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Baskets and Boundaries

This month I will be facilitating our first soft fiber basketry class. I am excited and nervous since I will be taking the lead on a skill-based class for the very first time. But soft fiber basketry is something I feel passionate about. Not so much because of the practicality of the skill or even the artistry. I am unlikely to ever be a truly skilled weaver. I’ve been practicing this skill for 7 years and I still struggle with getting my fingers to cooperate enough to make a neat and attractive base. My fine motor skills simply aren’t as developed as they could be and because of a slew of past injuries they never will be. Luckily most folx don’t look at the bottom of the basket! HA! For me, this skill is not about being perfect or even making a particularly beuatiful basket. Instead, the value of this skill lies in its metaphor for relationships and what basketry can teach us about the quality and construction of our relationship containers.

A mentor taught me long ago that all action is borne in thought. The decisions we make are the direct result of our state of consciousness. This is why changing our beliefs can change so much of our experience. We can’t change everything in our experience because the Principle of Unity means that we are always subject to the ways collective consciousness expresses through other individuals and societal systems but we do have the power to change an awful lot. And the way we facilitate and manage our personal relationships is a central component to the experiences we have in our life. Our personal relationships are the foundational elements of family, work, and community. If our personal relationships are dysfunctional then everything else in our lives becomes dysfunctional too. The quality, strength, and resiliency of our personal relationships lay the foundation for everything else in our lives.

If you’re anything like me a good metaphor can help to conceptualize ideas that feel abstract. When I take a metaphor and attach it to a physical skill like weaving it helps me integrate that metaphor into my consciousness and then automatically shows up in my actions. For me, it just works better than sitting around thinking about things. I define consciousness as the collective co-creation of my heart, mind, and spirit. Basketry, or physical skills of any kind, uses my physical body as a bridge between those three components allowing me to achieve a deeper and more effective integration of the beliefs I want to cultivate into my consciousness.

Despite the problematic nature of Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements, the basic idea continues to hold truth. We have all made unconscious agreements about what we believe. What we value. And at any time, we are free to examine those agreements and ask ourselves if we really want to continue on with them. Do we continue to value things like competition, individualism, resource hoarding, and separation? Or do we consciously choose a different path? We get to ask ourselves, “Is this really working for me? For society? Do I like the results I am getting from this agreement?” Each of us has the Power of Choice in what we allow to drive our consciousness and thereby our actions. We get to choose in each moment whether or not to turn towards the results we are truly wanting.

In order to make good choices we must know ourselves well. It’s important to have an intimate familiarity with the landscape of our consciousness. Where do we tend toward ego and selfishness? Where do we tend toward martyrdom and false humility? Where is our societal conditioning leading us into beliefs that are oppressive in nature? What are our assets? Where and how do we show up in good ways in this world? Where are we doing well and where do we need some work? Where do we need to grow? A thorough self-evaluation is the most useful tool one can have in relationship work. Without it, healthy interdependency is impossible.

The key to healthy relationships is healthy boundaries. This is where that inner work and self-awareness comes in really handy. I need to know where my edges are and I need to know myself well enough that I understand how to lean into those edges without causing myself and others unnecessary harm. Throwing myself off a cliff in order to avoid conflict and accommodate someone else’s needs or desires is the very definition of co-dependency. It is a slow working poison that toxifies relationships. Sometimes to the point of no return. It’s a connection killer. And what’s funny is that we often refuse to set healthy boundaries because we are afraid of losing the connection only to experience the loss of that connection further down the road and with a lot more pain and drama.

Basketry is a beautiful metaphor for boundary work because boundaries are the fibers we use to weave our relationship containers. Basketry invites us to examine what kind of container we are wanting to create and what materials we want to use to create it. What is the purpose of this basket/relationship? What materials/boundaries should we use to weave it? How much time, care, and effort should we put into the base of this container in order to ensure a solid foundation? How often should we re-visit this container to re-evaluate its overall integrity? These are the things I think about as I twist each fiber into the next section of my basket. It’s what I think about when I decide which fibers to use and what design I want to create. I used to rush right into my baskets. Grabbing any old material and making it up as I go along. These days I try to drop into the still small space of a quiet heart and humbly ask what is being asked of me from this basket? From this moment? From this relationship? I try to get honest about where my edges and what I’m willing to commit to this experience. As a result, both my baskets and my relationships are becoming stronger. More resilient. And more beautiful.


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