Better Boundaries Balm

by Ritual Mischief


Quiet support for moments we're not with trusted friends and loved ones to help us make sense of the world, and we're feeling emotionally hurt/stepped on by someone or something or we're preparing to have a conversation or for an event where we're likely to feel that way. A moment when we could use a small offering of surprise and delight.

Ingredients: Ethically gathered Whidbey Island wild rose petals and buds, dandelion flowers, and yarrow (both wild gathered and grown here at Ritual Mischief), Whidbey western red cedar (windfall branches after storms), and Whidbey usnea lichen (gathered off the forest floor or from windfall branches) infused into organic extra virgin olive oil for 6 weeks to 4 months (depending on the plant), plus local beeswax, dried rose petals and yarrow and usnea sprinkled across the top, and just one drop of cedar and 2-3 drops of rose absolute (rose in jojoba oil) essential oils.

To use: 1. Breathe slowly as you rub a little of this balm into your palms. 2. Cup your hands over your nose and inhale slowly. 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 and let your body most wants to do. 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. 5. Ask for help. This is a deep strength 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 weren't great at it. Practice now. Ask a person, tree, animal, river, ocean, star, mountain, God, ancestor, beloved author or artist, flower, bumblebee, etc.--who you ask is entirely up to you. Just ask. 6. Notice and receive the help, wherever it comes from and however imperfect it may be, and send out thanks for it. 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 really:

  • 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, or ignored me (and/or my people) completely, or assumed the worst of me, 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. Plants in this balm support me whether I'm the hurt-er or the hurt-ee. That's one of the best things about plants. No judgement.
  • Sad and confused. When I'm sad and/or confused because a conversation didn't go well or an important-to-me event or experience didn't happen at all as I hoped or expected.
  • Overwhelmed. For me, usually in response to spending too much time in a large group, in a too-busy place, or in the presence of a person in deep and repressed emotional pain who has been lashing out, or spending far too much time again reading the news or listening to my whole large community on social media without talking to trusted others and enjoying life in equal portion. 
  • Inspired to quietly support a friend. Now and then friends ask for advice about setting or maintaining boundaries, and I want to support them. I love to listen, and as a writer and introvert and researcher, I don't find words easily or quickly in person. I like to give this balm as a gift, out of love, to someone who has been asking about boundary setting or talking about struggling with how to get along with other people.

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. Also start practicing simply saying "Yes, thank you." whenever trusted others offer to help. Some of us have to get comfortable with allowing imperfect help--coming from unexpected places--to be received or good enough, too. It took me almost 50 years to learn these things, and I'm still learning. We all show up at this place at some point: frustrated, angry, hurting, at the end of our ropes, 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 people! Better Boundaries Balm is helpful in small moments of hurting until you can reconnect to trusted friends, loved ones, and find other help. It's NOT a replacement for community support, which we all deeply need.

Tip: This balm is a great gift for yourself and for your closest loved ones and friends--people who trust you completely. Don't give this to people who don't completely trust you. They could take it the wrong way, and life could get worse, not better, for all of you. In addition to the plants 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, herbalists, and others deeply connected to the land say: "We are the medicine." 

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 it 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 salve 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 salve feels or for the salve'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 our emotional selves here:

  • Rose petals - Calm my nerves, lift my spirits, and connect me with ancestor presence, which never fails to open my heart. Her presence eases my stress, lowers tension within me, and sooths my heart when it feels broken. Thanks to my herbalist teacher Julie Charette Nunn, who has a special connection with acres of wild Nootka rose on their land and elsewhere, I've spent a lot of time sitting with, under, and within wild rose thickets the past few years. What a gift. I used to be scared of the Rugosa rose thickets on the land here, because their stems are so thick and entirely thorny (hello boundaries!) and their thickets grow so large and in abundance without apology or, apparently, any sense of decorum or reason. They are SO wild and bad ass. I've learned to sit within thickets until I notice them as whole civilizations of activity and life. Thorns play valuable roles--warning or keeping out those who move in uninvited, or with unwelcome intent, and those who are just too big or fast moving for those already in the space.
  • Dandelion flowers - Supports unpretentiousness, surfacing my playful self and inner child. Grounds my scattered emotions. Strengthens my sense of self as more of me shows up. Sweetens bitterness. Softens snap judgements. Yeah, it's a total bad ass. Most "weeds" are. Are you listening to weeds yet?
  • Yarrow - Ancestors and many present-day healers 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 it's ability to bring pollinators to the yard, it's remarkable soft intricate leaves, complex and empowering unmistakable scent, and it's total bad-ass emotional support. It 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 both disagree with and fear. I’ve read that yarrow strengthens and firms our energetic boundaries, although I can't recall where I read that now. 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 that I'll give them a bouquet with a little yarrow in it or maybe this salve, too. 
  • Western red cedar - This is the 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 her imagination and decision making. Just being in the presence of these trees somehow helps me return to my true self. It's hard to describe, but I can say that they fill me with wonder, and it's flat out 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. How cool is that? The oil in this balm works similarly for me. 
  • Usnea lichen - Touching very old, long strands of usnea in the woods is magical. They feel friendly and interested in us young folks. They seem to be holding a well-worn and concise wisdom well beyond what I'll be capable of understanding in this short lifetime. I like to learn with usnea, directly from usnea, without too much human intervention. 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 all of 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. They seem to be here, in part, to help forests and forest dwellers just breathe, and to return some life elements back to soil and air and those wandering in the woods, helping return powerful dead tree limbs to the earth and air to become something new again. Still a mystery to me, and they always will be. Because whatever else they do, usnea's presence surfaces Kid Me—the one who believes in wonder, and magic, and fairies who decorate trees, and in people. And 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.

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