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.
Introduction 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.
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.
Raizelah 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
February is National Haiku Writing month and we are hosting a Haiku Competition!
Haiku poems have been an important part of Japanese art dating to the seventh century. This form of poetry, consisting of 17 syllables arranged in three lines of 5,7, and 5 syllables respectively are meant to capture an inspiring moment or a thoughtful reflection. Here are a couple examples to get you inspired:
the fog lifts off rolling hills,
tension floats off, too.
Heavy cedar bath
holds me still to calm my soul,
Write about Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, an experience you’ve had here, a place on the property, a feeling, a moment…. and email it to marketing at osmosis.com! Be sure to follow us on Facebook to see posts of Haiku’s submitted.
Our first place winner will receive a Cedar Enzyme Bath AND an Osmosis Fusion Massage. The runner up will receive a Cedar Enzyme Bath for Two.
Deadline to enter is Feb 28. There is no limit to how many Haiku’s you submit. Winner will be announced the 2nd week in March on our Facebook page as well as in our newsletter.
Follow us on Facebook and show some love to your Haiku when it is posted. Tell your friends to “like” your Haiku and possibly influence our decision!
October 6th was a perfect fall day in Freestone. Thirty people gathered in our meditation garden to honor Steve Stucky, a remarkable landscape artist and Zen priest who helped develop the natural beauty of Osmosis. Steve served as abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center where he promoted gratitude in daily life. He passed in 2013, yet his legacy is alive as our gardens mature.
Steve understood that Osmosis would become a meditative environment where guests would feel the benefits of silent contemplation. He spoke clearly at our garden dedication ceremony in 2003,
Norman Fischer, Wendy Johnson and Michael Stusser at Steve Stücky Altar Dedication
“Very few people in our nation’s healing professions understand the importance of place and of the natural world in healing. The primary reason our work here is so meaningful…is the fact that this garden is a place of healing the body, soothing and calming the mind, and spiritual nourishment—a truly sacred space that recognizes the whole person and may serve many people over many years. I believe that we Americans, in our busy acquisitiveness, need to drink deeply from resources within the natural world to develop an indigenous culture of wisdom.”
Steve Stücky Laying Out the Osmosis Meditation Garden, 2001
I feel certain no one on the planet was better qualified and more able to translate the vision for the Osmosis gardens into reality. Steve wanted to create special environments that would evoke the calming healing quality of our True Nature. It was deeply moving and satisfying to have a companion on the journey that understood these intentions and was able to help actualize them. No words can begin to express my gratitude to Steve.
New Altar at Osmosis
As our celebrated meditation garden was being built, Steve suggested that we incorporate an altar to a allow guests to offer incense. An offering of incense is considered a simple act of generosity within the Zen tradition. Unlit incense represents the potential for enlightenment. Once lit, its ephemeral smoke mirrors the transitory nature of life. Incense purifies the atmosphere and may inspire us to develop a pure mind. Its fragrance spreads far and wide, just as a good deed benefits many.
Our October 6th ceremony included many of Steve’s lifelong friends and fellow practitioners who unveiled an altar dedicated to him.It is inscribed with his favorite Zen saying,
Steve Stücky with Osmosis Gardeners Michael Alliger and Louis Fameli, 2009
Beyond our daily routines and to-do lists the world goes on with or with out us. The world of nature is generating its serene healing energy abundantly all the time if we could simply open ourselves to receive it. When, where and how we make our connection to this larger-than-human world is part grace, part circumstance and partly up to us. As we drive back and forth continuously in our cars and in our minds between the same points daily, our connection with nature and ourselves can unconsciously erode to the point where we hardly know much at all about our true selves.
The Big Question
What could one do in the time span of a day to go deep into a direct experience with nature and inner truth? We have been turning this question for over 30 years as we have developed our facilities, grounds and the way we serve at Osmosis.
From day one a core intention has been to create a meditative environment. The deep level of relaxation from spa treatments opens the door to greater sensory awareness, quietude and receptivity to present moment.
What is Forest Bathing?
Forest Bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, is a relatively new movement that is growing rapidly in Japan and around the world. The lead proponent in the United States is Amos Clifford, founder of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs. He has provided training to establish programs at several different spas. The spa environment could be an especially effective gateway to an optimal forest bathing experience.
Amos has worked as a wilderness guide since 1972, pioneered eco-therapy programs connecting troubled teens to nature, worked in the arena of Restorative Justice and is the founder of Sky Creek Dharma (Zen) Center in Chico.
“Shinrin-yoku” is a term that means, “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Researchers primarily in Japan and South Korea have established a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest.
The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved.
We have always known this intuitively. But in the past several decades there have been many scientific studies that are demonstrating the mechanisms behind the healing effects of simply being in wild and natural areas. By breathing in the essential oils produced by trees (known as phytoncides), forest bathers can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and restlessness. These organic compounds support our “NK” (natural killer) cells that are part of our immune system.
Forest therapy approaches such as Shinrin-yoku have roots in many cultures throughout history. John Muir wrote, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity.” He is one of many people who can be included when we think about the origins of the practice.
Forest Therapy combines leisurely walks on gentle paths under forest canopy with guided activities and meditations to help you open your senses, hone your intuition, and experience the forest, as you never have before. It draws upon mindfulness meditation practices, and the techniques of deep nature connection mentoring. The Way of Council for group discussions is also used at several points along the walk, to help participants learn from and teach each other.
Evolution for Expanded Awareness
Blending spa treatments with elements such as mindfulness practice and focused nature experiences such as Forest Bath present an exciting evolution for expanded awareness. As pioneers in the wellness and vitality movement, we at Osmosis look forward to providing special opportunities for individuals to make their connection to the larger-than-human world of nature.
**The inaugural day-long spa Forest Bathing retreat at Osmosis with M. Amos Clifford, the founder of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs. Along with Nicole Daspit, a Certified Forest Therapy Guide took place in 2016. Amos facilitated a series of invitations that progressively deepened connection with the more-than-human world of nature.
His perspective is that the forest itself is the therapist; as a guide, he opens the doors of sensing, embodiment, and presence that allow the forest to come into a person’s consciousness and do its healing work. We will be breaking new ground by combining the tension releasing benefits of our unique Cedar Enzyme Bath, 75-minute massage and a specially tailored program of Forest Bathing combined with time in our tranquil meditation garden.
Rumi’s Caravan has travelled through the land of Oz (Osmosis), leaving it’s indelible mark on the hearts of those attending, the Japanese garden that held us and the clear skies that reigned above our heads. Over one hundred people at this sold out event sat transfixed for an hour and a half of ecstatic poetry.