Monday, November 19, 2012

Does life happen at our boundaries?

The ongoing situation in Gaza, recent coaching contracting conversations and new friendships has brought to mind the topic of boundaries.

Walking around Roma provides a perspective.  For at various points in the city, jutting out there will be remnants of a city wall, a marker of a previous territorial boundary.  

Having begun my career as an urban planner, I have a respect for the concept of city limits as a means to keep the city contained and efficient and to protect the rural land on its outskirts.   Often the most interesting and difficult cases I had were those spent discussing and negotiating boundaries. Depending on which side you were on, you would be defending the rules to ensure that those boundaries would not be compromised or challenging those rules arguing that in this unique case, flexing the boundaries is justified and would not create an adverse precedent.  Time was spent debating: what would be the loss? what would be the gain?  what would it mean for the next time?  what would we end up creating? what impact would this new configuration have?

Indeed we spend our life time defining and protecting our boundaries, so they define and protect us, as nations or individuals.  It is a way of distinguishing ourselves and how we interact with others.   We create our walls through our beliefs, attitudes and experiences, constructed over the years through family, social, cultural and national influences.   They identify who we are,  what we want, what we don’t want and what we find safe and acceptable.

Some we create consciously and purposefully;  some more unconsciously and arbitrarily.  We may create them out of a want for approval, control, security or sense of separation or belonging.  They may be constructed without any real foundation, and at the end, only give a false sense of security and create unnecessary divisions or hurdles.   They may be valued and justified, but be ultimately restrictive and need to be eliminated or changed in order for us to flourish. 

Our everyday choices communicate to ourselves and others where exactly those limits are.   

Creating, defending and confronting them can bring violence and tragedy as in the case of Gaza. 

They can also bring learning, growth and new understanding.  

As a friend said,  it is at the boundaries where life happens.

It is at the boundaries where we really see ourselves and the other.  Where we test, explore, exchange, connect, challenge, compromise, love and develop.   

For nurturing our relationships, the likes of Gestalt therapy can help us to focus on keeping the boundary between our self and our environment permeable to allow meaningful communication and exchange, yet be firm enough to retain our autonomy.   

For nurturing our physical, mental and emotional health, practices such as mindfulness yoga can encourage us to go up to those limits and explore them, breath into them and ‘dwell in that creative space’ between challenging them and pushing them too far.   There we can find our positions are not fixed or static, but that they can be dissolved and new possibilities can be formed. 

And for nurturing our spirituality, pieces like this beautiful short film by Saskia Kretzchmann inspired by the words of Edgar Allan Poe can encourage us to go further and ponder the possibility that ultimately we are boundary-less. 


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