Nurturing Whole Health
I awoke early today feeling a patch of fat, ripe blackberries was waiting for me. Alright, I was questioning if they were actually ripe, I drove to the spot where my dad and I picked berries every summer, after which, my mom would bake heavenly blackberry pie. I arrived at the berry thicket to find it heavy with sweet, plump fruit. My intuition that morning was spot on and I'm grateful I've finally learned to listen to it. My goal was to pick enough berries to bake a pie for my mom and dad.
Life changed much for my family two years ago when my parents moved to Montana to be near my older sister. Soon after, I relocated to Boise, returning to Oregon 8 months later. Over the years, no matter what else has changed, berry picking has been a constant, I picked my first black raspberry with my dad, in the steamy woods of Council Bluffs, Iowa, decades ago. Now, in the midst of Covid, it brings me great joy as I carry on this family ritual. In just over an hour I picked a heaping gallon of berries, paying the painful price of red, swollen, mucked-up arms and hands along with several rips in my ratty picking shirt. It felt like being home; the thorns; heat; blue sky; bird songs and the sweet taste of the abundant harvest.
My parents, ages 88 and 92 arrived back to Oregon exactly when shelter-in-place began. They wanted to come home to their friends, so my sister's and I helped make it happen. At the time, I didn't comprehend the magnitude of what was ahead, for any of us on the planet. As we Oregonians first hunkered-down, I listened to the song my daughter, Ailee, composed and performed on her ukulele, 5 months ago, welcoming the rest of the world to "The Covid Party." She recorded it, isolated on her rooftop in Hong Kong, where they were already 8 weeks into pandemic life. I laughed when I first heard her witty song, having no concept of the reality of the challenges she had already been living through.
Before the pandemic and for most of their lives, my parent's socialized often with their community of friends. As well, my dad, who lives for coffee, dessert and conversation, cultivated new acquaintances daily, at Mix, his favorite coffee shop. Connecting through relationships are deeply nourishing and essential for our emotional wellness. With Covid, socializing has radically decreased, affecting our mind-body wellness. My parent's move brought them to their new home straight into pandemic isolation. When I helped plan their move, I never imagined, their return to Oregon would coincide with Covid regulations that would isolate my parents from friends and family. When the Plexiglas wall went up outside for visitors, though it created a level of protection, it felt like prison.
I always assumed I would be with my mom or dad were a trip to the hospital necessary. Following their initial quarantine after becoming deconditioned from a very sedentary two weeks, my Dad was rushed to the E.R. late one evening. Due to Covid, no family could accompany him. I didn't know if we'd see him again and prayed he wouldn't die alone in the hospital that night. Thankfully, several gut-wrenching hours later, I got a call to pick him up and then dropped him off at the door to his building, from where my dad made his way back to their 3rd floor apartment at 1 A.M. My mother was there waiting and grateful.
Though staff helped my parents move-in, it was very stressful not being there for them. Placing furniture and wall art took place through video chat between me, my parents and staff. I always assumed I would be with my mom or dad were a trip to the hospital necessary. Following their initial quarantine after becoming deconditioned from a very sedentary two weeks, my Dad was rushed to the E.R. late one evening. Due to Covid, no family could accompany him. I didn't know if we'd see him again and prayed my dad wouldn't die alone in the hospital that night. Thankfully, several gut-wrenching hours later, I got a call to pick him up and then dropped him off at the front of their building, from where my dad made his way back to their 3rd floor apartment at 1 A.M. My mother was there waiting and grateful. With everyone in their building confined to their apartments, my parent's isolation following their big move, seriously impacted their pre-existing health conditions and aging process..
My parent's move brought unknowns, heart-break and more stress than I could have imagined. Though I could visit them outside of their building, I was not allowed in for close to 4 months, until my mother had a heart attack last month. Miraculously, the day she went to The E.R. was the first day since lock-down that the hospital began allowing in one visitor per patient. My mom's doctor scheduled a telemedicine follow-up appointment for the day after her discharge. I requested they schedule her an office visit since I serve as her health advocate and needed to be there. The doctor's nurse told me that wouldn't be possible and it could only be through telemedicine. I'm typically calm, respectful and soft-spoken, but the rigid Covid regulations, barring access into my parents home, along with managing their health challenges from a distance, have seriously triggered my stress response. When the doctor's nurse suggested that a staff member at my parent's facility be with my mother for the appointment or that it take place in my car, in the parking lot, I lost it. The nurse was the unfortunate recipient of months of my pent up frustrations. My blood pressure went up and the following rolled off my tongue, "My mother just had a fucking heart attack. Will a staff person with no understanding of her condition know what to ask; how to advocate for her and confer with the doctor regarding her condition? I will not bring my mom to my 95 degree car for a telemedicine appointment. She had a heart attack two days ago! Many people will die from Covid and it won't only be from the virus- it will be from elder abandonment, isolation, stress, and suicide. I need to be with my mom, inside her apartment for that appointment. I am an essential person for her care and wellbeing. Please, I need your help." Two hours later, after a rigorous check-in process, I donned the facilities' version of a hazmat suit; was chaperoned through the halls; instructed to touch nothing and stepped into my parent's apartment for the first time.
Following the appointment, I stayed longer, helping, organizing, supporting and simply being with my parents in the privacy of their home. They were so happy to welcome me into their home. For once, we were not required to shout through the Plexiglas outside or subjected to staff members running outside telling us to move farther apart, even though my dad needs accommodation for his serious hearing disability. I don't know when I'll be allowed inside again, but thankfully, since June, my parents have been able to go out with me and their friends, with no mandatory quarantine upon return. And now, no one asks us to separate since I have spoken to staff regarding the legalities of my dad needing accommodations for his hearing. Both my mom and dad keep saying, "I never thought we would live to see this."
A global pandemic has brought more meaning than ever to simply sharing time and space with family. This evening, we sat out on the Iawn in front of my parents building and shared fresh blackberry pie, tea, stories and laughter.
Today I bought some great pickling cukes and fresh dill at Ashland Food Co-op, having tried first at The Saturday Rogue Valley Grower's and Crafter's Market, where I am guessing farmer's will have their makings for pickles soon. The most difficult thing to find is fresh dill. Often there are piles of pickling cukes but no dill to be found. Gratefully, today I found both. With Covid still running rampant, it's a perfect time to get some immune-boosting lacto-fermented dill pickles or other veggies put up in your pantry.
"The consumption of fermented foods may be particularly relevant to the emerging research linking traditional dietary practices and positive mental health. The extent to which traditional dietary items may mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress may be controlled, at least to some degree, by microbiota."
Lacto-fermented pickles are so simple to make and such a wonderful way to get a powerful hit of healthy probiotics for daily gut and immune health. When I'm eating pickles and raw fermented kraut, I feel my gut and immune system are getting the essential coverage they need for optimal good gut bacteria balance. The word out from my peeps in the field of Nutrition and Chinese Medicine is that, eating fermented food with each meal offers important support for our spleen, digestive and immune system. Though it is always essential to keep our immune system strong, during this time of Covid, it is especially important. I make raw fermented kraut throughout the year and am now so excited to have just put up 3 quarts of lacto-fermented dill pickles. Adding some lacto-fermented foods with each meal is an important self-care practice for not only nutritional/physical health, but also for emotional wellness. There is much evidence-based research correlating healthy gut bacteria to a healthy brain, body and immune system.
