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Why Zen Meditation Retreats at Osmosis Day Spa?

altar dedication Steve Stucky

Zen and Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary

One may question the placement of Zen meditation retreats in a day spa setting, but if you visit Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary the link will be clear.  The vision of Osmosis grew out of our founder Michael Stusser’s extensive travels in Japan, studying both Japanese gardening and Zen Buddhism.  Osmosis’ signature treatment, the Cedar Enzyme Bath was also brought here from Japan. The property of Osmosis is embellished with Japanese meditation gardens conducive to both walking and sitting meditation.

Osmosis’ is called not just a day spa, but a day spa sanctuary, because of the of the peace and tranquility of our rural setting, and the support for quiet, introspective time in our Japanese meditation garden.  All of Osmosis’ guests are welcome to spend as much time as they like, before or after receiving a relaxing spa treatment, sitting quietly in the meditation garden or practicing walking meditation on the trails that span our 4.5 acre creekside property. Osmosis is not just a place to unwind, but also a place to turn inward.

History of Zen Buddhism and San Francisco Zen Center

The teachings of the Buddha are vast, spanning time and space. Through a strong oral tradition and lineage, his teachings were spread from India throughout the East, and in recent history here in the West.  Zen Buddhism was brought from Japan to the San Francisco Bay Area by a Japanese monk named Suzuki Roshi (1904-1971).  Suzuki arrived in the United States in 1959, welcomed by Western students eager to learn the spiritual practices of Zen, and by 1962 he, along with many inspired students, established the San Francisco Zen Center.  

Since its inception, the San Francisco Zen Center has grown to include its Page Street City Center, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and Green Gulch Farm Center. The purpose of Zen Center is to express, make accessible, and embody the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha. The ideals are based on the example of the Buddha and guided by the teachings and lineage of the Soto School as conveyed to us by the founder, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, and other Buddhist teachers. Zen Center’s central value is to express the nonduality of practice and awakening through the practice of Zen meditation and the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts while acknowledging the value equally of practice in formal monastic settings and in life in the world.

Chris FortinIntroduction to Chris Fortin

Chris Fortin, one of Zen Center’s many ordained priests and teachers in the Soto School of Zen, leads Zen Meditation spa retreats annually at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary.  Chris Fortin is not only a Zen teacher but also a licensed MFT psychotherapist and Spiritual Counselor. She began practicing Buddhism in 1976 while living at the San Francisco Zen Center. After many years of practice, she received Dharma Transmission from Zoketsu Norman Fischer of Everyday Zen, in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi.  Chris is based in Sonoma County where she maintains a private practice in Spiritual Counseling and has established Dharma Heart Zen to share the path of wholehearted living and awakening others.  She currently leads retreats and workshops throughout the country, continuing to make Zen meditation and mindfulness practices available to Westerners.

 

Zen Meditation Retreat on Sept. 6, 2017, at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary

This rejuvenating day combines the best elements of spa and meditation.  The day will begin in the meditation garden with a program led by Chris Fortin teaching Zazen, a chance to stop, sit down on this beautiful earth, and quiet the body and mind.  She will deliver an inspiring Dharma talk with a discussion of the final stage of the Ox and the Herder, a Zen story symbolically depicted in the Osmosis garden. This stage is that of returning the world bestowing gifts of kindness and generosity, the work of a true Bodhisattva tasked to awaken Maitreya, the loving, compassionate one.  A Bodhisattva is someone who understands that our lives are intimately interconnected and works to embody this in everyday life through compassionate and wise action in the world. How does one walk in the world like a true Bodhisattva in difficult times?  How do we awaken the inspiration in Maitreya in this tumultuous world? These will be some of the questions for contemplation during this spa meditation retreat.  

The day includes sitting and walking meditation, your time for contemplation, a Dharma talk, and discussion of relevant spiritual questions, a Cedar Enzyme foot bath, a 75-minute massage to calm the body and mind, quiet time for reflection, and a conversation about how to continue the practice in our daily lives.

