by Michael Stusser
Beyond our daily routines and to-do lists the world goes on with or with out us. The world of nature is generating its serene healing energy abundantly all the time if we could simply open ourselves to receive it. When, where and how we make our connection to this larger-than-human world is part grace, part circumstance and partly up to us. As we drive back and forth continuously in our cars and in our minds between the same points daily, our connection with nature and ourselves can unconsciously erode to the point where we hardly know much at all about our true selves.
The Big Question
What could one do in the time span of a day to go deep into a direct experience with nature and inner truth? We have been turning this question for over 30 years as we have developed our facilities, grounds and the way we serve at Osmosis.
From day one a core intention has been to create a meditative environment. The deep level of relaxation from spa treatments opens the door to greater sensory awareness, quietude and receptivity to present moment.
What is Forest Bathing?
Forest Bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, is a relatively new movement that is growing rapidly in Japan and around the world. The lead proponent in the United States is Amos Clifford, founder of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs. He has provided training to establish programs at several different spas. The spa environment could be an especially effective gateway to an optimal forest bathing experience.
Amos has worked as a wilderness guide since 1972, pioneered eco-therapy programs connecting troubled teens to nature, worked in the arena of Restorative Justice and is the founder of Sky Creek Dharma (Zen) Center in Chico.
“Shinrin-yoku” is a term that means, “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Researchers primarily in Japan and South Korea have established a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest.
The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved.
We have always known this intuitively. But in the past several decades there have been many scientific studies that are demonstrating the mechanisms behind the healing effects of simply being in wild and natural areas. By breathing in the essential oils produced by trees (known as phytoncides), forest bathers can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and restlessness. These organic compounds support our “NK” (natural killer) cells that are part of our immune system.
Forest therapy approaches such as Shinrin-yoku have roots in many cultures throughout history. John Muir wrote, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity.” He is one of many people who can be included when we think about the origins of the practice.
Forest Therapy combines leisurely walks on gentle paths under 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. It draws upon mindfulness meditation practices, and the techniques of deep nature connection mentoring. The Way of Council for group discussions is also used at several points along the walk, to help participants learn from and teach each other.
Evolution for Expanded Awareness
Blending spa treatments with elements such as mindfulness practice and focused nature experiences such as Forest Bath present an exciting evolution for expanded awareness. As pioneers in the wellness and vitality movement, we at Osmosis look forward to providing special opportunities for individuals to make their connection to the larger-than-human world of nature.
**The inaugural day-long spa Forest Bathing retreat at Osmosis with M. Amos Clifford, the founder of the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs. Along with Nicole Daspit, a Certified Forest Therapy Guide will take place on September 14th. Amos will facilitate a series of invitations that progressively deepen connection with the more-than-human world of nature.
His perspective is that the forest itself is the therapist; as a guide, he opens the doors of sensing, embodiment, and presence that allow the forest to come into a person’s consciousness and do its healing work. We will be breaking new ground by combining the tension releasing benefits of our unique Cedar Enzyme Bath, 75-minute massage and a specially tailored program of Forest Bathing combined with time in our tranquil meditation garden.
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
Choosing a Safe Sunscreen
The long days of summer are here and increased exposure to UV rays is something we all need to be aware of. Are you prepared to protect your skin during this time of increased outdoor activity? We hope to offer some helpful solutions for your summer skin that are safe and simple to implement.
Prolonged sun exposure can lead to premature aging of the skin, wrinkling, as well as suppression of the immune system. Covering up, wearing a hat, limiting exposure during peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and using sunscreen are just a few ways to protect yourself while outdoors.
If using sunscreen, it is important to choose a product that is safe for your skin and also has broad spectrum protection, meaning it effectively protects against significant portions of both the ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) ranges of the light spectrum. The Environmental Working Group (EWG)* discovered that 80% of sunscreens on the market offer “inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients.” One ingredient commonly found in non-mineral sunscreens is oxybenzone. This chemical is a common UV filter in sunscreen and can disrupt the hormone system.
Classic vs. Mineral Sunscreen
Another important factor in choosing a sunscreen is classic vs. mineral. Classic and Mineral sunscreens are differentiated by their active sun protection ingredients. Classic sunscreens use chemical (also commonly referred to as “non-mineral” or “traditional”) active ingredients designed to absorb and dissipate UVA/UVB rays, while Mineral sunscreens use mineral (also commonly referred to as “physical”) active ingredients such as Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide to scatter and reflect UVA/UVb rays. Since mineral actives are not absorbed into the skin these formulas are less irritating to sensitive skin and are also less likely to be absorbed into the bloodstream as “traditional” actives are.
