What a time we have lived through in the last 10 months! A global pandemic that has affected our lives, and our culture, in irreversible ways.
Extreme political division and civil unrest, repeated shutdowns of all non-essential services, and a life suddenly lived over zoom, email, and working from home–if you’re lucky enough to be working at all. Every day we are being asked to bear these burdens and more, which wear on our emotional and psychological resilience. At some point, I am sure almost every single one of us has had a moment of wanting to give up, or a moment of stress levels that feel completely unmanageable. Some words I’ve heard from friends to describe emotions experienced during these moments are: frustrated, worried, isolated, tired, and sad.
How much would you love to know there was something you could do that would lower your stress to pre-COVID levels, relax your muscles, soothe your tensions and boost your immune system? And as an extra bonus, it could also fulfill that deep human need for touch and connection, and provide an opportunity for your body to enter a state of deep relaxation and renewal. What if your doctor, naturopath, chiropractor or acupuncturist could prescribe this treatment for you, as part of your routine preventative health care?
Therapeutic massage can offer relief from a long list of medical symptoms and conditions, as well as provide an essential immune system boost, lowering of stress level, and reset for the nervous system. When massage is provided upon receipt of a doctor’s referral, it is an essential service and can become an integral part of your preventative health care practices, even during this time of COVID shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders.
But is it safe to receive massage right now, when COVID case numbers are rising and ICU beds are full? Unfortunately, nothing short of total isolation in our homes is safe right now; we assume COVID exposure risks every day. However, with that in mind, consider this question – would you visit your doctor right now, if you had a need to see them for an important health concern? What if you knew that visit to your doctor would be a pleasant and effective medicine, and that you would come out feeling relaxed, renewed, and realigned?
It is a time for us to think about risks and priorities. Staying safe and minimizing situations where we could be exposed to COVID is important and a top priority for everyone. However, rising stress or anxiety levels, coupled with social isolation and cabin fever, leaves the body depleted. Stress hormones compromise the immune system, making us more susceptible to any infection. Depression or anxiety further decrease our immunity and can leave us struggling to make it through each day. All of these symptoms are dangerous to our health and enjoyment of life. So I ask you to consider this – would boosting your immunity and mood be a priority to you as well? If you could get a massage in a setting where all COVID guidelines were followed: surfaces sanitized, masks worn, temperatures taken, thorough hand washing before and after your massage, plus two systems of air purification designed to block an airborne virus–it might be worth the very low exposure risk to give your body the boost it needs to keep going, with a renewal of strength and function.
Osmosis values the safety of clients and staff as the highest priority, and we follow all COVID guidelines set forth by the state and county. We also believe that massage IS an essential service, in this time of COVID, and we would love to share this gift with you.
All you have to do is reach out to your trusted doctor (this can include naturopath, chiropractor or acupuncturist, as well as MDs) and let them know you are ready to include massage in your preventative health care practices. Want to know more about how massage can benefit you? See the 25 reasons to get a massage below, have a look around on our website and check out our many massage blogs, or call our Guest Services department. We look forward to hearing from you!
“At a fundamental level, humans have an innate need to connect with nature. When we are in nature – particularly, in a Japanese garden – we feel grounded and our senses are alert. Our pace slows, our heart listens, and our eyes catch subtle moments, like the light shining through the canopy of trees. The mind and body harmonizes with nature, and this journey continues as you step deeper into the garden, where you might encounter unexpected aesthetic or spiritual experiences. In these times, and always, everyone needs a Japanese garden.” – Sadafumi Uchiyama, Chief Curator, Portland Japanese Garden
The Osmosis Spa, best known for the Japanese Enzyme Bath, is also recognized for its authentic Japanese gardens where visitors are invited to experience a healing relationship with nature. Our garden’s flowing waters, soothing evergreens, compelling rock arrangements, and mysterious pathways takes one far away from the familiar demands of daily life. And there are countless subtle fascinations and wonders throughout our garden sanctuary! Artfully pruned shapes that capture the essence of each plant, quiet spaces discovered in corners or reflective pathways, as well as rocks placed in esoteric patterns intended invoke profound stillness.
From the least to the greatest detail, our large Meditation Garden is most captivating. Many visitors have discovered this jewel as a welcomed antidote to the pervasive stress of digital overload and the global health crisis. In addition, Osmosis recently streamed a powerful winter solstice ritual from this garden which was led by an inspired Siberian shaman, to the delight of colorful carp who formed endless patterns among the water lilies as she chanted songs of her ancestors.
Guests who receive services are invited to visit the garden and stay as long as they like, savoring the heightened sense of sensory awareness and inner peace that often follows Osmosis treatments. The impact from your bath, massage, or facial can be amplified many times over by entering this quiet sanctuary.
Planting trees and preserving forests can balance many of the negative effects of human activity on our ecosystem before the threat from rising global temperature becomes irreversible.
Focus on Forests First
Of the many environmental factors that are currently at risk, the issue of forests is a critical leverage point for recovering balance quickly. Restoring global forest cover is one of the fastest and most effective natural solutions to the rising global temperature and the myriad related potentially catastrophic effects of climate change.
Planting enough trees of the right kinds in the right places fast enough will reduce the amount of C02 in the atmosphere and reverse climate change.
Here are the facts:
Forests represent one of the largest, most cost-effective climate solutions available today. Halting the loss and degradation of natural systems and promoting their restoration have the potential to contribute over one-third of the total climate change mitigation scientists say is required by 2030. Restoring 350 million hectares of degraded land could sequester up to 1.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually. ~IUCN, Forests and Climate Change Issues Brief
IPCC [International Panel on Climate Change] numbers suggest that if deforestation ended today and degraded forests were allowed to recover, tropical forests alone could reduce current annual global emissions by 24 to 30 percent. ~ Center for Global Development, Why Forests, Why Now?
Old growth trees, dense mature vegetation and rich soils in primary forests including intact forest landscapes are unmatched in terms of carbon sequestration and storage (30-70% more than logged or degraded forests). Forests are thought to remove 25% of all human generated emissions of CO2, and primary forests play a substantial role in this extraordinary carbon sink. ~ IUCN, Raising the profile of primary forests
Freestone and the surrounding hills were logged out following the 1906 earthquake to rebuild San Francisco. We feel a responsibility to restore our own forests here at a local level. By planting a redwood forest at Osmosis it is our hope that this action that can also help to build more awareness of the fact that protecting and restoring forests around the world can reverse climate change.
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.
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.