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Raizelah Bayen, Massage Therapist Supervisor and Trainer at Osmosis Day SpaRaizelah Bayen is a California Certified Massage Therapist, currently employed as the Director of Training and Massage Therapist Supervisor at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone, California.  She has been practicing massage for over 25 years and teaching T’ui Na, Acupressure, Sports and Pregnancy Massage in massage certification programs for 15 years.  Raizelah is an approved CEU Instructor by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), offering training in Freestone, California and on-site training at your massage school or spa.  For more information, connect with Raizelah Bayen on LinkedIn.

Please contact raizelah@osmosis.com for information on upcoming training in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology, and Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers scheduled in Sebastopol, California.  Or book Raizelah for an on-site training in your massage school or spa in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology or Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers.

Osmosis Day Spa

Osmosis Day Spa

As featured in Insiders Guide to Spas

By STEPHEN KIESLING

Thirty-four years ago, when Michael Stusser bought the picturesque farmhouse on the Bohemian Highway in Freestone, California, that is now Osmosis Day Spa, the building had been through a foreclosure and was surrounded by piles of junk. The adjacent Salmon Creek was devoid of salmon, the local community was short of water, and the last thing the local zoning officers would permit was a spa, where water usage is typically exorbitant and which would likely overrun the small septic system and pollute the creek. Stusser, however, never intended to create an extravagant spa. The former organic gardener and Zen practitioner was on a mission to create a sanctuary for healing the earth, as well as the minds, bodies, and spirits of his guests.

Stusser’s mission began in 1980 when he traveled to Kyoto. There, he experienced the beautiful Zen gardens as the manifestation of the deep peace and tranquility he found in his meditation practice. Entranced, he apprenticed to a local landscape gardener, which he describes as an almost medieval practice, living and working with gardeners seven days a week. After six months he left to join a Zen monastery in Kyoto, where he spent two and a half years of intense meditation while continuing to learn about Zen gardens. But then, he was forced off his cushion by sciatica. Crippled by pain, he spent months searching for a cure, and that’s how he found himself buried to his neck in a n enormous vat filled with hot wood shavings mixed with rice bran and fermenting with a tea of special enzymes.

Says Stusser, “It was unbearably hot. I thought I was going to be burned and there was no way to get out. ‘Be the cold!’ I told myself. ‘Accept rather than resist.’ And suddenly, I was cast into the experience of cascading through the universe at the speed of light. Everything I had been working toward in my practice was suddenly happening. And I knew in a millisecond what I was going to do with my life.”

Stusser spent the next four and a half years learning to create and to tend the living organism that is the enzyme bath. Then he had to raise money and find a building, clear the junk, and create a spa and organic Zen garden that uses no more water or energy than a typical American home. Along the way, he realized that the standard treatment schedule of many spas tends to burn out the therapists, so he created a treatment schedule to allow time for the practitioners to recover and to be fully present for each new guest. Not surprisingly, the therapists tend to stay for years.

Lately, Stusser has been building wetlands to clean the water he does use and has been working with a local salmon restoration team to improve the riparian areas along the creek. Meanwhile, Osmosis has become a place for community gatherings and small concerts.

When You Go

You leave your shoes on the front porch and enter through the small reception area into a simple locker room. You change into a robe and are ushered by your therapist into a small tearoom that opens to a small meditation garden. After a cup of herbal tea, your therapist escorts you to the treatment room, which overlooks another garden of raked pebbles.
The signature treatment of the spa looks something like a giant hot tub filled with moist Lawson cypress shavings mixed with rice bran and fermenting with a tea of special enzymes. The enzyme bath has been scooped out for your body. You lie down, and the therapist gently covers you in the soft cypress shavings. You realize this stuff is warm — or you can wriggle down to where the soft shavings are seriously hot. For the next 20 minutes or so, you will quietly compost in this bed of cypress. Then you are gently exhumed, escorted to an outdoor shower, and ushered along a path to one of the small pagodas near the Salmon Creek.

