There are some things in this world you just can’t explain, like how I ended up on a 500-mile pilgrimage through northern Spain, The Camino de Santiago de Compostela. My husband Todd and I spent three and a half weeks following the path our souls revealed, answering to nothing but the steps that lay ahead. It wasn’t long before we met our metaphorical fork in the road in the form of a very large horned cow, but we’ll get back to that. It’s amazing how aware we became of the world around us, fully unplugged, walking together stride for stride. As I reflect on that experience it is still difficult to fully comprehend the depth of engagement we were both able to reach, a truly self-identifying passage in my life.
Throughout our 500-mile pilgrimage we crossed over all sorts of terrain, through villages both large and small but one constant during our travels remained, the beautiful fences and boundaries that lined our path. Serving as our own personal safety net and highlighting the route to our finish line. I became especially grateful for these boundaries when we were passing by the dairy farms, they brought a sense of security without feeling confined and also kept us from wondering onto private land or into unknown territory. There was one day in particular where we came upon a pasture and what looked like the end of our trail. There was no clear or established boundary between the Camino Trail and the pasture full of cows. To be clear, in Spain they do not cut the horns off of the cows, so to an American like me it was as if I were about to enter into Pamplona and run with the bulls. Not exactly what I signed up for. As we looked out upon the pasture, the cows didn’t seem to be too interested in the likes of us. They carried on eating their grass and enjoying their afternoon, this did little to ease my nerves but Todd seemed dead set on crossing the newly dubbed “Pamplona Pasture.” We took some time to assess our situation but after walking back to the trail sign a few times and seeing no alternate route, we decided to go for it!
Treating Mental Health.
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I was beyond nervous! There are few experiences that come close to what I felt when crossing the Pamplona Pasture. Completely surrounded by enormous horned cows with nothing but the sweet Spanish air between us. As our journey across the pasture came to a close, wouldn’t you know it, I found myself smack dab in the middle of a cow pie! Isn’t that how life goes?! When we haven’t established a proper boundary our experience might just be a bit more frightening and you could end up in the middle of a cow pie.
That is just a little story on the importance of boundaries (it also lets you know about my amazing trip to Spain!). Setting clear personal boundaries is the key to ensuring relationships are mutually respectful, supportive and caring. Boundaries are a measure of our own self-esteem. They set the limits for acceptable behavior from those around us. Our boundaries are what provide safety in relationships with others, and protect us from unfortunate behaviors of others. If you are overly concerned about what other people will think, so you don’t share your feelings, that is an indication you might want to take a closer look at your personal boundaries. Taking the time every so often to create awareness of our boundaries and evaluate ourselves and our boundaries allows us to continually improve how we relate to others, keeps us safe and reduces the possibility of feeling like a cow pie just landed in the middle of our relationships.