The shift from summertime to school mode is an exercise in patience and persistence. Establishing new routines, reinforcing healthy habits, and building better boundaries can help to make the transition relatively simple and harmonious, thus helping to avoid the burn out that often sets in just as the leaves begin displaying their magnificent riot of color.
In fact, the changing leaves hint at what can happen when we over-do it. With constant activity and commitments, the well of energy and inspiration we stored up from the summer gets depleted, leaving us feeling dried up and worn out.
Ayurveda teaches us that Autumn is the season governed by vata or wind energy, which itself is characterized by movement and change. When we are in harmony with this season, we can experience a sense of lightness in the body, clarity in the mind, and expansiveness in how we relate to others and to life. On the other hand, feeling unstable and erratic mentally and emotionally, constantly on the go, bloated with undigested food and overwhelmed with stuff to do is an indication of imbalance and an opportunity to evolve.
Thankfully, making a few small but significant steps towards building better boundaries enables us to harness the creativity and clarity, and avoid the potential chaos inherent to this season.
If alarm bells start sounding at the first mention of boundaries, good, because that’s the voice of the essential human desire for freedom or moksha, defined by Yogarupa Rod Stryker in his book The Four Desires as “the longing to be free, to experience unfettered awareness, to be completely unburdened.” However, unlike barriers, which entrap us in a false sense of security, boundaries establish structure which supports freedom. Whereas barriers divide, boundaries reinforce. Barriers promote hostility, but boundaries provide stability. Barriers—like the infamous wall proposed by you-know-who—are externally imposed blockades in an eventually futile effort of resistance. Boundaries—like the banks of a river—from through an organic process of going with, not against, the flow.
The best boundaries arise from the inside out. They are not programs or prescriptions bestowed upon us; rather better boundaries are an organic extension of your inner wish, your intention, your dharma. Yet, just as the breath mirrors the natural pulsation of life which is never static and always in flux, a better boundary expands and contracts according to what is needed. A better boundary is responsive not reactive. You know when a boundary is better because you FEEL better—simultaneously supported and free.
I’l share a couple of the ways that I’ve been experimenting with boundaries to create structure without feeling stifled. But rather than adopt mine carte blanche, I encourage you to listen within and discover the boundaries that will best suit who you are now and who you are becoming through this next phase of your evolution.
TIME BLOCKING There’s an app for everything, and surely there’s one for this too! Instead of trying to squeeze as much as I can into one day, I’m leaving space between events so that I can drive the speed limit, eat a solid-food meal when I need to, make a spontaneous stop if I need to, or just have a few minutes to do “nothing.” I’m scheduling in time each week for me to do something I love: read, be in nature, practice yoga, meditate, be with friends, or get a massage. I’m setting timers and giving myself a limit for how long I can spend on something. Like this blog. I’ve got 21 minutes left!
HIGH-VIBE COMMITMENTS Before saying “yes,” I am learning to ask myself: “Will this (event, activity, conversation) replenish or deplete my energy? Is it in alignment or conflict with my priorities?” Usually I know the answer before I even ask the question, and because I am a perfectly flawed human being, sometimes I consciously choose to do something that I know will deplete me or is out of integrity with what’s important to me. And when I catch myself here, it helps to look for how this experience can serve as a growth opportunity—what can I learn? How can I raise the vibration or, at the very least, maintain an inner state of equanimity instead of being at the mercy of the situation. But more often now, the ways that I am spending my time resonate with what matters most to me.
SUPPORTED ASANAS As useful as these boundaries are in my life, they are equally potent on the mat and it’s fascinating to discover how maintaining boundaries in the body opens pathways towards experiencing an abiding sense freedom physically, mentally, and emotionally. One simple practice to try is uttanasana or standing forward fold at the wall. Beautiful for experiencing the simultaneous sense of support and freedom of boundaries. Supported asanas are also balancing to vata to bring a sense of grounding and ease to the body and mind.
I hope these offerings inspire you to discover better boundaries, and when you do, please share your experience!