Observe and Interact: Applying Permaculture Principle One to Self-Care

Permaculture Principles are derived from indigenous Peoples’ harmonious relationship with the earth and Mother Nature. Principle one advises us to observe and interact with the land around us for an entire year – all 4 seasons – before taking any action. And when we do act, we only take actions that are mutually beneficial to the earth and the people living on that land. What does this look like in our own self care practices?


At its most basic level, “observing” is about being present and attentive in our own lives.  In the book of the same name, the authors define presence as: a concept borrowed from the natural world that the whole is entirely present in any of its parts.”  This includes being present with and aware of our thoughts, feelings, and actions.  It also includes deep listening and letting go of the old to allow for change…but only after deeply observing ourselves and our interactions with others.

In Wherever You Go There You Are,  Jon Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as “paying attention, on purpose, in the present, letting go of judgment”.  Practicing mindfulness is one way to engage in self-care consistent with the directive of this permaculture principle to “Observe”.  A body scan such as the one below can provide insight into our mental, emotional, and physical state and prepare us for the next step: “Interact”.



According to the dictionary, interact means “to act together or towards others or with others”.  So, interacting is about more than just taking an action.  Interacting means we need to act in a way that is in harmony with nature, environment, and community as well as ourselves.  What might that look like in self-care?

A good first step is to listen to the body.  Recently, I decided to start running again. I started with 2 miles a day and felt amazing until day 12 when I was unable to bend my right knee without excruciating pain.  Not all messages from the body are this clear, but if we take the time to be present with our body and interact in concert with what works best for it, greater health and well-being will result.

Interacting with Community

Finally, interacting means we need to look outside of ourselves and include others. In the case of my knee pain, this meant I needed to interact with and lean on people in my community until my knee was healed.  This included my podiatrist and community acupuncture to provide me with the right recovery tools and the dog walker to fill in for me until I could walk our dog Gio again.  Ironically, this injury, which initially weakened my own body, resulted in strengthening my community relationships. I believe that just being aware of the role of community in this injury created a greater sense of harmony within and around me.

The Asset Based Community Development Institute at DePaul University has found that every community universally cares about the best ways to collectively be healthy, protect the planet, end isolation, be safe, and bring about social equity.  Being aware of the needs and concerns of others is the first step to acting in harmony with them.  When we act in harmony for the good of the whole, the impact is likely to be positive and sustainable for all.


The application of Indigenous methods using Permaculture Principles can improve our relationships with ourselves, others, and our community while concurrently improving our approach to self-care. The end result is likely to be improved health and well-being and an increased sense of harmony with nature. Enjoy!

The Self-Care Solutions newsletter allows you to personalize your approach to health and wellbeing.  It offers you choices.  Safe choices.  Evidence-based choices. The articles allow you to try on different options and see what works for you. Think of each as an invitation. While not a substitute for care by your medical team, we’re here to support you in your quest for wellbeing!

Interested in Hero’s Journey Coaching?  Contact me at ruthannrusso@gmail.com or visit https://ruthannrusso.com/be-coached/

Reference links

Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets, DePaul University

Permaculture Principles Website, David Holmgren

Essence of Permaculture, David Holmgren, DOWNLOAD




Dr. Ruthann Russo

I love assisting people on their hero’s journey towards self-transformation. A passion which is born comes partly from personal experience – I view my own life as a series of self-transformations. I have 20+ years of education, training and experience, including being the CEO and founder of two health technology start-ups and global wellness consultant to Fortune 100 corporations.

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