me your actual name, so I don't know who you are. But, I can say with confidence that if I set a boundary with you (by blocking or unfriending), there was a good reason for it. 'Empowering spiritual seekers' does not equal doormat with no boundaries. Your comment seems to be a public attempt at shaming me for setting some healthy boundaries. It also indicates a tendency toward boundary violating others, because a more grounded, healthy, and spiritual approach would have been to reach out to me in private to discuss the matter in a mature manner that honors both consent and boundaries. I have a firm block/unfriend policy with people who violate boundaries. That is not intended as an affront toward anyone, it's simply setting healthy boundaries."
I could have blocked this person immediately, but I left things open for the rest of the day in the hopes that a healthy conversation may have been possible. Unfortunately, the negative, accusatory (and borderline abusive) messages kept coming. Interestingly, they never did identify who they were, which made it clear to me that they didn’t have any interest in a healthy conversation. They were only interested in attempting to publicly shame me for having set boundaries with them in the past. Despite my openness to having a conversation with this person, one of my boundaries is that I do not feel I am responsible for receiving another person’s abuse. That boundary is crystal clear for me. So, I blocked them on Instagram and sent them a loving intent that they will find whatever it is they need.
By the way, the person’s comments have been deleted, and I’ve kept this person’s Instagram handle private in order to retain their anonymity. (Just because they attempted to shame me does not mean I should do that in return. Remember that the stories here are about the larger issue which I hope we can all take as teachable moments.)
The Psychic Fair
Interestingly, just a week before this, I was working at a psychic fair where boundary violations were quite evident. A friendly customer was leisurely meandering around the room when one of the psychic readers called her over to their table for a chat. The customer stood a few feet away as I heard the reader going on about his political views in a way that was more like a soapbox rant. She stated that she didn’t agree with him. Instead of letting it go, he kept going on, attempting to convince her of his political point of view. After listening to five minutes of this, since I was sitting at the table directly to the right of him, I finally spoke up and said, “Hey, we get your point, but there’s no need to keep pushing this nice lady. Just drop it, okay?” She looked at me and mouthed, “Thank you!”
Literally moments after that, a female psychic reader walked up right behind this same customer. The customer turned around and firmly stated, “You’re in my personal space. Please back up.” The reader looked shocked, turned around, and walked away. Once that customer was gone, that same reader made a beeline over to me. “Hey, Maya, did you SEE how RUDE that lady was to me??? I mean, she insisted I get out of her space. How rude!!!” I furrowed my brow and looked at my colleague. “She was simply setting a boundary. That’s all.”
Boundaries, What Boundaries?
Here’s another example. A few weeks back, I woke up to several messages from various spiritual-seekers who did not approve of a word I frequently use in my casual conversations. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with them reaching out to state their view, and I’m always open to discussion about nearly anything. But here’s where things went sideways. The online conversation began in a friendly enough manner. After a couple of hours of messages (on my day off while I was at the laundromat), I made it clear that I had carefully considered their point of view, still did not agree with their perspective, that we were going to have to agree to disagree, and that I needed to move on with my day. Did they drop it? Nope. The messages kept coming. And coming. And coming. Genuine spiritual-seekers, with the intent of being high-vibe and helpful, felt it was their job to convince me that their perspective was more spiritual and correct, and they weren’t going to stop messaging me until I gave in. Eventually, I lost my patience and blocked them all.
My big error in this instance was that I made an assumption that they were meeting me on my same level of honoring mutual boundaries and consent. If I had understood this from the first messages, I would have simply responded, “Thank you for sharing your point of view. I’ll give it consideration,” and then ignored all other messages. But, honestly, it was my day off. I was exhausted from my work week, trying to get my laundry done at a 100-degree laundromat, and erroneously assumed that the people contacting me understood about honoring boundaries and consent.
What was interesting about this particular situation was that every person seemed genuinely confused and unaware when I pointed out their boundary violations (continuing to message me incessantly even after I had revoked consent). Intuitively, I got the impression that each one of them had learned these normalized boundary-violating behaviors from their teachers and fellow spiritual-seekers, and that my setting firm boundaries was equivalent to me speaking a foreign language to them. All very fascinating indeed!
The Broader Issue
Aside from real-life stories, let’s talk about the broader issue--that of LACK of boundaries within spiritual communities. These recent "situations" are simply real-life examples of the kinds of things that happen every day within spiritual communities. In fact, boundary violating behaviors are taught and normalized within spiritual circles to the point that many boundary violators are completely unaware that they are doing it.
