By Michael Stusser
It was 30 years ago, October 31, 1988, when I first walked onto the property in Freestone that has become Osmosis. I had been looking for over a year to find a place in west Sonoma County to relocate after operating the original prototype version of the enzyme bath out of a 400-square-foot building I built with wood recycled from a chicken coop. I had looked at many possible places to move, but they were all in commercial environments and just not suitable for the ambiance I knew was needed.
What It Looked Like
It was a beautiful fall day when I went over to meet my real estate agent Cary Fargo in Freestone. The building was cold and dark with very few windows, and a funky gas heater was mounted on the wall. The floor was covered with a red carpet that was thin, tacky and stained. Paint was chipping off everywhere, and a vibe of abandonment hung in the air. A flimsy bathroom had been tacked onto the back of the building. A half-way decent two-bedroom apartment was on the second floor, but we had to climb a rickety outdoor staircase to get there.
Dozens of realtors’ cards were strewn about, evidencing that many had been to look but there had been no takers; the place had been on the market for a long time. Outside several dilapidated railway cars lined the side and back of the building. A large flat area that had been graded along the creek was strewn with dead cars and lots of junk. Apparently, the owner had died after consolidating his lifetime collection of railway equipment and antique cars on this, the last of many properties he had owned at one time. Walking through all of this was overwhelming and depressing. At first, it seemed impossible to envision anything beautiful or healing ever happening here.
Then I walked to the back of the 5.5-acre property. As I climbed the hillside and gained the ridge, a whole 360-degree panorama of the Freestone Valley opened up. The view in every direction was stunning, the valley floor, farms, and redwood-lined ridges shimmering in the low-angle light of this magical fall day. It was very quiet, and the natural environment felt undisturbed and vibrant. Wandering down into the riparian thicket, I found my way into the bed of Salmon Creek. I felt enchanted by the quality of the air, the beauty of nature, and the good feeling arising in my being. It reminded me of the many sacred spots in the northern California terra that had captivated my soul again and again. I felt I had arrived at a long-sought-after destination, peaceful, calm, and invited.
The Trees Spoke
It was as if the land and the trees were calling to me— “stay, breath in this place—heal your soul.” An unmistakable component of the message was – “How wonderful it would be to bring people here?” It became clear to me that whatever it would take to clean up the mess up in front and make that building into a spa would be worth it, because at some point, I would be able to get people to come into this magical riparian realm and share with them the vital spirit of nature I was feeling.
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.
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 email@example.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.
By Raizelah Bayen
Established in Northern California in 1985, Osmosis is a living blend of Eastern and Western culture, esthetic and hospitality. The development of our signature massage, the Osmosis Fusion, reflects this by weaving together Eastern and Western massage modalities. Launched in May of 2016, the Osmosis Fusion is one of our most popular and frequently booked massages at the spa.
Roots of the Fusion Massage
The Osmosis Fusion Massage is a blend of four different massage modalities. Long strokes of Western Swedish Esalen Massage, pressure point techniques of Japanese Shiatsu, joint mobilization used in T’ui Na (Chinese Massage), body stretches common in Thai Massage, and a taste of our unique offering of Essential Acupressure.
Taking the best from the West and the East, this massage is revitalizing, opening, gently energizing while simultaneously deeply relaxing.
Blending Modalities Bearing Deeper Benefit
Swedish Esalen Massage was developed in the 1960’s at the Esalen Institute with the understanding that massage deepens body awareness. The long full-body strokes characteristic of Esalen Massage give you the opportunity to experience your body as a whole, rather than in parts. The dynamic mobilization used in Esalen Massage nurtures a sense of connection, particularly of how one body part, such as the arm, is connected to the other body parts, such as the shoulder and chest. Esalen techniques cultivate an experience of wholeness, feeling how the front and back bodies relate through movement, or how the inner and outer bodies form a complete experience of self. Swedish Esalen Massage nurtures self awareness.
