Boundaries are not always about closing off completely. Healthy boundaries are flexible and adaptable. Healthy boundaries are similar to a semi-permeable membrane we can decide who/what comes in and who/what stays out. Boundaries are as much about saying yes as saying no. They give us opportunities to practice discrimination. Boundaries provide ground for real intimacy and trust to be developed. They allow us space to acknowledge and respect our individual experiences.

Setting boundaries requires you to first know where your boundaries are, to practice having safe boundaries, and to intentionally explore and push your boundaries safely into new dimensions.

I honor and respect my own boundaries when I stay true to my values, when I stand up for myself, when I ask for what I need. I do not feel ashamed when I say no. I stay safe. I stay healthy. I practice moral discrimination. I practice self compassion.

I honor your boundaries through my compassion towards you. I ask you what you need and listen to you. I acknowledge you and stay present with you without judgment. I stand up for you. I respect our differences. I respect your limitations without shaming you. I honor your vulnerability and encourage and inspire you to risk and grow. I agree to move forward, stop, and away as you ask me to.

For these exercises you will need a partner. These exercises explore the limits of our personal boundaries, and are a good way to learn safety and trust. It can provide valuable information regarding each other’s needs, quality of contact, personal space, and ability to discriminate between safe and unsafe boundaries.

Drawing Boundaries

a. Partner A: Close your eyes and imagine the edges of your personal safety zone. This is the space you feel comfortable and at ease within. Your partner should not influence this space at this point. Open your eyes and draw the zone around you. You can use your mind’s eye to draw this zone, or you can physically draw this zone with masking tape on the floor, or string, or pillows, or whatever you have handy. Make sure it is complete, back to front, side to side, and above you.

b. Partner A sit within your safety zone. Notice your feelings as you sit there. Notice your breath and body posture.

c. Partner B sit across from partner A outside of the safety zone. Notice how it feels to acknowledge the boundaries of this zone.

d. Partner A: try easing your boundaries as you feel comfortable, drawing partner B into your zone. Both partners notice how the boundary changes, and how interaction changes between you. Notice breath, posture, eye contact, energy, resonance, presence and feelings of safety and trust.

e. Partner A: try expanding your boundaries pushing partner B further away. Again both partners notice how this feels.

f. Switch places. Partner B imagine and draw your personal safety zone. Repeat steps a –e.

g. Now both partners: draw your safety zone simultaneously. What happens to the quality of relationship when both partners are sitting within their safety zones?

Feeling Boundaries

a. Partners stand facing each other from opposite sides of the room.

b. Partner A: close your eyes and imagine the outermost limit to which you can feel or sense partner B’s presence. Hold your hands out in front of you, palms outward. Keep your eyes open or closed as you feel comfortable.

c. Partner B slowly move towards Partner A. Breathe and notice how you both feel as partner B moves in. Notice breath, posture, eye contact, energy, resonance, presence, and feelings of safety and trust.

d. Partner A tell partner B to stop moving closer when you feel partner B has reached a boundary. This may be a slight feeling of discomfort, or feel like a physical wall. Breathe and notice how you feel as partner B stops.

e. Partner A may tell partner B to move in, move out, & stop as you explore partner A’s boundaries. There may be many layers. You may feel safe for a while and then feel the need to push back out. You may need to stop at every step. This is ok. The key is to go slowly and explore without judgment.

f. Try also moving in from the back or sides. Notice how the boundary length may differ from side to side or from front to back.

g. Partner B exit to the other side of the room.

h. Switch places and repeat step a-f.

i. Face each other again from opposite sides of the room.

j. Try roll- playing different emotions to see how this changes your boundaries. For example, if partner B is angry and walks angrily into partner A’s zone, does this change where partner A starts to feel unsafe? or how much resistance there is to partner B coming closer? Try anger, joy, sadness, fear, trust, compassion, judgment, openness. Partner A hold your hands out in front of you palms out. Palms out generally allows for greater sensation. Partner A how do you feel in response to partner B’s emotion? Partner A: if your eyes are closed can you guess which emotion partner B is acting out?

k. Switch places and repeat step j.

l. Try exploring when both partners roll-play emotions. The same ones or different ones. How does this change and confuse your boundaries?