"Properly controlled fermentation may often amplify the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods, the ultimate value of which may be associated with mental health; furthermore, we also argue that the microbes (for example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species) associated with fermented foods may also influence brain health via direct and indirect pathways."
According to a 2014 study in The Journal of Physiological Anthropology, "The consumption of fermented foods may be particularly relevant to the emerging research linking traditional dietary practices and positive mental health. The extent to which traditional dietary items may mitigate inflammation and oxidative stress may be controlled, at least to some degree, by microbiota." The article states, "It is our contention that properly controlled fermentation may often amplify the specific nutrient and phytochemical content of foods, the ultimate value of which may be associated with mental health; furthermore, we also argue that the microbes (for example, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria species) associated with fermented foods may also influence brain health via direct and indirect pathways." A great read on the gut-brain connection is the book, "Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain- for Life", by David Perlmutter, M.D.
So, enjoy these fabulous lacto-fermented, garlic dills. Here's the recipe and method.
Lacto-Fermented Dill Pickles
Makes 6-8 quart wide mouth canning jars
*I like to cut down the recipe and make 2-3 quart batches. This way you get fresher batches that don't over-ferment due to waiting months to eat them.
Brine for about 8 quarts- 9 Tablespoons sea salt or celtic salt to 4 quarts filtered water (mix together very well and remix just before pouring into filled jars- I use a blender)
2 large, folded *Grape Leaves per jar (tannins help keep pickles crisp)
Fresh flowering dill (buy a large bunch and divide between jars)
6 large cloves garlic per jar
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
5-7 small pickling cucumbers- or however many you need to fill canning jar.
Fold grape leaves into bottom of jars.
Place half the dill and some garlic on top of grape leaves.
Pack pickles into jars and add remaining dill and garlic as you pack.
After re-stirring brine, pour into filled jars, all the way to top.
Seal full jar with canning lid ( leave about 3/4 -1 inch to prevent explosion).
Place jar in a low-sided pan, tub or water proof container.
Cover jars with a large dish towel and place in dark cabinet. (55-75 degrees is good)
Let ferment for about 1-3 weeks at room temperature. If your space is warm, you may want to transfer the jars to fridge after only 1-2 weeks. Sample a pickle after one week. They will still continue to ferment in the fridge so judge by the climate of your home. The original method calls for leaving the jars to ferment at room temperature for several weeks but that can be too long unless you have a nice root cellar. Above 75 degrees will require refrigeration sooner than later. If you notice bubbles in the jar, get them into the fridge.
Be careful in opening the jars as they can be wildly fizzy.
* Note on grape leaves- tannins in grape leaves get extra concentrated with fermentation. If you are someone who gets migraine from tannins, simply do not use grape leaves and your pickles will still be awesome..
Yummy Happy Tummy,
Covid-19 is in the news daily; so much that it is dizzying. I have found myself drawn and repulsed by the news at the same time. In an honest check-in with myself, I find that all I want to do is to unplug and get outside to stop my mental mind, rest and recharge in nature.
As a Forest Therapy Guide and Whole Health Educator™, I offer tools to help people find balance and wholeness during life’s challenges. Stress and the anxiety it produces can trigger disease and illness and is also connected to lower immune function. Managing anxiety and stress and keeping one’s immune system strong, is key to staying well and whole. This isn’t a time for panic, though it is a good time for increased awareness regarding our daily habits. Effective hand washing throughout the day is an extremely important practice even when there is not a pandemic and “social distancing” at this time, early on, will hopefully help prevent an exponential increase of infection while we are still in the early stages.
The big picture is still coming into focus as we humans are being called to care for ourselves, one another and The More Than Human World in a new compassionate way to help repair what is broken.
Wellness is not only about one thing. Everything affects everything else. As Georgiana Donadio, founder of The National Institute of Whole Health says, “Everything is Everything. Our, Physical, Emotional, Nutritional, Environmental and Spiritual levels of health work together to support our wellness or contribute to us falling ill. Though I could focus here on the many details of every aspect of health, I am guessing you are reading numerous articles about how best to stay well in these times.
I believe we have entered a new level regarding planetary shifts and will continue to get more potent glimpses of the inter-connectedness of the world we live in, as we humans and The Earth herself evolve together. Human health and wellness is fully inter-connected with the health of all life on the planet. We are not separate from, but fully integrated in the living organism that gives us life-The Earth.
The big picture is still coming into focus as we humans are being called to care for ourselves, one another and “The More Than Human World” in a new compassionate way; to help repair what is broken. Climate change; racial inequality; over-population; poverty; starvation; food insecurity; war; depletion of resources and ancient mutating viruses that we have lived with for millions of years in symbiotic relationship, are shouting us awake. Here is the invitation: to come together; explore and build creative new relationships with ourselves, one another and The Earth as we discover how to share this world together in right relationship.
Caring for Ourselves, Others and The Earth through Nature Relation
An important way to practice “social distancing” is to stay home and communicate with others through online forums or groups. Several countries quickly prevented large Covid-19 outbreaks through “social distancing”. Schools closed; people worked from home and group events were cancelled. The United States has just initiated a month-long travel ban from Europe to The U.S and is asking large groups to not gather. Schools and businesses are closing and people are working remotely. All of this is intended to prevent Covid-19 from multiplying and spreading exponentially.
What do you do when you feel isolated and unable to be with your people and social networks? There is another way to practice “social distancing” and though you can do this solo, you are in no way alone. It’s a practice called, Nature Immersion also known as, Forest Therapy/Forest Bathing/Shinrin Yoku. As a Certified Forest Therapy Guide through The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy, I typically facilitate Forest Therapy in groups.
I have been forced to practice, “social distancing” for years, due to a sensitivity to LED lights and loud noise which caused such violent vertigo several years ago that I could barely be in public gatherings for close to two years. It led me to spend a large percentage of my time in nature where I discovered the lively web-of-inter-being we are all a part of. We live in a human society, but that is not the only world. There exists, “The More Than Human World” which includes all Earthly life that is not us people. The in depth time I spent immersed in nature became a potent healer for my body, mind and spirit as well, it connected me deeply with nature in a new way.
What if you could distance yourself from humans and still find connection and relationship with other beings in our world? How might you step away for a time throughout your week, from all the stress and pulls of life? It might be your garden, a park, the forest or a botanical garden for some solitary, quiet, slow, unplugged time; bathing in the essence of nature. I invite you to explore forest bathing. It’s not a hike; not a nature identification walk and it’s not a run or a fast walk with friends, discussing life stress’s. It is: calming, slowing way down, quiet, restful, unplugged time in relationship with the land and it’s beings. Forest Therapy supports the immune system, mental focus, mood, sleep, regulates blood pressure and reduces anxiety.
A Self-Guided Forest Bath
1-Allow yourself between one to two hours.
2-Dress to stay comfortable. Really layer up in cold climates. Bring a sit-pad or towel.
3-Find a place you are familiar with where you feel safe.
4-Arrive: notice your body and what you are experiencing through all your senses. Look around you. Notice the place- what do you smell, feel, hear, taste and see?
5-Slow Meander-Allow yourself to take time as you explore and notice with your senses. Where does your body lead you? Take a very slow meander and explore with your senses what you are drawn to. Do you feel like sitting with a particular tree, on a rock, near the water or looking at the sky? Then do so.
