Boundaries, Intuition and a ritual for Protection

The ability to set clear boundaries, to have boundaries, rightly holds an important place in moving towards a greater sense of wellness and emotional safety in relationships. Somewhat less popular a topic but also important, is the ability to respect the boundaries of others. I have seen many a helpful adage about how to set boundaries and what to do when they are transversed. Especially for those who have experienced early trauma, attachment disruptions, early childhood loss, systemic harms, or neglect one develops thew skill to override intuition regarding what boundaries are needed for your emotional health. Often this is because setting boundaries created tension or harm within that context, for example alienating a caregiver that was not well-regulated, provoking retaliation or humiliation, or being told that you don’t deserve what you’re asking for.
Let’s explore some points of contemplation around how we set, maintain, enforce, or adjust boundaries as our emotional growth evolves.

When I first begin working with someone who has had experiences like noted above, it may be really difficult for them to know what their boundaries are. They have never had the freedom or flexibility to ask themselves “what do I need?” or even to acknowledge having needs. Boundaries are actually quite relative and specific, as inconvenient as that is to the desire for some basic guidelines on what constitutes “good boundaries.” But if we don’t know what ours are we might start with some standardized boundaries that create some relative safety. Pretty quickly we see that some people will respond well, and others won’t. This starts to put us in touch with the underlying emotions around needs, getting needs met, rejection, people-pleasing, and self-worth.
And in my observation the instinctual response is: more boundaries.

In other words, in the absence of intuition combined with underdeveloped affect tolerance, we tend to over correct and develop rigid boundaries as a new container for our intense emotions. We can see this in a few common behaviors that often become just as rigid as the initial lack of boundaries.

These include verbally stating boundaries but not enforcing them, wanting to be asked permission to be emotionally available, and expecting everyone to agree on what “good boundaries” are.

I hope it can go without saying here that matters of concrete safety, such as violence and threat of violence, name-calling and degrading/humiliating are non-negotiable. These are forms of abuse, it goes beyond personal boundaries.

Setting boundaries and not having them respected activates a sense of repetition, and touches on deeper wounds around self-worth. The overwhelming emotions and grief this can unearth can then lead to setting boundaries as a form of controlling others– becoming a replacement for people pleasing. The focus shifts to stabilizing the environment and people in one’s life, once again placing the power to influence in elements outside of our control.

Establishing strong internal boundaries, psychic boundaries, where we take ownership of how we attend to and interpret experiences, requires healing core wounds around self-worth. It asks us to accept that we cannot control anyone but ourselves. It requires ruthless self-compassion: an unyielding, tireless, and deep willingness to love ourselves unconditionally no matter what’s going on in our lives. When we are totally rooted in our right to exist, evolve, grow, and experience connection and safety, boundaries become more clear. We find relief from the need to assert our boundaries to those who cannot hear us. We can cut cords with unhealthy people and relationships. We can find strength in the face of immovable obstacles.

In a great paradox, strong and clear internal boundaries leads to softening with others. Because their behavior is theirs, it’s none of our business. And we gain clarity about genuine harm/abuse and can more easily takes steps to establish physical protection (when possible), and we can recognize when judgement and resentment take the place of tending to our inner wounds. We can lovingly detach even when we remain misunderstood and unheard.

Obviously this is quite difficult in practice! I think it’s actually lifelong work, and it’s spiritual work. I see it as a component of Liberation work.
There’s a lot of practical ways to support energetic boundaries- salt baths, herbal smoke clearing (especially if you use plants of your own ancestral lineage), sound, visualizations, and grounding practices to name a few.

Below is a ritual I’ve developed for shifting harmful patterns to make way for deeper self-worth and self love, it is energetically support to practice this during the dark moon or waning phase but feel free to use it whenever it is needed.

I created this ritual intuitively while on retreat with Dharma Punx at the Won Dharma Center in 2018. Specifically, I wanted to go out on the property and conduct a ritual that would minimally disturb the environment. Feel free to do this indoors with your potted plants if you don’t have access to a green space or park!

A ritual for transforming patterns, establishing new boundaries, and cultivating self-worth

You! Your body, your voice, your intention
Optional: small slips of biodegradable paper, maybe a notebook to jot down your statements if you think you will forget.


Begin with identifying the energetic boundaries you wish to have, or qualities you want to embody. For example, feeling confident in the face or obstacles or criticism, or accepting that we can’t be liked by everyone. Then ask yourself what are the harmful beliefs that keep you stuck in the pattern. For feeling confident that might mean you learned that to receive love and attention you must diminish yourself or be “humble.” Or for accepting that we cannot be liked by everyone, it may be a belief that if someone doesn’t like us we won’t be taken care of or will be abandoned by others as well.

Focus on just a few pairs of statements.
Spend some time grounding yourself as you prepare or move towards the space you will be for ritual, a natural space with exposed earth/grass/woods is nice or you could also utilize potted plants.

Establish your energetic boundaries in a way that feels right to you, asking for supportive energies that may help you with your intentions to be present, and that any harmful or unwanted energies will be unable to enter your physical, mental, and emotional space. 

Using you fingers gently dig a small hole in the ground. Ask the earth to transform that which you want to release, to receive that energy as an offering to be recycled. Ask the earth to create fertile space for your new intentions to grow. Speak what you wish to release directly into the hole.  I like to bring my face close to the ground and whisper but you should do it in the way that feels right to you. Imagine that anything you’re releasing is moving out of your body with your breath.

If you have a slip of paper you could place it in the hole. Gently cover it back up with you fingers and place your hands over that space. Close your eyes and imagine the intention for what you wish to grow flowing out of your hands like water. 

Thank the earth for receiving your released energy. Repeat with each of your paired statements. When you finished take a few moments to allow your energy to shift and offer gratitude. 

When you feel ready, walk swiftly away.

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