Regenerative Arm Movement Design


This design began formally RAM coverin January 2016. I have had RSI –Repetitive Strain Injury in my right arm on and off since 2011. Inspired by a design by one of my diploma apprentices, Nam Taylor, I decided to give it some permaculture design input. It felt like it was time to really address one of my base limits in some of my other designs – my pathway and being effective designs, and give my arm a design of it’s own. As I write this 3 months later I can honestly say this design; and the changes in thinking, moving and being have had a huge impact already, and I firmly believe that if I continue on this trajectory it (RSI) will be completely replaced by regenerative arm movement – RAM. 

Enjoy reading and I hope you feel inspired to find solutions to whatever challenges you have in your body, life, relationships etc.

If you want to learn how to use the Design Web for designing personal, collective and planetary well-being get yourself a copy of People & Permaculture, which features the Design Web

Design story

I started this design on the back of a calendar – a month for each anchor point. Over a period of a couple of months I would just flick through and add ideas to each page as they came up. I have enjoyed having the design in one place and being compact.

During this time I was making conscious effort to change patterns and bring more movement into my arm and neck. After a couple of months the design felt complete. It then took a while to decide how best to present the design. I feel it can help other people and want to share it. When face to face with someone the calendar is a very useful, visual and tactile prop, but I wanted a broader appeal. I was resistant to typing it up as this is more work for my arm, but in the end I realized this is the best way for people to engage with it. Initially I am sharing this design initially as a blog post, although might in future do a video of the design. I also brought it together the Golden Keys from each anchor point in one info graphic that I can put on my wall as a constant reminder, this is shown at the end. (A Golden Key is the insight that unlocks the design and shows the way forward).


I have regenerative neck and arm movement.

Regenerative arm movement is a conscious effort to heal and bring my upper body into alignment for ease of mobility with strength and flexibility.

RAM vision


How did RSI start?  Whilst writing People and Permaculture in 2011. Why? Pushing myself, not pausing enough, blocks of very intense writing for 3 or 4 days, bad posture, not having a proper desk set up.

How has it manifested since – when and why?  It was very very bad in winter 2013 after a deep retreat. And again in January 2015 when it was very bad in my neck.

What makes it worse?  Too much writing, typing, driving. Cold – hunching shoulders. Carrying bags around town.

What makes it better?  Swimming, yoga, osteopathy, massage, heat, yoga nidra


  • Using this design and principles
  • Awareness
  • Being self employed and able to pause
  • My daughter  – exercise is a good way to spend time with her
  • My partner Chris who does things for me and allows me to pause
  • Learning from other people’s experience and research

The biggest motivator – having faith that it can and will get better – everything is solvable


  • My arm is a base limit in other designs – my pathway and being effective
  • The effectiveness of my left arm
  • Lots of ‘pause’ activities still involve my arm, even reading, doing jigsaws, artwork
  • Cost of treatments and driving to and from treatments
  • Computer based work – influx of emails
  • Repeating “I have RSI’ lots – other people understand this, they don’t understand RAM
  • My enthusiasm for writing, I forget to stop or have too many ideas to stop
  • Temporary office over the last few years
  • I need limits on how long I spend on computer – need a 5m break every hour at least


My arm seems to get worse in autumn and winter – why? Perhaps because Chris goes away so I have more to do, it is cold and I spend more time indoors at my desk.

My body has deep habitual patterns of movement and being. Linked with this I’m sure are deep rooted beliefs, both personal and cultural about my body and it’s capacities.

Sometimes I adopt the pattern of an ‘ill’ person at times – how can I reframe having self-care and refueling times/activities without giving off signals to myself of being ill.

Metaphor of debt, my arm oscillated between tolerable and unacceptable debt, I want to get out of debt completely.

My arm connects with sleep, exercise, work, family patterns – in fact pretty much everything!


In no particular order these are some of the ideas that I have had, or people have suggested about RAM, some of them have carried through into the design, others are just stored for later.

  • Getting left hand to do more simple tasks e.g. brushing teeth to break automatic patterns
  • Adopting the mindset of someone who is fit, healthy and energetic
  • Research
  • Self massage
  • Weekly yoga class
  • Working with chakras
  • Monthly massage
  • MELT method
  • Get a rucksac instead of a shoulder bag
  • Blog about the design
  • Do a video of the design
  • Learn archery on both sides
  • Biotime diary to plot how it is – I often only notice when it is bad
  • Balms and comfrey poultices
  • Maybe problem is originating from elsewhere in my body or from something seemingly unconnected such as my diet.


Everything is solvable – including this, have faith

Work my legs not my arms – don’t overload myself carrying too much, do 2 trips instead

Observe and interact –when is it starting to hurt à stop and interact – What do I/my arm need? à Apply self regulation and accept feedback

Put my house in order – I need to take care of my body to be effective in the world

Pattern consciousness – breaking automatic patterns, especially of using my right arm and hand

Design from patterns to details – what has worked for others that I can adapt to fit me?

