Category Archives: boundaries

Dammed

You’d think that you’d be the first to know that your stream was dammed.

But.

Sometimes a peaceful water surface is hard to decipher: are you in the middle of a natural lake, a healthy lazy river, or a dammed up river? How can you tell?

What others see when we are dammed

We can see dams in OTHERS’ lives pretty clearly. And they can see ours. It’s like they’re looking out an airplane window at Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But when YOU’RE the river or the canyon it runs through, or even if you’re a human floating in a canoe, you just can’t tell for sure. It can be frustrating not to know, especially if someone hints or you have a vague feeling. 

 

 

And there are three further complications:

~ If you realize you are indeed dammed, it can be difficult to find the dam.

~ Once you do, you have to figure out how to get rid of the dam.

~ Unfortunately, it quickly becomes almost impossible to picture life without the dam, and so it’s hard to remember why you should go to all that trouble to deal with the it. Heck, you think, reservoirs are plenty nice.

Here’s the problem with a reservoir: it’s simply not a river.

You can have a perfectly nice tame reservoir.

The reservoir can store water for all sorts of “civilized” uses: certain water sports that need flat water, human and livestock drinking water, irrigation water for crops, and electrical power generating plants.

But it’s no longer a river at that location. Even upstream and downstream of the dam, the river is not its healthiest self. It’s no longer natural or, as hydrologists designate an untamed river, “wild and scenic.”

If you care about a river in any way, then first and foremost you have to be sure it remains a river.

Likewise, it’s best for you to be your actual real self and not be turned into something completely different in order to serve civilization’s needs to drink you up, recreate on you, or harness your energy for its own needs.

There are other ways those humans can have fun, stay hydrated, and power their refrigerators. Ways that don’t involve eliminating your stream’s very identity.

Here are the four most obvious questions I ask myself to figure out if I and/or my river have been dammed:

1. Do I feel myself holding still for a long time — for longer than I ever have before?

Dammed waters don’t flow much. Dammed people find themselves and, most notably, their attention stuck in one place.

As Mihaly Czichzentmihalyi said (when he visited our town!), our attention and how we direct it is the most valuable resource of our lives.

He elaborated that our health and our time are vital — they are “our life.” But then he recommended we ask ourselves why they are so important. It’s because we use them to direct our attention as we want. How we direct our attention is how we “spend our lives.” That’s the truly important resource.

2. Do I feel myself “dropping my load” albeit probably invisibly, far below the surface?

Without velocity, dammed waters have no carrying capacity and no choice but to drop their life’s work, i.e.,  the sediment (the bits and pieces of experience they have picked up along the way). This is why reservoirs eventually silt in.

3.  Have the other life forms who thrive in and around my ecosystem changed?

Do I notice lake fish instead of river fish? Seagulls instead of dippers? Are the minks gone? Are there only very few typical native riparian grasses, shrubs, or trees on my edges?

(This change is part of the reason why reservoir shores are usually raw and not vegetated. Those old friends and support systems with their protective roots are gone.)

4. Do I find the motionless part of my life getting bigger and bigger?

Dammed rivers are much deeper than they were before they hit the dam. They’re also  hugely wide. This is partly because the valley is wider as you go up.

But it’s also partly because flat water erodes the sidewalls of any river channel.

(It’s the only work that water can do; the only way it can increase entropy; and even dammed water must obey the Second Law of Thermodynamics).

Dammed rivers also cut their way upstream into their own natural channel bed, lengthening the flat-lake surface.

This lengthening happens because the river water picks up speed where it drops into the deeper lake. That quick increase in power is directed against the only thing it can access — the river’s foundation. This “head-cut” works its way upstream… pretty much forever.

The problem with these basic questions:

In order to know if your current flow, work capacity, ecosystem, and dimensions are appropriate, you must be able to remember life upstream or envision life downstream .

