The Importance of Boundaries

boundaries-2I have spent the majority of my life feeling like it was my job to help everybody and fix their problems, even if at my own expense.  This characteristic has not only gained me many interesting, if not sarcastic, nicknames over the years, but also several wounded wild birds, a beakless parakeet named Shaq, a one-eyed cat, a hedgehog, a cross-eyed kitten, an abandoned iguana and the somewhat adorable need to peel acorns for the squirrels as a small child.

As I grew up, these tendencies followed me into most of my friendships and relationships.  I refused to see peoples negativity, and instead always chose to focus on the good things hidden deep underneath of the surface.  I felt, in many ways, that it was a gift that I had been given, and wore my compassion proudly, like a badge of honor.  Although there is certainly nothing wrong with compassion, what I failed to realize in my youth, is that without my own boundaries in place, I was much more likely to end up hurt and confused without a clear understanding why.

Brene Brown said that “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”  Over the past few years, I have done a lot of deep digging, not only to extricate the source of this need to save everybody but also to start to find healthier ways that I could use this gift of compassion to benefit others without beating myself up in the process.  As I have looked back through the scenarios mentioned in the first paragraphs, I began to notice that in many of these instances, my compassion backfired.  The birds would inevitably fly out of their shoebox nests in the middle of the night and scare the crap out of me, causing a whole-house effort to catch them and re-release them into the wild.  The parakeet constantly bit at me with it’s half-beak as I tried to convince it to climb on my hand, the one-eyed cat hated me, the hedgehog was terrified of me, the iguana tore my screened-in patio without remorse (and with no intention of paying for it when my lease ended) and the squirrels were probably bored as all Hell all throughout the winter due to my odd compulsion.  I began to realize that:

  • The need to save everybody/thing (without them asking) began from a place of selfishness.  By saving others, I was able to make myself feel better.
  • 99% of the time, I was putting in my two cents where it wasn’t necessarily solicited.
  • By being irrevocably there for others, no matter how many times or in what ways they hurt me, I was actually hurting us both by supporting their negative behavior and therefore, discouraging their growth.
  • That there are other, more positive ways to be present for people (and animals) through their times of struggles.
  • By giving my energy away to those who would rather do without it, I wasn’t saving any of that love and compassion for those around me who really did want it.

I set off to find balance, and I am just now at a place where I feel like it’s starting to settle in.  Of course, I want to remain open and compassionate to others who need it, but I have also begun to put boundaries into place that are unshakeable.  I’m realizing that to be supportive does not mean dealing with other people’s abuse or negativity.   It means living from a place of good intention and teaching others to shine out the brightness that they have within them…IF they want to be taught.

I have made a few very hard decisions in the past months, some of which, unfortunately, have caused me to close the door on relationships that have proven to be toxic to me in this moment, with the promise that if/when they choose to get healthy in their own boundaries, I will gladly reconvene.  I feel freer, lighter and more alive, not being weighed down by the energy of trying to save somebody who doesn’t want to save him/herself.  I think there is a misguided, yet well-intentioned belief in Spirituality (of all faiths) that in order to be “good” you must be a doormat, but that is not true.  You do good by teaching the weak to be strong, by teaching the sad to find their happiness, by teaching the poor to focus on all the things they have to feel rich about and yes, by searching for the good in everybody, even when they can’t see it for themselves.  The best way you can do that is to be a living example of strength, happiness, richness, and kindness and by putting up boundaries that teach other people how to treat you, with the unspoken understanding that they can teach others how to treat them as well.  It doesn’t mean that we have to turn our backs on people the first time they hurt us, but it does mean having open and honest conversations about how we are feeling when we have been hurt to avoid the same thing happening throughout the course of our relationships.

Just like everything else, our boundaries or lack thereof are a byproduct of the beliefs we have picked up along the way and what we have come to “know” about ourselves and our roles.  This doesn’t mean you are destined to be the doormat forever.  It means that right now, in this very moment, you are being given an opportunity to create healthier and happier boundaries within your existing relationships.  Start teaching others how to treat you now, and you may be surprised to find that you begin to attract much more positivity, love, joy, and honesty into your life.  Cheers to that!