There, you will spend the next 75 minutes receiving a truly delightful massage. Finally, you make your way to the main meditation garden, a place reminiscent of the Zen gardens in Kyoto. Like any serious Zen garden, the stones and plantings tell a story — the classic Zen parable of ox and the ox herder — but you don’t need to follow the story to absorb the quiet beauty of the place.

Stephen Kiesling

STEPHEN KIESLING

Stephen Kiesling is the editor in chief of Spirituality & Health magazine. He was the youngest member of the 1980 US Olympic Rowing Team and the oldest competitor at the 2008 Olympic Rowing Trials. A Scholar of the House in Philosophy at Yale, he was a founding editor of American Health and Spirituality & Health magazines. Stephen is the author of several books, including The Shell Game and The Nike Cross Training System, and has written for The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, and Outside. He has been featured in The New York Times and The Boston Globe and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, including Today and All Things Considered.

Is Seaweed The Right Summer Treatment for your Skin?

The harsh winter  weather can leave skin feeling extremely dull and lifeless. Now that summer is here it’s time to beautify your skin with a nourishing body treatment!

Osmosis’ Seaweed Body Moisturizing Treatment takes skincare to the next level, featuring Naturopathica’s organic skin conditioning products. It is more than a body treatment, it is both a massage and a body treatment rolled into one.

This full body treatment begins with an exfoliating dry brush massage, followed by layering a warm mineral-rich seaweed serum infused with aromatic herbal extracts to moisten and revitalize the skin. A detailed massage with a Sea Fennel Massage Wax will deeply seal in the moisture for a silky, satin finish. Also included is a Lemongrass-Mimosa foot scrub with Gotu Kola Healing Balm to help moisten and heal dry skin of the feet.

Spas have long used seaweed baths for cleansing and exfoliating qualities.

Seaweed, when applied to the body, draws excess fluid and waste products from the skin. It also acts as a cleanser for dead skin cells and other impurities on the surface. Additionally, because it is rich in essential fatty acids, seaweed not only infuses your skin with moisture but also prevents your skin from losing that moisture any time soon.

Recent studies show that seaweed extract is rich in alguronic acid, shown to increase cell regeneration and the synthesis of elastin.

Elastin is a protein in the skin’s underlying layers that give it firmness and elasticity. As we age, skin begins to lose its elastin fibers. The loss of elastin combined with gravity and the natural slackening of muscles, all contribute to sagging, droopy, or wrinkled skin.  Due to seaweeds soft cell walls, its nutrients including alguronic acid are easily transferable to the skin, bringing back your skin’s vitality, elasticity and tone.

Seaweed is proven to be more abundant in proteins and minerals than a mother’s milk.  

Seaweed  is also full of enzymes, chlorophyll, amino acids, nucleic acids, fatty acids, and DHA. Amino acids in seaweed firm and renew tissue while the fatty acids fight against inflammation, leaving the skin even, soft and supple.

Naturopathica’s seaweed products are complemented with massage enhancing extracts to bring benefit to not only the skin, but also the lymphatic system, nervous system and musculoskeletal systems.

12 Amazing Benefits of the Seaweed Body Moisturizing Treatment and Massage Include:

  1. Re-mineralizing the skin
  2. Moisturize and lock-in moisture
  3. Support skin regeneration, strengthening the skin
  4. Reduce inflammation
  5. Detoxify the skin
  6. Exfoliate dead, dry or calloused skin
  7. Improve skin elasticity and tone
  8. Soften and smooths the skin
  9. Protect against free radical damage
  10. Stimulate collagen synthesis
  11. Improve lymphatic drainage
  12. Relax the nervous system
  13. Relief muscle and joint pain or stiffness

