Autumn: the beauty and the darkness

TR Shadow on Wall

Autumn is a dramatic and breathtaking season. The palate of the landscape transforms into a bursting exhibition of golden, warm hues. The flavors of local crops are rich and sweet and filling. It’s a time to begin preparing for winter. Plants and animals focus their energies on building up their resilience for winter, and we can do the same. The dark of winter brings unique challenges to all creatures of the natural world. One challenge that many face is depression.

About 10% of people in the U.S. suffer from depression at any given time and the seasons of autumn and winter trigger the onset of depression for many more, so it’s no surprise that October was chosen to be National Depression Awareness Month. Chances are, you or someone you know has suffered with depression. Depression is characterized by low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness, disturbed sleeping and eating patterns, and loss of energy. It is a very serious condition that should not be taken lightly nor should those suffering be blamed for the onset of their condition. We can, however, do our best to support one another in coping and building resiliency through healthy habits and routines. Make no mistake, it is difficult to make lifestyle changes while one is in the grip of depression, but even modest changes can lead to marked improvements for those suffering from depression and, for many, helps prevent the onset of depression.

Exercise, yoga, and meditation have all shown to be highly effective in improving mood and stress-coping abilities. Time spent outdoors is especially helpful in the winter months when our exposure to sunlight has decreased. And of course: rest and relaxation. Scheduled downtime and relaxation practices help the mind and body maintain balance and also play a major role in managing stress which is often tied to depression.

So as we move into this new season, let us stay mindful of both the beauty and the suffering that the darker months bring. Let us support one another in preparing for winter, collectively, compassionately.

Experience the “Ahhhh” at Osmosis Day Spa

Portal Icon 1

Published by 101 Things to Do

by Sarah Amador
   Be sure to catch the next Sonoma County gem on August 19th—an evening of wine, foot baths, music and dinner at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone. From 6 pm to 9 pm, guests will be serenaded by the Latin-soul-jazz inspired music of Rupa Marya in the meditation garden and enjoy a farm-to-table dinner catered by Fork Roadhouse Restaurant. For only $35, it’s an zen-loving and foodie’s dream come true. This event is only one of many, so be sure to check their website ( for upcoming events.
   For those of you who haven’t been to Osmosis, you’re in for a treat. After visiting the day spa last Sunday, it’s my opinion that Osmosis should be written “Ahhh-smosis.” At least, that’s how I was pronouncing it by the end of my visit. Instead of taking your breath away, it brings it back to you. Suddenly, time stretches, an hour seems like three hours, your mindfulness seeming to expand with each deep, restful breath.
   In our crazy, hectic world, a sanctuary like Osmosis is most needed. Osmosis claims it offers a “pathway to peacefulness.” However he did it, founder Michael Stusser created that pathway, and I walked on it for a while. It was easy to connect with nature as I sat in the Kyoto-style meditation pagoda overlooking the koi fish pond, lured further into peacefulness by the sounds of bubbling waterfalls and chirping birds. For a long time, I watched the red dragonflies zip across the ponds and drink. I watched the golden and red koi fish dart around the white lilies and wiggle up the sides of the pond to nibble algae.Garden-Pond-6
   My treatment was the unique Cedar Enzyme Bath, a bath actually made up of soft ground cedar, rice bran, and living enzymes. If you’re like me, you love trees. Love to climb them, meditate in them, read books under them. But how often can you say you’ve been encased by a tree? This fermentation bathing ritual originates from Japan, and Osmosis is the only spa on our continent that offers the treatment. It’s the strangest, softest feeling—imagine stepping into a sauna that has been turned into soft fluff, then imagine the fluff pillowed all around you. When you move, it heats up because you are activating the enzymes which then stimulate metabolic activity inside and out. The Cedar Enzyme Bath is known for improving circulation, relieving muscle pain, and deeply cleaning your skin. During the treatment, my attendant Ariel was most attentive, placing cold towels on my face and serving me water with electrolytes to help restore the toxins leaving my body.
   Before I began the process, I was served a tea made up of nettle, herbs and digestive enzymes, meant to begin the process of cleansing from the inside out (in simple terms, designed to make you sweat). I was served the tea in a room overlooking my very own private Japanese tea garden—which I promptly walked into, exploring the tiny arcing bridge and the shape of the rocks, the tranquil waterfall, the sculpted bonsai trees.
   After my Cedar Enzyme bath, I received a brain-balancing Hemi-sync sound therapy session on a wide, padded hammock. As I laid there, listening to a soundtrack titled, “Wind Over Water,” I watch the wind move the trees, and then felt it move me, slowly, back and forth. I don’t think I ever have watched the willow trees of Salmon Creek quite as intensely as I did last Sunday. Cabbage butterflies flitted together; an occasional hawkcircled overhead. I wasn’t really sure when the 30-minute soundtrack ended and the real nature sounds began, since there was still the sound of wind, birds, and an occasional chime. The smile that had been forced to my lips at the beginning of the day now floated permanently, effortlessly across my face.
   It’s now been less than 24 hours since I left Osmosis’ perfectly manicured gardens and ponds, rupaamsterdambut I’ve called to mind the peaceful scenes I witnessed many times. Already, it’s helped me through the beginning of a fast-paced week. I can’t help but think of Wordsworth’s poem, “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey,” specifically the references of how memories of harmonious nature can get us through anything, of how even in the din of towns and cities, our memories can fill us with sensations sweet.
   When you visit, be sure to check out their membership club. One club option is a 75-minute Swedish massage once a month and unlimited access to the tranquil gardens—all for only $99 per month. An organic lunch (catered by Fork Roadhouse) can be savored while you sit overlooking Salmon Creek. Meat-loving and vegan options are available.
   For tickets to the August 19th outdoor concert and dinner, or to schedule your next spa treatment, contact Osmosis at or call 707-823-8231. The day spa sanctuary is located at 209 Bohemian Highway in Freestone.
Though absent long,
These forms of beauty have not been to me,
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,
And passing even into my purer mind
With tranquil restoration.
— William Wordsworth
  “Lines Composed a Few Miles
     above Tintern Abbey”