6-Find a place to sit- a “Sit-Spot”, where you can rest for at least 20 minutes in silence and notice the life around you with all your senses.
7-Finally, plan ahead and bring a thermos of tea and a snack for yourself; Treat yourself royally and set out your tea and food on a beautiful cloth or in the forest duff. Be nourished and held by nature.
Repeat as often as you can.
Blessings for Wholeness, Sari
Some links related to self-care and wellness practices.
Everything is Everythng: The Five Aspects of Health
Spring Energy Tune-Up Part One
Spring Energy Tune-Up Part Two
Raw Fermented Kraut for Body and Mind: The Research and The Recipe
Feet, Feet, They Make Your Heart Beat
Tears of Joy: Crying Yourself Well
I moved to Boise last winter and after an incredible journey, returned to my former home in Oregon, eight months later. Many have asked me what happened. This is the story of my journey.
Last January, before I relocated to Boise, my friend, Judy, pulled out a beautiful wooden box; opened it and began looking through several teeny, tiny cardboard boxes for a parting gift. "This one is for you.", she said, as she handed me a tiny box. Inside were two tightly rolled woven cloth strips rolled together and calligraphed with the following: "Every Journey Brings Blessings.", and, "Blessings Abound; Blessings All Around."
When I left my home in Oregon last winter, I thought of it as a move, not a journey. It seems that Judy knew otherwise. Sometimes I wonder how limited my life experience would be without the awareness to follow my inner compass and listen to the guidance coming through. I so appreciate the love and support I have received from my family and friends over the years. It has taken much courage and strength for me to listen and follow what my heart is telling me, especially over the past 13 years since my divorce. At times it has felt terrifying. When I left the security of what I thought would be a life-long marriage, in order to help save all of us from what had become deeply broken, it was terrifying. It's not a simple matter and it can take years or decades to learn to follow one's inner voice when life feels out of balance, stagnant or when you feel your spirit is being sucked out of you. The work it takes to catalyze change can be excruciating. I was the person who put safety and security above all else. Right up until the point where the awesome job I loved and planned to retire from 20 years down the road- with generous benefits and people I considered family, abruptly ended following a health crisis, 5 years ago.
Sometimes the only way we gain the awareness and freedom to find our true path is through sudden unexpected loss or crisis. In my case it was losing my ability to work, let alone, stand, walk or eat most foods without a violent vertigo attack. Fluorescent and LED lights, triggered sharp pain in my eyeballs and the feeling that someone was blowing up a giant balloon in my right ear. Being in crowds was almost impossible as the sound filtered into my ear as loud, unrecognizable static. The worst of these symptoms lasted for close to two years. I'd spent my life up until that point, being strong, and independent, with the ability to do almost anything I put my mind to. My mind was sharp and my body strong, fit and agile. I'd had no reason to doubt that I would have many years at my job and I had just signed away my spousal support, 6 months earlier. Suddenly, I could barely leave my home, let alone work and support myself. I was flung into the world of unemployment, Medicaid and Food Stamps, terrified of what would happen when my savings ran out. One of the biggest journeys of my life had begun; in the process, catalyzing massive inner and outer transformation, offering me a challenging doorway to self discovery.
Without this crisis, I can't imagine my former self making such a jump into the unknown. I was comfortable and felt in control of my life before I abruptly was thrown into a full-on metamorphosis; a shattering process where everything I thought I was and knew suddenly disappeared with lightning speed. In retrospect, I see it was the only way for me to cross a threshold to now.
Time and the process of finding wholeness have helped me see a bigger perspective. Looking back, I can see a map of my life's journey up to now. I traveled some during my youth, on my own; and then with my husband and children during our marriage, and in the past decade, with my adult children. The last big trip I took while still married, was with my husband and 14 year-old son, to Turkey. Turkey was beautiful; exotic and evoked a deep sense of having passed through this land previously. We visited tombs of Sufi Saints, including Jelaluddin Rumi. We took part in Sufi Zhikr (Whirling Dervish experiences) as caravansari's. We experienced Turkish /Sufi music with our musician guide, Latif Bolat. It felt like much more of an inner journey as compared to our past travels. Upon returning home, our marriage rapidly began to fall apart. It seemed the stressors and deeply buried dysfunction that had been building for years were catalyzed in Turkey and brought to the surface by the depth of that journey. Less than a year later, after a 25 year marriage, we were divorced.
Though I loved traveling, after Turkey, except for traveling to be with my adult kids, who live abroad, I was pulled toward experiences that took me within. At The 9-Day School for The Work, with Byron Katie, I discovered that facilitated inquiry into my stressful stories and thinking, with a group of others drawn to this form of inquiry, was the deepest experience I had up until then. Working through the knotted thoughts about what triggered the end of my marriage was liberating and healing. I began craving quiet places and nature. Instead of planning travel abroad, I was pulled to the forests and hot springs of Oregon, longing for quiet retreats and training's in nature. I studied Qigong and began a daily practice. The following year I attended a Level I Reiki training (energy healing). Soon thereafter, I trained in Reiki Level II & III, becoming a Reiki Master and Teacher. It's almost 6 years since my initial training and I cherish this healing work with clients, as well as my daily "Self-Reiki " sessions for my own self-care. Before my studies, I was not quite sure why I was pulled to Reiki, but quickly discovered my gift. Since early childhood, I always felt electrical tingling throughout my body. I assumed that everyone felt it. After my first Reiki attunement, that "electricity" became quite pronounced and I discovered and owned one of the gifts I came here with, that lay dormant for more than half my life.
Those training's I was called to in the forest at Breitenbush Hot Springs, created a foundation for what came next. Qigong in my back meadow transformed me. Nature came alive as I moved energy through Qigong. Wild animals began showing up where ever I went, peering in my windows and visiting me at the creek; my former, somewhat limited ability to communicate with animals became pronounced. The empty nest box under my bedroom window was suddenly inhabited by a family of Western Screech Owls. My deepening connection to nature was already growing before the health crisis struck and once it hit, one of the only places I could be, other than the sanctuary of my home, was beside the creek in my meadow, practicing qigong with my bare feet on the ground. I feel the time I spent in nature was an essential piece in recovering my balance and discovering a new way to be in the natural world and embodied in my life.
With time, as I healed, I slowly developed my Reiki practice and became credentialed as a Whole Health Educator™. I took groups of clients into the forest for a practice called, "Shinrin Yoku/Forest Bathing." With the first experience, I knew I had returned home. I felt relief, and understood that this too is another gift I have to offer. Two months later I was on a journey to Costa Rica for a week-long training and 6 months later, I had become certified as a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, through The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.
When I went to Boise last winter, following two previous visits, I was searching for a home where I might escape the summers of thick, wildfire smoke that Southern Oregon has lived with for several years. I felt called to the land in Boise-the high desert and The Boise River flowing through the middle of the city. Though I was afraid to leave my home of 40 years in Oregon, I followed a calling that felt very alive in me. I experienced severe stress and upheaval that comes with such a huge move, alone. I developed collaborations and launched my practice as a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide in a new city. I made new acquaintances as my guided forest therapy walks began at The Idaho Botanical Garden and at The Foot Hills Learning Center. I spent much time hiking and forest bathing in The Boise Foothills and along the river; biking The Boise River Greenbelt; sitting under the tall Pines at The Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. I was often at The Idaho Botanical Garden, either guiding forest therapy walks, assessing trails or practicing qigong under a magnificent Catalpa Tree.
