In this excerpt from Mirrors in the Earth, an herbalist and flower essence practitioner offers her guidance on cultivating a mental garden—with yourself as the center.
When we set boundaries in our lives, we reclaim our lifeforce. We say to the world that we deserve to be here and that we will carve out the space and time that we need so our gifts can flourish. When we set boundaries, we bring vividness and color not only to our own lives but to the lives of all those around us.
Boundaries open the door to coming into a reciprocal relationship with nature itself. When we learn how to protect and enshrine our own selves, we naturally develop a healthy respect for the agency, autonomy, and boundaries of all beings—creating spaces where every creature’s sovereignty is recognized. When you honor your boundaries, you naturally cultivate respect for others. When you care for your own personhood, you open your eyes to seeing the world as a collection of animate individuals who deserve the same kind of enshrinement.
In a culture where a lack of understanding and respect for boundaries can be seen everywhere—from how big business tramples the landscape, to the colonialism that colors our history—learning how to hold good boundaries is a kind of repair-work that can help heal the world. If we, as a culture, knew good boundaries, would we still frack mountains or dig under the mantle of the earth for oil? Boundary making isn’t a selfish endeavor, it is a lifegiving reorientation for the Earth.
Inside of you is a power. That power is made of the gifts that you were meant to bring to this world—your sensitivity, your compassion, and the bright brilliance of your caring heart. Nourish the walls of your own inner paradise, and like hothouse roses blooming all season long, there will be no end to the bounty of what you can offer this Earth. Set your boundaries, and you will become a gardener, not only for your life, but for a world that is coming home to itself.
Exercise: Cultivating Your Garden
The following exercise can help you begin to recognize the contours of your own garden—what needs to be weeded and what wants to be lovingly encouraged. Be brave, be honest. Step into your role as the head gardener of your life.
1. We all have people in our inner circle, those people we spend the most time with or who take up the most bandwidth of thought or care in our lives. Make a list of the top ten people who come to mind.
Beginning with the first person on your list, imagine that this person just called you or showed up at your door for a visit. Write down your immediate visceral or emotional reaction to seeing them. Be sure to use feeling words as well as physical descriptions of any sensations inside your body.
2. With this information in tow, create a physical map of all these people in your life. Place yourself in the middle, like a shade tree at the center of the garden. Intuitively place each of the ten people somewhere in the surrounding landscape. Where are they in relation to you? Where are they in relation to each other? Get creative with colored pencils or objects on a tabletop. Now step back and look. How do you feel about this garden constellation?
3. Try moving people around in the garden. In front, behind, out to the edges, closer. This will tell you who to set boundaries with. Notice how you feel with each move. Imagine this is a map of your dream garden and each person is a plant. Where should they be?
4. Make a note next to each person who you decided to move further away from you. Write down what actions you could take to help them find their proper place in your garden. Whenever guilt comes up, try telling yourself, “I am the gardener of my life, and the living world is fed by any boundary I make that supports my own light.”
5. Anytime you need to, you can redraw this constellation or create it with objects somewhere in your home. Move the people and plants around, and know that these small representational gestures will create a ripple in your larger reality.
Try doing this exercise with anything else in your life where you need to clarify your boundaries, including work projects, home improvements, and so on.
From Mirrors in the Earth by Asia Suler, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2022 by Asia Suler. Reprinted by permission of North Atlantic Books.