A quiet, powerful offering of comfort and support from the land here and some total bad ass boundary setting and boundary breaking plants. For moments we're not with trusted friends to help us make sense of the world, when we're feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, emotionally hurt/stepped on by someone or something, confused and momentarily sad, or we're preparing to have a conversation or for an event where we're likely to feel that way.
Warning: If you are highly sensitive, empathic, intuitive, and a listener to land, forests, fields, wildlife, and silence, this balm may cause you to surprise, scare, and delight yourself when moving in the human world, because here having better boundaries often means speaking your truth and making changes—often changes you’re not entirely sure you’re ready for. Sometimes long-overdue changes you’re ready for but you couldn’t fully see on your own. For connected-to-everything sensitive folk, sometimes speaking up about how we’re really feeling as an individual can take us by surprise. And change can happen rapidly after we see how we truly feel. For example, because I was so drained by a busy makers market weekend recently, a day later I slathered my hands and inhaled Better Boundaries Balm before a zoom call of a board I sit on. I was tired and still in an overwhelmed state. It had been a while since I used the balm, and I forgot that the wise plants don’t just help sensitive me with establishing & maintaining healthy boundaries on the surface, they also help me speak my mind, speak up when I’m being hurt, and drop stale, outdated ways of being that I need to let go of. These plants support me in being more honest with myself and far more honest about how I’m feeling and more willing to speak. On the call, I was surprised and disappointed by the actions and assumptions of others in the meeting. And after taking a moment to reflect after the meeting, I said so. Almost immediately. That’s huge for me, especially in this group where my inclination is to protect folks younger than me. And those actions of mine caused me to realize it was time to leave the group that I’d loved for 10 years. Because the beautiful response that I then received was powerful and wonderful enough I decided that I wasn’t needed the way I once was. And I was leaving the group in great hands. I knew the young human I was supporting would do just fine without me. So. These plants are bad ass. Leaning on these plants, for you, sensitive spirit, may mean you become a total bad ass/more bad ass than you already experience yourself to be, too. Sensitive folk, if you’re like me, you may find yourself surprised by what you’re willing to say, and do, and let go off when you become aware that this land and these local plants, trees, and lichen have your back. I just thought I should warn you, because I know these plants well and I make this balm, and it still surprises the hell out of me. 😊
Ingredients: Ethically gathered Whidbey Island wild rose petals and buds, stinging nettles, and yarrow (both wild gathered and grown at Ritual Mischief) and windfall western red cedar and usnea lichen (gathered off nearby forest floors after winter windstorms) and Hawthorn berries (gathered in the Skagit valley) infused into organic extra virgin olive oil for 7 weeks to 4 months depending on the plant, plus local beeswax, dried Whidbey rose petals and yarrow and windfall usnea (sprinkled on top), and two drops of rose absolute (rose in jojoba oil) essential oil.
To use: Moving slowly in all steps if possible… 1. Breathe as you rub a little of this balm into your palms to warm it. 2. Cup your hands over your nose and inhale. 3. Slowly make fists and open your fists--a few times--noticing and appreciating your amazing hands, your strong and fluid self, and/or recalling your remarkable ability to move and make choices about what you let into your thoughts, home, community, life, and/or newsfeed. 4. Breathe deeply until you notice and let your body do what it most wants to do. Listen if you want to listen. Cry if you want to cry. Go for a walk or dance or jump around if you want to move. Scream if you want to scream. Or create something. 5. Share how you’re really feeling with someone or ask for help. These are deep strengths that many humans—at least me and my humans—tend to need a lot of practice with to get good at, especially if our ancestors and family weren't/aren’t great at it. Practice now. Share how you really feel or ask for help from a person, tree, animal, river, ocean, star, mountain, God, ancestor, beloved author or artist, flower, bumblebee, etc.--who you share with/ask is entirely up to you. Just share. Just ask. 6. Be still, notice, and receive the help, wherever it comes from and however imperfect it may be, and when you receive it, send out thanks for it, as you’re ready. 7. Repeat any of the previous steps that helped you until you can... 8. Say to yourself/selves "I'm okay. I've got this." or "We're ok. We've got this." before you move on with your day, week, year, life.
