Boundaries Without Borders

There is so much to say about the depth in the realm of boundaries but what I want to say today is that I’m not sure I knew enough about healthy boundaries until I began to step out of my traditional approach with horses and into a more soul-based relationship with the Spirit of horse. Making the shift from the perception of ownership versus relationship in my partnership with horses taught me huge lessons in the realm of boundaries, especially in relationship to my horses.

Windsor, our Warrior horse and fearless leader, taught me a vast amount about holding clear and consistent boundaries and when Casper appeared in my life, he continued to open up a whole new perspective for me in this realm. As a newly vision impaired horse, he brought such an incredible depth to the softer and more powerful nuance around the voice of boundaries and in learning how to hold and honor them respectfully for those who do not have a voice or lack confidence in speaking it out. When I speak to having a voice around boundaries I am not only speaking to our truth around our own personal boundaries but in listening and respecting how others hold theirs in the physical, mental, emotionally and spiritual realms.

We have a tendency to rely on what we can only see in the realm of boundaries but through spending the last five years with Casper and in moving through his journey of losing most of his vision, I have come to know and deeply understand that there is a prelude to crossing one’s boundaries that exists on an emotional, energetic and spiritual level before we actually see it manifest in a physical expression. I know in my heart that I knew this from my own experiences in my life, and as my journey progressed with Casper, I also knew in my heart that a lot of the time, I simply just remained silent. I didn’t always have the courage to speak my voice or to hold my own boundaries in a healthy way so as an escape I simply withdrew into my own world of self preservation and suppression.

But that was then and this is now and I am much more empowered around boundaries because I have had such wonderful teachers in my life, my horses.

What I’ve come to learn is that we cross boundaries and have our boundaries crossed on a much more subtle level than we often recognize. In fact, often it’s not even recognized as such and we simply accept these little invasions. Sometimes it might be that we get a slight intuitive nudge that speaks in a way that what was said or done just didn’t feel very good for us but we brush it off anyway or perhaps, from a horse perspective, we notice a slight pinning of the ears or a swish of their tail and sometimes it can be that we just get a sense of deeper knowing that it might not feel right for them.

Can you relate to this?

Crossing boundaries, whether you are the giver or the receiver, lessens the potential for developing respectful relationships and a loving bond on at least one end, if not both, of the relationship. Working on your ability to listen and feel for the borders that encapsulate someone’s boundary is equally important as holding your own, and in my experience with Casper is the key to deepening the bond. Ignoring the need of someone to be heard, even that of our horse, feels like one of the biggest deal or bond breakers in a relationship. When someone pushes their way past the sacredness of our personal space, intentionally or not, it’s invasive and less than empowering and can often lead us into a downward spiral of self worth, self doubt and loss of personal power or it can lead to an explosive outburst. What’s important to know is that when we build a good rapport and deep level of trust through respecting each other’s boundaries we are more likely to be forgiven in the event that we do unintentionally cross another’s boundaries and I see this with Casper all the time.

Boundaries are a voice that needs to be heard, not only with our ears, but with our subtle senses too and if we want to move into a deeper level of respect around boundaries we need to be able to feel into the borders that are placed around them as well. Holding the value for the boundary and in knowing what boundaries we want to hold is not enough if we are not empowered to hold them for ourselves. One of the biggest gifts you can offer in boundaries is to empower others to hold them by listening and in being respectful of them because this is what allows the voice of boundaries to be heard. The more our voice is heard and the more able we are to hear the voice of others and of our horses, the deeper level of trust and respect that develops. The gift in allowing this, even at the cost of our own agenda sometimes, is that being heard highly respects the dignity of another, the true essence of their spirit and respects what hold great value for them.

Casper’s journey was a powerful reminder for me on the subtleties of crossing boundaries. Boundaries with borders are clear, consistent and highly respected, but boundaries without borders are not and these are often the ones we are most unintentional likely to cross. These are the invasions that slowly chip away at our foundation of healthy and respectful relationships and sometimes it leads us to label a horse, or a human for that matter, as aggressive, angry, dominant, stubborn, disengaged, shutdown or disobedient (an the list goes on). When we shift into a place of judgement like this, because we all have our moments and sometimes we are actually the ones being judged or acting out in this way, we might want to stop to consider that sometimes this is an act of self-preservation because a boundary is being crossed, or it has repeatedly been crossed and this is merely an escalation of having no borders. Escalation is like boiling water. There is a prelude, an element (like heat or repeated invasions) that contributes to a rising in temperature (or emotion) and as it’s allowed to continue, it brews and it builds and bubbles start to rise to the surface until eventually it escalates and boils over.

As someone who had a tendency to allow for an escalation of having my boundaries crossed, I was actually referred to as being laid back and easy going (which yes, in general I am). You’ve all heard the reference ‘it’s the quiet ones you gotta watch’ and that couldn’t be further from the truth, because internally with people like me, we withdraw, but it doesn’t mean we’re not brewing! So, when we reach the boiling point, it’s like a volcanic eruption versus those who appear to express openly in the form of dominance, anger, disobedience or what have you. I have witnessed these eruptions in horses who are submitted through rigorous training programs at very young ages where they are perfectly robotic in their performances but suddenly out of the blue they just explode and the unfortunate reality is that they are labelled as dangerous and of no further use. Silence can be a form of intensity and this is where Casper has been so influential through his teachings in the subtleties of boundary crossing.