I started a qigong practice group and met a friend there who invited me to a Wim Hof practice group, immersing in the icy waters of The Boise River, 3 mornings a week. I fell in love with the river and its life- its web of inter-being. I experienced much synchronicity in Boise, often revolving around the river. My delightful new "river dipper" friend, Tyler and his wife, Jade, had close connections to people in Oregon, at The Hai Shan Center, who are like family to my son, who currently lives in Asia. Being with our Wim Hof group, immersing in the life-giving waters, was being with family. So even when a morning was a chilly 55 degrees outside, I made it to the river. Mostly, I spent my time in Boise alone, immersed in nature. This move was the first time in my adult life, since before my marriage, that I journeyed out alone, leaving my loving people and the land I knew. I longed for the deep human connections I had left in Oregon and felt painfully isolated. At the same time, immersing in the solitude and quiet of nature was affecting me at a deep soul level.
"I wanted a move, but my soul needed a journey. I answered the call to look inside and be present with myself, in a way that could only happen in a foreign place. It seems I had a karmic contract to go through the isolation- to understand there is so much more to life than the human world. In Boise, I met myself through meeting The More than Human World."
I wanted a move, but my soul needed a journey. I answered the call to look inside and be present with myself, in a way that could only happen in a foreign place. It seems I had a karmic contract to go through the isolation- to understand there is so much more to life than the human world. In Boise, I met myself through meeting The More than Human World-through giant puffy white clouds against the clear blue Idaho sky; an apple tree named, "Whomping Willow"; sudden, violent whirlwinds; a Muskrat who popped out of the river one morning in great curiosity; Mallards who included me as one of their flock as I sat in the cold Boise River; the flock of Canadian Geese, flying over and gracing me with their big, soft bodies, within arm's reach, as I lay along the river's edge. I still hear their honking and see their soft white bellies. I met my first Bobcat while practicing qigong, one evening in The Boise Foothills- Bobcat-sleek, knowing, spotted beauty, passing by as I stood in "Universe" pose under an Oak Tree. In one knowing glance, we agreed that all was well before she continued on her way. The Red Squirrel's of Boise, warmly welcomed and assured me they had my back; knew I was there on a "mission" and offered me a place on their land. They talked to me and danced on branches above my head. A male and female, doing a love dance on a low branch, stopped a foot away from me, to mate as they peeked their heads my way.
Riding my bike down The Boise River Greenbelt one late afternoon, a branch unexpectedly dropped, with a squirrel dangling from its tip. I was moving fast on my bike, but the squirrel managed to jump onto my shoulder, as if it had been waiting at the bus stop. It bounced off me to the ground, with a splat-like sound; and ran off. When I told my son, Noah, in Taiwan, the story, he was in disbelief and shared his own squirrel experience. Noah said at what would have been the approximate same time in Taiwan as the squirrel event in Boise, that he was on a train and a wild squirrel came running through the train car and leaped onto his shoulder on its way through. I had tapped into the, SWW, "The Squirrel Wide Web." Five days before my return to Oregon, following a walk with a friend, a squirrel approached us near the river. She walked up to the toes of our boots; sat up on her haunches with her little paws together and her 6 little nipples in view. My friend, Lindsay, said, "Oh my God, I've never had this happen before!" I said, "Really, don't all the squirrels in Boise do this? I've had several experiences like this with the squirrels here." Lindsay, who was born and raised in Boise said, "No, this is not normal. It's because I'm with you."
The Bobcat taught me about solitude; the geese and the ducks shared their stories of migration, flight and navigating the river; the squirrels introduced me to their vast social network and adopted me for a time. And, the land, sky, trees and river introduced me to the vast web of life they support. I am so very grateful for all the beautiful people who I found and who reached out to me during my journey in Boise. I'm grateful for new friendships that were written in the stars and to all who joined forest therapy walks with Wild Wellness Guide. Boise taught me how to stretch farther than I ever have; to be with myself and understand that every journey has potential to lead one home.
by William Lee Rand
At hospitals and clinics across America, Reiki is beginning to gain acceptance as a meaningful and cost-effective way to improve patient care. Personal interviews conducted with medical professionals corroborate this view.(1) "Reiki sessions cause patients to heal faster with less pain," says Marilyn Vega, RN, a private-duty nurse at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in New York. [Reiki] accelerates recovery from surgery, improves mental attitude and reduces the negative effects of medication and other medical procedures.
Vega, a Reiki master, includes Reiki with her regular nursing procedures. Because the patients like Reiki, she has attracted a lot of attention from other patients through word of mouth, as well as from members of the hospital staff. Patients have asked her to do Reiki on them in the operating and recovery rooms. She has also been asked to do Reiki sessions on cancer patients at Memorial Sloane Kettering Hospital, including patients with bone marrow transplants. Recognizing the value of Reiki in patient care, 6 doctors and 25 nurses have taken Reiki training with her.
America's Interest in Complementary Health Care
The general public is turning with ever-increasing interest to complementary health care, including Reiki. In fact, a study conducted by Dr. David M. Eisenberg of Boston's Beth Israel Hospital found that one in every three Americans has used such care, spending over 14 billion out-of-pocket dollars on alternative health care in 1990 alone!(2)
A survey conducted in 2007 indicates that in the previous year 1.2 million adults and 161,000 children in the U.S. received one or more energy healing sessions such as Reiki.(3)
Reiki is also gaining wider acceptance in the medical establishment. Hospitals are incorporating it into their roster of patient services, often with their own Reiki-trained physicians, nurses and support staff. Reiki was in use in hospital operating rooms as early as the mid-90's.(4) Since then its acceptance in medicine has grown. It is now listed in a nursing "scope and standards of practice" publication as an accepted form of care,(5) and a 2008 USA Todayarticle reported that in 2007 15% of U.S. hospitals (over 800) offered Reiki as a regular part of patient services.(6) For a detailed description of 64 Reiki hospital programs, please go to www.centerforreikiresearch.org
A research study at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut indicates that Reiki improved patient sleep by 86 percent, reduced pain by 78 percent, reduced nausea by 80 percent, and reduced anxiety during pregnancy by 94 percent.(7)
In 2009, The Center for Reiki Research completed the Touchstone Project, which summarized Reiki studies published in peer-reviewed journals. The 25 studies examined were further evaluated to determine the effectiveness of Reiki. The conclusion states: "Overall, based on the summaries of those studies that were rated according to scientific rigor as "Very Good" or "Excellent" by at least one reviewer and were not rated as weak by any reviewer, 83 percent show moderate to strong evidence in support of Reiki as a therapeutic modality."(8)
Why Hospitals Like Reiki
Hospitals are undergoing major changes. They are experiencing a need to reduce costs and at the same time improve patient care. Under the old medical model based on expensive medication and technology this posed an unsolvable dilemma. Not so with Reiki and other complementary modalities. Reiki requires no technology at all and many of its practitioners offer their services for free. Reiki is therefore a very good way to improve care while cutting costs.
