Shinrin-yoku is a term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” It was developed in Japan during the 1980’s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. A robust body of scientific literature now exists on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest. Inspired by the Japanese practice and the emerging worldwide trend toward nature-based wellness practices, Osmosis is offering a one-day spa retreat featuring Forest Bathing. Learn more about it HERE.
What to expect:
Leisurely walks on gentle paths under the 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.
All day spa retreat includes a morning of forest bathing, an organic box lunch, cedar enzyme foot-bath, hammock sound therapy session and a revitalizing 75-minute massage or facial.
Michael Stusser brings 40 years of meditation practice and a lifetime of wilderness experience to his forest bathing guiding. He is becoming a certified forest-bathing guide with the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs (ANFT). He is leading a delegation to connect with the origins of the movement in Japan this fall with the organization’s founder Amos Clifford.
This rejuvenating day combines the best elements of spa and meditation. Participants will pause and sit down on this bountiful earth in the peacefulness of the Osmosis meditation garden, cultivating presence and awareness of body heart and mind. This meditation retreat is a well crafted day weaving meditation, spa experiences, connection and quite time in nature in the sanctuary of our 6-acres of secluded creekside meditation gardens.
The program includes sitting and walking meditation, a dharma talk, a cedar enzyme foot-bath, a customized 75-minute massage, lunch, time for quiet reflection and conversation around how to continue practice in our daily lives.
Chris Fortin is a Soto Zen teacher and 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. She began her private counseling practice in 1985, integrating psychotherapy and spirituality.
By Kim Westerman
At the base of the Bohemian Highway, within a stone’s throw of California’s best coastal vineyards, is the tiny town of Freestone, tucked between the redwoods and the ocean. Blink your eyes and you’ll miss it—but consider it a destination for deep relaxation. Osmosis Day Spa & Sanctuary, founded by Michael Stusser in 1985, is a Zen meditation retreat here, at the center of which is a cedar enzyme bath experience.
A day at Osmosis begins with a welcoming cup of hot tea and a walk through the Kyoto-style meditation garden, whose labyrinthine paths are designed to bring you into the present moment. Based on the Zen parable of The Ox and the Herder, a metaphor for the experience of enlightenment, the ten-stage journey carries you through various elements of earth and water with opportunities to stop and reflect for as long as you’d like.
Zen Garden meditation space at Osmosis Day Spa. Photo by Kim Westerman
Designed by British horticulturist Robert Ketchell and built by the late Steve Stucky, once the Abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, the garden is lovingly tended by unobtrusive staff who will come find you if you lose track of time. After all, that’s the point.
The lovingly tended rock garden at Osmosis Day Spa. Photo by Kim Westerman
When it’s time, you’ll be led back to the main building for a tea service in a private room overlooking a beautiful tea garden that you’re also welcome to stroll in. The tea is infused with enzymes designed to aid digestion and mirror the experience your skin will have in the forthcoming cedar enzyme bath.
Next, we had massages in the couples room, a quiet space where two therapists work in harmony on your respective sore muscles, tailoring the treatment to your specific needs. There are also outdoor pagodas available for massage therapy, a good option on warmer days. Our massage therapists were especially attuned not only to what we reported our bodies needed, but also what they sensed through their own intuitive assessment.
After the deeply relaxing massage, we took a break for lunch, which was a generous salad of local greens and an egg, served at a picnic table by the creek.
Lunch by the creek at Osmosis Day Spa. Photo by Kim Westerman
At last, the main event: the cedar enzyme bath, a therapeutic treatment from Japan that is the only one of its kind in North America. Wooden boxes hold the deeply aromatic mixture of ground cedar and rice bran, infused with enzymes created by a biological catalyst imported from Japan that triggers fermentation, hence the steam rising from the “bath,” which is, actually, not wet, but rather humid from perpetual fermentation. And warm. Perfectly, relaxingly warm.
The cedar enzyme bath is the only one of its kind in North America. Photo by Kim Westerman
The cedar enzyme bath takes about 30 minutes, all told, and an attendant walks you through the process, coming in periodically to wipe your face with a cool cloth and give you a sip of water (as your hands are buried in the mixture). Then, she brushes your skin off with a little broom—yes, a broom!—before leading you into the adjacent shower.
So relaxing was our time at Osmosis that it seemed like a crime to get in the car and drive back to reality. But it’s a comfort to know that this sanctuary is always there.