COOLA Mineral Travel Set
At Osmosis, we currently offer COOLA brand sunscreen. COOLA uses as many ingredients as possible that are natural, organic, sustainable and locally sourced. Green, yet still luxurious, each of their high performance products protect and nourish the skin with vitamins and age-defying antioxidants, while remaining free of parabens, paba, petroleum and phthalates. Additionally, they formulate with Plant Protection® rather than Oxybenzone, which allows them to achieve clinically tested, broad spectrum and antioxidant-rich protections while using fewer traditional actives. Better for your skin, better for the environment. COOLA also offers both Mineral and Traditional active based sunscreens, using the healthiest active ingredients possible!
This month we are featuring our COOLA Mineral Travel Set, which includes a quartet of COOLA’s bestselling luxury mineral sun care must haves, all in TSA approved carry-on sizes! These high-performance products protect and nourish the skin with vitamins and age-defying antioxidants, while remaining free of undesirable chemicals. All in a reusable, travel-friendly and limited edition COOLA travel clutch! Order yours now just in time for Summer!
*EWG provides information on sunscreen products from the published scientific literature, to supplement incomplete data available from companies and the government.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) sunscreen guide reviewed more than 1,700 SPF products like sunscreens, lip balms and moisturizers.
Since 2007, they have found a dramatic increase in the availability of mineral-only sunscreens, doubling from 17 percent of products to 34 percent in 2016. Sunscreens using zinc oxide and titanium dioxide tend to rate well in their analysis: They are stable in sunlight, offer a good balance between protection from the two types of ultraviolet radiation (UVA and UVB) and don’t often contain potentially harmful additives.
Oxybenzone is a common UV filter in sunscreen. It is a hormone disruptor and allergen. Sampling by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection has detected it in the urine of 97 percent of Americans. Despite emerging concerns, the sunscreen industry continues to rely heavily on oxybenzone as an active ingredient: it was in 70 percent of the non-mineral sunscreens evaluated for this year’s guide.
Master Pruner at Osmosis
by Michael Alliger
The summer solstice finds us focusing on California native plants used here in the Osmosis gardens. The theme of our garden design is California Asian, that is to say, a garden structured and pruned in the Asian way yet representative of our place here on this continent through the employment of some native plant material in addition to plants from Asia.
The development of Asian gardens has been in play for literally a thousand years. The pruning techniques, plant and stone choices, and spatial relationships have been refined through trial and error as well as bursts of creative genius. The appropriate plant material has been culled from the native landscape again through trial and error. Appropriateness refers largely to prunability: can a plant be maintained at the human scale required by the garden plan while still evoking the essence of the natural surroundings. This process of local plant selection, while age-old in Japan, is in its infancy here in California. It is the goal of the Osmosis garden not only to create a sense of place (home) by using native plants but also to further the cultivation of them. Our garden is somewhat of a proving ground in that regard; experimenting with the possibilities and limitations of the plants surrounding us.
The plant choices we have made vary in their adaptability from co-operative to questionable to doubtful. Among those most easily facilitated are the vine maple, ceanothus, two forms of ribes (currant) and manzanita. The vine maple is pruned as any Japanese maple with reduction for scale and thinning for appearance. Ceanothus gets cutback as the new growth extends after flowering. This plant is best kept full and usually either grouped or with accompanying plants beneath as they tend to defoliate below. Our pink flowering currant represents one of spring’s first blooms while also providing a screen along a path. Most pruning here is done in winter to contain the plant from its inherent wildness keeping it the right height and thickness and out of the path. We have found that by shearing the sprawling ribes viburnifolium we can create a form resembling the Japanese tamamono or horizontal oval. Manzanita has been used in several ways from shearing into O-karikomi style (contoured drift) to general screen to focal point at front entry sign. Each of these is pruned in late spring-summer as new growth follows flowering. The shearing of Manzanita definitely falls into the category of experimentation but has shown to be effective for a minimum of 10 years.
Shore Pine at Osmosis
Among the plants still in the discovery stage or requiring fairly adept pruning would be the shore pine and Douglas fir (surprisingly!). Without too much difficulty the shore pine can be pruned in the style of Japanese black pine by a skilled technician.
The Douglas fir lends itself to pruning quite readily as it exhibits the ability to freely break bud on bare wood, a characteristic rarely found in a conifer. This back budding allows for wholesale cutback and general pruning. The possibilities are seemingly limited only by the imagination and talent of the pruner. We have two that are documented to be over 50 years old and neither is over 7’ and both are full and lush shrub forms.