When Casper lost a good part of his vision he felt powerless and out of control. He deeply wanted boundaries because they were more important to him now than ever but because he had little sense of where he ended and where someone else began, he was frozen in fear. I had only known him for less than two weeks when his trauma unfolded the way that it did. He was in a new life, he had new surroundings, we had not yet had the time to establish a bond, he was so far from what he knew as familiar and normal and he was eventually to be integrated into a herd that had no desire to accept him. When it came to helping him develop new boundaries it was no longer about what we could see but more about what we could perceive to be true for him now and literally, it was like walking in the dark with no clear sense of direction.

I believe that even with horses, trauma rocks the core of their ability to feel safe and to protect themselves because, as prey animals, their entire foundation of safety is so badly shaken and it’s clear to see just how frightening this is for them. I can only perceive that with a horse like Casper, you can choose to run where you can’t see or you can surrender into self preservation mode which is exactly what he did. Through doing this he built walls and walls were okay, not only because I knew we could work with walls, but because in the very least they put a definitive and temporary edge in having borders around his boundaries. The next step was in bringing more permeability to some of these borders and of course this took a lot of time and patience but it so key in building more trust and in moving him out of self preservation mode.

Our hearts carried the most influential driver in building a bond and that is the innate desire of every living being to love and be loved and to foster a sense of belonging.

Although it was challenging to respect the vastness of Casper’s personal space and boundaries respectfully, because he was undergoing treatment several times a day that was critical to keeping him, I needed to create a sacred container for respecting the walls that he had built even though I deeply sensed his fear, sadness and loneliness. I knew it was a place he deeply desired not to be but needed to be and I needed to be okay with where he was. (visit my blog on Restoring through Stillness)

Honoring this sacred space for him also meant assuming the responsibilities for the boundaries he couldn’t hold with both humans and horses. Although it wasn’t until 8 months later that we could even begin to consider integrating him with Windsor’s herd (it took 3 years for a really healthy integration) I became his gatekeeper. I spent a vast amount of time with him. I observed him. I shared space with him and I came to understand his physical and emotional boundaries and if an opportunity arose for him to try to hold his own boundaries, it was given. I had to learn to discern and exercise caution and good judgement in what was in his highest and best interest and what wasn’t. There was such a fine line between what was okay and what wasn’t and if boundaries were made of the finest hand blown glass, these were surely how his were strewn.

We spent countless hours in the realm of boundaries and through time we created our own boundaries within the sacred space of the try. Through time it became less about the physicality of our boundaries and more about his emotional and spiritual needs. He deeply trusted that he was safe with me and that no matter what we tried, I promised to do my best as his gatekeeper. I understood his check in; his “Am I okay?

From this pivotal moment in our journey, he was learning that he had a voice and that he would always be given a choice. The moments of handing over the ownership of his own boundaries were coming more often and were very empowering for him. Our bond was deepening and he was building more courage and confidence every day. I was doing Equine Experiential work then, and as part of Casper’s sacred container, it was not in his highest and best interest to do this work with humans. He knew about the work, he respected that the other horses were choosing to do the work and he was in full choice around deciding if and when he was every ready to do so.

Obviously, Casper did choose to step into healing work with humans, but on a deeper level he is also healing human relationships with horses through what he brings forward in his teachings. It truly was only through knowing how to hold healthy borders around boundaries that he is able to step so deeply into this work with me. He chooses only what he is capable of handling and he knows his limits because he knows he has clearly defined borders around his boundaries. It is of the utmost importance that he, along with all the other horses that do this work, be at liberty at all times, so that he is free to dance in and out of the realm of his sacred container within this work and within his own inner work and personal growth.

There are still days, when he nudges me my arm and asks “are we okay? Yes, Casper, we are okay!

There is something in the way that the “I” shifted to the “we” in this relationship that simply makes my heart sing because it speaks to the integration and the depth of our horse human bond. We are in this together and he truly and open-heartedly gets that on every level.

With a horse who continues to heal from trauma, I believed that I had a responsibility to uphold a high degree of value for creating and holding the space for this shift to happen. There is a parallel partnering of boundaries that we learn through investing in relationships that requires us to be an echo of a voice that cannot hold it’s own. In the process, it not only moves us deeper into the layers of our own shadow but it allows for the most respectful and authentic bonds to develop through what we might not have ever known had we chosen to travel alone. There are times when our horses, as much as this is true for humans, simply do not have the strength and inner resources to hold their own and it takes commitment and courage to partner in this way, especially with a horse. Many simply don’t understand the purpose in holding such a space for a blind horse.

But this is a horse that wants to thrive in this world with humans; this is a horse that has taught me how to use my voice and to stand up for what I believe in; this is a horse that has shown me more about how I want to show up in this world with horses and this is a horse that helped me define the beautiful border for the boundaries that I hold in my life with horses.

Casper is thriving and he is more than ready to move to the next level of his journey and in that, comes the dance between holding his boundaries and in setting boundaries with him. I know there is still fragility in some of those hand blown glass boundaries but I also know that the glue that binds our horse human bond will only allow for bigger shifts in our relationship. His boundaries are more permeable and there is very little structure left to those rigid walls and he is perfect exactly where he is because after all, he now knows where he ends and where I begin.

Source by Jackie Ladouceur