‘That’s just your ego’ 'you're in your mind right now' ‘you need to be more surrendered’ ‘the feminine receives’ ‘you aren’t embracing this spiritual opportunity’.
These were some of the things I heard when I said no early on, while I was on the periphery of the cult.
As I went deeper into the group my boundaries became more eroded. The practices I was asked to engage in became gradually more extreme.
I pushed myself. Partly because of the common societal rhetoric of ‘no pain no gain’ etc, partly because I’m an open minded and adventurous person, but largely because I was effectively told that it would be an unspiritual choice not to.
Many spiritual concepts are twisted to justify breaking boundaries and changing individual’s ‘no’.
When someone is spiritually motivated, as I was; a seeker, classing this as the most important thing in their life, and outsourcing this power of decision making on a spiritual level, the set up is ripe for spiritual abuse.
Due to much religion, and even much new age spirituality, being based around hierarchy and power structure, and founded on the convenient illusion that you aren’t enough and you don’t have the answer, the system is established for seekers to give ‘superior’ others authority.
Their yes becomes automatically more powerful than our no.
Maintaining our boundaries can be challenging enough in a diverse and liberal society, let alone in the prescriptive and judgmental atmosphere of a cultic group.
Your no May have always been disempowered; family systems, pushing children’s physical and emotional boundaries, education systems, the social importance of being the ‘nice girl/guy’ all condition us to a greater or lesser extent.
Social systems can be more easily externalised than belief systems, which are definitionally internal.
When a person, or an organisation, dictates or strongly influences your belief system, they have power to alter your boundaries.
Your boundaries are an externalisation of part of your belief system.
The cult I was in had an answer for everything, this was one of the ways in which they discouraged individual questioning and pushed their pervasive spiritual/lifestyle rhetoric.
Your individual perspective and no, when they didn’t align with the organisation’s, were deemed wrong, or at least inferior and ‘low vibrational’.
A combination of time, investment in their ideas and mission, peer pressure, confirmation bias and wanting them to be right and actually have all the answers, led me to dissolve my boundaries.
As I became a ‘true follower’, my boundaries became those of the cult. I followed their no’s and their yes’s to a point where they became my own.
For a while, this felt comfortable. It was a relief. The responsibility for my yes and no was now theirs.
When we are told, by an external authority who we’ve come to trust and revere, who claims to have all the answers, that this is what they need to do in order to progress spiritually, it is very difficult not to believe them. Even when your body and intuition says no.
Leaving has been a journey of self-discovery. Deciding what my own boundaries truly are. I have deliberately challenged the 'no's that the cult gave me as an experiment ; seeing what will happen to me as I overcome the fear of doing the (many!) things they told me I shouldn't. A sense of freedom and expansiveness often follows when I see that these external, fear-based boundaries and codes of 'good' and 'bad' weren't true.
As I own my no and my own boundaries, amazing and surprising things can come about, and I find I am less in my head than when I was living largely by their boundary rule book.
If you struggle setting boundaries you can start small; practice vocalising what you want and responding as quickly and directly to people's questions as you can. Don't be afraid of no, we do not need to sugar coat our reality or cover it up with 'thank you' and 'if you don't mind' and other niceties that largely serve to disconnect us from what we're actually feeling.
As honesty has become a foundation of my life, so has my no. Because no is honest.
I love hearing another's no, even when it stings; I would rather receive honesty than lies.
Listening to my body, it upholds my boundaries. Any ache, twinge or emotion felt in the body is a signal to me. Doing this helps me to feel safe and secure. Unlike before, I trust myself. When my body and my boundaries talk, I listen to them and notice what they are showing me.
More now than ever before, I don’t care what others think. I know I will be ok regardless of how people react to me. I own my no. I respect my no and yes, and those of others.