To learn more about life coaching visit my website or call me at 561-951-7045 for a free consultation.

Release Your Fear, Free Your Mind: A Jedi Mind Trick to Turn Your Thoughts Around

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Let’s get real for a moment…there is a LOT of really scary shit going on in the world right now.  No matter how much you try to avoid the news, or social media, or your doomsday neighbor, you can’t really tune out of what’s happening around us.  Whether it be the myriad natural disasters occurring across the world, this crazy dude that wants to blow up the Universe, the largest security breach in American history, or whatever else is eking its way into your personal reality, let’s face it…it’s tough not to be afraid.  I had a client ask me yesterday how it was possible to be so joyful in the midst of all of this chaos.  Well, I don’t know if I have the answer for that, but I can certainly share my own process of staying sane.

Yoda (who in my book is the MAN and should run for president) said that “Fear is the path of the dark side.  Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering.”  Smart fella if you ask me.  When we allow these fearful occurrences to dictate the contents of our mind, we start a downward spiraling process that is difficult to turn around.  One fearful thought leads to another which leads to another.  This energy shows up in the way we interact with the world, sparking more of the same in those that we encounter.  YOU are the only person who can stop that fear in its tracks, and I’m hoping this little trick will help you do just that.

Our response to fear is natural, but that doesn’t mean that we have to give it control.  When I notice myself getting sucked into the drama playing out on my TV or the fear being perpetuated on my Facebook feed, I take a moment first just to acknowledge it.  “Shit, Jillian…you are freaking out right now! Time to shut this crap down!”  I try to be compassionate with myself about it, rather than judgmental.  After all…it IS scary when so many unknowns are catapulting towards you.  I turn off whatever media is on or gently extract myself from the conversation at hand. I sit quietly and take a few deep breaths.  I repeat out loud to myself, “The only thing I have is this moment, and in this moment I am here, I am safe and I am happy.”  I try to remember that my fear will only draw more fear to me, and so being afraid is counterproductive.  The best way to combat fear is joy and love, and so I begin to remind myself of all of the things in my life at this very moment that I have to be joyful about…positive relationships, my goofy children, a job that I love, my breath, my yoga practice, my favorite tree in my back yard, my dogs, my spiritual connection with my higher power, etc.  I come back to my breath and typically, I notice an immediate difference.  My breathing is softer, calmer and more even.  I feel more centered and safe.  I am reminded of the multiple reasons I have to choose to be happy rather than bind myself in fear.

So why does this work?  I believe it’s because we are creating space between the trigger and the response.  Rather than allowing that first negative or fearful thought to spiral out of control, we are giving it the acknowledgement that it needs and setting a new course towards a more positive orientation.  The first few times you try it, it might feel fruitless, but, as with all things, practice makes perfect.  Try, try and try again, and hopefully sometime very soon, you will find yourself moving into calmer waters quicker than you thought possible.

We are all in charge of the energy we give to fear, because that energy starts a ripple throughout the entire Universe that must reverberate back to us.  Even taking baby steps to try to release your fear makes a huge impact on the collective whole of humankind.  You are a powerful being…use that power for love, kindness and good.  May the force be with you.  (Yes, said that, I did.  Mmm.)

To learn more about life coaching and how to start the process of turning your negative thoughts around, visit my website at http://www.jillianarenacyi.com

Open to Grace

17In Yoga Teacher Training, we are taught that opening up to grace is an integral part of our practice.  It’s that moment in a yoga class where your teacher is instructing you to settle into the space around you, let go of thoughts, worries and to-do lists that might be sabotaging your relaxation, and let yourself become present and aware so that you can receive your yoga practice.  In a dimly lit studio, sprawled out on your mat, with no disturbances other than the gentle sound of you and your neighbors breathing, soft music playing in the background of your thoughts, this can be a relatively easy and safe space to do just that…to completely let go.  After all, that’s why you are there in the first place, right?  What happens, though, when you’re not on your mat?  Opening to grace feels a lot more difficult to do when you are in the throes of your day to day activities, children arguing in the background, a pile of bills arriving in the mail, stacks of paperwork to get through at the office, a lawn to mow, and the mountain of laundry spilling out of your clothes hamper staring at you every time you enter your room.  However, these are the times when opening to grace is absolutely the most important.