Step outside, it’s nature’s medicine

TR Couple on Garden Path 8

There is a general consensus that spending time outdoors is good for you. Fresh air to revive the senses, sitting by a stream to calm the spirit. We know these activities are not only good for us, but feel wonderfully refreshing, even euphoric.

Like many activities that have been practiced throughout the ages, modern science is backing up what we’ve experienced empirically for so long. In 2015, Stanford University completed two studies on spending time in nature, one studied the psychological effects and the other was a cognitive neuroscience study. Not surprisingly, both studies showed dramatic differences between individuals who took a walk in nature compared to those who took a walk in an urban environment. One marked difference between the groups was the abatement of “brooding thoughts” in the group who had been in nature. “Brooding” or “rumination” was defined as repetitive, nagging thoughts with negative and self-critical messages. This internal chatter and self-criticism leads to serious depression and severe anxiety in some, though it is familiar to all of us. Fortunately, many practices have been developed over thousands of years that help us free ourselves from our own worst enemy. Practices like meditation, prayer, yoga, selfless service, self care, body work… all have shown to deliver us from our merciless inner judge. Past generations may have not needed to include “spending time in nature” in their self-care activities, as that was once a staple of daily life, but in this day and age, as more humans inhabit urban, concrete environments, an effort must be made to get our needed dose of greenery and fresh air.

This communion with nature as spiritual practice was built into the design of Osmosis. We recognize it as a key element to healing, rejuvenation, and mental and physical wellness. The majority of our grounds are designated to giving our guests unique experiences in nature. We encourage each of our guests to find a cushion beside the Heart Mind Pond in the meditation garden and open to all of their senses, or lay in the Field of Hammocks while swaying in the breeze listening to meditative sound therapy music. A massage in an outdoor pagoda, a walk through the forest, lunch beside Salmon Creek… these all offer a healthy dose of outdoor tonic.

Henry David Thoreau reminded us that “we need the tonic of wildness.” Do yourself a favor this month and spend some time out of doors, whether it be in the Osmosis gardens, the Sonoma Coast, or your own backyard. You deserve it.


A Heart That Is Ready For Anything

by Tara Brach

When the Buddha was dying, he gave a final message to his beloved attendant Ananda, and to generations to come: “Be a lamp unto yourself, be a refuge to yourself. Take yourself to no external refuge.”
In his last words, the Buddha was urging us to see this truth: although you may search the world over trying to find it, your ultimate refuge is none other than your own being.
There’s a bright light of awareness that shines through each of us and guides us home, and we’re never separated from this luminous awareness, any more than waves are separated from ocean. Even when we feel most ashamed or lonely, reactive or confused, we’re never actually apart from the awakened state of our heart-mind.
This is a powerful and beautiful teaching. The Buddha was essentially saying: I’m not the only one with this light; all ordinary humans have this essential wakefulness, too. In fact, this open, loving awareness is our deepest nature. We don’t need to get somewhere or change ourselves: our true refuge is what we are. Trusting this opens us to the blessings of freedom.
Buddhist monk, Sayadaw U. Pandita describes these blessings in a wonderful way: A heart that is ready for anything. When we trust that we are the ocean, we are not afraid of the waves. We have confidence that whatever arises is workable. We don’t have to lose our life in preparation. We don’t have to defend against what’s next. We are free to live fully with what is here, and to respond wisely.
You might ask yourself: “Can I imagine what it would be like, in this moment, to have a heart that is ready for anything?”
If our hearts are ready for anything, we can open to our inevitable losses, and to the depths of our sorrow. We can grieve our lost loves, our lost youth, our lost health, our lost capacities. This is part of our humanness, part of the expression of our love for life. As we bring a courageous presence to the truth of loss, we stay available to the immeasurable ways that love springs forth in our life.
If our hearts are ready for anything, we will spontaneously reach out when others are hurting. Living in an ethical way can attune us to the pain and needs of others, but when our hearts are open and awake, we care instinctively. This caring is unconditional—it extends outward and inward wherever there is fear and suffering.
If our hearts are ready for anything, we are free to be ourselves. There’s room for the wildness of our animal selves, for passion and play. There’s room for our human selves, for intimacy and understanding, creativity and productivity. There’s room for spirit, for the light of awareness to suffuse our moments. The Tibetans describe this confidence to be who we are as “the lion’s roar.”
If our hearts are ready for anything, we are touched by the beauty and poetry and mystery that fill our world.
When Munindraji, a vipassana meditation teacher, was asked why he practiced, his response was, “So I will see the tiny purple flowers by the side of the road as I walk to town each day.”
With an undefended heart, we can fall in love with life over and over every day. We can become children of wonder, grateful to be walking on earth, grateful to belong with each other and to all of creation. We can find our true refuge in every moment, in every breath.
Adapted from True Refuge(link is external) (2013)