Osmosis is proud to partner with Naturopathica to provide the highest quality, nutrient-rich, organic marine products in our Seaweed Body Moisturizing Treatment:

The Seaweed Body Gel is a mineral-rich treatment product with potent herbal extracts to help remove toxins from the skin, containing:
  • Irish Moss. Packed full of vitamins, minerals and polysaccharides, Irish Moss has water-binding properties to help lock-in moisture,and helps to protect and regenerate the upper layers of the skin.
  • Katrafray Bark Oil.  This fortifying emollient contains anti-inflammatory and toning properties, and was traditionally used in Madagascar to aid in relief of muscle and joint pain.
  • Angelica Root Oil. This herb is traditionally used as a detoxifying agent as it improves lymphatic drainage.  It is prized for its anti-septic qualities and its ability to enhance dull skill, while relaxing the nervous system.
Sea Fennel Massage Wax provides an endless glide for the massage practitioner, without leaving a greasy feeling on your skin.  Combined with the Seaweed Body Gel, it helps to re-mineralize and detoxify the skin, containing:

Seaweed Body Moisturizing Treatment

  • Sea Fennel Extract. Regulates the regeneration of keratin and helps to remineralize the body for softer, smoother skin.
  • Irish Moss. Packed full of vitamins, minerals and polysaccharides, Irish Moss has water-binding properties to help lock-in moisture,and helps to protect and regenerate the upper layers of the skin.
  • Laminaria Digitata Algae Extract. This chlorophyll-dense seaweed is packed with antioxidants and amino acids that improve skin vitality and protect against free radical damage.  It soothes epidermal irritation moisturizes the skin.
Lemongrass Mimosa Foot Scrub is a deeply exfoliating bamboo scrub combines notes of Lemongrass with the florals such as Mimosa to safely remove dull, dry or calloused skin, containing:
  • Lemongrass Leaf Oil. This essential oil, traditionally used in Thai medicine, is valued for its ability to calm tension, invigorate and inspire.  It has been shown to have antimicrobial properties on the skin.
  • Bamboo Ferment Filtrate. A natural source of Silica, this product improves skin suppleness and elasticity.
  • Walnut Shell Powder. This micronized powder is a natural abrasive that gently exfoliates dull, flakey, calloused skin, improving skin tone, texture and clarity.
Gotu Kola Healing Balm helps to repair dry, devitalized skin and enhance its elasticity, containing:
  • Gotu Kola Leaf Extract. Clinical studies show that this extract inhibits the inflammatory response, and aids in the wound-healing process by stimulating collagen synthesis and increasing tensile strength of newly formed skin.
  • Calendula Flower Extract. This flower has powerful anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and astringent properties.  Tests have demonstrated it can increase metabolism of collagen, and aid in the growth of new skin cells, facilitating tissue regeneration and wound healing.
  • Raspberry Ceramides. Rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids, this helps to reinforce a healthy skin barrier for improved skin strength and hydration.

If you want a massage, and also need to re-condition your skin, choose the Osmosis  Seaweed Body Moisturizing Treatment.  Click here to book an appointment

Raizelah Bayen, Massage Therapist Supervisor and Trainer at Osmosis Day SpaRaizelah Bayen is a California Certified Massage Therapist, currently employed as the Director of Training and Massage Therapist Supervisor at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone, California.  She has been practicing massage for over 25 years, and teaching T’ui Na, Acupressure, Sports and Pregnancy Massage in massage certification programs for 15 years.  Raizelah is an approved CEU Instructor by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), offering trainings in Freestone, California and on-site training at your massage school or spa.  For more information, connect with Raizelah Bayen on LinkedIn.

Please contact raizelah@osmosis.com for information on upcoming trainings in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology, and Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers scheduled in Sebastopol, California.  Or book Raizelah for an on-site training in your massage school or spa in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology or Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers.

