Osmosis Garden Journal

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by Michael Alliger
Master Pruner

Welcome to the Osmosis garden journal!  We in the garden will be writing monthly installments relating our horticultural endeavors.  Attention will be given to pruning; grounds maintenance, such as weeding, sweeping, raking, and insect control; planting and transplanting.

Also to be discussed will be design considerations including the specific roles of plants and their relationship to each other as well as to other elements like stone and water.  This may naturally lead us to touch upon the philosophical notions informing the design.


It is fitting to begin in January not only because it’s the opening of the calendar year but also it being deep winter the garden is relatively at rest.  The mention of seasons in Northern California often brings questions:  when is spring? Do we have autumn distinct from summer?  And when?  So let’s name the seasons as we see them by the months they include here in our area keeping in mind that those in other areas (even micro-climates) may experience them differently.

Winter: December through mid-March
Spring: mid-March through mid-June
Summer:  mid-June through mid-October
Autumn: mid-October through November

For our purposes the seasons are based on air and soil temperature; sunlight levels and  rainfall.  Knowing the seasons is important because they present us with opportunities and deadlines.  For instance, deciduous trees (those that annually lose all their leaves) begin doing so here roughly in November and December.  This provides us a window within which certain pruning approaches may be employed.  Though with the advent of new leaves around mid-March winter pruning ceases in order to allow the tree to benefit from the stored energy used to push out these leaves.  Opportunity and deadline.


Then let’s be on to January!

Pruning:

Cooler temperatures and  shorter days of weaker sunlight  bring a decrease in plant and insect activity.
This period allows us to do two types of pruning: structural (i.e. heavier) and winter silhouette (i.e. finer).

At Osmosis we have a Monterey cypress (like those on our Sonoma coast) with a design height of 15’.  It takes significant pruning to prevent it from “escaping” to it’s natural height of 60’.  This heavy structural pruning is relegated to winter since warmer season are conducive to insects which might attack the tree having been attracted by sap from large pruning wounds.  Relative plant dormancy also minimizes need for photosynthesis  allowing us to remove more than the usual percentage of branches and foliage.


Pruning for the winter silhouette is also part of this season’s work.  Here we are focused on deciduous trees such as Japanese maples, magnolias, flowering cherries and plums; refining winter’s leafless look into a thing of beauty.  This pruning is subtle and may go unnoticed by the casual observer though reaping long-term benefits in the coming months.  Maintenance of proper scale (height, width and density) is key in gardens influenced
by the Japanese style, as is Osmosis.  Winter silhouette pruning is the removal of relatively thicker branches as finer growth appears over the years.  This allows for a lighter, more natural look in spring and summer.  Less blocky.  As with most Japanese garden pruning the work is as much or more about future development as the present result.


Grounds maintenance:

Irrigation:  With drip irrigation turned off (ONLY IF CONSISTENT RAIN IS OCCURRING) some spot watering of areas under eaves or other protection may be required.  Hose-bibs and other exposed pipes should be wrapped to prevent freezing.



Weeding:  Rain brings weeds and so one of spring’s predominant chores begins in winter.

Raking/sweeping:  While practically a daily chore raking is lessened once deciduous trees (e.g. oaks, willows) have shed, at Osmosis we have large quantities of bamboo and a giant bay tree that drop leaves year round.

Repairs: As plant activity slackens time is allowed for small repairs of fences, gates, etc.

Tools:  Hand tools like hoes, rakes and shovels are given a thorough cleaning, sharpening and oiling.

Misc.:  Specific clump grasses are cut back.
Supplies (mulch, fertilizer, etc.) are inventoried and re-ordered.


Thank you!  And please enjoy this season’s gift of RAIN.

Loving Kindness Meditation

by Jack Kornfield

May I be filled with lovingkindness

“I am larger, better than I thought; I did not know I held so much goodness.”
– Walt Whitman

This meditation uses words, images, and feelings to evoke a lovingkindness and friendliness toward oneself and others. With each recitation of the phrases, we are expressing an intention, planting the seeds of loving wishes over and over in our heart.