Julie Motz, a Reiki trained healer has worked with Dr. Mehmet Oz, a noted cardiothoracic surgeon at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. Motz uses Reiki and other subtle energy techniques to balance the patients' energy during operations. She has assisted Dr. Oz in the operating room during open heart surgeries and heart transplants. Motz reports that none of the 11 heart patients so treated experienced the usual postoperative depression, the bypass patients had no postoperative pain or leg weakness; and the transplant patients experienced no organ rejection.(9)
An article in the Marin Independent Journal follows Motz's work at the Marin General Hospital in Marin County, California, just north of San Francisco.(10)There Motz has used subtle energy healing techniques with patients in the operating room. She makes a point of communicating caring feelings and positive thoughts to the patients, and has been given grants to work with mastectomy patients in particular.
Dr. David Guillion, an oncologist at Marin General, has stated "I feel we need to do whatever is in our power to help the patient. We provide state of the art medicine in our office, but healing is a multidimensional process. . . . I endorse the idea that there is a potential healing that can take place utilizing energy."
Reiki at Portsmouth Regional Hospital
Patricia Alandydy is an RN and a Reiki Master. She is the Assistant Director of Surgical Services at Portsmouth Regional Hospital in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. With the support of her Director Jocclyn King and CEO William Schuler, she has made Reiki services available to patients within the Surgical Services Department. This is one of the largest departments in the hospital and includes the operating room, Central Supply, the Post Anesthesia Care Unit, the Ambulatory Care Unit and the Fourth Floor where patients are admitted after surgery. During telephone interviews with pre-op patients, Reiki is offered along with many other services. If patients request it, Reiki is then incorporated into their admission the morning of surgery, and an additional 15-20 minute session is given prior to their transport to the operating room. Some Reiki has also been done in the operating room at Portsmouth Regional.
The Reiki sessions are given by 20 members of the hospital staff whom Patricia has trained in Reiki. These include RN's, physical therapists, technicians and medical records and support staff. Reiki services began in April 1997, and as of 2008 have given 8000 Reiki sessions.
"It has been an extremely rewarding experience," Alandydy says, "to see Reiki embraced by such a diverse group of people and spread so far and wide by word of mouth, in a positive light. Patients many times request a Reiki [session] based on the positive experience of one of their friends. It has also been very revealing to see how open-minded the older patient population is to try Reiki. In the hospital setting Reiki is presented as a technique which reduces stress and promotes relaxation, thereby enhancing the body's natural ability to heal itself."
The Reiki practitioners do not add psychic readings or other new-age techniques to the Reiki sessions, but just do straight Reiki. Because of these boundaries, and the positive results that have been demonstrated, Reiki has gained credibility with the physicians and other staff members. It is now being requested from other care areas of the hospital to treat anxiety, chronic pain, cancer and other conditions.
Alandydy, with her partner Greda Cocco, also manage a hospital-supported Reiki clinic through their business called Seacoast Complementary Care, Inc. The clinic is open two days a week and staffed by 50 trained Reiki volunteers, half of whom come from the hospital staff and the rest from the local Reiki community. They usually have 13-17 Reiki tables in use at the clinic with 1-2 Reiki volunteers per table. The clinic treats a wide range of conditions including HIV, pain, and side-effects from chemotherapy and radiation. Some patients are referred by hospital physicians and some come by word of mouth from the local community. They are charged a nominal fee of $10.00 per session. The clinic is full each night and often has a waiting list.
The California Pacific Medical Center's Reiki Program
The California Pacific Medical Center is one of the largest hospitals in northern California. Its Health and Healing Clinic, a branch of the Institute for Health and Healing, provides care for both acute and chronic illness using a wide range of complementary care including Reiki, Chinese medicine, hypnosis, biofeedback, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal therapy, nutritional therapy and aromatherapy. The clinic has six treatment rooms and is currently staffed by two physicians, Dr. Mike Cantwell and Dr. Amy Saltzman. Cantwell, a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases, is also a Reiki Master with training in nutritional therapy. Saltzman specializes in internal medicine and also has training in mindfulness meditation, acupuncture and nutritional therapy. Other professionals are waiting to join the staff, including several physicians.
The doctors at the clinic work with the patients and their referring physicians to determine what complementary modalities will be appropriate for the patient. A detailed questionnaire designed to provide a holistic overview of the patient's condition is used to help decide the course of treatment. The questionnaire involves a broad range of subjects including personal satisfaction with relationships, friends and family, with body image, and with job, career, and spirituality. The clinic is very popular and currently has a waiting list of more than 100 patients.
Dr. Cantwell provides 1-3 hour-long Reiki sessions, after which he assigns the patient to a Reiki II internist who continues to provide Reiki sessions outside the clinic. Patients who continue to respond well to the Reiki treatments are referred for Reiki training so they can continue Reiki self-treatments on a continuing basis.
Dr. Cantwell states: "I have found Reiki to be useful in the treatment of acute illnesses such as musculoskeletal injury/pain, headache, acute infections, and asthma. Reiki is also useful for patients with chronic illnesses, especially those associated with chronic pain."
At this point, Reiki is not covered by insurance at the clinic, but Dr. Cantwell is conducting clinical research in the hope of convincing insurance companies that complementary care is viable and will save them money.
More MD's and Nurses Practicing Reiki
Mary Lee Radka is a Reiki Master and an R.N. who has the job classification of Nurse-Healer because of her Reiki skills. She teaches Reiki classes to nurses and other hospital staff at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor. She also uses Reiki with most of her patients. She has found Reiki to produce the best results in reducing pain and stress, improving circulation and eliminating nerve blocks.
Reiki master Nancy Eos, M.D., was a member of the teaching staff of the University of Michigan Medical School. As an emergency-room physician, she treated patients with Reiki along with standard medical procedures.
"I can't imagine practicing medicine without Reiki," Eos says. "With Reiki all I have to do is touch a person. Things happen that don't usually happen. Pain lessens in intensity. Rashes fade. Wheezing gives way to breathing clearly. Angry people begin to joke with me."
In her book Reiki and Medicine she includes descriptions of using Reiki to treat trauma, heart attack, respiratory problems, CPR, child abuse, allergic reactions and other emergency-room situations. Dr. Eos now maintains a family practice at Grass Lake Medical Center and is an admitting-room physician at Foote Hospital in Jackson, Michigan, where she continues to use Reiki in conjunction with standard medical procedures. According to Dr. Eos, there are at least 5 other physicians at Foote hospital who have Reiki training along with many nurses.(11)
Libby Barnett and Maggie Chambers are Reiki masters who have treated patients and given Reiki training to staff members in over a dozen New England hospitals. They teach Reiki as complementary care and the hospital staff they have trained add Reiki to the regular medical procedures they administer to their patients. Their book Reiki Energy Medicine describes their experiences.(12) One of the interesting things they recommend is creating hospital "Reiki Rooms," staffed by volunteers, where patients as well as hospital staff can come to receive Reiki treatments. Bettina Peyton, M.D., one of the physicians Libby and Maggie have trained states: "Reiki's utter simplicity, coupled with its potentially powerful effects, compels us to acknowledge the concept of a universal healing energy."
Anyone interested in bringing Reiki into hospitals is encouraged to do so. The hospital setting where there are so many people in real need is a wonderful place to offer Reiki. The experiences and recommendations in this article should provide a good starting point for developing Reiki programs in your area.