7 Reasons Why You Need a Sports Massage

While many think of Sports Massage as being beneficial only to those who are professional athletes, that is simply not the case. Sports Massage can benefit athletes of all kinds. Those who enjoy the beauty of nature by running on the beach, cycling through the hills or hiking in the mountains will benefit from this massage modality. Others who bond to their gym and the opportunity for a daily work-out with aerobic activity or strengthening will find this modality therapeutic as well.

Although participating in sports or strengthening exercise can be good for you, we also see some trade-offs: sore muscles, stiffness, or depleted energy. Osmosis is prepared to meet the emerging needs associated with today’s trend toward greater activity through exercise or sports programs. We understand the importance of offering fitness related services to address sore muscles, limitation in joint mobility or lowered energy levels. Sports Massage is the perfect offering to meet the needs of sports and gym participants.

What is Sports Massage?

Sports Massage is a style combining a variety of massage techniques beneficial to anyone seeking a therapeutic massage experience.  Common components of Sports Massage include:

  • Brisker paced petrissage to increase circulation to muscles.  Increased blood circulation ensures the muscles are nourished with fresh oxygen and nutrients and then flushed, eliminating any metabolic waste that can build up with increased activity.
  • Range of motion techniques that open and lubricate the joints.  Mobilizing the joints give the body the signal to produce more synovial fluid, which moistens the joints, ensuring more easeful, smoother movement.
  • Passive stretches to lengthen the muscle fibers and increase flexibility.
  • Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitated (PNF) stretches, an interactive technique including both the massage therapist and client.  In PNF stretches, the client will be asked to push a limb against the force exerted by the therapist to engage and then relax the muscle.  This is extremely effective in increasing the the flexibility and range of the muscle.
  • Firm or deep massage techniques may be applied to areas with deeper tension patterns, or to “sore” muscles due to overexertion.  The slow, deep massage techniques help to moved out lactic acid accumulation that often accompanies increase in muscle activity.

 

The American Massage Therapy Association states that research shows that, in relation to exercise and athletic participation, massage has 7 primary benefits.

    1. Reduce muscle tension.  The increased and enhanced blood circulation due to massage helps to relieve muscular tension, reduce soreness and make for a faster recovery.  
    2. Help to increase muscle tone.  The research conducted at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging at McMaster University in Ontario shows that massage reduces inflammation and promotes the growth of new mitochondria, the energy-producing units in the cells after rigorous exercise, thus supporting improved muscle tone.
    3. Promote relaxation.  It is long known that massage activates the parasympathetic nervous system, increasing the relaxation hormone levels of dopamine and serotonin.  Touch is also known to increase oxytocin, all resulting in a deeper state of calm and inner peace.
    4. Increase range of motion.  The key to keeping the joints mobile is movement.  Ranging the joints, as routinely performed in Sports Massage, will ensure an increased production of synovial fluid within the joint and easeful movement.
    5. Decrease muscle stiffness and soreness after exercise.  Massage affects the cardiovascular system.  It dilates blood vessels, helping them work more efficiently to promote circulation.  The manual assistance of encouraging venous blood flow back to the heart enhances blood flow, which delivers fresh oxygen and nutrients to the tissue and promotes the removal of waste products and toxins. With the increased removal of metabolic waste, those who are physically active are less likely to experience soreness or stiffness after exercise.  
    6. Enhance athletic performance.  Athletic performance relies not only on the strength and flexibility of musculature, but also a strong, but relaxed mental focus.  While massage increases the relaxation hormones of dopamine and serotonin, and decreases the stress hormone of cortisol, and athlete is supported in staying calm, relaxed yet focused when performing sports.
    7. Help prevent injuries when massage is received regularly.  With ongoing massage treatment, muscles stay softer, more supple, and more available for use.  A cold, contracted muscle is more likely to be strained in exercise or exertion than one that is well-nourished with increased blood flow, kept flexible with applied stretches, and is supported by well-lubricated joints.