There is a more subtle and accurate way to know if you’re dammed. It’s also the same process you can use to LOCATE your dam, so let’s get into it. But first, we have to understand…

What a dam is:

A dam is made out of solid, physical stuff. Matter. Usually it’s sediment — concrete or compacted dirt — though sometimes it includes discarded manmade objects like old cars, mattress springs, and radiators.

As you remember, moving sediment is a river’s life’s work.

That’s why dams are confusing. And ironical. Dams are built with the river’s own most basic ingredients: dirt and rocks.

Dams, like the river itself, are made out of bit and pieces of the world that have been picked up, moved, and placed in a particular way — but in the case of a dam, the material’s artificially compacted, smoothed, and carefully shaped into a particular human design.

Humans are similar. We naturally build a healthy life out of bits of experiences we’ve picked up, carried, set down in a new way: thoughts. When we are dammed, it’s by artificial versions we’ve created of our experiences: untrue beliefs.

Don’t feel like a freak.

Almost all rivers have been dammed somewhere at some time.

Here’s a list of free rivers, but remember it all depends on how you define the river. Some/most/probably all of these rivers have tributaries that’ve been dammed.

Likewise, all people have been dammed up at one point. Even supposedly enlightened people rarely say they’ve been free since birth. Tibetan Buddhists may think the Dalai Lama has been always free, but I’ve never heard him say that. Indeed, I’ve heard him talk about thoughts he has difficulty with (e.g., how to handle his anger toward the Chinese government). By far most of us still have some little dams here and there. It’s part of life.

Ok, so now: here’s a detailed way to figure out if you’re currently in a dammed reach of your river + where the dam is:

Step 1:  Is there an outlet — a place where your water flows downstream?

Start by finding your river’s edge or boundary.

What is a river’s boundary? Usually we want to consider a river’s bankfull flow and its floodplain when talking river boundaries, but when looking for a dam, we can be much more general:

~ A river boundary marks what is and is not river.

It sounds obvious, but we rarely consider it explicitly. Find a part of the world, a set of ideas or activities, where you do not go — a place where you can look and say: “I do not go over there, past this spot.” Specifically…

~ A river boundary is where water meets dry land.

The shoreline is where the fluid medium that carries your river’s energy (i.e., water) meets sediment that was set in place by someone else or maybe by your river’s previous flows. Now your water doesn’t go there.

If we extend the river-as-metaphor-for-our-lives, then here’s what we learn about our own human boundaries:

A boundary is a line between where your time and energy go and don’t go. It’s characterized by a solid belief that you don’t actively attend to  — usually because you accept it as truth.

Sometimes you’ve investigated that area-of-no-attention clearly; sometimes you just happened never to have “gone there.” Either way, you currently don’t have to give that cluster of thoughts a second thought.

Trace around your edges, locating your boundaries. Eventually you will find a place where water comes in.

You’ll always find a place where your life’s energy — your attention — is replenished from upstream. Always. Maybe it’s sleep and night dreams. Or day dreams. Maybe it’s a topic where you like to entertain new ideas, person that refreshes you, or place you like to breathe. Maybe it’s just breathing itself. If you’re alive, you’re being fed.

Keep looking around your edges and see if you find a place where even a trickle of water goes out. A place where you spend your time and energy — your attention — moving on toward some often unknown but attracting feeling.

If you find an outlet: go here to find out if you’re looking at your natural channel or a dam’s spillway. Also go here to see if it’s a leak… let’s hope it IS.

If you can find no outlet: you know for sure you’ve been dammed. Go to the next step to locate the dam.

Step 2: Is there a place along your edge where you feel your attention drawn and held in one place repeatedly — as if your energy pushes against it in constant pressure? Most of the edges you find — the beliefs you hold to be true — don’t have a lot of energy or pull. As you identify them, you say “Oh yeah. There’s that.” But sometimes there’s a “fact of life” you just keep running into, turning over and over in your mind.

If yes, that’s most likely a dam you’re pushing up against.