Grace is defined by dictionary.com as “simple elegance or refinement of movement”, but to me, it is so much more than that.  It is a willingness to surrender to the truth that we are each going through exactly the things that will help us to become the best versions of ourselves, even (especially) in the moments where it feels completely the opposite.  It is the ability to find strength in our struggles and to participate fully and completely in all aspects of our lives, good, bad, scary, exciting, or otherwise.  It is the knowledge that our perception of what is happening in our lives is so much more important than the situations themselves, because the situations are impermanent.  It is the power to stand strong through the storms, holding firm to the knowledge that calmer waters are ahead of us and that there is an important lesson for our soul within each and every moment.  How amazing would it feel to bring the same peace, calm and quiet that you find on your mat, or out in nature, or in your bath (or whatever it is that you do to connect to this space) into the daily situations that are a natural part of life?  Well, you can, which is pretty good news.

Take a minute to inventory what’s going on in your life that’s stressing you out or causing worry or fear.  Write it all down.  Read it back to yourself without any judgement.  Instead, maybe you can find a little curiosity.  What is your soul trying to help you to learn by these difficult situations?  For most of us, our difficulties often become repeating patterns, causing us to feel like something is wrong with us or that we are just destined to always have this particular issue in our lives, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  These moments that challenge us are opportunities for us to get know ourselves better.  For example, if you are somebody who is constantly struggling financially and worried about how to pay the bills, this might be your soul telling you that your job is not in alignment with what you really want.  It may also be an indication that you have some limiting beliefs around money that need to be acknowledged and explored so that prosperous energy feels welcome to flow into your life.  If you find yourself struggling with relationship after relationship, perhaps it is your soul trying to urge you to look in a different place, or to learn to love yourself first so that you can openly receive true love back.  Maybe it is an indication that you subconsciously don’t feel worthy of love and so you are inadvertently pushing it away.

Remember, we attract the energy that we put out…like attracts like.  Therefore, it’s not what we WISH we believed or what we WANT to believe, but the actual beliefs stored deep, down within us, that are shaping our realities.  It can be scary to dig down and unearth them, but consider for a moment, a diamond.  My dear friend and colleague, Amy Lombardo, put this in such great perspective for me.  Diamonds are formed way down in the Earth’s mantle (about 100 miles deep), and start as chunks of coal.  It takes a tremendous amount of heat and pressure to create this sparkly gem, but once the work has occurred, the diamond is pushed to the surface naturally for all to enjoy.  Your thoughts are like these diamonds.  YOU have that same sparkly gem deep within in you, just waiting to be exposed to the heat so that it can emerge and shine brightly out to the world.  When you can accept that knowledge and open to grace, knowing that you have a deep well of untapped potential within you and the power to change your reality, the world opens back to you.  Your sparkly gems are naturally pushed to the surface and the Universe responds by shining back.

Where in this very moment can you open yourself to grace?  Where can you replace fear with curiosity, and hopefully learn something about yourself through the process?  Start right now.  The more that you practice this the easier it becomes.  Opening to grace is not something that needs to be confined to your yoga mat.  It is accessible in each and every moment to help you come back to center, find your calm and elevate yourself towards all of the possibility just waiting to be discovered within you!

If you need some help unearthing your spark, please visit my website HERE to learn more about transitional life coaching and my 12-week program, Ascend to New Heights.

 

Outside the Box: The Power of Pushing Beyond Your Comfort Zone

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The safety net of our comfort zone is a powerful place.  Oftentimes, we don’t have the slightest clue of the influence it has over us until we are put in a situation that threatens to breach its protective barrier.  When we come to this place, we are given an opportunity to connect to choice.  We can stay within the confines of the familiar or we can move beyond it.  What might happen when we trade in feelings of ease and convenience to step into the vast unknown?  Here’s a story of what happened to me.

