The OM Monthly News
Spring As Medicine
What is it about spring that makes people feel better? When spring is in the air individuals tend to contract spring fever (feeling of excitement), spring into shape (desire for physical activity), spring back (bounce back from challenges), spring to life (feel suddenly more alive), and put a spring in their step (happy energetic walking). We humans have developed with the seasonal changes and one thought to contemplate is that winter brings on a certain inclination toward dormancy and spring counteracts those tendencies with a surge of life to both plant and animals. Spring brings medicine for improving health. Pay attention to your natural inclination to spring clean your body, your home, as well as get outside.
Here are a few cultures that traditionally embrace cleansing. One is found with the Chinese through the art of Feng Shui. This study originated over 3,000 years ago. A simplified way to approach this practice is to remove stagnant energy in your home by decluttering your spaces. The thought is if you clear and clean your home, you will also gain personal energy.
Another tradition of cleansing is found in the Appalachian Mountains where there is a history of residents who believed that families needed a good “spring cleaning” and would take an annual spring tonic. The plants you find spring up in your yard, like dandelion (root), are found in some of the tonic recipes. During the winter, blood is known to become thicker and the tonics would help purify and thin the blood. Certain tonics were also found to help with regeneration to the nucleus of the cells responsible for healthy tissue.
Now is a good time to renew your energy and get your daily dose of spring medicine.
Spring into Self-Care
For many, the first several months of 2017 have been a time of stepping up or stepping into a life calling, a movement, or simply a resolution. When individuals feel an increasing urgency to step up in their lives, it is easy to lose touch with the physical body and the spiritual self. If an active mind has been taking the lead in your life so far this year, the path back to center may unfold with soothing daily self-care strategies.
The good news is that self-care no longer lives on a vacation you schedule once per year. Instead, the potential for self-care lives in your sleep routine, your morning ritual, how you choose to sit at your desk and each breath you take. Too often, one thinks of self-care as a selfish choice to indulge every so often. But regularly checking in with the self in a demanding world can be a healthy decision which ultimately helps you show up more authentically in every area of your life.
There are many ways to pause and check in with the physical body and the spiritual self. This month OM Sanctuary has compiled three separate self-care practices that can support you in different environments, from home, to work, or even the seemingly mundane. These self-care suggestions enable you to create and continually expand a self-care list of your own. These practices focus on ways to implement little moments of self-care often, so that self care becomes a part of your daily routine, no matter where you are.
A Time of Clearing
At the beginning of the year, opportunity arises to reconsider patterns and take full advantage of the symbolic “reset” associated with the New Year. For many people, the days leading up to January give rise to self reflection and a renewed desire to make resolutions for personal growth in the coming year. In the excitement and rush of creating resolutions after the holiday season, we often forget to clear a space for those beautiful changes to take root. After all, when planting a new garden, it is unlikely one would simply throw seeds into hard earth and expect vegetables to grow. By intentionally preparing the plot to be gardened, we create a space in which new life has ample opportunity to flourish. If your January resolutions have added stress to your life or left you feeling overwhelmed, consider preparing your metaphorical garden bed by clearing space for your truest desires to shine through, and then resetting your intentions with a fresh perspective.
The equivalent of preparing the “garden plot” in which important resolutions will have a chance to take root is a ritual of clearing, in which you let go of emotional and physical clutter and baggage. You have ample time to create new promises, so allow yourself the relief of mental and physical clearing first. This way, you avoid adding new clutter to an already cluttered mental state.
Physical clearing may include reconsidering your home space or bedroom and setting aside time to declutter. If your resolution was to commit to a healthier sleep cycle, does it make sense to have a television or a desk cluttered with paperwork in your bedroom? If your resolution is to write in your journal more often, you might give that resolution a chance to take root by decluttering unnecessary items from your desk and setting up a space that feels graceful, inspiring, or simply makes you feel happy and invited when you see it.
Marie Kondo, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, writes that “the place we live should be for the person we are becoming now – not for the person we have been in the past.” Though letting go of what has not served us in the past is a process, living for the person we are becoming now is both liberating and exhilarating. Remember that although New Years Day is popularly associated with resolutions, there is plenty of time for you to create a spacious clearing in your mind and body, and make some agreements rooted in that place of peace and well-being.
For emotional clearing, consider participating in the February monthly practice below: a ritual of clearing and letting go.
Heart Centered December
As winter winds and rain begin to chill the air, remember that heartwarming actions hold the potential to bring as much cheer as a steaming cup of cider or a cherished family tradition. Offering a smile, patience, or unconditional help is a form of giving selflessly and paying the warmth of one’s heart forward with no expectation of anything in return. This December, know that meditating on compassion can have a positive impact on your personal well-being and holds the capacity to benefit the state of mind of those around you. During the holiday season, in order to be the person who gifts others by carrying a loving heart-centered message, you must first discover how to hold that message within.
Considering the numerous benefits associated with meditation, it is understandable that mindfulness, meditation, and compassion practices have taken the spotlight in the fields of cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Studies in these fields highlight meditation techniques which support an overall sense of well-being. Practices such as Metta (Tibetan for “Compassion”)meditation, and other heart centered exercises, have demonstrable positive effects on personal behavior, self-perception, and perception of others.
The holiday season is notoriously associated with potential for increased levels of stress and associated physiological inflammation, which can weaken the immune system and dampen the spirit. As a preventative measure, we suggest you try heart-centered techniques, which are associated with a strengthened immune system and a deepened capacity for joy- even in potentially inauspicious circumstances.