You can block a river’s flow downstream, but the river still wants to go there. It’s pulled there. It can’t help but feel the attraction of the sea though it can’t see or describe what pulls it.

The same is true of you. Even if you’re stopped up, you will feel an undefinable longing. What’s in the way? Look for that thought you keep bumping up against — that solid place accumulating flotsam and jetsam.

To be sure, evaluate it using the next step.

If you can’t find such a spot but you’re pretty certain there’s a dam somewhere, that’s okay. Walk your boundaries again and examine each spot using the next step.

Step 3: Is there a place where your personal boundary feels significantly different than all your other boundaries? If you answer yes to any of the following when considering one of your boundary thoughts, then it is likely a dam:

–> Is this boundary/shoreline/thought more uniform in texture and slope than your other boundaries? Is it exactly tailored?

Most dam surfaces are only one material and they’re compacted and shaped into very specific, very even surfaces.

Sometimes the slope will be more gradual than your other boundaries (if your natural river was in a canyon with steep walls).

In other cases, the dams are obviously steeper than the sides of the original river valley.

Either way, natural river banks are pretty variable. They may have layers of different sediment laid on top of one another, or they may be bumpy and wavy; but they rarely stay even for long. Even smooth rock canyon walls vary more than a dam’s face.

False thoughts are the same way: they’re usually pervasive blanket rules (“everywhere”), absolute permanent conclusions (“always”), or exquisitely personal in application and implication (“because in my case…”).

~ Interesting Note: Testing a boundary’s strength doesn’t necessarily tell you if it’s a dam. Yes, engineers want dams to be strong, but sometimes, as in the rock canyon, a stream’s natural boundaries are equally strong. Sometimes, in the case of compacted earth dams or push-up dams (described below), the natural healthy boundaries (and, in a human, true thoughts) are even stronger than the dam.

~ Alert: There are a couple especially icky exceptions to using the uniformity dam-test:

Junk dams, as we discussed above, are where people have tossed any old inert, unusable, machined object into the river. These dams are way more irregular than your regular boundary and recognizable by their inorganic, jagged, character. Be careful with them, as they not only block you but can cut you or trap you in their disorganized jumble of parts.

Push-up dams are built by people who drive big front-end loaders into the river and bulldoze the river bottom up into a dam. Usually these dams wash out every year and have to be rebuilt. These dams are tricky to recognize because they are made of the exact same material as the river itself and are not particularly compacted or smooth. You have to use the other tests to differentiate it from a healthy boundary.

They are mostly recognizable because of the river’s width and depth at the site are unlike any natural river type: the river is abruptly and oddly deep across the entire width of the river, and the water surface drops sharply on the other side of the dam.

–> Is this boundary/shoreline/thought mostly devoid of plants and animals, i.e., are there almost no lively, growing beings with roots and social systems that thrive because of access to your water, your energy, your attention?

Dams don’t encourage much life. No trees or shrubs. Very few grasses. Occasional mosses. Without those places to browse, hide, or build forts, the deer, raccoons, and playful humans don’t hang out there either.

False beliefs you hold also aren’t full of growth, life, or nourishment. Friends and loved ones don’t usually hang out there.

~ Notable Exception

Stubborn folks do love a dam. If the only life forms you find inhabiting a particularly steep, hard thought of yours are goats, it’s probably most certainly a dam.

 

 

 

–> Is there an abrupt drop-off on the other side of the boundary? And when you look down there, do you see a different, attractive version — even just a trace — of your very own energy and attention?

Now go ahead and get rid of that dam.

There are three ways to do so.

~You can dismantle it from the outside with explosives or machinery. Click here for details on how to do that in a human.

~You can blow it apart from inside the river with longing. Click here and here to see what I mean.

~ Or you can just go around it and create something completely different. That link is coming soon.

The best method? It depends on your circumstances. I’m currently partial to the second way as it’s available to everyone and is the easiest, but try them all out for yourself.