The tree with which we have had some success though cannot whole-heartedly recommend is the Monterey cypress. While this tree, known along the Pacific coast for it’s fabulous windswept shapes, can reach 40 to 60’ our specimen has remained at no more than 18’ with serious reductive pruning. The tree’s rapid growth and susceptibility to disease and infestation from hard pruning relegate it to doubtful in an ornamental garden.
We have barely touched the surface in our survey of native plants though some of the others tried include huckleberry, snowbell, and hazelnut. To find ourselves at the initiatory stage of this endless exploration gives a greater context to our deployment of Asian pruning and design techniques while lending a more familiar feel to exotic aesthetics.
Douglas Fir at Osmosis
Pink Flowering Ribe at Osmosis
Have you ever wondered how you could possibly make time for self care when you have kids? Are you feeling guilty that you haven’t spent quality time with your family in a while? At Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, we have a solution. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to prioritize self care as well as family time. Sound a bit like having your cake and eating it too? Well it is, and you deserve it! Read on to find our Top 5 Tips on How to Parent and Enjoy Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary.
- Meander towards the coast on a scenic drive. Connect with your family as you enjoy the variety of landscapes that Sonoma County has to offer: from oak-studded hills to scenic valleys, from redwood groves to windswept beaches. Osmosis is located in the historic town of Freestone at the beginning of the Bohemian Highway. Nestled between river and coast, redwoods and vineyards, Freestone is close to everything wonderful in West Sonoma County.
- Indulge Mom while discovering the world-famous California Coastal Redwoods in a way you never imagined. Mom begins her great escape by settling into the warmth of a Cedar Enzyme Bath. This warm and fragrant treatment offers myriad health benefits, from improving circulation to relieving joint and muscle pain. This is followed by the Osmosis Fusion Massage in a secluded Pagoda along the forested banks of Salmon Creek. Her journey of quietude concludes in the Japanese style meditation garden where she is invited to walk, lay, sit, or meditate while experiencing its ethereal feel that is unmistakably calming. At the same time, Dad and the kids head down Bohemian Highway to Sonoma Canopy Tours just 6 miles away. They have two unique courses that feature zip lines, bridges and rappels for most ages and abilities. As well as panoramic forest views and deep ravines.
- Nourish the Family Unit with Fresh Baked Bread, Artisan Cheese and Gardens. After a couple hours of high adventure, it is time to come together and grab some fresh bread at Wild Flower Bakery in Freestone, (please note their business hours of Fri., Sat., Sun., and Mon. from 8am-6:30pm). This quaint, storied bake shop has organic French breads, scones & other treats, plus specialty coffees is a great way to break up the day. Visitors are welcome to wander in their garden located just beside the bakery. It features herbs, vegetables and flowers and picnic tables. Don’t forget to pick up some hand crafted artisan cheeses along the way at Freestone Artisan Cheese just a short walk through town.
- Rejuvenate Dad while discovering windswept beaches. A cedar enzyme bath is a good place to start for Dad. This fermentation bathing ritual involves immersing your entire body in a mixture of soft and fragrant ground cedar and rice bran with living enzymes that stimulate metabolic activity inside and out. Next up for Dad is an Osmosis Men’s Signature Facial, specially formulated for men’s skin care needs, including a series of hot towels and a relaxing foot treatment. At the same time, Mom begins her bonding adventure with the kids at Doran Beach Regional Park. This family friendly beach has a wide, 2-mile stretch of beach on Bodega Bay and is ideal for walking, picnicking, playing in the sand, flying kites, surfing, and bird-watching.
- Conclude the Day’s adventure with Dinner & Shopping. After Mom, Dad and the kids have been wonderfully nurtured, it is time for the family to come together to enjoy some food and shopping. The Barlow brings together the very best wine makers, food producers and artisans, creating a space that offers a direct connection between the consumer and the makers of the local products they love. It’s a place to share food and enjoy art, wine and time together.
These Top 5 Tips, are only a suggestion to the myriad of good times and relaxation a family can have together while spending the day in West Sonoma County. Feel free to substitute any adventure with some of the links below. We also invite you to explore our website to further customize your your experience to fit your families needs.
Sonoma Canopy Tours
Wild Flower Bakery
Freestone Artisan Cheese
Armstrong Redwoods State Park
Burke’s Canoe Trips
Bodega Bay Kayak
Vertex Climbing Center
Sonoma Country Regional Parks