What is Emotional Permaculture?

Whether you call it self-care, zone 00, or your inner landscape, this course is all about using ecological design principles and strategies to master our mindset and thus, our behavior.

Let’s start by making sure we’re on the same page about the definition of “permaculture” and then I will tell you what I mean by “emotional permaculture.”

If you aren’t familiar with the concept, or even if you are, pop over here and check out my article What is Permaculture

I also hope you’ll read this one, about that pesky Third Ethic…

From there, we can easily delve into the conversation about the fact that traditional permaculture, a la Mollison and Holmgren, while presenting a solid set of physical land-use approaches, largely fails to recognize the essential social elements within any community, and almost completely misses the importance of the designer’s mental health and emotional well-being.

I believe that, if we can tighten our design, and spiral all the way inward to gain a mastery over our emotional landscape, then the big picture will snap into place much more clearly, and perhaps we might even have a chance at survival as a species.

All cataclysmic inevitabilities aside, Permaculture, in practice, whether agricultural, structural, social, emotional, or any combination of the above, is simply loads of fun. A permaculture life, on any scale, is filled with wonder and abundance!

There is truly no place I would rather be than out in the yard, moving stuff around and trying to figure out how to always make my home and garden more beautiful, more productive, less consumptive, less wasteful.

I especially love the emotional stuff — sit down with some brainiac friends and have a look at any list of permaculture principles. Ask yourselves how they apply to human relationships and you’ll have days of lively conversation about it.

So, that’s why I created this workshop: to provoke these conversations in our global online community, and (hopefully) to inspire each of you to bring little bits of emotional permaculture into your daily life. Like yoga, like writing, like art, permaculture is a life-path, a daily practice. 

When you train your mind to remember permaculture theories, to pull them out like a master craftsperson would pull out her favorite chisel, then you begin to see everything around you in a different way.

These slow, steady changes in the way you experience the world shouldn’t be taken lightly, nor should they be rushed.​

One step at a time, we become adept at Caring for the Earth, Caring for the People, and Sharing the Abundance that spills forth from every corner of the permaculture path.

Where do we begin? With our own behavior.

Case Study: Chartes Labyrinth in Northern Arizona

This was a permaculture landscape installation I did in Spring of 2017.  It was a septic leach field, covered in gravel. Ugly and visible from the patio. The client struggles with depression and wanted to start walking meditation. I built her a labyrinth, and now she walks daily. The land looks better, the woman feels better. If I hadn’t valued the emotional zones as much as I do the land-based areas, I wouldn’t have thought to recommend the labyrinth to her. But it was the perfect application, on all counts. Problems became solutions. Meanwhile, I got a great workout moving all those rocks and had quite the meditative moment with it, figuring it all out, finding the stones on her landscape near Sedona, Arizona. 

​Using Permaculture Design for Personal and Cultural Transformation

In this video I’ll revisit the core permaculture principles and discuss how they relate to your emotional landscape.

Emotional Permaculture Principles

​Principles to Live By

As I mentioned in the video, at the heart of permaculture is a set of principles and proverbs that support a sustainable approach to the design of both inner and outer landscapes. 

In the current culture of political and environmental chaos, it is more important than ever that we cultivate a personal ability to not only endure catastrophic conditions, but also to find joy in the process. 

The chart below contains the 9 principles that I mentioned in the video. I’ve simplified the classic “principle” phrases and picked my favorites to use in this workshop.

You don’t need experience with permaculture for permaculture design principles to work for you. The same principles and design process that transform landscapes can transform your inner landscape. Your intentional design will help you to focus, and therefore empower yourself. You will be stronger and more resilient with self care and creative work designed into your everyday life.


​The Designer Limits the Yield

Your hands-on homework adds an additional principle: “the designer limits the yield.”

​Part 1:

Go for a short, brisk walk or do a bunch of jumping jacks to clear your mind. 


  • Look back through all of the principles on that poster above. 
  • Make a list of questions you need to ask yourself. 
  • Make a list of the questions you’ve been avoiding, too.

Those are the ones to start with!

Go down the list and write a few sentences on each principle, answering each question. This is just for you, a self-assessment. 

​Part 2:

This permaculture principle states that the only limit to a design is your own imagination. It says that there is a better idea or concept that you just haven’t thought of yet. 

Yes, I know there are extreme situations, where people really do not have any control over their environment, and their lives are just horrible and desperate. But for now, we are talking about you. We’re talking about us, here in this workshop, with our love of the land and our access to the internet.

Now ask yourself, how do you limit your yield?

Come and share in our group.

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