Dam removal is the most important part of stream restoration in many ways, and I’m thrilled to be decoding its meanings for my own life. I sincerely hope you enjoy it and that it helps you with the stuck areas in your life. Please let me know how your experiments go!

Like a River… TIP #1

River TIP #1: Protect your floodplain.

Hello, Beloved River Folk.

Today begins a series of the five Top Important Points (TIPs) for enhancing the rivers you love AND living like a gorgeous, healthy, wild river yourself.

When you follow TIP#1, you almost don’t need any other tips because your river has a deep resilience. Then it doesn’t matter what happens: your stream handles it. You thrive.

In a nutshell

Every natural river has a place to spill when things get big and fast and crazy. A floodplain has three characteristics:

~ open,Stream Type B... somewhere in my great-grandparents' homeland of Norwegia

~ level, and

~ connected to the river.

What’s that look like for a human? Where can your excess energy spread out and calm down? Is it walking outside, lying next to your fireplace, laughing with a friend, letting your pet snuggle on top of you, stitching things, building things?

I would NOT say a floodplain is “next to the river.” The floodplain is not a separate entity. The floodplain is as much a part of the river as the bed and banks. Remembering this may be the one easiest way to revolutionize river wellbeing.

That’s the core of Tip #1. If you want to delve into the why’s and wherefores, feel free to read on. Either way, I’d love to hear your comments and stories about floodplains both riverine and personal.

Yours in peace, love, and wild rivers,

Betsy

 

Why

Your river channel alone CANNOT be big enough to accommodate your floods.

~ Picture such an impractically huge channel: It would take up a whole valley.

And that over-sized river wouldn’t work well in regular or low flows. You’d have a thin sheet of water without cool-dark pools, oxygen-providing riffles, or tree-lined banks.

~ When a floodplain DOES become compromised — when flood flows get squeezed into the area between the river’s banks — that huge amount of water has to move quickly and that gives the water excess power. It has no choice but to cut down into the river’s foundation.

–> This is the most sure-fire way to begin a “head-cut” and unravel a river. <–

A floodplain saves the river from erosion by acting as a safety valve. It allows floodwater to leave the channel, get wide and shallow, and therefore lose velocity and strength. Then the water’s too weak to cut into the stream bed or banks.

Here’s the cool thing: it’s a two-way win because the floodwater also helps the floodplain. The slowed water doesn’t have the strength to carry the load of fine dirt, nutrients, and seeds that it gathered upstream, so It drops that material all over the floodplain. The enriched soil grows lush plants, and the plants in turn support lots of different life forms.

Actually the benefits extend even further! Upstream animals visit the stream before heading back home to reproduce, hunt, and be hunted. In other words, the river feeds the entire ecosystem. Win-win-and-WIN.

Your safety valves — your pets, friends, family, home, neighborhood, best-beloved beach or mountain — also benefit from your presence when they are “helping” you. And the world at large benefits from the ripples that radiate from your relief and gladness. Never think you need to “spare” your floodplain.

Your floodplain welcomes your floodwaters.

But here’s the issue I have noticed among us humans: In order to buy into the importance of a stream’s floodplain, we first have to accept the fundamental hydrologic fact that floods are fine.

Floods are natural. In a wild stream, some water leaves the banks and spills on to the floodplain about once every two years! Sometimes it’s a huge amount of water; sometimes it’s a small amount. I can’t stress it enough: flooding is normal and to be expected. It’s not a freak occurrence. It would be weird if flooding didn’t happen regularly.

This is as true of your life as it is your river. Floods are unavoidable. And that’s wonderful because…

Floods are healthy for the river, essential in allowing it to move rocks and dirt through the system.

And floods nourish life around the river and beyond.

Of course, each type of river has a different kind of floodplain:

Straight, fast step-pool-types have a tiny ledge-like floodplain, whereas slow-elaborately-meandering-types‘ floodplains take up huge valleys.

Natural Channel Hydrology differentiates eight stream-types. Want to know which kind of river you are? Click here to take the quick quiz!

