For me, boundaries have always been my “weakest link”. I used to think that setting a boundary meant I had to create a barrier that would isolate me from other people, which was not something I ever wanted. As an empath, I value connection, compassion and love. But how I acted that out was by merging with others and losing myself in the process. Then I would end up feeling depleted and drained.
When you don’t have boundaries, you end up either having so much empathy for another that you lose touch with your own wisdom, as I did. Alternately you might erect barriers to “protect your space,” or ”take care of yourself” and end up being isolated or disconnected. This is the burden of the “lone wolf” or the “I am a rock, I am an island” mentality — also draining and maybe a little depressing.
Over my years of practice with energetic and martial arts, I discovered that in very concrete and literal ways, healthy boundaries are actually a key to true intimacy and connection —whether in personal close relationships or in work or business contexts. When those boundaries are clear, clean and energetic, you can truly connect with others in authentic ways. Then true synergy kicks in with an enormous amount of vitality — the kind of empowerment that gets you up and out to do the things you know you are meant to do in your life.
“I believe every time we make a fundamental shift of consciousness that opens a circle into a spiral, we face a kind of death. Sensing this impending death, we move through a period of fear, facing our demons. Like gargoyles, these demons are the protectors of the gates of transition.” The Way of Joy(excerpt)
As a kid, I grew up with some heavy-hitters from the arts world hanging out in my family’s living room. The classical pianist Vladimir Horowitz (Volodya to friends) played the piano in the living room of our summer house when he was too nervous to go home during a thunderstorm; Frank Loesser, humorist extraordinaire and composer/lyricist of shows like Guys and Dolls and How To Succeed in Business without Really Trying, used to try to convince my younger brothers and me to chop up my composer father’s piano with a hatchet; and Martha Graham listened to my young dreams to become an actress and looked directly into my eyes and told me I must always follow my dreams.
I think that one of the most important things I learned from being around these “big names” in my daily life was that being a star does not mean being protected from our inner demons. I learned very quickly that uncertainty, those nagging inner nay-sayers and crazy-makers, are a companions in our life’s journeys with our successes as much as our failures.
One of my treasured friends, the brilliant playwright, theater performer, and teacher, Jean-Claude van Itallie, once told a story in an improv class that I absolutely loved. It is about Milarepa, the great Tibetan hermit, singer, teacher who, it’s been said, lived a thousand years ago.
Vicki Dello Joio, founder of The Way of Joy: A Spiritual Fitness Program, is a teacher, speaker and performing artist. Integrating over 40 years of Chi Kung practice with other martial arts as well as her work in Yoga, Feldenkreis, physical fitness and theater, Vicki has developed a dynamic set of tools to increase awareness, transform obstacles into opportunities and enhance creative potential.Book: The Way of Joy, CD: Short Meditations for a Busy Life.
I believe that welcoming the cycles of expansion and contraction is vital to our harmony.
The natural world teaches us there is a time to open, a time to close, a time to be at full peak, a time to lie fallow. I can think of no expansion on this planet of living beings that is not followed, in some way, by contraction, which in turn is followed by expansion, then by contraction. The pattern is simply part of being in a living, breathing world.
To polarize aspects of these cycles as “good” or “bad” means that we end up separating from the world around us—a world where blossoms open to the sun and close at dusk, where the ocean swells and recedes with the tides, where day turns to night which then turns to day, where our very breath and pulse depend on the constancy of the expansion and contraction of our lungs and our hearts. — The Way of Joy
What is one of the lessons you’ve learned during a time of post-expansion contraction?
Whether or not you can see signs of Spring yet in the area where you live, Nature has begun to move us forward into this next season.
Although many people associate Spring with light-hearted images of young love and butterflies, Spring is also a time of “emergenc-y,” where your life force — as well as any suppressed feelings or intentions — may come out in unexpected and potent ways. Signs of budding energy emerge in our bodies and spirits as Nature begins to show signs of birthing.
In my book, The Way of Joy, there is a concept, Circles Open into Spirals, which looks at how the Natural World, and we as humans, evolve through an unending cycle of life, death, and rebirth. For me, perhaps because I was born in the Spring, there is no time when these cycles are more evident than during this time of year. Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, on a purely physical plane our actual bodies are born, live, then die and return to the earth as compost, which is in itself the source for new life.
Given that this is a time to water the seeds of what you have planted, how will you nurture and tend to what is growing in you or may even be clamoring to Burst Forth?
Because the Dragon year holds the energy of growth, change, innovation and leadership, this is a fantastic time to consider how you are growing, changing, innovating and leading in both your personal life and in the ways you contribute to your greater community and the world. Bigger than life, the Dragon is traditionally considered to be a symbol of good fortune with an enterprising, independent, and ambitious spirit.
Water has a calming influence on Dragon so s/he is a little less bombastic and overbearing than the other elements. More perceptive, empathic, and able to “go with the flow,” the Water Dragon is able to take leadership by working with others in teams and fostering cooperation and creative exchange.
2012 is a time of transformation. Because water feeds the wood element within the Five Element cycle, and wood, the home element of the Dragon, signifies the growth of spring, this is a great time to focus on what you want to grow and transform in the months ahead. It’s time to think out of the box! After all the dragon, so huge, you can’t see its head and tail at the same time, would never fit in that box anyway.
What innovative vision will you carry as you ride the back of the Water Dragon in the year to come?
Vicki Dello Joio, founder of The Way of Joy: A Spiritual Fitness Program, is a teacher, speaker and performing artist. Integrating over 40 years of Chi Kung practice with other martial arts as well as her work in Yoga, Feldenkreis, physical fitness and theater, Vicki has developed a dynamic set of tools to increase awareness, transform obstacles into opportunities and enhance creative potential. Book: The Way of Joy: An Evolutionary Process to Awaken Inspiration, Focus Intention and Manifest Fulfillment, CD: Short Meditations for a Busy Life.