*Editors Note:It is very important when giving Reiki treatments in hospitals or otherwise to make sure the patient understands what Reiki is and to only provide a Reiki treatment if the patient has requested one. Also, if the issue comes up, it is important to explain that while Reiki is spiritual in nature, in that love and compassion are an important part of its practice, it is not a religion and that members of many religious groups including many Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Jews use Reiki and find it compatible with their religious beliefs.
1 The comments that follow were part of an interview I did with each person either in person or by telephone and were first published in my article, "Reiki In Hospitals," which appeared in the Winter 1997 issue of the Reiki Newsletter(precursor to Reiki News Magazine).
2 Eisenberg, David, et al. "Unconventional Medicine in the United States", New England Journal of Medicine 328, no. 4 (1993), 246-52.
2 Beth Ashley, "Healing hands", Marin Independent Journal, May 11, 1997.
3 P. M. Barnes, B. Bloom, and R. Nahin, CDC National Health Statistics Report #12. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults and Children, United States, 2007. (December 2008).
4 Chip Brown, "The Experiments of Dr. Oz,"The New York Times Magazine, July 30, 1995, 20-23.
5 American Holistic Nurses Association and American Nurses Association (2007), Holistic Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice (Silver Spring, MD: Nursesbooks.org.)
6 L. Gill, "More hospitals offer alternative therapies for mind, body, spirit,"USA Today, September 15, 2008 (Online) http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2008-2009-2014-alternative-therapies_N.htm.
7 Hartford Hospital, Integrative Medicine, Outcomes, http://www.harthosp.org/integrativemed/outcomes/default.aspx#outcome6. Measurements cited were obtained during the initial pilot phase of the study, December 1999 - December 2000.
8 The Center for Reiki Research, Touchstone Project, Conclusion, http://www.centerforreikiresearch.org/RRConclusion.aspx.
9 Julie Motz, Hands of Life, Bantam Books, New York, 1998
10 Beth Ashley, "Healing hands", Marin Independent Journal, May 11, 1997.
11 Nancy Eos, M.D., Reiki and Medicine (Eos, 1995).
12 Libby Barnett and Maggie Chambers, with Susan Davidson, Reiki Energy Medicine, Healing Arts Press, Rochester, Vermont, 1996.
by Kathie Lipinski, RN, MSN
As a Reiki Master Teacher, Nurse Massage Therapist, and Holistic Nurse in private practice, my experience has shown that Reiki enhances all nursing skills. Reiki enhances both nursing care and judgement in a hospital, private practice, administrative, managed or home care setting.
Nurses have always been known to have a sixth sense or what many refer to as "Nurses’ Intuition." It is that ability to "know" when to check on a patient, to call a family when a patient is not doing well, to have a doctor recheck a patient, to call or visit a home care client when a visit wasn’t planned "just because" you had a feeling, or recheck paperwork. Reiki training enhances this ability to "know" or "sense" things or be more aware of subtle signs.
Because Reiki comes from the source, the nurse never has to worry about depleting his or her own energy.
Working with energy is another way of gathering information on a deeper level. It gives one "subtle clues" as to what is really going on with a person. It helps one to become more aware of the emotional or spiritual component of dis-ease that the nurse can share with the client to gain understanding or insight.
This insight fits with the nurses’ role of helping a person to understand and learn more about their health or illness and to provide guidance to change behavior and increase awareness. Reiki training makes a nurse more aware of subtle energies – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. This subtle energy phenomenon is known to Nurses as the "Human Energy Field".
Reiki enhances Therapeutic and Healing Touch techniques since it is an energy source in itself. It helps the nurse to protect herself from picking up negative energies or vibrations from the person she is working with. Because Reiki comes from the source, the nurse never has to worry about depleting his or her own energy. Reiki treats both practitioner and client.
The most important benefit of Reiki is the self-care aspect. With all the energies that a nurse has to give in caring for others, a nurse often suffers "burn out." Reiki is an excellent way for nurses to take care of themselves and restore their energy and avoid depletion.
Reiki has helped me fine tune my clairvoyance so that I can "see" the emotional component behind the dis-ease or emotional turmoil. It has enhanced my touch so that my hands are more sensitive to the muscle state. When I use guided imagery or regression with a client, it helps me to see the traumatic event and dialogue with the people involved. Reiki has taken me from traditional nursing to a more holistic model where deeper healing is addressed through the use of subtle energies.
Many of my Reiki students and friends who are nurses often tell me about the ways they use Reiki. Some use Reiki energy to help them more easily locate a vein when inserting an intravenous line (IV). Others give their patients Reiki while taking their blood pressure or pulse. The patient’s often reply that they feel "something special" or feel more relaxed. It is amazing what just a few minutes of Reiki can do.
Home care nurses use Reiki in physical and psychological assessments, changing dressings, paper work, health care teaching and working with family members. Recovery room nurses report using Reiki over the incision site of painful areas and find patients have an easier time waking up or recovering from anesthesia and surgical trauma. Emergency room nurses use Reiki to calm patients down quickly and to be more open to treatment. They find that Reiki also calms down family members. Dr. Nancy Eos explains in her book "Reiki and Medicine" how she uses Reiki to help her decide which person needs to be seen first (triage).
Nurses in administrative or management positions use Reiki when doing stressful tasks such as staffing, counseling, and reviewing employees. Reiki calms the situation, and creates a more receptive state and clearer thinking. Some managers and staff give themselves Reiki before and during a staff meeting and find the meeting goes smoother.
Nurses in private practice tell me how Reiki enhances their hypnotherapy skills, guided imagery exercises, their work as a dula in Labor and Delivery, and massage sessions, etc.
As nurses’ roles continue to change and expand, Reiki is there to assist in their professional development. Reiki assists nurses in caring for themselves and restores their energies so they can continue to give of themselves in their role as health care advocates. Nurses who practice Reiki are in the unique position to combine both Reiki and their strong medical knowledge to help clients and improve the health care system.
Kathie Lipinski is a Center Licensed Teacher of Usui Reiki and Karuna Reiki®. She is a Healing Touch Practitioner and Nationally Certified Massage Therapist. Kathie has six years experience working with Reiki and other energy based healing techniques. She is a Registered Nurse, Massage Therapist, Teacher of Massage Therapy and lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Please contact Kathie Lipinski, RN, MSN. E-Mail - KBLIP@aol.com
by Beth Simmons Stapor
As Reiki is becoming more known, people are often looking for a way to define its place in relation to traditional medical treatment. In the past I have looked at Reiki as an alternative healing technique. Several events in the past 3 months have led me to rethink my definition. I now am describing Reiki's place with traditional medicine as complementary. I have seen first hand on three occasions how Reiki has assisted traditional treatment to work for the highest good of the patient.
I recently was invited to do a presentation about Reiki to an assisted living nursing home. The residents that I worked with range in age from mid-fifties to ninety-two years old. Each of the residents has individual health challenges. All deal with the fact that they can no longer take care of themselves at home. Reiki assisted in this situation from a psychological viewpoint. After receiving Reiki, the program director noted that each person had a much more positive attitude toward her living situation. One resident, who was known to always complain, left her Reiki session saying how good she felt and that she loved everyone there. Another resident commented that after the Reiki session she felt like she could fight all the battles of her life. In this situation Reiki is assisting the residents to be more at peace living at Morningside.