Even though all floodplains are different, it’s not complicated to build, maintain, or re-build them.

How to

 All you have to do is let the river be the river.

1. Allow floods to happen

Don’t try to dam up big events. Event-full lives and river systems are the best (which is awesome since they also are unavoidable). Let the happenings, ideas, and emotion flow because that wide variety of power and nourishment automatically builds your channel and floodplain to be exactly the perfect shape for your climate, soil, and geography.

2.  Identify your “bankfull boundary”

In between the floods and the trickles there is a flow that forms your river’s banks. It’s not as easy to identify as you might think (particularly if a river has been messed with by humans). Click here to learn more, but meanwhile, think of this: your bankfull is where you find yourself sitting most comfortably on a late summer day to have a picnic. It’s the most peaceful place along your river.

3. Identify your floodplain and make sure it’s open, even, and accessible to the river

Once you know your bankfull level, look IMMEDIATELY next to it for a flat area. Then…

Keep it wild.

~ Do not allow anything un-natural in this entire area: no buildings and no man-made piles of extra dirt that stick up above bankfull elevation. Keep all such obstructions as far, far away as you can. This is easier said than done; such a lush area is attractive to outside development, and there is also a tendency to build berms to keep the floodwaters “under control.”  Just say no!

~ Trees and bushes are, of course, are welcome. In fact, their deep roots are important. Don’t be tempted to clear them and plant civilized grass.

As a human, you can and should have other living creatures as part of your personal floodplain. How to tell if someone is helping or hindering your flood relief?

: If a person, creature, or situation obstructs your flow — narrowing you or making you move more quickly — gives you the sense that the ground under or around you is eroding, or seems bothered by the sheer volume of your living, then they need to be moved well away from your daily life and your super-charged times as well.

:If a person, creature, or situation makes you feel more peaceful in the intense times — and your presence in those times seems to nourish them as well — then you have found your floodplain. Guard it.

~ As you evaluate, protect, and clear your floodplain, start close to the regular channel and move out from there. First and most especially, protect your bankfull edges. Keep development and livestock away from them or your boundaries will be erased. You won’t even be able to identify your floodplain. (Furthermore, without intact bankfull banks, your river’s dynamics can’t work at any flow level.)

Fences are fine because water can go right through most of them without constriction. In fact, nowadays, somewhat ironically, unless you live in a remote, huge landscape, good fences make for wild rivers.

So there you have it, my friends: may your floodplains be wild and your fences strong and wildlife-friendly. I hope I see you tomorrow for River TIP #2!

 

… with a very real boundary

Boundaries — they’re not just for other people

~ Bridgette Boudreau

Those seven words made me laugh so hard that they actually got me thinking about boundaries in a real way. (Proof that taking things lightly is miracle-inducing.) As in, where do we set them and how and… what the heck are boundaries anyway?

So I asked myself…

What do we know about a river’s boundaries?

[Note: slide your eye to wherever you see this symbol » if you want to skip the river specifics and get to the human take-homes!]

When hydrologists restore a damaged stream, we don’t set boundaries for the river. We just find the river’s own, already-existing, naturally-occurring boundary — “bankfull.”  It’s always there.

You’ll hear references to other boundary-sounding river features, for example the “low-flow channel” (but that changes annually if not daily) and the “one-hundred-year flood” (but that is a statistically-constructed theoretical estimate). Bankfull is the one and only visible physical boundary that a river has.

Knowing and respecting a river’s boundary is the most fundamentally important piece of the restoration process.

Only after we see and measure the river’s boundaries can we gather all the information necessary to understand “how the river wants to be.” Since basing design on the river’s innate preferences is what makes Natural Channel Hydrology so beautiful, effective, and sustainable, it is safe to say that everything hinges on understanding the river’s boundaries.

And — even with rivers — the natural boundary can be hard to figure out. Finding a river’s true edge is the trickiest art and science of Natural Channel Hydrology. Isn’t that an amazing parallel to human life? [Or at least to mine…!]