When to use
Here, we find Better Boundaries Balm useful when we're alone and momentarily:
- Worried. I'm worried about a conversation that I just had or that I'm about to have with someone about differences between us or about the boundaries we don't want crossed or that have already been crossed.
- Emotionally hurting. When I feel like somebody just stomped on my heart, ignored me (and/or my people) completely, assumed the worst of me/us, or walked all over me (emotionally). Or, sometimes I'm hurting because I'm realizing that I crossed somebody else's boundaries and that I hurt them. These plants support me whether I'm the hurt-er or the hurt-ee. That's one of the best things about plants. Simple presence, without judgement.
- Sad and confused. When I'm momentarily sad and confused because a conversation didn't go well or an important-to-me event or meeting or experience didn't happen at all as I hoped or expected it would.
- Overwhelmed. For me, this is usually in response to spending too much time in a large group, in a too-busy place, with a group of extroverts, or in the presence of a person in deep and repressed emotional pain who has been lashing out. Or when I work past the point I needed to rest and relax. Or I needed help but didn’t ask. Or I’ve put off having an honest conversation avoiding conflict for too long. Or spending far too much time again reading the news or listening to my giant community on social media without spending time in nature and having in-person one-on-one experiences in equal portion.
- Inspired to quietly support a friend. I like to give this balm as a gift, out of love, to very close friends and family who are sensitive spirits themselves or who have been asking about boundary setting or talking about struggling with how to get along with other people in their lives and asking for advice. I tend to prefer the wordless advice of forests and fields most days. This balm is my advice.
Important: If you're feeling chronically worried, sad, emotionally hurt, depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, it's time to open to receiving more help. Reach out to a trusted someone or group or organization and ask for help. Now. It took me almost 50 years to learn to receive help, and I'm still learning. We all show up at this place at some point: frustrated, angry, hurting, exhausted, needing help and not wanting to admit or accept it. Especially when we come from people who, for generations, have had to be strong mostly on their own, or thought they had to be. These are the things we're here to help heal for ourselves, and through us, our world! Better Boundaries Balm is helpful in small moments of overwhelm and hurting until you can reconnect to trusted friends, loved ones, and find other help. It is NOT a replacement for human community support, which we deeply need.
Tip: This balm is a great gift for yourself and for your closest friends and family. I don’t recommend giving this to people who don't completely trust and love and adore you or who won't offer you the benefit of the doubt. They could take it the wrong way, making life worse, not better, for all of you. In addition to the plants within and all the ancestors who've had relationships with these plants, you and your loving, trusting relationships are part of why this balm works. As so many indigenous people, and herbalists, and others deeply connected to the land say, "We are the medicine. Together.”
Size/packaging: Reusable 2-ounce, food-safe, screw-top tin. See the Packaging page of this website for more details.
Medical Disclaimer: It's believed that cedar can have a stimulating effect on the gastrointestinal tract, and possibly the uterus, so your doctor may advise against using this during pregnancy (JJ Purcell, The Herbal Apothecary). The information on this page is for general reference for further exploration and study. It is not intended as a replacement for professional medical advice. See the Medical Disclaimer page of this website for more details. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
What our relationships with local plants bring us! Your experience of the plants in this balm may be remarkably different from ours—that’s the nature of relationships with the living. You may simply love the plants for their smell or the memories that they bring up in you or how soft the balm feels or for the balm’s ability to offer you a momentary green and plant-y hug in a “Humans-suck!” kind of day. That's great! And. Here’s what our relationships with the local plants in this salve bring to us here:
- Rose petals - Calm my nerves, lift my spirits, and connect me with ancestor presence, which never fails to open my heart. Ease my stress, lower tension within me, and sooth my heart when it feels broken. Thanks to my teacher Julie Charette Nunn, I've learned to sit within wild rose thickets until I experience them as whole civilizations of activity and life and me as part of them. Thorns play valuable roles--warning and keeping out those who move in uninvited, or with unwelcome intent, and those who are too big or fast moving for those already in the space. Value your thorns.