With a loving heart as the background, all that we attempt, all that we encounter will open and flow more easily. You can begin the practice of lovingkindness by meditating for fifteen or twenty minutes in a quiet place. Let yourself sit in a comfortable fashion. Let your body rest and be relaxed. Let your heart be soft. Let go of any plans or preoccupations.

Begin with yourself. Breathe gently, and recite inwardly the following traditional phrases directed toward our own well-being. You being with yourself because without loving yourself it is almost impossible to love others.

May I be filled with lovingkindness.

May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.

May I be well in body and mind.

May I be at ease and happy.

As you repeat these phrases, picture yourself as you are now, and hold that image in a heart of lovingkindness. Or perhaps you will find it easier to picture yourself as a young and beloved child. Adjust the words and images in any way you wish. Create the exact phrases that best open your heart of kindness. Repeat these phrases over and over again, letting the feelings permeate your body and mind. Practice this meditation for a number of weeks, until the sense of lovingkindness for yourself grows.

Be aware that this meditation may at times feel mechanical or awkward. It can also bring up feelings contrary to lovingkindness, feelings of irritation and anger. If this happens, it is especially important to be patient and kind toward yourself, allowing whatever arises to be received in a spirit of friendliness and kind affection. When you feel you have established some stronger sense of lovingkindness for yourself, you can then expand your meditation to include others. After focusing on yourself for five or ten minutes, choose a benefactor, someone in your life who has loved and truly cared for you. Picture this person and carefully recite the same phrases:

May you be filled with lovingkindness.

May you be safe from inner and outer dangers.

May you be well in body and mind.

May you be at ease and happy.

Let the image and feelings you have for your benefactor support the meditation. Whether the image or feelings are clear or not does not matter. In meditation they will be subject to change. Simply continue to plant the seeds of loving wishes, repeating the phrases gently no matter what arises.

Expressing gratitude to our benefactors is a natural form of love. In fact, some people find lovingkindness for themselves so hard, they begin their practice with a benefactor. This too is fine. The rule in lovingkindness practice is to follow the way that most easily opens your heart.

When lovingkindness for your benefactor has developed, you can gradually begin to include other people in your meditation. Picturing each beloved person, recite inwardly the same phrases, evoking a sense of lovingkindness for each person in turn.

After this you can include others: Spend some time wishing well to a wider circle of friends. Then gradually extend your meditation to picture and include community members, neighbors, people everywhere, animals, all beings, the whole earth.

Finally, include the difficult people in your life, even your enemies, wishing that they too may be filled with lovingkindness and peace. This will take practice. But as your heart opens, first to loved ones and friends, you will find that in the end you won’t want to close it anymore.

Lovingkindness can be practiced anywhere. You can use this meditation in traffic jams, in buses, and on airplanes. As you silently practice this meditation among people, you will come to feel a wonderful connection with them – the power of lovingkindness. It will calm your mind and keep you connected to your heart.

Meditation on Gratitude and Joy

TR View of Temple

by Jack Kornfield

“If we cannot be happy in spite of our difficulties, what good is our spiritual practice?”

~Maha Ghosananda

Buddhist monks begin each day with a chant of gratitude for the blessings of their life. Native American elders begin each ceremony with grateful prayers to mother earth and father sky, to the four directions, to the animal, plant, and mineral brothers and sisters who share our earth and support our life. In Tibet, the monks and nuns even offer prayers of gratitude for the suffering they have been given: “Grant that I might have enough suffering to awaken in the deepest possible compassion and wisdom.”

The aim of spiritual life is to awaken a joyful freedom, a benevolent and compassionate heart in spite of everything.

Gratitude is a gracious acknowledgment of all that sustains us, a bow to our blessings, great and small, an appreciation of the moments of good fortune that sustain our life every day. We have so much to be grateful for.

Gratitude is confidence in life itself. It is not sentimental, not jealous, nor judgmental. Gratitude does not envy or compare. Gratitude receives in wonder the myriad offerings of the rain and the earth, the care that supports every single life.

As gratitude grows it gives rise to joy. We experience the courage to rejoice in our own good fortune and in the good fortune of others.