Hydrologists’ boundary-finding tools:

Each river tool for identifying bankfull is based on an important fact. (The river tools are marked by a square bullet. My ideas for parallel human tools are marked by an arrowhead.)

1. One way to identify a river’s bankfull boundary is to walk straight up out of the river — perpendicular to the flow — with your attention in your feet. When your toes begin to drop — to feel an even, level spot — that’s quite possibly bankfull.

Hydrologists take into account that bankfull is a geological feature. It’s a physical phenomenon within the river body — a level/depth — where the bank flattens out. It’s where the river just begins to spread out its waters when flow rises to flood levels.

» Like a river, our human boundaries are bodily phenomena. I mean, we can identify them by physical sensations. Here’s my approach:

Start somewhere inside yourself that you KNOW is “you,” and feel your way out into the world. When you feel a flattening out — there’s your boundary.

Alternately, start somewhere way outside of someone else’s private self, on nice level ground, and head toward that person’s psychic (or actual) space. When you feel the beginnings of a drop — a steep-ish slope down into their life — there’s your boundary.

I decided to test this approach: when is it okay for me to know something about my (18-year old high school senior) son’s social life vs. when should I mind my own business? He’s still in high school and lives in my house, so I feel fine establishing what time I can expect him home at night. But he is an adult (!), so I no sooner walk toward more details (like “who is he with?”) then I get a dropping in my stomach like when an airplane plummets. There’s the edge. When he was 5 or even 15, I still would have felt perfectly steady with the need to know who his companions were. Back then, I wouldn’t have felt that dropping sensation until I got to the desire to know, oh.. whether or not he ate candy (at 5 — yes I was THAT mother) or who he had a crush on (at 15 — God I tried NOT to be THAT mother but it’s harder than you might think!).

Note: I also could have arrived at this conclusion by starting inside myself — I don’t feel on even-footing until I know what time he will be home. Then I can sleep. So that’s where I can stop and say — this is my boundary.

2. Whenever possible, river professionals analyze historical flow data to determine which flow/energy level does most of the real work, i.e., is the peak in 2/3 of the years. If that flow’s depth matches the physical features we see in the field, then we have a little more confidence that we have spotted the river’s boundary.

Sometimes, bankfull’s physical line has been obscured (by a flood) OR there are conflicting flat places (maybe caused by periodic, artificial high flows released from a dam) OR the level area is so narrow that it’s hard to be sure if you’ve found bankfull (This is especially common in stream-types A, F, G, and even B. Click here to find out what kind of stream you are!). In those cases — and even when we think the boundary is clear — an hydrologist’s next step is to remember that “bankfull” also refers to an amount of water flow — a certain number of gallons moving down the channel each second. Bankfull is the flow that fills the channel to the point of imminent flooding.

A river’s water level represents its energy level — how much power it has. And there’s a really fascinating relationship between a river’s power and its boundary: the river does most of its “work” at the boundary-level flow.  Bankfull is the flow/energy level that formed the river channel, and it is this boundary-level work that continues to maintain the river’s shape:

Larger flows are more powerful, yes, but they occur infrequently. That’s why river channels are not big enough to accommodate their 100-year flood.

Smaller flows are more frequent, but they are less powerful. They don’t carve significantly into the surrounding earth or carry much of a load.

Where frequency intersects power is the sweet spot — the flow that made the river what it is — perfectly suited to its environment. On average, a river’s annual peak flow (usually the spring runoff but sometimes a quick increase in flow caused by a rainstorm) reaches bankfull or higher in 2 out of 3 years.

» I think that our true human boundaries also are associated with the real, meaty work we have done and continue to do in building ourselves to be who we are and who we want to be.

Don’t be fooled into thinking your boundaries have to do with the small many-times-a-day issues like whether or not your housemates put the toilet paper onto the rollie-thing in what you consider to be the proper direction.

