Taking Care Of Your Energetic Boundary
The importance of maintaining appropriate personal boundaries is very much a part of American culture.
Despite that fact, most of us do not view a personal boundary as a concrete physical reality — an energetic boundary of a defined dimension that surrounds us, whether or not we are aware of it.
The physical dimension of a person’s energetic boundary is depicted in the “The Vitruvian Man,” Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous sketch. The sketch consists of a perfect circle in which is inscribed a nude male, his arms and legs outstretched. The circle in this drawing, just as in the suspense thriller, The Da Vinci Code, holds for us a hidden key to our understanding of the physical nature of our energetic boundaries.
The circle is probably our most ancient symbol and carries great symbolism that is revered by spiritual traditions around the world. Pagans, for example, view the circle as a reminder of the sacred, a protective magical circle, and a symbol of unity and wholeness, of gathering a person into their own space. In the da Vinci sketch, the circle is in fact a three-dimensional geometrical representation of an actual energetic boundary — an energetic structure that gathers an inscribed man in a unified space of his energy field. Da Vinci regarded it as an intrinsic part of the study of the proportions of the human body.
The symbolism of a circle is profound — it is a feminine symbol of protection and the energy field serves as a protective space around the body. The placement of this circle also happens to coincide with the layer of the energy field associated with what is known in the yogic tradition as the 7th chakra or crown chakra. The edge of that layer is determined exactly by the distance of the outstretched arms — a span of about six feet. The physical reality of the energetic boundary can be demonstrated by a sense of contact that can felt whenever the edges of two energetic boundaries come in contact with each other at that distance.
The reason we are largely unaware of this sensation is that we normally interact with each other at a distance less than six feet apart. In other words, we usually do not interact with each other far enough apart to sense the edges when they intersect. In addition, we do not naturally look for this energetic interaction because energy is invisible and not a topic of general conversation or knowledge. But you can learn to feel it, and later, when you become good at feeling, to see it as well.
You can learn to first feel the edge of the energetic boundary, yours as well as others, by literally walking into another person’s space. With time and experience, when sensing becomes familiar, you will be able to observe what happens with your energetic boundary and to adjust it at will in order to take proper care of yourself, as well as those around you, both physically and energetically.
How Far Does Your Energy Field Span?
The physical structure of the energetic boundary is three-dimensional, and in its natural state is measured by extending one's hands as indicated in the drawing, defining a circle at that distance, and then completing it as a sphere. The size of the field is predetermined by the physical dimensions of one’s body. Therefore, a taller person will have a bigger energetic boundary than a little child. The inherently smaller energetic space of children makes them, in general, very vulnerable in relationship to the larger field of the adult.
Keeping someone “at arm’s length” is a popular idiomatic expression that reflects an innate understanding of energetic space. A friend grew up in a very tough inner city housing project. He said that his father always told him if anyone approached him closer than arm’s length he was to hit him. Arm’s length was considered a natural barrier; it defined a space that needed to be protected.
You can experience it for yourself:
- Get up and spread your arms as depicted in the drawing.
- Mentally draw a circle around you and then twist and turn your body within it to experience a complete three-dimensional sphere.
- Get a sense of how large your energy field is supposed to be structurally. Notice how much of this space you usually occupy.
Most of us do not occupy our field fully. We claim only a fraction of our energetic space and therefore live and function in a diminished state. If everything that you have accomplished so far in your life was achieved using only a fraction of your field, what could you accomplish if you occupied your energy field fully? Many of us live with this strong sense that we have not fully realized our potential. We are most protected, fulfilled and free when our whole self and our whole field are active and involved, not a mere fragment of it.
Energetic Boundary Crossing
This exercise will allow you to explore the sense of crossing your energetic boundary with another person, and by doing it you will learn where the energetic space around you and others begins and ends. From now on, you will think of your body as the space defined by your outstretched arms, and not limited merely by its physical form.
- Start far away from each other, about 8 feet, so that your energetic spaces do not overlap. Use your arms to measure the distance, and then move even further back than that. Walk towards your partner.
- Make a small step to the border, where the boundaries are just about to touch. Check the distance.
- Notice whether this is the place where you first sensed the point of crossing. Step inside the field. Check the distance.
- Step back to the border and take one more step out leaving the field.
Doing the exercise to locate the border of your personal field may feel strange or uncomfortable in the beginning since it may be hard for you to believe that the energetic boundary is a real concept. Even if you are experiencing difficulty, you should be able to sense an energetic shift at the boundary crossing after a few attempts, or you may have a variety of experiences in sensing the energy field. The most common experience is that of slight pressure and pushing, or a sensation of an increase in density of air around the body, and almost a bit of warmth and vibration.
Protecting Your Personal Boundary in Social Situations
We often find ourselves in social situations such as elevators, public transportation, movie theaters or airplanes where we do not have a choice about being in uncomfortable proximity to other people. What do we do in such situations when our personal boundary overlaps the energetic space of others?
One approach is to consciously gather yourself in your energetic space, which can give you a sense of comfort in this kind of situation. I figured out how this works the first time I tried on a tallit, a Jewish ritual prayer shawl that is used by worshippers to wrap around themselves while they pray. I could not understand the actual purpose for this ritual until I put one on. Suddenly everything around me receded, and I found myself in my own comfortable private space in which I could commune with God in my own way, undisturbed and unaffected by everyone else around me. Wrapped in a shawl, my energetic space became smaller, but it was not a problem. I pulled the energy field closer to myself, but remained in it strongly and fully present. I realized I could do the same thing outside of services. The energy field is my prayer shawl and I can wrap it around myself to be comfortable and separate from others, if that is what I need. Any time you find yourself in such a situation, close your eyes and visualize wrapping your own field closely around yourself. That will give you an experience of everyone else being outside of your space, even in close quarters.
Pulling your space close to you is not the same as pulling back inside yourself out of fear or discomfort. You are simply making your space more compact and spreading yourself comfortably in the entirety of your space before you condense it closer to your body. In a fear-based reaction, you shrink your energy within your space, diminishing yourself, and leaving the rest of your space vulnerable and open to intrusion.
To gather your space around you:
- Visualize the edge of your personal boundary arm’s length away as a three-dimensional energetic bubble.
- Let your energy, your sense of self, and your whole being spread into the entire space contained by this bubble.
- Continuing to stay fully in your own space, pull the edges of the bubble closer to your body. Feel the energy become more concentrated and stronger. You can pull it as close to your body as you need. Notice how the energetic spaces of others become external to you without making you weaker in the process.
Once you observe that your energy field exists, experiencing the boundary becomes very natural. You become more aware of how you approach people, what kind of energy is emanating from you and others, and how close you can get. You will begin to understand some of the things that you have experienced but never had the language to put into words.
On one of Montel Williams’ shows, a victim of kidnapping and rape shared that on the way to her car, she passed her assailant, who was standing under a lamppost. She had an intense jarring sensation of something being very wrong about him. The information about him was held in his energetic space and available to her, but she did not act on it. When we approach the boundary of a person we feel attracted to, there will not be a sense of tension at the boundary crossing. Feeling unsafe with a person will increase the tension. You can use this energetic information and the awareness of your energetic boundary to guide your behavior and keep you safer and healthier.
Excerpted with permission from Healing Without Effort: Energetic Boundaries by Yuliya Cohen ©2006.
Yuliya Cohen is a trained energy healer, medical intuitive and therapist, and creator of the Energy Restructuring™ System. Formerly an engineer and computer science researcher, Yuliya is on the faculty of the New England School of Acupuncture. She can be reached at the Energy Restructuring Institute, 617-731-9529 or visit http://www.yuliyacohen.com.