Thursday, April 23, 2009

Holding One's Ground

I just returned from a trip to Palm Springs to visit my friend Kim. We had a wonderful time walking, biking, hiking and talking about life.

A couple days ago, I posted some pictures of us in the mountains above Palm Springs. We had taken the Palm Springs tram to get some relief from the heat below and 'shift' our perspective.

We had a very interesting experience on the way up that gave us the opportunity to learn some important things about ourselves.

The Palm Springs tram cars have a rotating floor that moves clockwise. The sides of the car are all glass (to afford a clear view) and stay still as the floor moves. There are small bars on the walls that are meant to allow you to steady yourself, but since they do not move and the floor does, you can't hold on to them continuously because they are always being 'left behind' as the floor carries you away.

The trick to this is to keep your feet planted on the floor and allow yourself to be carried as it moves. Resistance is futile... you are going to move! This allows you to move in a 360 degree circle and see in every direction as you make your way up the mountain.

I had a medium sized back pack with me that I placed on the floor at my feet. My friend, Kim, was to my immediate left. We were standing right in front of the window looking out the window.

As the tram started to move, and the floor began to rotate, I could tell it was a bit disorienting to some of our fellow passengers. Before long a very interesting phenomenon started to occur. People, to varying degrees, began to 'resist' the rotation of the floor. People were sort of 'shuffling' to the right, in the opposite direction that the floor was moving. I believe it was an attempt to keep their view consistent - as a way of orienting themselves. It felt 'unnatural' to rotate without moving, so they were unconsciously trying to 'right' themselves and stay pointed in the direction that they had started out in. Fascinating. There was one lesson there: we don't come easily to changing our perspective. We keep trying to look at things from the same angle and the same vantage point because it feels 'right' and familiar. Even when we are being 'moved' by the tram, or by life itself, we naturally try to stay put!

The woman to Kim's left seemed to have a special challenge in this area. She almost immediately squeezed Kim out of her spot, and displaced her to an inner part of the tram car. Now this woman was standing right next to me. My backpack hadn't moved and was sitting on the floor to the left of my feet. It had been right between Kim and I when we started.

Now, this woman started leaning backwards into me. She was holding on to the bars on the window/wall and as she rotated away from it, her arm would be stretched out IN FRONT OF MY FACE, with her body leaning onto my body, until she finally released her death grip and repositioned it in front of herself, only to repeat the process. She was literally lying on me at times.

I heard her remark to her husband that it 'felt like' she was leaning backwards. She WAS leaning backwards - directly against me, and continued to push on me as she tried to move into my space. At one point, she actually put her right foot OVER my backpack so she was straddling it!

I knew that she was 'unconsciously' moving against the rotation of the floor. She had displaced Kim. She would have moved me out of the way too... if I'd let her.

I decided to hold my ground. I had a right to be there. I was 'going with the flow' and moving with the floor (as I was supposed to be). There was a small child to my right, and I was also a little worried that if I yielded to this unconscious lady, that she might hurt this kid by moving on top of him in her oblivion.

I stood still. My feet never moved from the spot where they started. My bag was at my feet for the entire tram trip - exactly where I had placed it when I entered the tram.

This woman was PUSHING HARD on me at times. She seemed to be getting 'annoyed' with me... like I was doing something wrong. I heard her say something in a snotty tone to her husband, "I"ll tell you later!" she snapped. I knew she was talking about me.

I did announce at one point that I was "being squished" and she shifted back towards her husband.

When our tram finally arrived at the top, and we left the car, we ended up walking up a staircase, right behind my 'friend' from the ride up. She was really IRRITATED and was telling her husband and the rest of her party about this 'RUDE woman' next to her who just kept PUSHING and PUSHING and PUSHING her. This was the woman that pushed Kim out of the way and was laying on me as she resisted the movement of the floor!!

I knew I had done nothing wrong, yet I felt 'bad' that this woman was bad mouthing me and saying that I was rude. I felt like I wanted to defend myself. I had to resist the urge to run up to her and tell her and her friends that I hadn't moved one INCH during the entire trip... and that it was she who was pushing and applying pressure!

Kim and I started talking about this when we sat down to eat lunch. Kim had definitely noticed the woman lying on me throughout the tram ride. I wondered if she had moved to let the woman have her spot (since Kim is local and had been up the tram before). Kim realized that the woman had pushed her out of the way, and that she had just 'moved' to not have to hassle with the conflict. She just yielded to the invasion. I stood my ground, but not without great discomfort. It was also annoying. She definitely detracted from the trip. Standing my ground took a lot of energy, because she was literally leaning on me at times, expecting that the space for her needs would just 'be there.'

Kim and I also talked about how I was feeling 'bad' that this woman didn't like me and was badmouthing me. Somehow I felt bad for not letting her run me over! How crazy is that? I was feeling bad for taking care of myself!!

We began to realize that it was a teaching on boundaries. Both of us have trouble maintaining healthy boundaries in our lives. We tend to let other people have access to us in ways that aren't particularly healthy. We feel bad if we take care of ourselves and say NO to other people. We feel uncomfortable when people are disappointed or annoyed with our self care.

Kim just yielded and allowed her boundary to collapse. I held my boundary, but felt a bit of shame and guilt afterwards when I heard the woman telling her party how rude I was. We each learned some valuable information about ourselves.

On our way back down, Kim and I were in the same configuration, and sure enough, the person to her left started to push on her. Kim was determined to hold her ground and she did! She stood firm as the woman pressed her body into Kim. She claimed her space and didn't budge. She had lived through the discomfort of resisting someones boundary violation!

Sometimes people in our lives don't like it when we start to enforce our boundaries and take care of ourselves. They can't easily accept that we don't give them unlimited space for their own purposes. When we start to hold firm they get annoyed and consider us rude. When we say 'no' where we used to say 'yes' they can get angry! It doesn't mean that we are wrong for the choice we are making. In fact it may mean that we are on the most powerful part of our healing journey!

Learning to hold your ground and tolerate the discomfort of others who would like us to yield to their needs is a powerful and essential part of a healthy human journey!

Stand strong in the face of the pressure and the manipulations around you. Take good care of yourself and always maintain healthy boundaries!

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