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.
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)
Who doesn’t love a good spa treatment? If done right, you leave feeling renewed and refreshed. What’s even better? Having a spa experience outdoors. Hearing the sound of waves crashing, or birds in the treetops, or taking in the scent of wildflowers, or a view of the stars adds an even more intense dimension. We went looking for some of the most original outdoor spa experiences in the world, going way beyond your basic rubdown. Whether you are having an Aqua massage in the Caribbean, soaking in hot springs, or dipping in a Japanese cedar enzyme bath — here are 13 of the coolest outdoor spa treatments to dream about this summer.
Osmosis Sanctuary Cedar Enzyme Bath Treatment
by Meg McConahey
Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone will celebrate its 30th anniversary Aug. 19 with a concert of international music in its Zen garden, along with dinner and cedar enzyme foot baths.
The dinner party features Rupa of Rupa Marya and the April Fishes. Her style gives new meaning to eclectic. It touches on everything from Bohemian funk to punk, jazz to Latin, African to Islander, with lyrics in French, Spanish, English and Hindi.
For $35, ticketholders receive an all-inclusive dinner from Fork Roadhouse, wine from Woodenhead Winery and one of the spa’s signature cedar enzyme footbaths. Osmosis is at 209 Bohemian Hwy, Freestone. For information call (707) 823-8231.
You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey firstname.lastname@example.org or 521-5204. On Twitter @megmcconahey.