Boundary Bootcamp

I have been thinking a lot about how having healthy boundaries is the real self-care.  I have also been thinking about finding balance, assessing each situation as it comes and drawing the right line to be true to ourselves.  It is often about self-protection, about preventing those we know from taking advantage of us or sucking us dry.  It is about self-respect and self-worth.  And I know I can find that balance of being open and loving and still maintain healthy boundaries.  Saying no and not having to explain myself is key.  And one learns a hell of a lot from how those around us react when we draw a line in the sand.  It reminds me of non-violent communication, stating our need and then it is up to the other party to process that information.  It reminds me of consent and how yes means yes, not simply no means no.  It also reminds me of how we can be aware of how it is different to practice healthy boundaries with other self-aware folks, and we don’t have to process, explain, and defend ourselves with more toxic ones.  Some relationships just need to be let go of, wishing that person the very best, from a distance.

Getting back to balance, I heard Lindsay Mack speak about the temperance tarot card on this podcast.  The word temperance means moderation in action, thought, or feeling, like restraint, or habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions.  Taken up by the temperance movement and teetotalers, it was then known to mean moderation in or abstinence from the use of alcoholic beverages.

On a complete side-note:  A person who doesn’t imbibe alcohol might reach for tea instead, but the word teetotaler has nothing to do with tea.  More likely, the “tee” that begins the word teetotal comes from the letter “t” that begins total, emphasizing that one has pledged total abstinence.  In the early 1800s, ”tee-total” and ”tee-totally” were used to intensify ”total” and ”totally” much the way we now might say, ”I’m tired with a capital T.”  Teetotal and teetotaler first appeared with their current meanings in 1834, eight years after the formation of the American Temperance Society.


Going back to the ancient world, before such absolute thinking and puritanism took hold, temperance came from the Greek word sophrosyne.  Sophron means “of sound mind, prudent, temperate”.  In Greek literature, sophrosyne is a desirable quality, and is sometimes expressed as the flip-side of hubris.  And I think many of us remember learning about how hubris can get us into trouble……Hubris can be seen as an excess of confidence and meant “excessive pride, violating the bounds set for humans” and to teach the mortals a lesson, hubris was punished by the gods.  The moral of the story was not to get too conceited or egotistical.  Once again; balance is in order!

Heraclitus, way back from 500 BCE Greece, knew that being human entailed being in a state of constant flux and wrote: “Sophrosyne is the greatest virtue, and wisdom is speaking and acting the truth, paying heed to the nature of things.”  Plato talked and thought about sophrosyne quite a bit, too.  For him, it meant the “harmonious moderation of the appetitive and spirited parts of the soul by the rational part.”


Getting back to Lindsay Mack’s take on temperance and finding equilibrium within ourselves and through our actions, here is what she wrote on her website about the temperance tarot card:

Temperance is such an incredible and mysterious card. Ruled by Sagittarius, it represents the sacred rebirth after the Death card…..Temperance is highly powerful, potent, magical and life changing. It is a blessing, a sweet omen, and a signal that you are in some for cellular level shifts……Temperance is a reordering of the body, mind and soul. It is a deep shift of our energetic makeup. Expect to get worked on, angelically speaking. Trust it, and let yourself explore whatever arises with curiosity. This card heralds a massive, massive life change—always big and beautiful. The only way that this change can take place, however, is if we are willing to surrender it to Source.

Temperance shows us that the spectacular and impossible can unfold, if we are inviting in support and help. It is the shift from ego perception to soul possibilities. This doesn’t happen overnight—and it might not even happen in a month — but it does happen with time, persistence and the willingness to try a new way of working with the world around you. Surrender to the magic, and some amazing things will begin to take root in your life.

I think about this in terms of fully embracing life and what it might offer us, and taking note of habits and substances that might numb us or distract us from the work.  The work of seeing the truth, polishing our rough spots of reactivity, hopefully to come to a place of more ease and centeredness.  What are practices that help you maintain healthy boundaries?  What anchors help you keep your center?

And for more about bad-ass boundary-making from Lindsay Mack, check out:

The themes of equilibrium and expressing our needs can only help us keep in touch with our own truth and power.  I think about what reactions and people and situations and patterns are energy drains to us.  It takes time to plug up these energy drains, it is a process.  I am in the thick of it right now, trying not to overschedule, overextend, and when I feel invaded or disrespected, I speak up.  What are the drains in your everyday life?  You can notice when you feel that sinking sensation or dread or tension.  What is that telling you?  What is in your power to change in regards to that energy drain?  Can you say no?  No, thank you, I am not available for that.