Monthly Archives: January 2010

Boundaries

Can you clearly describe or define your boundaries with others, right now, even as you read this? In our lives, there are so many different types of relationships that each have their own set of boundaries. The boundaries between a husband and wife differ from those between a mother and child – which in turn are different from boundaries between co-workers, or a customer and vendor. And what about boundaries between friends? Clearly we need to create and apply different boundaries with each relationship we enjoy.

For most of us, it’s easy to discern some specific boundaries, and we would assume others would also have the same well-defined “lines in the sand.” Obviously, we don’t lie, cheat, steal or otherwise endanger or hurt someone else. We also do our best not to yell or curse at anyone, if we can help it. Many boundaries are reflected in our laws, as I just mentioned. But there is a gray area – a no man’s land, if you will – of boundaries that somehow always seem to be flexing and bending, depending on the situation and the type of relationship. It’s in these areas that we need to focus.

Good boundaries are established by clear, open and honest communication. Where communication is lacking, you can bet boundaries are being breached. Unfortunately, it’s in these scenarios where feelings can get hurt, and emotions too easily become our compass. So, what happens when a boundary is crossed, unknowingly?

For starters, let’s ask this question: what do you do when someone crosses your boundaries? If someone yells at you unnecessarily and uses curse words or other pejorative language – do you say something? Do you yell back in anger? Do you walk away? Do you sit quietly and build resentment within? These are all choices you can make. But when a boundary is crossed, our typical first reaction is emotional. Why? Because it was a violation. It was a violation of our emotional, mental (and sometimes personal) space. Addressing a direct violation can be reflexive. However, the real challenge comes in when the other person violated your boundary unknowingly.

Think about it this way: If you draw a line in the sand and someone defiantly steps over it – they are blatantly, and consciously, crossing your boundary. However, if you never draw the line in the sand (or you hold an invisible line in your mind), isn’t it highly likely that someone will eventually cross into your space, causing you to react when the boundary is breached? Sometimes, it takes someone stepping in our space for us to realize that we actually have a boundary there that we hadn’t previously acknowledged or accepted. If that’s the case, it might be a good thing to be grateful to the other person, because they just gave you an opportunity to learn something about yourself that you didn’t know. And sometimes having someone step over the invisible line simply creates an opportunity to build a stronger relationship, infused with greater mutual respect for one another. Either way, gratitude is a good approach to take when your ill-defined boundary has been broken. Because, as much as we all like to point the finger at the other guy, we played a role in the violation, by not communicating our needs effectively enough.

This isn’t to say that we need to go through our lives drawing lines in the sand everywhere – that would be impossible, and quite unwelcoming. But it is to say that unintentional boundary violations can lead in one of two directions, which is always a choice: 1) they can cause you to run away, build walls, or otherwise react to the unexpected stimulus in a defensive (or aggressive) manner; or 2) they can create an opportunity for growth, understanding and communication. Which, in turn, can strengthen your relationship with others, but also with yourself. And isn’t that the ultimate goal? Long-lasting, loving relationships with yourself and others?

So, the next time someone steps over the line, ask yourself first if you actually drew the line and communicated it to them. Then, be grateful. Because if they knew the line was there – then they just taught you something about themselves that you didn’t know, or you needed to be reminded of. And if they didn’t know the line was there, then they’ve given you an opportunity to strengthen your relationship and improve your communication skills. Either way, you will come out stronger, wiser, and more empowered to be yourself.

In Love and Light,

Martina

What now?

What do you do, when you don’t know what to do? I was recently asked this question by one of my clients. And truth be told, I’ve asked it of myself many times before. It’s more common than you might think. Often times it simply comes in the form of doubt or fear: Fear of moving forward, fear of not moving forward; Fear of making the wrong decision, and fear of making the right decision. Sometimes others provide us with the answer of, simply, “do anything!” But is that helpful? I suppose it can be, but the vagueness of that reply can reinforce and underscore the feeling of emptiness inherent in the question. So, while it’s certainly encouraging – it’s not necessarily helpful.