I am, by nature, a bit of a recluse.  I have a loving husband and children, two giant dogs, 80 millions books, a big jet tub, a vegetable garden I like to work in, a backyard full of flowers, a fire pit, and wind chimes.  In my estimation of things, there’s not much more that I could need or want.  Although this is incredible in so many ways, it also has a tendency to impede upon the greater wants and needs of my soul, which craves human connection, spiritual awareness, and community, just like everybody else.  I have come to acknowledge that it has been my fear of being judged that has had a tendency in the past to keep me stuck in a holding pattern of routine.

A couple years ago, my routine was challenged by an incredible friend of mine, Chrissy. One morning, during our daily workout, she boldly suggested (and by suggested I actually mean demanded) that I move beyond my comfort zone and sign up to take a yoga teacher training.  This suggestion was so out of the realm of normal to me that I’m pretty sure I actually laughed out loud and told her she was batshit crazy, to which she only insisted further that it was something I should definitely do.  I left our encounter that day intrigued, curious, and completely 100 percent sure that I would never do it.  Imagine my surprise then, when a month later I found myself signing up to take said training, heart pounding, head screaming a million reasons why I shouldn’t be doing it, every fiber of my being assuring me that this was NOT for me.  Yet, for some reason I did it anyway.

I went through the training with no hopes or expectations that I would ever become a teacher.  The thought of actually taking the knowledge I had gained and standing in front of a class of people to put it to the test literally paralyzed me with fear.  I had a wonderful experience and I was content with knowing that and moving back into the confines of my normal life.  Two days prior to my graduation, I was approached by the studio manager with an offer to teach one of their classes.  I found the verbal agreement shooting out of my mouth way before my head even had a blink to consider the implications.  All of a sudden, I was a teacher.  Fuck.  How the hell was I going to pull this off?  I was sick to my stomach the entire week before my first scheduled class.  I spent every single day freaking out, and yet, when the day finally came, I again stepped beyond my comfort zone and did what had to be done.

I have continued to step further and further beyond my comfort zone at every opportunity since that fateful day working out with my best bud.  Most of the time that initial step still evokes the same physical response of disbelief, nausea, anxiety and terror, but what I have found is that the more I do it, the less these responses linger.   I have begun to ask myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and what I find is that typically the worst thing isn’t all that bad.  It’s certainly not as bad as remaining stagnant in a life that doesn’t fulfill the needs of my soul.  I have found a community of loving, creative, positive individuals who help me when I face those initial reactions…who push me to take that extra step.  I have found a career and passion that I love, both teaching yoga and life coaching.  I have found more time to spend with my family and to write (my other passion).  I have found a sense of peace and balance within me.  And to think…it all started with fear of the unknown and taking that first step outside my comfort zone.  Weird.

So take a look at your life.  Where are you boxing yourself in?  Where are you ignoring that quiet voice within you that yearns to have/be/do/experience more?  What might open up for you if you were to listen to that voice and step beyond the confines of your comfort zone?  There’s nothing worse than that feeling that there is something you are supposed to be doing and the knowledge that you are not doing it.  It brings you completely out of resonance with your truth, causing anxiety, worry, fear and discomfort.  How amazing would it feel to move back into alignment?  You CAN do it!  Now it’s just a matter of making the choice of whether or not you WILL.

To learn more about my life coaching programs please visit my WEBSITE or follow me on FACEBOOK.

 

Ripping Off the Band-aid

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Jim Morrison…you’ve got to love him.  Not only was he excruciatingly gorgeous with a voice and stage presence that could melt the polar ice caps, but he said some pretty brilliant shit as well.  We may never know if it was the many hits of acid speaking or if it really was his Indian spirit guide, but whatever the source of his words, they were undeniably insightful and still hold impact and validity today.  How many times have you caught yourself gripped in the ruthless hands of fear?

