by Amina Knowlan | July 2008
From Differentiating in the Territory of Intimacy in Communityi
THE NATURE OF BOUNDARIES and commitment is personal and contextual. There are no sure maps for navigating the complexities of the human heart in community. Beyond overt violation or abuse, there are no moral codes that apply in every context to every human being.
When we create the capacity for an expanded range of intimacy to come into the open in a group, many of the codes we have adopted — formally or informally — are insufficient. We are on the frontiers of human relationships. When Lewis and Clark set out on their epic journey, their maps failed them within the first ten days of their journey. In a context that supports a full exploration of this territory of intimacy in community, you may find yourself similarly without adequate maps. Without maps, what can we trust?
Through a Matrix lens, what we can trust is our capacity and willingness to communicate in the open — within the eyes and ears of the whole (the group or community). We can trust our personal sense of integrity, especially if it is subjected to and open to the wisdom of the whole. When boundaries are clear, we have more room to live within an expansive field of love and intimacy. By staying in connection and communicating openly about the complexities, the barriers dissolve while the boundaries are clarified.
This phrase offers a valuable distinction. A "barrier," in the Encarta World Dictionary, is defined as, 1) something that obstructs or separates, often by emphasizing differences, 2) a structure ... intended to prevent access or keep one place separate from another.
When do our internal barriers — those fortresses of protection and identity — prevent us from truly seeing and meeting each other? A barrier defines, "This is me. That is you." When it is held too rigidly, it may declare, "You need a Visa to get in here and I'm not going to give you one." ii When it is held too loosely, or not adequately constructed, its absence may seem to draw others in, "Here's everything you didn't ever want to know about me." Or, when do our internal barriers serve to preserve a sense of self or times of aloneness?
The relevant definition of a boundary is "the point at which something ends or beyond which it becomes something else." It is synonymous with a frontier or an edge. When we cross a particular boundary, we are leaving one state, place or form and entering another. When we dissolve barriers we are opening to allow ourselves to be impacted by another. We are opening to allow our ego or separate sense of identity to soften or dissolve. We open to Union with the Divine. We open to love in the present moment.
When there is enough development of all of the relationships in a group to support open communication about our feelings for someone else, allowing sensual energy to be a part of the whole connection without having sex, supports the opening of the heart and the ecstatic life force in the life of the group. When the internal barrier between the heart and sexuality does not split these energies off from each other, it is perhaps much less likely that individuals will compromise their commitments to other loved ones. Love always guides us toward the benefit of the whole. Lust does not.
The interplay between our internal barriers and the choices and commitments we make regarding external boundaries dances us to many frontiers and edgy, shadowy places in our conscious awareness?or lack thereof. I believe that these edges can be explored consciously if we are willing to expose our love and our trepidation openly in the group.
Initially, when the Berlin Wall came down, there was incredible curiosity about what was on the other side. Then there was disappointment that it looked very much like what was on their side. The people of East Berlin reported that they did not miss the oppression of being locked in and kept separate. They did miss the mystery.
Think about the application of this to human relationships. Especially when boundaries are crossed or barriers are held too rigidly or too loosely. How many recognize the familiar pattern of jumping into relationships — or, into bed together — too quickly? It is perpetuated by almost every romantic movie every made. In these scenarios, we are captured by desire and driven by projection 95% of the time.
How many times does an affair end with the realization that the same boredom sets in, the same problems arise, and the same barriers within each person direct the same drama with the same ending. What is it to protect the Mystery of each other's becoming? What is it to serve the Mystery of the Union between us and let the right form for our connection emerge from an awareness of the nature of our place within the greater Whole? When we do this, we often strip away or dissolve barriers to loving and being loved. We respect and clarify the boundaries of right form by communicating openly about our different needs, preferences and commitments and savoring the delightfully mysterious nature of love and life.
i Knowlan, Amina, excerpted from Matrix Leadership, forthcoming.
ii Regan, Max, spinning metaphors in a writing coaching session, June 11, 2008.
Profound and inspirational It transforms in all the ways we live, learn, and work. My partner and I have been compelled to weave the learnings into the work we do in the world. With the Relational Matrix, we help organizations improve their collective relationship to change, and empower people to arrive wholly present in their work.
— Frank B.