The second situation involves using Reiki to assist in radiation treatments. David had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his neck in October. He began radiation treatments in November. The doctors initially gave him six months to live. Initially his energy level was very low, he was feeling defeated by his body and life. He came for sessions three times a week, directly after his radiation treatments. As time went on, his energy level became stronger and his body much more balanced. I had to be away from town for two weeks in the middle of the cycle of radiation. When I returned, David told me he had to stop the radiation sessions while I was gone. He said that without the Reiki after the treatments, he had a lack of energy and was developing side effects to the radiation treatments.
We began regular Reiki sessions again, and within a few days he was able to return to radiation and complete the cycle. His doctors are amazed at the speed of his healing and lack of side effects to the radiation treatments. David tells them it is because of the Reiki that he has such a high level of energy. In his most recent visit to the doctor, David was told that his life expectancy had been greatly improved by his attitude and treatments he had been receiving!
Reiki also assists before and after surgery. Hutch was having prostate cancer surgery. He admits to having a low threshold for pain. I arrived at the hospital the morning of his surgery and gave him Reiki for 1-1/2 hours prior to surgery. He remained calm and relaxed. He easily entered surgery. I was in his room when he returned from the recovery room. Complications during his surgery turned a 2-1/2 hour procedure into a 5 hour surgery.
I gave him Reiki for about 2 hours. He had no side effects from the anesthesia, and was alert and coherently holding a conversation with me the entire time. I continued to go every day to give him 1-2 hours of Reiki. According to the medical staff, expected complications from this type of surgery include itching, vomiting, pain, and an elevated temperature. Hutch had none of these symptoms. He continues to improve daily, has not had to deal with pain, and does not hesitate to tell anyone the reason he has done so well is the Reiki. It has been a team effort, the hospital staff have been providing excellent care and the Reiki has complemented that care every step of the way.
I constantly feel blessed to share Reiki and to assist people in having a better quality of life. I know that a force much greater than I is there guiding me. My hope is that the medical community will continue to become open to complementary techniques of healing, for when we work together we create a place of healing for the highest good of the patient.
by William Lee Rand
The word Reiki is composed of two Japanese words - Rei and Ki. When translating Japanese into English we must keep in mind that an exact translation is difficult. The Japanese language has many levels of meaning. Therefore the context the word is being used in must be kept in mind when attempting to communicate its essence. Because these words are used in a spiritual healing context, a Japanese/English dictionary does not provide the depth of meaning we seek, as its definitions are based on common everyday Japanese. As an example, Rei is often defined as ghost and Ki as vapor and while these words vaguely point in the direction of meaning we seek, they fall far short of the understanding that is needed.
When seeking a definition from a more spiritual context, we find that Rei can be defined as the Higher Intelligence that guides the creation and functioning of the universe. Rei is a subtle wisdom that permeates everything, both animate and inanimate. This subtle wisdom guides the evolution of all creation ranging from the unfolding of galaxies to the development of life. On a human level, it is available to help us in times of need and to act as a source of guidance in our lives. Because of its infinite nature, it is all knowing. Rei is also called God and has many other names depending on the culture that has named it.
Ki is the non-physical energy that animates all living things. Ki is flowing in everything that is alive including plants, animals and humans. When a person's Ki is high, they will feel strong, confident, and ready to enjoy life and take on it's challenges. When it is low, they will feel weak and are more likely to get sick. We receive Ki from the air we breath, from food, sunshine, and from sleep. It is also possible to increase our Ki by using breathing exercises and meditation. When a person dies, their Ki leaves the physical body. Ki is also the Chi of China, the prana of India, the Ti or Ki of the Hawaiians, and has also been called odic force, orgone, bioplasma and life force.
With the above information in mind, Reiki can be defined as a non-physical healing energy made up of life force energy that is guided by the Higher Intelligence, or spiritually guided life force energy. This is a functional definition as it closely parallels the experience of those who practice Reiki in that Reiki energy seems to have an intelligence of its own flowing where it is needed in the client and creating the healing conditions necessary for the individuals needs. It cannot be guided by the mind, therefore it is not limited by the experience or ability of the practitioner. Nether can it be misused as it always creates a healing effect. ( It must be kept in mind that Reiki is not the same as simple life force energy as life force energy by itself can be influenced by the mind and because of this, can create benefit as well as cause problems including ill health.)
The source or cause of health comes from the Ki that flows through and around the individual rather than from the functional condition of the physical organs and tissues. It is Ki that animates the physical organs and tissues as it flows through them and therefore is responsible for creating a healthy condition. If the flow of Ki is disrupted, the physical organs and tissues will be adversely affected. Therefore, it is a disruption in the flow of Ki that is the main cause of illness.
An important attribute of Ki is that it responds to ones thoughts and feelings. Ki will flow more strongly or be weakened in its action depending on the quality of ones thoughts and feelings. It is our negative thoughts and feelings that are the main cause of restriction in the flow of Ki. All negative or dis-harmonious thoughts or feelings will cause a disruption in the flow of Ki. Even Western medicine recognizes the role played by the mind in creating illness and some Western doctors state that as much as 98% of illness is caused directly or indirectly by the mind.
It must be understood that the mind exists not only in the brain, but also through-out the body. The nervous system extends to every organ and tissue in the body and so the mind exists here also. It is also known that the mind even extends outside the body in a subtle energy field 2 to 3 feet thick called the aura. Because of this, it is more appropriate to call our mind a mind/body as the mind and body are so closely linked.
Therefore, our negative thoughts are not just in the brain, but also collect in various locations through-out the body and in the aura. The places where negative thoughts and feelings collect is where Ki is restricted in its flow. The physical organs that exist at these locations are restricted in their functioning. If the negative thoughts and feelings are not eliminated quickly, illness results.
The negative thoughts and feelings that are lodged in the unconscious mind/body are the greatest problem as we are not aware of them and therefore, are we are greatly hampered in changing or eliminating them.
The great value of Reiki is that because it is guided by the Higher Intelligence, it knows exactly where to go and how to respond to restrictions in the flow of Ki. It can work directly in the unconscious parts of the mind/body which contain negative Ki-inhibiting thoughts and feelings and eliminate them. As Reiki flows through a sick or unhealthy area, it breaks up and washes away any negative thoughts or feelings lodged in the unconscious mind/body thus allowing a normal healthy flow of Ki to resume. As this happens, the unhealthy physical organs and tissues become properly nourished with Ki and begin functioning in a balanced healthy way thus replacing illness with health.
This non-invasive, completely benign healing technique is becoming more and more popular. As western medicine continues to explore alternative methods of healing, Reiki is destined to play an important role as an accepted and valued healing practice.
Happy Summer, Friends.
It's been glorious and hot. The air has been clear with more blue sky than I've seen for several summers. I am so grateful for the extremely mild fire season we have had so far this year.
My summer has been full and is quickly flying by. I spent much of July traveling and guided 4 Forest Bathing Walks. I attended The First Annual International Forest Bathing Conference at Sonoma State University. It was wonderful connecting with many of my forest therapy guide colleagues and friends from North America, Europe and Asia. It was exciting to experience the collaboration that is taking place as Forest Therapy takes hold as a solid, evidence-based wellness practice. There were cutting edge insights into the world of forest therapy and forest bathing practices and sessions related to new and emerging science on the benefits of nature connection. It is a reciprocal connection. "It's not just about the forest healing humans; it's about humans and the forest healing each other." Workshops offered creative and sensory approaches to forest therapy and informed us of some very exciting collaborations and partnerships being built in the profession, including with The U.S. Forest Service and ParkRx America. It was great to meet professionals from The U.S. Forest Service and several medical professionals, doctors and educators who are now Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guides. Being at this gathering of like-minded/like-hearted people, joined together in learning, actualizing, and celebrating was incredibly heart-warming and inspiring.