Japanese massage, Shiatsu, addresses the body with pressure point massage, and complements the feeling of connectedness cultivated in Esalen Massage, by working along the meridians or energy pathways of the body. The meridians of the body either course from head to toe, or from the outer extremity, such as the finger or toe, to the torso. With pressure point Shiatsu, we are stimulating the acupressure points along these meridians to activate the flow the Chi where it may be blocked, to build Chi where it may be deficient, and the bring about greater balance.
The range-of-motion of T’ui Na, opens the “gates,” so to speak. These “gates” are the major joints of the body. In order for Chi to flow freely from one body area to another, these gates need to remain open. To ensure freedom of movement and abundant Chi flow, T’ui Na emphasizes joint mobilization.
The stretches of Thai are a perfect complement to the other massage modalities, opening and lengthening the muscles,
meridians and gateways of the body. Thai is sometimes referred to as “yoga massage.” But do not be intimidated by this name. You do not need to be a yogi or to be especially flexible to receive Thai Massage stretches. The gentle stretches used in this massage will increase flexibility for you.
Finally, the Osmosis Fusion Massage includes a taste of Essential Acupressure. Here we are using specific Essential Oils on particular acupressure points to bring about greater balance and sense of well-being. The function of the oil is matched with the function of the acupressure point for a deeper synergistic effect. Essential Acupressure can be used to address a wide variety of health concerns. In the Fusion Massage, we use Lavender and Marjoram essential oils on the Master Points of the Great Regulator Channel to regulate the flow of the Yin and the Yang Chi of the body.
By blending this variety of techniques, you can be sure this massage addresses every level of your being – physical, emotional and energetic. It clears tension, builds Chi, opens the joints, lengthens the muscles, and brings balance to the emotions.
You will leave Osmosis, after a Fusion Massage, feeling deeply relaxed, gently revitalized, moving with greater ease, and enveloped with a sense of well-being.
Osmosis Fusion Arises from Osmosis Teamwork
The development of our unique offering, the Osmosis Fusion, arose out of teamwork and collaboration. The Massage Therapist Supervisor gave a group of massage therapists, each with extensive training in both Eastern and Western massage modalities, the opportunity to have input on the development of this massage. Three massage therapists met with their supervisor to sketch the protocol, which was later refined with group input, and then presented through a series of trainings to much of the large massage staff at Osmosis.
Osmosis is a unique healing center, and continues to be a leader in the spa industry. We continue to grow, creating new and refined services of unparalleled quality. The Osmosis Fusion is a prime example of our team’s pioneering spirit, creativity and innovation. Try it for yourself! Click here to book an appointment for a Fusion Massage or for a Transformation Package, which includes both a Cedar Enzyme Bath and an Osmosis Fusion Massage.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
We believe that bringing people together is one of the best paths toward transformation and opening your heart. No matter how old you are or where you are in your life, taking a day with friends at a spa can bring pure magic. Imagine gathering up your best girlfriends for a getaway to a legendary place of total rejuvenation and divine connection. Read on to see 3 great reasons why.
Cedar Enzyme Footbath – Where else can you enjoy a convivial Cedar Enzyme Foot Bath seated together while sipping Osmosis Signature Blend Tea? Our warm and fragrant treatment offers myriad health benefits, from improving circulation to relieving joint and muscle pain – it’s a perfect environment to melt away the stress. Afterwards your feet will feel like you are walking on air.
Stunning and Unique Venue – Embraced by the coastal hills of Sonoma County, Osmosis’ Japanese-inspired environment naturally brings clarity and connection. Our secluded five acres of creekside property is extensively landscaped with five distinct Zen garden areas. We consider communion with nature to be a key component of healing and our Zen Gardens are the perfect place to strengthen the ties that bind a valued friendship together. Just driving to the stunningly beautiful village of Freestone is great therapy all by itself!