Nor are your boundaries to be found in huge crises like whether or not your childhood best friend came to your mother’s funeral. Though such an event can cause huge damage, it’s not something you design your life around.

To find your boundaries, look at where/when/why/with whom/how you do your real life’s work. That’s what matters. What has shaped that work? Or, more exactly, how have you shaped yourself into this person you want to be? Protecting and creating those situations are your boundaries.

Kelly gets irritated that her husband is messy in the kitchen.  And it almost killed her when he had an affair. But her real work in life — creating a family in which all members thrive as individuals as well as have a safe, relatively simple, haven together as time goes by– wasn’t formed by divvying up the dishes or by one big promise. It was/is shaped by the connections forged in engaging altogether in open-hearted conversations, fun activities, and comforting routine. Perhaps these things make up the biggest part of the day only 1/2 or 2/3 of the time, but that’s where the real work is done, and so those are her boundaries. Her husband is good at those things, so — for now — it is worth it to her to work through the tiny and monumental issues that come up.

3. Another way to identify bankfull is to look for the “tree line” next to a river. This is somewhat of a misnomer because in some ecosystems, the perennial plants actually may be non-woody deep-rooted vegetation, but you can be sure that you will not find a river’s perennial friends inside the river’s bankfull boundary.

Hydrologists know that a rivers’ best friends — trees, bushes, and deep-rooted plants — need water and nutrients yet cannot live when constantly saturated.

When peak flow reaches or exceeds the bankfull level, water spreads out on the flat area adjacent to the channel — the floodplain — and the water slows way down. As soon as it spreads and slows, the river loses power, soaks the ground, and drops the load it has been carrying (which includes nourishing topsoil from upstream AND seeds!).

Bankfull flow is only seasonal — the river is significantly lower most of the year — so although they get regularly watered and fed by the river, plants at bankfull elevation are not drowned underwater most of the time. They have room to breathe. The best of all worlds and a truly symbiotic relationship. Trees need stream banks, and stream banks are stabilized by trees.

For this reason, perennials do not survive below bankfull elevation.Annual grasses — and shoots of all varieties — sprout and grow down inside a channel for one summer, but the next one or two spring runoffs will likely drown them or wash them away.

» To find our own boundaries, I think we humans can look at where our very best friends and allies — our very happiest and best version of “Everybody” — congregate. That’s where they stabilize us and we benefit them as well. And that’s where they stop, respecting our wants, needs, and preferences.

I would really love to hear your personal examples of how this tool (or the others in this post) plays out in your life. If you don’t want to comment below, you can email me (my gmail handle is betsypearsonpe — don’t forget the last 2 letters or it goes to a very nice woman in Indiana who is not me!)

4. Most importantly, we are wise to remember that each of the above conditions can be difficult or impossible to assess. When that’s the case, river guru Dave Rosgen’s favorite on-site learning activity is to ask his students to grab their sack lunches and picnic by the river. Try this yourself: Usually you will end up parking your bottom right exactly on bankfull because a river’s boundary is the most comfortable spot — level, perhaps next to a tree, near the water but dry… and high enough to look around.

» The same goes for humans: get comfortable. That’s where your real life’s work is done, and that’s your one true boundary.

What if you feel your boundaries aren’t established and you really need to FORM boundaries?

If you want to live like a river, then don’t worry about artificially, theoretically calculating or setting “appropriate” boundaries.

>>All you have to do is: your life’s work (and remember, work and play are the same thing in the realm of physics and rivers!).

When you are following your calling, your personal power automatically will carve your perfect boundaries into the foundation of your life.

Not only will your bliss (as our beloved Joseph Campbell called this kind of work) form a life with edges perfectly-shaped for YOU, but also it will create a “floodplain” to absorb the excess when life’s floods overwhelm you. And that will attract a community of supportive allies. And they will grow right next to you come drought or high water, and they will support you and you will nourish them and together you will create the comfiest spot around — your boundary.