For the athlete, the sports spectator, and anyone looking for a deeper, therapeutic experience of massage, Sports Massage is an excellent choice.  To book a Sports Massage at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, you can CLICK HERE and enjoy!

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Raizelah Bayen, Massage Therapist Supervisor and Trainer at Osmosis Day SpaRaizelah Bayen is a California Certified Massage Therapist, currently employed as the Director of Training and Massage Therapist Supervisor at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone, California.  She has been practicing massage for over 25 years, and teaching T’ui Na, Acupressure, Sports and Pregnancy Massage in massage certification programs for 15 years.  Raizelah is an approved CEU Instructor by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), offering trainings in Freestone, California and on-site training at your massage school or spa.  For more information, connect with Raizelah Bayen on LinkedIn.

Please contact raizelah@osmosis.com for information on upcoming trainings in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology, and Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers scheduled in Sebastopol, California.  Or book Raizelah for an on-site training in your massage school or spa in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology or Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers.

Garden Journal for Spring 2017

japanese garden master pruner

By Michael Alliger

The garden in spring is a growing thing; never more apparent than following a rainy winter such as we’ve experienced here in West Sonoma County.

Pruning

Pruning is the subject at hand. The question is often asked whether winter is the best season for pruning. It is one of them but a spring such as this should put paid to the question. From maples and pines to hedges and ground covers, the garden’s plants are burgeoning: encroaching on paths, nudging neighbors, blurring definitions, feeling themselves in such abundance that nature’s drive is palpable. It’s a celebration in the garden! An explosion of flowers and tender new foliage. Yet at the same time a garden without defined space soon reverts to the wildness of nature. So not only are we weeding at full tilt, but the ebullience of spring alerts us to the need for pruning.  With its absence of leaves winter asks for pruning, but with its leafy eruption spring demands it.

Pine Trees

Mugo pine

Mugo Pine


One of the most interesting forms of new growth occurs on pine trees. The Japanese Black Pine, the rounded Mugo Pine and our native Shore Pine all have very prominent spring shoots standing straight up like fingers or “candles” as they are referred to by garden pruners.  From the thousand-year old tradition of Japanese gardens to today scores of techniques have developed for embracing the pine tree’s growth habit in the interest of control and style.  Control and style are the watchwords of Aesthetic Pruning. 

Here at Osmosis, an Asian-inspired garden, our approach to these enthusiastic candles is to remove them entirely banking on their replacement shoots over the summer months for health and style. 

Indeed, the single candle removed will be replaced by a multiplicity of shorter shoots more conducive to the size and shape of the garden’s requirements.

Maple Trees

mounding maple

Mounding maple

Maples are another genus of trees prominent in Asian gardens and we have several varieties here at Osmosis.  Even with winter pruning these trees need a spring thinning.  There are generally two flushes of growth: one in early spring (April-May) and another in late summer (July-August).  Spring growth on maples is usually fine textured and thick while summer growth can be more coarse and rangy.  

Two broad categories of maples are upright and mounding (umbrella-style).  Upright maples are reduced and opened at the top to control size as well as let light and air into lower and inner branches.  The middle of the tree is thinned to reveal graceful structure and to enhance the interplay of light and shadow.  Lower branches are pruned for horizontal effect, creating layers or planes.  Mounding maples are usually of the dissectum type with finely cut leaves.  Their weeping habit allows for increase in size (especially height) much more gradually than upright trees.  This makes control less important while thinning is emphasized to show structure.  The beautifully arching branches can be obscured as they lay on top of each other sometimes creating a dense mound.  Pruning is approached in two ways: the outer branches may be gently lifted and cut back to reveal those beneath while the inner branches are thinned (surprisingly enough!) by working beneath and inside the tree where possible.

The focus here has been on two focal point trees as they are, being the most noticeable, the first to be pruned.  As the season progresses and time allows, the background and other supporting  plants are groomed.  So now, take heart, and answer the call of spring’s beckoning!