Least change for maximum effect – what are the small things that I can do to make big differences, e.g. small changes in posture

Small and slow solutions – need long lasting change

Build resilience – resource myself for times when I do need to use my arm more

Renewable resources and services – less miles – prioritise activities that are close to home, free and/or have multiple yields

Feed what I want to grow – feed RAM not RSI


The functions of the design are

Posture, exercise, using and training my left arm, healing, alignment, research, releasing tension, increasing calm, restorative sleep, observation, computer efficiency, doing more fun things with my arm, being effective.

I realized there is a cyclical link with the being effective design. I need to be effective to not put so much stress on my arm, and at the same time I need regenerative arm movement in order to be effective.



There are many things that I had already done before this design even began officially

  • Use mouse with left hand
  • Get external keyboard
  • Change desk height
  • Tried dictation software (didn’t get on with it very well)
  • Osteopathy
  • Massage
  • Comfrey poultices
  • Physiotherapy

January 2016

  • Get new pillow
  • Fix external keyboard
  • Start weekly yoga
  • Start this design
  • Driving posture
  • Research – books and blogs

February & March 2016

  • Finish this design
  • Blog about it
  • Awareness of computer position for skypes
  • Stop using RSI in vocabulary and replace it with RAM



  • Arm stretches
  • Arm appreciation
  • Check posture – many times a day
  • At least 15 minutes of yoga


  • Swim twice a week
  • Sauna once a week
  • Yoga class – pay in advance so committed to go


  • Review and check in on progress


I had a profound moment when I realized that all of the amazing paintings in this calendar have been painted by people with their feet and mouths – no hands or arms. This brought forth in me a deep appreciation of my hands and arms and all the amazing things they do each day.

RAM calendar cover RAM calender artists

I appreciate all my hands’ capacities and fine working. I am filled with gratitude.

RAM appreciation

Each day I am going to appreciate my arms and hands at the beginning and end of each day.


Micropauses to stretch, realign, breathe

Computer free days and times of day

Taking a moment to pause and check posture before and during

  • Driving
  • Typing
  • Writing

Enjoy my hand and arm activities – what are the fun and creative things I can do?

RAM design1

Reflections on the process

What went well?

  • It has been a small, manageable design that has made the problem seem smaller and more manageable.
  • I have felt more in control and more responsible for my own well-being through doing this design
  • It has helped to use the calendar and just add to this bit by bit
  • The idea of Golden Keys – an inspiration that shifts the design, provides part of the solution, helps to unlock the design. Not everything needs to be written down, but what are the light bulb moments for each anchor point.

What has been challenging?

  • Difficult not be put ‘get rid of RSI’ in vision, wanting to avoid mention of RSI but not wanting to pretend it isn’t the problem.
  • Knowing when to stop
  • Pages started falling out of the calendar
  • I spent a long time thinking about whether to scan it and how to present the design and avoid typing it up, but in the end it really didn’t take a long time to type, only a couple of hours, less time than I had spent thinking about alternatives.

What has been interesting

  • Doing the cover of the design felt like a real landmark in finishing it
  • There was a shift in the process when the calendar became a prop to share the design and not just a place for note taking

Patterns for creating a health and well-being design

Vision – reframe the issue into what you want, not just what you are trying to avoid, overcome or get rid of.

Helps – celebrate your own internal resources and don’t be modest about them. Acknowledge when external help is needed and seek it out.

Limits – are there some limits that are absent that would be useful?

Patterns – become aware of personal and cultural patterns of being and thinking that are influencing your well-being

Ideas – ask others for ideas about what could be done; remain open to possibilities of what might be useful and needed to bring yourself into well-being

Principles – use the principles to help you to anchor the design in your everyday life. E.g. observe and interact – ask what is needed as soon as you notice dis-ease, pain or discomfort, then interact with the situation to change it.

Integration be clear what your actual needs are before trying to think of which strategies can fulfill the need. E.g. exercise and food are needs but there are many different ways to meet those needs. Try and find the strategies that most engage you and best fit your lifestyle patterns.

Action – make sure there are clear steps to putting these strategies in place

Momentum – being healthy isn’t just something you can do once, there are steps to take daily and weekly. Ensure the systems you set up can be maintained.

Appreciation – send appreciation to whatever parts of your body and mind need it. Appreciate all it has done for you in the past.

Reflection – try and trace back to how the problem began. See if you can discover the root causes.

Pause – find ways to rejuvenate yourself.

If you would like to find out more about the design web and how to use it to create regenerative designs for yourself, you can read People and Permaculture, and you can also attend my People Centred Design course in Italy in September.

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