- Stinging nettles - Taught me to love more fierce and sensitive parts of myself and others. Brush against them in the wilderness without asking permission and they will hurt like hell. Ask for permission, pick the very tops (where they want to be picked) deliberately and at the right time, and their sting by won’t be so bad. And this feared “weed” is also a wonderful food and beverage, in addition to teaching boundaries. A true guru of boundaries, a true ally of humans, but only for those who take the time to understand their power and their magic.
- Yarrow - Ancestors and many present-day herbalists use yarrow for all sorts of things, from stopping bleeding to supporting blood circulation to preventing infection. My love for yarrow has to do with its ability to bring pollinators, its remarkable soft intricate leaves, complex and empowering unmistakable scent, and its total bad-ass emotional support. Yarrow helps me see--and name out loud--necessary boundaries. Helps Introvert and Empath me feel less overwhelmed in groups, grounds and uplifts me, and somehow both stimulates and relaxes me simultaneously. I just love the mystery and power of yarrow. Yarrow can awaken my senses to the point I feel like I have enhanced perception, which is useful when dealing with people I strongly disagree with or fear. I’ve read that yarrow strengthens and firms our energetic boundaries. I can say that if I have to break ties with a loved one again, you can bet this time I'll be holding on to yarrow as I do it, and maybe I'll give them a bouquet with a little yarrow in it too. Recognize and value your strength and courage.
- Hawthorn berries - Their leaves, flowers and berries support our hearts—emotional and physical. Some herbalists drop a thorn or two into boundaries formulations. A wise and witchy move. ❤️ Here we’ve made good friends with several groves of trees, and they’ve helped Daniel’s high blood pressure and heart irregularities. Remarkable friends. Ours say the berries are better for boundaries at this time. There are enough thorns in people’s sides these days.
- Western red cedar – Considered a “tree of life” in the bioregion where we live, it connects me with an ancient source of life. Humbles me. One friend here sits on the earth, back against a cedar trunk, to support difficult decision making. Just being in the presence of these trees helps me return to my true self. It's hard to describe. They fill me with wonder, and it's impossible for me to be petty and mean-spirited when I'm touching or near a cedar tree, branch, or hold the cedar-infused oil that I create. And wow, have I needed that across the past 10 years! Dr. J J Pursell, in The Herbal Apothecary, says that their flower essence clears energy for new beginnings and protects energy from others when one is unable to set clear boundaries. The oil in this balm works similarly for me. Value your elders.
- Usnea lichen - Touching very old, long strands of Usnea in the woods is magical. They feel friendly and interested in us young folks. They hold a well-worn, concise wisdom beyond what I'll be capable of understanding in this short lifetime. In the emotional space, Usnea helps me maintain personal boundaries, maybe especially in the moments that I feel like I'm giving too much of myself. But not in expected ways! Usnea demonstrates that boundaries are good, needed, and help us thrive, and also that every living thing is connected and is, in fact, my "self." So, at the bottom of things, maybe sometimes I'm worried about giving too much of myself to myself? What?! Usnea speaks to the part of me that needs to hear and remember that I am worthy--no matter what. Subtly suggests that maybe we're all deserving of love, no matter who we are, because we are part of each other. Even when we have to release someone--or many someones--out of our lives for our own sanity and health or our family's wellbeing. Usnea is clearly a they—part algae and part fungus. Side by side, among themselves. Whatever else they do, Usnea's presence surfaces Kid Me—the one who believes in wonder, and magic, and fairy folk who decorate trees, and in people. For most humans, it's lovely to be in the presence of anyone who believes in both humanity and the magic of this glorious place. Value wonder.