Let’s change the way we think about permaculture, let’s move forward from the garden and into the invisible structures and microscopic ecosystems of the self. Think of self-care at the core of a spiral, what may seem like small actions here have huge ripple effects on the way you interact with your world. Here are three steps to start you on your journey of internal integrated design.
Getting to know what makes you, you is the first important leg of the integrated journey. You can’t design a system without knowing who it’s for.
Think of yourself as a living ecosystem, made up of billions of interactions and multiple layers of interwoven systems. The physical body, what we put into and with whom we share it. The mental body, our knowledge, thoughts, feelings and emotions which have an important interrelationship to our physical health. And our environment, how we relate to the world and our external relationships. Permculture can be applied to any system that is designed and what better place to start than the self!
- Are you really who you think you are? Most of us are walking around blissfully unaware of the billions of microscopic organisms that call our bodies home, some of which are harmful but the great majority of which cause us no ill affect at all and even keep us alive! Our microbiome accounts for ten times the number of the cells that make up our body and if you could somehow collect all these little creatures they’d weigh almost a kilo! Playing important roles in our internal permaculture such as, strengthening the immune system, manufacturing life giving vitamins and studies are beginning to reveal the role of gut bacteria in our mental health. Some studies going as far as to say that they can change your personality! You can give your inner-ecosystem a boost by eating foods high in fiber and by regularly consuming fermented or microbe rich foods. Just as important is avoiding things high in preservatives, which are designed to kill microscopic life and by responsibly using antibiotics, only when absolutely necessary.
- How we design our invisible structures in permaculture paves the way for how we interact with and relate to the world. This includes but is not limited to, the air we breathe, the information we expose ourselves to and the social networks we allow to effect us on a day to day basis. Using systems thinking and by following the permaculture principals we can design things like, how we earn our income, where we spend our time and even who we spend that time with.
Taking time to explore, through external and internal pathways, both equally important to connect with self.
- Travel, despite the distance or exotic nature of where you go, allows us to self reflect. Our day to day external world has been removed and the shock is enough to show us how much of an affect it has played on our thoughts, feelings and thus choices in life. This time away is vital for getting to know one’s place in the world and in one’s self.
- Even making time to meditate or practice mindfulness, then going and reflecting with a notebook and your favourite pen is a great starting point for internal permaculture design.
Setting our cardinal points and focusing on the way forward. Goal setting is the perfect manifestation of permaculture of the self.
- Long term goals, are always important to get a grasp of where you’d like to be heading. I find it reassuring to look at my goals on a bad day and know what I’m aiming for. I can reassess what I want to be focused on and in some cases what is a path that I don’t want to be on and thus should be left behind. When designing long term goals they should always be a) flexible and b) a vague expression of a path or direction, rather than a set of strict or ridged definitions. This is because life changes and so you evolve along the way, but you can still have a core set of goals that align with what you want in life. This is your true North when a freak storm (life) is abruptly thrown your way.
- Short term objectives are the stepping stones and firm foundation that builds the path to our long term visions. These should be both quantifiable and achievable with a timeframe you can sustainably manage.
Permaculture of the self is a limitless world with immense potential that you as a designer have the power to set in action. Start with these three simple steps and you’ll forever change the way you view permaculture and your internal systems.
- Written and photography by William Verschuur