Freedom in Boundaries

One definition of paradise is “a walled-in garden.” Key concept here: “Walled-in.”

I remember this whenever I feel swept up in the winds of over-extension. 

Hi, I’m Eli Walker, and I struggle with boundaries. 

Or, at least, I used to. My first nature is to overdo it. (By “it” I mean, well...everything.)

I say yes to too many opportunities that come my way. I just love a good struggle, you know? I roll up my figurative sleeves and think, “challenge accepted.” Psh, sleep? Me? Don’t need it. Fun? Friends? Extra work? Travel? New hobbies? More work? Bring it on. I can do it all. Oh and hey…watch me be the BEST at it.

But how you do anything is how you do everything. And without boundaries in your life, you lack boundaries in your body, your relationships, your work, etc. Conversely, if you practice boundaries in one arena, it translates to all. 

I use the word “practice” deliberately. Because anything that comes to us easily is what we’d consider “first nature,” and anything that you want to adopt as a habit for health, but that takes a little extra trial and error, is considered “second nature.” 

Briefly, in the year between the ages of 24 and 25, I was deeply entrenched in first nature habits. I had a wildly abusive affair with my much-too-old yoga teacher, practiced WAY too much yoga (yes, that’s a thing you can do), such that I got injured, worked too long of hours in my various side projects which led to severe sleep-deprivation, and exercised precisely zero structure in my day, with no real “plan” for the future. Then, to help me make sense of the chaos, (naturally) I bought a one-way ticket to India where I backpacked by myself across the country for 6-months, only to end up in Thailand where I fell through a roof and broke my back. (That’s when I finally slowed down, for obvious reasons.) I’ll spare you the gruesome details but it took me a long time to heal from this, and it forced me to finally work on implementing boundaries in my life—for the sake of survival.

The idea of “boundaries” was so foreign to me that I didn’t know how to begin. So I did something I think we should all do a little more of: I asked for help. I talked to friends, teachers, family, and healers…I leaned on people I could trust for support.

For months I trialed. I error-ed. And finally, I learned this: boundaries can be found in ritual. Developing daily rituals are how I learned to create points of leverage in my life to lift off from, and eventually rise back onto my feet.

What do I mean that there’s boundaries in rituals? Great question (that I assumed you asked)!

It’s quite simple in concept, but difficult to practice, as is any newly forming habit. Here’s what I did: 

  1. Got up at the same time every day. (This was hard, because remember, I was pretty broken and feeling pretty sorry for myself. So, given the permission, I could have stayed in bed crying all day.)

  2. After I pulled myself out of bed, I ate the same thing for breakfast every day. (Have you heard? Nutrition is key. My friend turned me on to Shaklee smoothies, and it helped me rebuild my body in every way.)

  3. I exercised. I either went to Katonah Yoga or for a walk/jog by the East River. (Nature and community equals health and happiness.)

  4. Before I went to bed each night I’d do these simple things: meditate for 10 minutes, write 5 things I’m grateful for, sniff some lavender oil, and put a rose quartz stone under my pillow. (Nothing expensive or elaborate, but a few rituals to make me feel grounded in time and space.)

If you’re anything like me, you don’t like to be told what to do…even by yourself. I don’t like to feel like I “have” to do anything. But I shifted my thinking from feeling resentful toward healthy habits to a feeling of gratitude for the safety and comfort the rituals brought to my life. These structured habits, however small, act as little boundaries in space and time throughout your day to keep you centered in circumstances of your choosing. And there’s nothing more powerful than feeling healthfully conscious at the center of your circumference. 

*Eli Walker is the founder/CEO of Drunk Yoga® and Divine Your Story™, challenging social norms to teach the art of joy through self-empowerment and communal yoga experiences.