Joy is natural to an open heart. In it, we are not afraid of pleasure. We do not mistakenly believe it is disloyal to the suffering of the world to honor the happiness we have been given.

Like gratitude, joy gladdens the heart. We can be joyful for people we love, for moments of goodness, for sunlight and trees, and for the breath within our breast. And as our joy grows we finally discover a happiness without cause. Like an innocent child who does not have to do anything to be happy, we can rejoice in life itself, in being alive.

Let yourself sit quietly and at ease. Allow your body to be relaxed and open, your breath natural, your heart easy. Begin the practice of gratitude by feeling how year after year you have cared for your own life. Now let yourself begin to acknowledge all that has supported you in this care:

With gratitude I remember the people, animals, plants, insects, creatures of the sky and sea, air and water, fire and earth, all whose joyful exertion blesses my life every day.

With gratitude I remember the care and labor of a thousand generations of elders and ancestors who came before me.

I offer my gratitude for the safety and well-being I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the blessing of this earth I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the measure of health I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the family and friends I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the community I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the teachings and lessons I have been given.

I offer my gratitude for the life I have been given.

Just as we are grateful for our blessings, so we can be grateful for the blessings of others.

Continue to breathe gently. Bring to mind someone you care about, someone it is easy to rejoice for. Picture them and feel the natural joy you have for their well-being, for their happiness and success. With each breath, offer them your grateful, heartfelt wishes:

May you be joyful.

May your happiness increase.

May you not be separated from great happiness.

May your good fortune and the causes for your joy and happiness increase.

Sense the sympathetic joy and caring in each phrase. When you feel some degree of natural gratitude for the happiness of this loved one, extend this practice to another person you care about. Recite the same simple phrases that express your heart’s intention.

Then gradually open the meditation to include neutral people, difficult people, and even enemies- until you extend sympathetic joy to all beings everywhere, young and old, near and far.

This excerpt is taken from the book, “The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace

Your first Cedar Enzyme Bath: A Self-love Story

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You listen to your body

Stress fogs your mind and creeps into corners of your body. Joints and muscles ache from the burdens of life. Some nights you have trouble sleeping. Digestion issues are emerging. Your body is communicating imbalances to you. Finally, you listen. You need treatment. Searching for “Health Spa In Northern California,” you come across Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary and the Cedar Enzyme Bath. “Enzymes,” you wonder, “like the enzymes you take to help your digestive organs?” It seems strange but intriguing. The reviews sound positive, almost too good to be true. The photos of beautiful Zen gardens draw you in. What the heck, it’s worth a try. You book an appointment online.

Arriving at Osmosis

Driving into Freestone, CA, you marvel that these quaint little townships still exist. When you get out of your car at the spa, you feel a clean moisture on your skin and in your lungs.  Ahhhh, the ocean isn’t far. Every square inch of this part of the world is lush and seems to have received a special blessing from mother nature. You walk into stunningly architected gardens, like a layered sculpture of the elements. The terrace has the glow of lush Northern California landscape but the restraint and precision of a meticulously pruned Zen garden.

Walking into the spa, the aroma of wood and herbs strike you. The receptionist welcomes you and details how you will be guided through the bath experience. She seems to answer all of your questions before you’ve had the chance to ask them: how you’ll know when it’s time to go into the bath, what your options for clothing in the bath are, what you should do if you feel uncomfortable or have questions at any time, and what the steps are following the bath. This is a safe place, you can relax. Attendants will guide you.

Tea Ceremony

You’re guided by a kind woman named Shelley down a clean hallway. There’s a monk-like quality about her and this whole place feels like a temple. Peaceful. Meditative. Shelley leads you to a small room that opens up to an stunning courtyard garden and pond. It looks like you’re gazing at a framed picture, it is one of the most pristine gardens you’ve ever seen. “Am I still in the US?” you question for a moment. Shelley serves you tea and offers you a cushion to relax on. The tea is mellow and fragrant. The attendant tells you that the tea has enzymes in it that will heal your body from the inside out. That sounds wonderful! Healing from the inside out. You hadn’t quite thought of a trip to a spa in those terms before. While you knew that your body needed some love and attention—some deep relaxation—you’re starting to think that this enzyme bath experience might be more transformative than you’d anticipated. You take a deep breath and imagine the enzymes in the tea entering your organs. You hope that they’re combating the less-than-ideal foods that you’ve been indulging on lately.

