Emotional Self Defense—Boundaries, Rock & Water - by Noel Eastwood
Dancing the Tao - boundaries
In Taoist exercises such as tai chi we learn to flow with the forces around and within us. We centre, earth and expand our chi, we move in circular motions and we act from within to achieve stability and harmony without.
To be like a 'rock' in life we learn to stand up for ourselves, to say, “No” when we want, to avoid doing that which we really don’t want to do. To be Water in life we learn to be adaptable and flexible in life, to say, “OK” in friendship, to avoid conflict when we are not prepared and to flow with the situation at hand.
A Rock state is best when we don't want to join in an activity, or when being bullied, we learn to stand up and say, “No, enough.” It supports us when in conflict situations by ensuring that we don’t crumble under a domineering force. If we are being bullied or harassed by a fellow worker or manager we use our ‘earthing’ and breath to create a rock state. We can then withstand the anger and frustrations from an adversary or from within ourselves. This allows us to remain stable and centered, to be calm and peaceful within.
We use our earthing breath to stabilise our chi in the lower half of our body, away from our heart and head. We then center our breath in our 'centre point' to breathe into our arms and hands if aggression occurs and any excess chi is sent out through our feet to remain stable. We watch for the ‘impending assault’ signs and prepare to use our tai chi in self defense if necessary. To flow and dance with our opponent, be it a problem habit we have internally or with an angry worker or neighbour. Rock is not conflict, it is to ‘stand strong’.
We use a Water state when we need to be flexible and adaptable in relationships with others. To avoid conflict through wu wei (non resistance), by flowing with the situation, we ‘earth and center’ using our breath. Then we let the energy guide us to find a solution to the problem that arose. We use our creativity and imagination best in a Water state. We still ‘earth and centre’ our breathing but we don't strengthen our aura for an impending assault as we would with the rock state. We remain open and friendly, co-operative and helpful, but only enough to ensure that we are not used or abused, that we still only give that which we are prepared to give, no more and no less.
Boundaries—how much to give and take in life
In life we seek balance and harmony. My taoist teacher would often say that we give 100 grams and accept 100 grams. This is a metaphor for the fulcrum, the midpoint of a relationship. If you stand on one end of a balance beam or see-saw, and there is no equal weight on the other end then you would be out of balance. The giving of 100 grams in life means that you give that which is comfortable, no more and no less. If you give more then you feel off-balance, out of your centre. It is like leaning too far forward, you can fall over if you give even just a tiny bit more.
In life we learn that in giving we receive, yes that is true, but in some relationships we give and find that our partner, be it at work, marriage. Or it could be our child who wants us to keep on giving without end. By continuing to give beyond the point in which we are happy we become uncomfortable, we become resentful. We learn to resist the impulse of guilt and to seek the balance point - we become Rock and say “No, you must now do something for yourself, I can’t do it all for you.”
Conversely, when we don't give 100 grams we become lazy or self-indulgent, we become selfish and greedy. Our partner asks for assistance or support and we give less than our comfortable 100 grams. We lessen ourselves, we become someone who will not grow nor enjoy the benefits that comes with giving. By being a user and taker, greedy and selfish we create a personality that goes backwards, never expanding. To avoid both situations, that of going backwards and that of being used and resentful, we seek the middle ground, the midpoint, the 100 grams of giving and taking.
This is an important component of taoism, find the middle path in all things. We also learn to honour and respect ourselves, our giving is with honour. We also instill honour and respect in others by our steadfast resolve to find the middle path in all our dealings with them, we seek not to cheat nor to give foolishly.
By finding our middle path, and by dealing with people and situations with 100 grams we set and establish boundaries. Boundaries are an essential emotional defense against being used and abused. We use boundaries all the time, for example, we don’t talk about our sexual experiences with strangers, they're not within our personal or intimate 'circle of trust'. We don’t let our grocery lady into our home nor the bank clerk. There are certain rules and limits in our social and personal life that we enforce to ensure healthy emotional development and to avoid being violated.
The first boundary is our Social Space boundary. It is between 1 and 3 meters distant from us. When out in public we don’t stand too close to others if there is room enough to stand equally between them and another person. We always move to the midpoint, for instance when sitting in the cinema we usually sit half way between occupied chairs. It is rude, and an invasion of boundaries and personal space to sit too close to someone when there are vacant seats further away. As more and more people are crowded into this space we allow them to get nearer without feeling invaded. This space is in proportion to the available space around us. It's OK to crowd a person when in a checkout line, but not when walking in a park. Social space is usually less than a meter when at a party, any closer then becomes Personal Space.
Personal Space is less than one meter, within arms reach. You either invite someone into your personal space or you push them out. It is a very special space - anyone within that space can hit and hurt you. To allow someone in this close you trust they will honour you enough not to hurt or harm you. Tai chi chuan and chi kung breathing, creates a powerful aura that contains this space. Once you've developed enough chi power you can control anyone within your personal space quite easily. The circular movement of tai chi is ideal for self-defense for close-in fighting, as is Wing Chun Kung Fu.
Intimate Space is when you are in intimate relations with someone. This is not for the office mechanic or the cleaning lady, it's for your children, your lover, your mother and father, etc. anyone that you have a trusted and safe relationship with. The closeness is such that you intermingle your auras together bonding at many emotional and psychic levels.
Boundaries are important in counselling, this involves the Freudian transference and counter-transference which sees the projection of needs onto the other. By going further than your 100 grams you are, in one sense, overstepping your rights with that person. You might want more from them than they are prepared to give. In this situation you give and give hoping for something in return. Or, they are asking for more than you are prepared to give, they ask and ask, becoming more and more demanding. If you give in you are set up for further abuse.
If in the helping profession you are working with people with emotional problems who have no boundaries themselves, they could very easily turn on you and hurt you. They could set you up and knock you down if you don't have strong professional boundaries. Always be aware of your boundaries, don’t give more than you're comfortable to give. And don’t receive more than you are prepared be it abuse or demands or control and domination. Use your Rock & Water approach to enforce this.
The Wolves Within
An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a schoolmate who had done him an injustice, "Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much from me, have hurt and tortured my soul and spirit, they have no sorrow for what they do to me or to others. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times."
He continued, "It is as if there are two wolves inside me; one is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.
"But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him off into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.
"Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."
The boy looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?"
The Grandfather smiled and said, "The one I feed, son, the one I feed."
by Noel Eastwood
Noel Eastwood (1955- ) is a psychologist and skilled astrologer, who has spent more than 30 years accompanying others on a healing spiritual journey to meet their inner selves. He was introduced to Taoist meditation and tai chi while at teachers' college in the 80's. This formed the basis not only for his teaching, but also for his work as a therapist after he earned his degree in psychology. Noel studied astrology under Chris Turner, one of Australia's foremost astrologers, and started to receive clients in 1988. Currently, he is a practicing psychologist and astrologer in Australia. Over the years, Noel has developed his own, unique blend of astrology, Jungian and Archetypal Psychology, Taoism, meditation and tarot - his great loves that continue to inspire and guide him as a therapist and in life. Married, with three grown children and two grandchildren, Noel created Pluto's Cave to pass on his skills and knowledge to the next generation of astrologers and psychologists.