Enhanced Experiences (only offered to groups) – The Osmosis experience is a total mind and body cleanse. We encourage our groups to enhance their experience with unique offerings such as our Healing with Chocolate Treatment, Custom Cheese and Wine Tasting, Acupressure Aromatherapy Educational Experience, Guided Meditation or Hammock Sound Therapy in our Field of Hammocks.
We know that the most important part of a trip with the girls is spending time together—choosing an environment that brings you closer will generate memories that can last a lifetime. So round up your best girlfriends, book your group experience and relish the girlfriend getaway of your dreams!
Nature is Our Sanctuary
More and more data is revealing that spending time outdoors can actually make you healthier. Escaping to the woods, mountains or a walk along the beach helps both your body and your brain. At Osmosis, we recognize communion with nature is a key element to healing, rejuvenation and mental and physical wellness.
Our extensive grounds are designed to give our guests unique experiences in nature. From enjoying a massage in one of our creekside Pagodas, sound healing in our Field of Hammocks, or a relaxing stroll through our Japanese inspired meditation gardens, we have you covered!
We feel very blessed to be located in West Sonoma County with so many scenic wonders. Bodega Bay and the rugged Sonoma Coast are just minutes away along with charming redwood ringed Freestone and Occidental—there is so much outdoor allurement in West Sonoma County this time of year! The Sonoma Coast offers some of the most spectacular grandeur in all of California. Rolling hills with rich biodiversity meet the wild Pacific Ocean on Sonoma County’s 62-mile stunning coastline.
For your end of summer enjoyment, we have compiled a list of our Top 10 Outdoor Activities in West Sonoma County that can actually make us healthier. Read on to learn more.
HIKING – Pomo Canyon Trail – One of the best hikes in Sonoma County, the Pomo Canyon to Shell Beach hike offers a little bit of everything, from towering redwoods to pounding surf, from ferny dells to ridge-top vistas.
KAYAKING – WaterTreks – Where the river meets the waves in the heart of Sonoma Coast State Park and the Greater Farallones Sanctuary
STAND UP PADDLE BOARDING – Located in the heart of the Wine Country, just south of Healdsburg, Russian River Paddle Boards offers both tours and rentals on some of the most undisturbed and pristine bodies of water in the county.
ZIP LINING – Sonoma Canopy Tours – Marvel at panoramic forest views and deep ravines. Discover the world-famous California Coastal Redwoods in a way you never imagined.
BICYCLING – West County Regional Trail – The West County Regional & Joe Rodota Trails are built along land that was once the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railway, a line that linked Petaluma and Santa Rosa with Sebastopol and Forestville. The trails total fourteen miles long. The trails are paved for walking, bicycle riding, and roller skating.
WATCH THE SUNSET – Bodega Bay – Enjoy spectacular sunsets along this shallow, rocky inlet of the Pacific Ocean on the coast of Northern California in the United States.
SURFING – Salmon Creek State Beach – North Salmon Creek Beach is right off Coast Highway 1 just north of Bodega Bay. Surfers are often out in the waves north of the river mouth.
FISHING – Russian River – Summer’s warm water provides small and large mouth bass, along with bluegill—the slow, lazy waters provide easy fishing from the banks. You can also fish from a boat. Drop in a line and let the day float by.
CAMPING – There are four camping areas in Sonoma Coast State Park. Bodega Dunes Campground is the campground with the most amenities. Wright’s Beach Campground is a little less fancy. Willow Creek Campground and Pomo Canyon Campground are what the state of California calls “Environmental Camps” or primitive camping areas.
FARMERS MARKETS – Occidental Farmers Market – Friday evenings from 5-8 p.m. June through October this quaint town comes alive! Great food vendors, live music and a unique mix of West County Locals. Sebastopol Farmers Market – Every Sunday all year round from 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Russian River Farmers Market – Stop by the Guerneville Farmers Market and have a family dinner with the wonderful selection of goodies for everyone, from fresh fruit and vegetables to baked goods. You can even get made to order food as well. This is a great way to spend a Thursday night!
“I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.” –Henry David Thoreau