The Cedar Enzyme Bath

Your told that it’s time for the bath and Shelley guides you from the tea room to the tub room. It’s warm and steamy. You’re struck by the size of these beautiful, wooden tubs. Their design reminds you of a Japanese architecture. A wall of windows to your right looks out to another incredible garden. This garden is more expansive and airy. You can see the steam rising off of the auburn-colored mixture in the tub. It’s hard to believe that it’s contents are finely ground cedar and rice bran! You dip your hand in to feel it out, the way one dips their toes in a pool to test the water before jumping in. The bath feels fluffy and soft, you spread the mixture across the back of your hand and you already sense the oils seeping into your skin.  Immediately you want to make the plunge.

Getting into the tub is easy. The mindful attendant has already explained to you how to climb into the nice little canal that’s been dug for you. Then Shelley covers your body with the mixture. As the soft, heavy mixture encapsulates you, a layer of tension escapes. The mixture is pillowy but supportive. Like the best kind of mattress only this supportively shapes to the most comfortable posture for your body. Once you’ve found your ideal position, the attendant piles more of the mixture over the top of you and makes a small mound just behind your neck to provide perfect support for your head and spine. Another layer of tension evaporates from between your shoulder blades and down the middle of your back. You want to burrow yourself inside this bath and never get out. Your whole body is pulsing with warm energy. You notice it in your toes, then in your knees and ankles. Your joints actually feel good. The warmth of the bath is permeating your entire being in a way that is gentle yet very powerful. Now you understand what “warm to the bones” really feels like. Your attention broadens and your entire body feels weightless and balanced and you drift in and out of consciousness. Dreamy.

Shelley asks if your comfortable and tells you that she’ll be back in five minutes. When she returns, she lays a cool, wet cloth on your forehead. It smells like lavender. This is the life of the gods. Then she offers you a sip of water. She asks if you’re too hot or need any of the cedar adjusted or if you’d like to get out. This process repeats every five minutes until you’ve completed the maximum time of 20 minutes in the bath. You to sit up and drink some more water. A thin coating of the moss-like mixture covers your ams. She helps you emerge from the bath. Your skin feels deeply moisturized. Your body feels more alive, more flexible, more capable. Though you just emerged from a dream-like state, you don’t feel groggy or cloudy. Rather, you notice that the fog of stress in your mind and body that led you here in the first place has lifted, like a cloudy morning in San Francisco suddenly transforming into a warm, sunny afternoon. Energized.

Following the Bath

You’re led to a private patio. Shelley uses a soft brush to sweep the cedar off of your back and then hands you the brush to continue sweeping the mixture off. Next to the patio is a shower that will rinse all of the remaining mixture from your body. You rub your hands over your body feel a heightened awareness. The feeling of your own touch is elevated. Your skin is supple in a way that it hasn’t felt in years. And you feel clean. Incredibly clean. You didn’t predict this sensation. Warm bath in cedar and rice bran: relaxing, yes. Moisturizing, possibly. But clean? Yes! Like all of the skin is fresh. Impurities on the surface removed. Sparkling.

After you turn off the shower, a mist turns on in the shower that sprays gently across your body. The mist has Vitamin C and other healthy supplements for your skin.

As you step out of the shower and put your robe on, you feel alive and clear-headed. There’s a sense of deep peace and love toward your body.

You’d be content and satisfied to go home at this point. But you will be guided further to other transcendental treatments of Sound Therapy, a facial and massage followed by a walk through the Zen gardens. On your meditative walk you’ll notice yourself slowing down and appreciating each moment with a calm, clear mind.

You leave Osmosis with a soft smile on your face that doesn’t seem to shake. You feel good inside. Your tummy feels calm and you notice the marked absence of muscle spasms in your back. You’re recharged, refreshed, rejuvenated.

This place truly did serve as a sanctuary and brought rejuvenation to your mind and body.