On Boundaries: Containers, Fences & How They Create Freedom in Play
Updated: Feb 6, 2021
You might have heard me talk about breathable boundaries with relationships & interactions in the past. Boundaries are important in all relationships, but can often be viewed as a “buzz kill” that hinders the magic of having unknown or unexpected experiences surprise us. The opposite is actually true: good boundaries helps us open up to more possibility because when you feel safe, you have the confidence to explore more.
I like to visualize split-rail fences, as it defines a space, but allows me to still reach through to the other side… This gives me an opportunity to feel safe and on track with my goals, but explore outside my comfort zone as I see fit.
Others may prefer different types of fences though… Or have different fences for different types of interactions (ie: one type of fence for a new relationship, a different type for a family member, and another for a professional relationship…). Each person’s needs will be different depending on where we are in our lives. We may start with one type of fence, then decide we want a different type of fence later. A fence gives us a defined area of our own with the boundaries that help us relax to really enjoy that space.
I attended a conference last weekend where Leslie Blackburn facilitated a great workshop on using tantric principals for creating freedom in play. During that talk she used an example of how boundaries allow us more freedom to explore, and cited an experiment about how differently children play in an open playground with no fencing vs. a play space defined by a clear boundary. When the space is defined, children can confidently explore every area of the space right up to the boundary without hesitation. In undefined spaces, actions were more tentative, as the children were preoccupied not knowing how far they could explore the space safely.
How do you think this relates to our private play spaces as adults? How many of us take the time to define clear boundaries in our intimate relationships? How does having defined boundaries (or not) influence those interactions?
During that talk, Leslie also used another great analogy for boundaries: creating a container.
Using alchemy, water and heat can make steam, but they need a container, or boundaries, to do that otherwise what might the water do to the fire? Without the container, helping to define the intention and purpose, the water might extinguish the fire instead of working together to create the intended transformation: steam.
When two people are creating something, it can also be helpful to create a container together for that interaction. You can then add what both of you decide will further that interaction into the container. This not only helps define the experience, but also allows it to have it’s own life, separate from everything else if you want.
What I like about this analogy is how it allows for mindful compartmentalization of that space and moment. Maybe that container will be open to allow for impromptu additions? Or maybe it will be closed to allow for deep immersion in pre-defined and agreed upon focus, where the energy builds and feeds off itself… There are may options for how to create the container, but it is one that is defined collectively by those participating in the interaction.
When the moment is over, the container is no longer needed. With each new experience, another container can be defined and created as suits that moment. And at the end, even though the container is dissolved, we can choose what elements we might want to save and savor from the experience-but that is experienced singularly, in our own container at that point (unless the container you created is for a long term commitment with someone, and meant for extended use).
Moving forward, I will be employing this thought a lot more in my more intimate interactions, and I hope others find this helpful in your own lives as well.
In love and light,