I see it all the time, both online and engaging with people and groups at events. The common scenario is that Person A sets a reasonable boundary. Person B (or a whole group of spiritual peeps) completely ignores the boundary and continue with their behavior. Eventually, Person A sets a firmer boundary, which results in Person B (or a group) proclaiming that Person A is unspiritual, low vibe, unevolved, or some other B.S. simply because they've set a reasonable boundary. THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF SPIRITUAL GASLIGHTING.
I'll give you another example. (This one happens a LOT.)
Person A is hanging out at a spiritual event and having a nice time. Person B and C approach Person A for a conversation. All seems fine at first, but then, unexpectedly, Person B and C place their hands on Person A, saying that they saw some "stuck energy" that needed to be removed. Person A takes a step back and states firmly, "I did not give you consent to place your hands on me or to mess with my energy. Take your hands off and stop immediately." Person B and C (NOT removing hands), "We're all in this together, and everyone needs support, even you." Person A says even more firmly, "I'll say this one more time, stop what you're doing NOW." Person A turns and briskly walks away, understanding that further discussion is likely not going to work with Person B and C. Person B and C remain standing there, shaking their heads, and discussing how troubled, closed off, and unspiritual Person A was for their recent "over the top" behavior. Person B and C then go up to a larger group of people and gossip about what just happened.
That above situation--I've observed (and experienced) it at group spiritual events more times than I can count.
If you're reading this, you may have been on the receiving end of someone/s in the spiritual world who ignores your boundaries or personal consent. If you tried to set healthy boundaries, you may have even experienced shaming or spiritual gaslighting for it.
Or, perhaps you are someone who was taught that boundaries are un-spiritual and low-vibe because “we are all one” and if you are truly loving, you should open your heart and accept all things. If you fit into this category, I hope that this article is helping bring a healthier clarity.
I know I can't "solve" this issue with a single blog post, but I have a list of tips for people on the receiving end of boundary violations, as well as people who struggle with setting or honoring boundaries.
10 Tips for Healthy Boundaries
1.) Setting boundaries IS spiritual. In setting healthy boundaries, you are honoring both yourself and the other person. (It does NOT serve the other person to "enable" them to boundary violate.)
2.) You do not owe anyone access to you. You are sovereign over your own being, and if you do not wish to engage with someone, you don't have to, no explanation required.
3.) Your body and your spiritual energy are your own. No one has access to your body or energy without your express consent.
4.) You have the right to remove anyone from your life for any reason, most especially if they are violating your consent, not honoring your boundaries, or in some way harming your well-being.
5.) It is possible to love ALL beings and to also set healthy boundaries. It is possible to love all beings and ALSO remove (or distance) some people from your life when needed.
6.) Clear, kind communication is vital. Don't expect people to read your mind. You WILL need to be brave enough to clearly state your expectations. This allows people to choose to honor (or ignore) your boundaries. If someone is ignoring your clearly stated boundaries, it's time to set some firmer boundaries (or perhaps block).
7.) If someone shames or gaslights you for setting boundaries, that's NOT about you, it's about them. People who shame others for setting boundaries are typically boundary violators themselves (aware or unaware). The shaming is a manipulation attempt to get you to back down so they can continue ignoring your boundaries. Hold your ground. Every person has the right to set boundaries, including you.
8.) You are not responsible for how others receive your established boundaries. Some people are fully aware that they are boundary violators. Others don't see what they are doing, because lack-of-boundaries has been modeled to them throughout their life. If you've set a clear and kind boundary with someone, and they insist that your boundaries "offended them" or "hurt their feelings" just know that this could be an attempt to manipulate you into bending your boundaries. Your job is to communicate your boundaries, that's all. You are not responsible for fixing the other person, teaching them about boundaries, or apologizing for setting your own boundaries.
9.) In order to have healthy, clear boundaries, free of projections and distortions, you'll need to have a lifelong practice of working on yourself, healing your past wounds, acknowledging and integrating your shadow aspects, understanding and healing your false limiting beliefs, healing any aspects of you that are afraid to set healthy boundaries, and more.
10.) In a world where gaslighting is so prevalent, not only in the spiritual world, but in the world at large, it is important to work on developing a strong self of self. This means that you have taken time to get grounded, clear, and calm, to know who you truly are, and to have clarity on what is yours and what is not. In doing so, you'll be able to see quite clearly when someone is gaslighting you (even if THEY are unaware!), so you'll be able to hold your ground no matter what anyone throws your way.
I hope you have found these ideas helpful.