We live in a society that is largely ruled by fear.  From the time that we are born we are conditioned to be afraid of things.  Some of it is necessary to our survival, such as not touching the stove or sticking a fork in the electrical socket, but many of the other things that we are taught to be afraid of can thwart our growth in so many ways.  We are taught largely to listen to others which causes fear of our own inner voice.  We are taught to follow the norms of society which can lead us to fear the decision to carve out our own authentic paths and follow our dreams.  We are taught to compare ourselves to others, which births the fear of never being enough within ourselves.  We are taught to fear being without material possessions, which causes feelings of greed within us.  We are taught to fear the things/people/places which we do not fully understand, which can prevent us from educating ourselves about the different cultures, religions, races, sexual orientations and physical landscapes that surround us in this amazingly diverse world.  In short, our fear begins to shape us from our initial breaths on this Earth and continues to shape shift as we experience the world.  But what if we could change that?  What if we could look closely at our fears…stare them straight in the face, stand up boldly and move bravely into them?  What is the worst that would actually happen?

Take a moment to think back on all of the things you have been afraid of in your life and write them down.  We’re going to use them in a minute.  Yeah, I know, it’s a big list, right?  When I think back on my fears what I notice is a progression.  When I was in my early 20’s I had been through some terrible relationships (I mean like surrrrrrrrrrriously, abusively bad) and I swore I was done dating.  Then I met Josh.  I was terrified of him because I knew I really liked him.  Then he asked me to marry him and I became afraid of that.  What if it didn’t work out?  Then we got married and decided to get pregnant…new biggest fear as my belly expanded and my whole world threatened to change.  Eight and a half months pregnant, we found our first home, closing ten days prior to the birth of our son…#freakingout.  Here comes Jacob…motherhood became the thing I feared the most because I had no idea how to do it.  Then Josh lost his job.  New mortgage, new baby, no job…does it get more terrifying?  I swore we were doomed…until Josh decided to start his own business (which of course scared the crap out of us both as well).  Suddenly, another baby was on the way.  Jocelyn was born and I quit my job to stay at home with them…this became the scariest decision of my life, but I did it anyway.  This progression continued on and on, presenting me with new fears along the way, until finally one day, I realized that it wasn’t the situations themselves that were terrifying me, but my reaction to them.  I started to look back at this long laundry list of fear I had been carrying around with me and realized that as each new fear had arisen and I had moved through it, the fear for that particular event had dissipated and morphed into a new fear.  It dawned on me that there will always be things to be afraid of, but it is up to me whether or not I let the fear have control.  I have a choice in each situation to square up against my fear and challenge it, and so do you.

I am happy to report that moving through my personal fear has led me to a 10-year (this July) marriage to my best friend and the most amazing guy I know, 2 kick-ass little kids who challenge me to grow, expand and be a better person each day, a beautiful home that is my sanctuary, my husband and I each owning our own business and the fortitude to keep moving through fear as it shows up.  That’s important to acknowledge by the way…I still get afraid.  All the time actually.  Life isn’t always sunshine and butterflies.  My husband and I argue, my kids can act like little shits, my home needs repairs and our businesses fluctuate through good and bad times (and the bad times can be REALLY scary), but we keep on keeping on anyway, moving forward with the knowledge that this too shall pass and that we can look our fears in the face and move on anyway.

So where does fear show up for you?  Go back to your list.  If you didn’t write it, do it now.  Take a close look at all of these places that fear has popped up in your life from as early as you can think of.  First off, see if you notice any patterns.  Are your fears largely based around one particular area?  Money?  Relationships? Your Career?  Self-esteem?  Now, notice any of these situations where you faced your fear and moved forward anyway?  What was the outcome?  If you haven’t had the opportunity to face any of these fears, guess what today is?  That’s right, your opportunity.  You don’t have to dive in headfirst, but think of a way that you can start to move into your fear slowly.  If your fear is primarily surrounding relationships, maybe today is the day you finally make that online dating profile (don’t worry…you don’t have to go live until tomorrow).  If your self-esteem is taking the hit, maybe today is the day to buy the dress you’ve always wanted, even though your head screams that you’re not feminine enough to pull it off.  Tomorrow, rock it.  Each day take baby steps to move into your fear.  You will likely find that the further you go, the less powerful it becomes.

Interested in life coaching with me? Visit my website HERE, or join me on FACEBOOK to keep up with classes and events I have coming up.  Learn about my 12-week coaching program, “Ascend to New Heights” by watching THIS VIDEO INTERVIEW