I stopped in my old home of Ashland, Oregon on my return to Boise and guided a forest bathing experience in magical, Lithia Park, where we all relished the cool morning as we breathed in the crystal clean air. While in Ashland, I had a surprise meet up with my friend, Julia Plevin, founder of The Forest Bathing Club in San Francisco and author of, "The Healing Magic of Forest Bathing." We reconnected as we slowly guided ourselves through some very slow time at Lithia Park.
From Ashland, I headed North and East to Breitenbush Hot Springs, for a couple of quiet days in The Willamette National Forest, where I soaked in the healing wild waters; dunked each day in the icy Breitenbush River and immersed in the forest. I discovered a lovely new trail for the first time, called, "The Inner Path." I had a meeting with their events coordinator and after one and a half years of being wait-listed, I have been given dates for the forest bathing retreat I'll be guiding there in May, 2020. Join me at this beautiful, healing resort for some slow-time and letting-go as we connect with "The More Thank Human World", ourselves and one another in the elemental medicine of the forest.
Wild Wellness Guide has three Forest Bathing Walks coming up next week in Boise. Two morning walks, one at The Idaho Botanical Garden and one at The Foothills Learning Center. There is also a walk at the beautiful Julia Davis Park Rose Garden, in the magical evening twilight.
Next month I'm off to Colorado to assist at an A.N.F.T. Forest Therapy Guide Training for 10 days. I'll be posting more dates for Autumn Forest Bathing Experiences soon.
If you have not made it yet to one of my events, please come and discover this beautiful facilitated, mindfulness practice of slowing down and connecting in a new way, through your senses to the natural world, yourself and with others. There are still openings for all my walks next week, though The Botanical Garden date is rapidly filling.
I hope you are getting outside and slowing down. A few days ago, while doing qigong practice in The Boise Foothills, in the early evening, under my favorite Oak tree, a beautiful, large spotted Bobcat, gracefully wandered past.
Be well and may you be with the forest and may the forest be with you.
"The Forest is The Therapist, The Guide Opens The Door."
How often do you find time to play in the woods? I have childhood memories of spending my days in the forest next to my home in S.W. Iowa. I built forts with my friends along the wooded trails. We lined them with thick green moss, pine cones, rocks and sticks, making them our second homes. I also had a nature room to myself under the shade of an old weeping willow, in a partially shaded spot, tucked away next to a secret staircase near my house. The sunlight filtered through the willow branches creating what I thought was "fairy light." I filled my little room with rocks, pieces of bark, sticks, flower petals, moss, buckeyes, milkweed, dandelion fluff and willow branches I wove into works of art. When there was no school, I spent hours there in quiet solitude. I wandered home for lunch where soup and grilled cheese sandwiches awaited. Once sated, I was back in my little room for the remainder of the day, touching, listening, feeling, smelling, imagining and observing all the life around me. That was decades ago and yet, those memories remain fully alive in me.
"Today, my focus was on intricate pieces of "forest treasure", splashing in the waterfall and exploring a grove of trees spread out like a mansion, with one distinctive room after another. I was swiftly pulled out of my small sense of self and life's stresses into an experience of something much greater, as I dropped into the life of the forest."
I still go on playdates in the woods, sometimes solo and sometimes with friends and play in ways quite similar to when I was a child. Today I spent a couple hours in the forest, off the trails in the woods of Southern Oregon. When I hit adulthood, I thought play meant activities like skiing, hiking, dancing, going to the beach, going out for a meal with friends or planning my next vacation. And now, one of my favorite ways to play is through immersing in the woods. Through this practice, I have reclaimed the world of imaginative creative play that I lost myself in as a child. I readily drop in to the intricate beauty of the forest, initially starting with a hike and then, I am called by the forest to slow way down and connect with the more than human world, the sentient community of nature. Today, my focus was on intricate pieces of "forest treasure", splashing in the waterfall and exploring a grove of trees which spread out like a mansion, with one distinctive room after another. I was swiftly pulled out of my small sense of self and life's stresses into an experience of something much greater than myself, as I dropped into the life of the forest and a deep sense of awe.
Two years ago, I began moving my practice as a Whole Health Educator, with its solid basis in evidence-based health research, in the direction of the healing medicine of the forest. When I discovered the practice of Forest Therapy, also known as Shinrin Yoku, which translates to Forest Bathing, I was not surprised by all the evidenced-based research there is on the healing power of nature. Shinrin Yoku refers to the practice of spending time in the forest with the goal of enhancing health, wellbeing, happiness and connecting to nature. The practice is based on the idea that it is beneficial to spend time "bathing in the atmosphere of the forest." The Japanese began studying the positive effects of Shinrin-Yoku on health over 30 years ago when they found their nation in a health crisis and turned to the forests for healing. Today, thanks to Shinrin Yoku in Japan, we have decades of medical research, which correlates the time spent in nature with increased wellbeing.
Many have found forest bathing to significantly alleviate the source of numerous stress-related ailments. It can decrease stress hormone production, at the same time increasing mood. High stress levels can contribute to development of arthritis, asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, headaches, high blood pressure and skin conditions, and numerous other health conditions. Forest bathing regulates parasympathetic nervous system activity which calms and regulates the system, conserves energy, and slows the heart rate.
Spending time in nature can also boost the antiviral natural killer cells of the immune system which can become compromised by high blood levels of stress hormones. These factors in turn offer support of increased immune function. In a 2007 study, the body's disease-fighting agents, natural killer cells, rose by 50% in men taking two hour walks in the woods over a two day period. Another factor in boosting immune function is a chemical released by trees called "phytoncides." These essential oils are part of the tree's immune system and in turn, as we breathe in the forest air, our immune system gets a boost.
"The guide opens the door and the forest offers its healing medicine, unique to each person."
In January of 2018, I completed my immersion training to become a Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, through The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. Although the work I do as a forest therapy guide is inspired by the Japanese practice of Shinrin Yoku, as an A.N.F.T. trained guide, the use of the terms Forest Therapy and Shinrin Yoku do not fully reflect the specific practice as offered by A,N.F.T. Participants are guided on a very slow, mindful walk in nature in a way that facilitates and invites healing interactions. The guide opens the door and the forest offers its healing medicine, unique to each person. In cultures throughout the world, there has been a long tradition of healing through the natural world. This work is about helping people find their wholeness and helping them connect to the natural world, themselves and others in a new way. At the same time, something very subtle happens- people discover a powerful connection with nature, which fosters a new awareness, catalyzing a strong desire to advocate for the care, healing and repair of the natural world.
Wild Wellness Guide offers several Forest Bathing Experiences, including scheduled Public Group Walks; Private Groups for special occasions or life passages; Individual and Couples Sessions and Team-Building or Corporate Wellness Walks for your organization.
Come join me in the world of nature and discover the medicine of the forest through the beautiful healing and playful practice of Forest Bathing.