Here’s what I think works better: when in doubt, leave it out. Initially, perhaps that’s a bit counterintuitive, but it makes sense if you look at it. So let’s do that. If you are in doubt about something, it automatically muddies the water of your life by creating friction between your conscious and subconscious minds. Muddy water can then seep into other areas that were previously quite clear, which ultimately results in the exasperated feeling of “what now?” So, to start with, we omit the portion that is sullying the water. Yes, it’s easier said than done – but here’s a trick:

Rather than focusing on omitting the cause, focus on everything else. Go as simple as you need to go, until you are in clear water again. As with everything, when we focus on the negative things and try to change them – we only give them more power and influence over our lives. But if we focus on the positive things, and do our best to expand them, then we are really living authentically for who we are. Here’s an example:

A few years ago, I experienced this feeling of “what now?” and I felt myself going in circles. I tried to fix that which I thought was broken, and the resulting distraction from what was good in my life only caused the good things to be more neglected and ultimately need my “fixing” attention as well. I realized, with help from others, that this was not working, and I paused, shifted my attention, and started to focus on that which was good. Nurturing it, loving it, accepting it. Unfortunately, I had let it go so far, that I was really stripped back to the basics. I spent many days and weeks waking up and simply looking around me and allowing myself to feel grateful for the simplest things: a beautiful tree outside my window, a bird’s song, a smile from a friend, a roof over my head, food on my table, etc. You get the idea. These are the simple things that most of us take for granted, because we have been too busy, or not had occasion to be without. In light of what’s going on in Haiti, this exercise is even more poignant. Oprah introduced the concept of a Gratitude Journal to the world. This concept has been around for a lot longer though. A child’s prayer by his bedside at night is the original ‘gratitude journal’ – whether he is praying to God, Allah, Buddha, etc.

What I’m saying is that when we feel overwhelmed by life, and all the chaos and clutter in our minds, hearts and houses – the best way to move forward into peace, happiness and serenity, is to seek out that for which we are grateful, and focus on those things, one at a time. Once our attention is turned, and we can catch a breath or two, we can then take deliberate action, one step at a time, to make changes in our life that will lessen the chaos and disorder. Therefore, instead of looking at a pile of laundry, look at the many clothes you have, and be grateful. Then, do one load at a time – maybe one load a day, until you’re caught up. When it’s all folded and ready to be put away – perhaps there are a few items that you no longer need: items that have added to the chaos and clutter in your life. These are items that may be a blessing to someone else. Could you let go of them? When we are truly grateful for what we have, we sometimes realize that we have too much. Especially in times of need, what a blessing it would be to share our abundance with others. Not only will we be helping someone else, but we will be helping ourselves, too – by taking steps toward preventing a future uprising of that “what now?” feeling.

It all begins with your decision to pause, and choose a different perspective. And isn’t that just amazing? That a feeling as overwhelming as “I don’t know what to do,” can be transformed into empowerment within a few seconds, simply by pausing, looking around you and allowing yourself to appreciate what you already have, and what you already have done. What a gift.

In love and light,

Martina

Hold on to Hope

Making Sense of the Senseless. We’ve all tried. On the news each night – whether you are watching local, national or international – we all hear of tragedies that make no sense. A suicide bombing here, an earthquake there, mudslides, shootings, fires, falls. It seems that every day, humanity experiences senseless acts of violence, nature and tragedy. And yet, we continue on.

The majority of us go to bed each night and wake up each morning with a new day filled with new opportunities to experience, learn, feel and grow. We watch, listen and experience our world around us as we celebrate milestones together, such as birthdays and anniversaries. But what do we do when the senseless hits home?

Most of us are lucky enough to go through life without experiencing the tragedy of a suicide bombing in our neighborhood, or a drive-by shooting. Those incidents are few and far between, though their prevalence on the media makes it seem like they are occurring everywhere. Truth be told, they are but a small percentage of the overall experiences of the human population. But they are tragedies nonetheless, that collectively affect our human psyche. So, what happens when tragedy – senseless tragedy – becomes personal? What happens when the nightly news story is about someone you know?

I recently had this experience for the first time in my life, and it is surreal. Nothing can prepare you for a senseless tragedy. Nothing. And in the end, you’re left with questions and memories. Eventually, the memories take over, but in the beginning the questions are most prevalent: Why? How? What for? I’m now paraphrasing my cousin Jerry, a priest, who conducted the funeral and memorial service for this tragedy. And I am more than honored to be able to share his words with you. Because their wisdom is so pure and simple. Here’s, generally, what he said:

How can we answer these questions? We can’t. There are no answers, and there never will be. What we have – what we always have – is hope. So hold on to hope.

And he’s right. Regardless of what religion, spirituality or beliefs you hold – there is always hope. Hope for mending a broken heart, hope for reincarnation, hope for a cure. The list goes on and on. Without hope, our world would be pretty dark.

Hope wakes us up in the morning after an hour of nightly news filled with tragedy and fear, mixed among the blessings and celebrations. Hope allows us to sleep at night, knowing that tomorrow is a new day, with new life and new opportunities.

“Hope,” (to quote ‘The Preacher’s Wife’), “is all a prayer is.”

So – how do we make sense of the senseless? We don’t. But with hope, we can move forward into our future, honoring our memories, and living each day anew. Hold on to Hope. You’ll be glad you did.