Come meander with me on the pathless path of the Heart
in these anecdotal,
sometimes inspiring, sometimes personal meanderings of the Heart's opening in the every-day-ness of Life...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Fence...

Life, as it always does, afforded an opportunity for me to see things differently last weekend.  Who knew that a Fence would become fodder for awareness, and a blog post. :)

Our neighbor came to the door Friday evening wanting to know if he could take out the split rail fence on the property line between us, saying that the fence was not functional.  The real issue was that it kept him from easily accessing our side of his raised garden beds that abutted the fence, which meant he had to stand in our yard and lean over the fence to get to them. 

The fence belonged to neither of us, but had been put there by the developer many, many years ago.   My husband answered the door. I was preoccupied somewhere else in the house and missed the whole thing.  Anyway, B said – sure!    And then came to tell me what had transpired.

Enter drama…

My ego-mind immediately took over.  What does he mean that a fence is not “functional”, of course it’s functional, it sets boundaries! – I retorted.   It’s symbolic I argued.  It’s the principle of the thing, I snorted, feeling dismissed and disturbed that I had been left out of the decision. (No control issues there! :))  I felt myself go into resist mode.  My husband thought I was crazy and couldn’t believe I was making such a big deal about it.  He said to say no would have created uneccessary tension between the neighbor and us.  Maybe so – but still, I felt it necessary to defend my point. :)  Isn’t that the way the unawakened mind works… :)

It was obvious, even to me, that something in me had been triggered.  I suddenly felt vulnerable.  I watched as it took our neighbor about an hour to lift the fence posts out of the ground with a hydrolic car jack, and dismantle the fence.

For some crazy reason I felt sad, felt a sense of loss of what it symbolized – the letting down of boundaries, and a deeper fear of being more open; something that, from a spiritual perspective, I thought I really wanted anyway.  But now that it was really happening, in a symbolic way, it made me uncomfortable, feeling somehow unprotected and vulnerable.  Interesting how we are wired for safety and protection, and our egos become fearful of emancipation.

As Yoda said in a movie once – “You must unlearn what you have learned.”    

I am aware enough to know that a fence is only a symbol of a boundary.  That in reality there is no separation, no dividing line.  And yet, my mind *likes* the *idea* of separation, of yours and mine, of “other” who needs a reminder to keep from violating “my space.”  How un-enlightened of me. :)  Robert Frost, a New England poet, had a famous line in one of his poems, Mending Wall: “good fences make good neighbors.”  That has always seemed to work for me! :)  But an awakened view of the world requires a letting go of boundaries, of the sense of “other.”  I was being faced with that in real life, not in some idealistic spiritual concept.

Each day it became less and less of an issue as acceptance set in; cautionary acceptance, “what if” acceptance – like: what if his teenage son sees this as an invitation to come into our yard; not like the fence has kept him out before!  Once again, it’s only symbolic.  It doesn’t really keep anybody out.  It just makes *me* feel better that there is an *illusion* of a boundary that one must respect, providing a false sense of security and protection, an *illusion* of safe separateness.

Isn’t this how the world works too.  We create these false boundaries thinking it will keep us safe, like fences between countries.  We create tribes, communities, circles and in-groups.  Even beliefs and belief systems become fences that we create to keep us separate and safe.  But something always manages to get through – whether literally or symbolically.  Something crosses the boundary that we have created, disturbs our comfort zone, and forces us to awaken from our illusions of our separateness; our illusions of control; our illusions of safety.

Yet, there *is* something about a fence that I like. :) 

Mirabai Starr recently wrote about this sense of “other”, of separation, in her blog post “Otherizing.”   Here is an excerpt that struck me.  I highly recommend you read the whole post to get the context.

“The illusion of separation is what causes violence and oppression.  The minute we identify an individual or a group as being Other, we banish ourselves to a spiritual wasteland and justify treating someone else with anything less than loving kindness. [We] draw artificial boundaries to bisect a circle of our inter-connectedness with all beings.  [But] when we sit together and begin to peel back the layers…..it turns out that just about everyone everywhere affirms that Ultimate Reality is a unified field, and that no matter what names we ascribe to it…..it’s name is Love.”

Top Photo is not "the fence" at the property line :)
Unfortunately I didn't have a picture of that one.
It is another split rail fence 
from another place
in the neighborhood.
Sorry for the poor quality...

2nd photo - neighbor's garden beds
right up against the property line
where the fence used to be...


  1. This is a very thought-provoking post Christine. I would have felt exactly the same way you did about the fence - in fact I am quite guarded about my own fences and boundaries here at the house - but you're right, what are they really keeping out? And what is the deeper meaning of needing these boundaries?

    1. Thank you Uma... Yes, I have had to look at all this, which is why I think these things in life happen to us, so we can begin to question these kinds of inner beliefs that we've held in our psyches. I love your question, what is the deeper meaning of needing these boundaries... And also I have asked what is the deeper need... Why do I need to feel protected? What am I trying to protect? Why does the mind revert to "other" mode? These kinds of questions can awaken us from the illusion of separateness. Thanks! :)

  2. I am always amazed at the deep thoughts you find in daily happenings. Well aesthetically a fence can be very pretty, a fence like you show has a country feel to it. In the "Fantastiks" there is a song that end "Always leave the wall."

    What you say is so true. these walls and fences keep nothing out. Just give us the illusion of safety. And possession.

    I do think however, you might have been consulted here when the neighbor came. although perhaps the decision would have become all that more difficult.

    I do hope your neighbor will share some of the veggies with you, now that he is all that more close!

    1. Thanks Suki :) When I mentioned not being consulted for the decision I was told by a family member that it would have looked like B had to ask his wife, making him look weak. :) In any case, it was still my ego who thought she should have been consulted...

      I'm sure the neighbor will share his veggies. He has offered in the past, but this time I will take him up on it :)

  3. I have lived in houses where I had fenced in yards and hated them (upkeep, limited view, etc.), but I now live in a house that doesn't have a fence, and I wish I had one! Not having a fence makes me feel more vulnerable somehow, less privacy. Thank you for such a thought provoking post!

    1. Thanks Stacy. Well, our back yard *is* fenced in with a stockade fence. The previous neighbor had a dog that kept coming into our yard and chasing the cat. Fence went up :) Some people need boundaries. lol... If that one came down I would definitely feel a lot more vulnerable, as it does provide us privacy in a dense residential neighborhood. :)

  4. Interesting what boundaries, real or imaginary can do to us. :o) We have a wood painted fence all around our property. It looks nice, but is h*%# to paint & maintain. I would like to get rid of it all. But property fences are the thing here, almost everyone has one of some kind. I grew up in a house that butted fields on two sides... Sometimes I miss that wide-open-ness... Great to catch up with you here, Christine. We're just back from some travels. ((HUGS))

    1. Hi Tracy :) Good to see you back from your trip to the US. Loved your photos, especially those lovely quilts... I've been to Lancaster County as well. Loved it!

      Yes, all the neighbors here have property fences, mostly stockade, enclosing their back yards. We do as well. This split rail fence was between the side yards, put there long ago. Out here we just let our fences weather. I also grew up on 3 acres of land (in New England) with woods and fields, but no fences. And the neighbors were not very close. So the need for fences/boundaries didn't really seem necessary. :)

  5. Great post! How much suffering comes from our illusion of separateness!

    1. Thanks David! :) Much suffering indeed!


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