The Boundaries Exercise

The Boundaries Exercise is a consent-based practice, demonstrated here by Kissing Consciousness Founder, James Blacker, and Access Consciousness Facilitator, Fiona Cutts.

This exercise can help create a Respect Culture which can help end and replace the culture of disrespect, harassment, bullying, abuse, violence, rape and murder which has overshadowed our world for too long.

It also happens to be a great aid to connection and intimacy.

I am particularly passionate about this exercise and what it can do for people. It might just change your world. Society deeply needs a fuller respect of boundaries – both other people’s and one’s own – and yet our conventional education and society doesn’t train us in this. If we can make this exercise commonplace the way Starbucks or McDonald’s or meditation or yoga are commonplace, it may revolutionize the way people treat each other and themselves, and transform our world.

Aims of The Boundaries Exercise

The aims of The Boundaries Exercise are:-

  1. Learn about your own boundaries and those of others.
  2. It allows you to practice stating your boundaries and respecting those of others.
  3. It also provides the basis for practicing our ‘Yeses’ and our ‘Nos’ – our ability to say “Yes” and “No” – in each moment of life. In other words, our ability to life from genuine Choice.
  4. Finally, it’s a great aid to connection and intimacy. It’s a very dynamic and powerful tool as a learning experience.

I first participated in the exercise when it was hosted by Jan Day and have since led it myself many times. I find it one of the easiest things a workshop leader can host, as it’s simple to set up and orchestrate, and yet the material and experience it produces is almost always rich. And the good news is that I have spoken to Jan about its origins and there is no copyright issue about using the exercise. In fact, anyone can host or participate in the exercise, which is good news if it is to become a household ‘name’ (exercise) used to underpin a healthy society.

There tends to be a wealth of insight to be gained from repeating this exercise many times, with the same or different people, perhaps across many different occasions. It’s like a fruit that can be squeezed of all its juices until you are totally able to respect your own boundaries, and all other people’s. You may soon start to notice just how prolific boundaries dynamics are in society.

How to do The Boundaries Exercise

Two people participate in the exercise as a pair, however, space permitting, you can have any number of pairs participate in the exercise at the same time – two rows of people in pairs facing each other.

Typically, it is done with one male and one female, or more specifically, with the gender or genders you are attracted to. It is primarily a tool for understanding and honouring boundaries in relationships, so it is most effective with the gender you’re attracted to, however, there is still potentially much to be learned and gained from the exercise when that’s not the case.

The two participants stand facing each other, a few yards apart, and take turns at two roles: The ‘signaller’ and the ‘responder’. The ‘signaller’ has two body positions to use as signals to the second person, the ‘responder’, to let the responder know in each moment whether they are – or aren’t – welcome to walk towards the signaller.

The Signals

  • Both hands down at the sides, palms facing forwards, arms straight, means “You’re welcome to move towards me.”
  • Both hands in front of the chest, palms facing forwards, elbows bent, means “You’re not welcome to walk towards me – please don’t come any closer.”

Over the course of the two or three minutes of the exercise, the position of the signaller’s hands may move back and forth between the two positions at will, from not welcome to welcome to not welcome to welcome, etc., as they see fit. If the hands are down by the sides to indicate that the responder is welcome to walk towards the signaller, the responder may do so, but they don’t have to.

As with the Intuitive Loving Touch process, both participants are always entirely operating with choice.

If, whilst the responder is walking toward the signaller, the signaller moves their hands back to the “You’re not welcome to walk towards me” position, the responder must stop moving forwards immediately.

The responder is not required to move backwards in this instance, although they may choose to do so. Both parties always have the option to move backwards at any time if they so wish, which is why it is always a good idea if both start at least a yard away from the wall.

However, it is not particularly the aim of the exercise that the signaller moves backwards, as they are in control of the degree to which the responder is allowed to move forward. Theirs is essentially a standing still role.

In return, the responder is in control of the degree to which they choose to move forward based on what the signaller invites.

After the first exercise the participants swap roles, and the responder has a go at being the signaller, and the signaller gets to be the responder.

If, for whatever reason, the responder does not respond to the signaller’s boundaries I would terminate the exercise immediately, though I have never seen that happen. And, of course, any participant may stop the exercise at any point if they wish to. It’s all a matter of choice.

Sharing a Debrief

Optionally, the two participants may sit down together after the exercise for a minute or two to share their experiences with each other: How you felt, what it brought up for you, etc.

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