One notable study featuring the benefit of meditation: “Open Hearts Build Lives…” led by Barbara Fredrickson, in which researchers examine loving-kindness meditation as a tool for enhancing the experience of positive emotions. The goal of Fredrickson’s theory is to utilize meditation to increase positive emotions, which allow people to rise to life’s challenges with skillful ease. The study examines the positive correlation between compassion meditation practices and an individual’s ability to build a personal toolkit for maneuvering life’s more challenging seasons with grace and ease. Meditation holds the capacity for each of us to experience a greater sense of well-being in daily life.
It is gladdening to know that compassion meditation practice holds space for us to extend caring action toward self and others. By embracing heart-centered tools of meditation and mindfulness, we gain access to the uplifting and encouraging experience of changing the self, and thus, the world in which we live.
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Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources. Journal of personality and social psychology. 2008;95(5):1045-1062. doi:10.1037/a0013262.
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and Philippe R. Goldin. The Journal of Positive Psychology: Dedicated to Furthering Research and Promoting Good Practice. Department of Psychology, Institute of Personality and SOcial Research, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA. Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford CA. Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Palo Alto, CA. School of Medicine, Stanford University, CA. Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA. 2015.
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Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise. PLoS ONE 3(3): e1897. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001897
Kearney, D. J., Malte, C. A., McManus, C., Martinez, M. E., Felleman, B. and Simpson, T. L.
(2013), Loving-Kindness Meditation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Pilot Study. J. Traum. Stress, 26: 426–434. doi: 10.1002/jts.21832
Ruth A. Baer, Emily L.B. Lykins & Jessica R. Peters (2012): Mindfulness and
self-compassion as predictors of psychological well-being in long-term meditators and matched non meditators, The Journal of Positive Psychology:Dedicated to furthering research and promoting good practice, 7:3, 230-238
Thaddeus, W.W. Pace, Lobsang Tensin Negi, Daniel D. Adame, Steven P. Cole, Teresa I. Sivilli,
Timothy D. Brown, Michael J. Issa, Charles L. Raison. “Effect of Compassion Meditation on Neuroendocrine, Innate Immune and Behavioral Responses to Psychosocial Stress.” Elsevier Journal of Neuroendocrinology v.34, 1. Emory Collaborative for Contemplative Studies, Atlanta, GA.
OM Sanctuary is pleased to announce that Stephanie Moore, Executive Director of the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design, is the February 2015 OM Care recipient. OM Sanctuary started the OM Care Initiative to help offer a self care and renewal opportunity to non-profit caregivers that diligently dedicate their lives in service to others. Stephanie is an inspiring example of this. In addition to being Executive Director of this national arts non-profit organization, she wears many hats. Stephanie is facility manager, development director, party planner, and most importantly, a devoted mother. Over the past year, Stephanie has orchestrated the move of the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design from Hendersonville to downtown Asheville. http://www.craftcreativitydesign.org/. All the while, she has expanded the staff, maintained high quality local and national programming, and successfully managed the build out of the new offices. She is a devoted fan of her children’s football games and rarely takes time out for herself, which is why her OMCare award will be a needed respite!
Thank you, Stephanie, for creating the wonderful new exhibition space in downtown Asheville at 67 Broadway with the intent of being “a strong voice for the next generation of craft artists and scholars”. We all intend to enjoy it and hope you find needed rest and relaxation at OM Sanctuary after this great accomplishment.
OM Care is supported by the generosity of donors who would like to see care being offered to the Caregivers. The program is designed to reduce stress and bring rest and relaxation to those who work for the hundreds of non-profit charitable organizations across Buncombe County. Currently the awardee receives a Rest & Renewal Retreat. The program offers the awardee one overnight stay for the awardee (and one other person), access to holistic classes, meditation rooms, breakfast, the garden, waterfall and Tranquility Trail.
More about OM Care Initiative
Introducing OM Care: Self-Care for the Caregiver
It is the caregivers in our communities that diligently dedicate their lives in service to others. They bring assistance, love, food, shelter, determination, and caring to many individuals who are in need. Did you know that many employees working in a number of non-profits have a burnout rate that reaches as high as 90%? OM Sanctuary recognizes that by offering Self-Care Programs for the Caregivers that we effectively help touch the lives of thousands. In 2015 OM Sanctuary will be introducing 4 Self-Care Programs for the Caregivers. OM Sanctuary has also opened up nominations for the OM Care 2015 Awardees. Yes, you get to nominate one of your top non-profits that you feel touches many lives, such as: domestic violence, veterans, homeless, child abuse centers, nursing homes, hospitals, animal shelters etc. If selected, the non-profit organization will be featured in the OM Monthly Newsletter starting in January. The newsletter will give them a promotional opportunity to announce who they are and what their organization does. The organization will also be asked to award one of their hard-working and deserving employees to an OM Care Renewal Program at OM Sanctuary. Help us celebrate these individuals by supporting the OM Care program. Your donations will support the Renewal benefits offered to them. For most of these individuals, packages like the following are out of their financial reach. OM Care Renewal Package includes:
- Recognition from community
- One overnight stay at OM Sanctuary
- A Wellness treatment of their choice (Massage or Enrichment Seminar)
- One meal
- Free admittance to any of the Holistic Classes available during their stay.
As an OM Care benefactor, your name will go on the website of the 2015 OM Care Awardee Benefactor page.
Exploring Holistic Landscaping
OMS team has been working to build partnerships with other community organizations who have their own Green Initiatives to share. Two weeks ago the OMS team met with Dr. David Ellum; Chair of the Environmental Studies Department, Professor of Sustainable Forestry, and College Forest Director at Warren Wilson College. He shared his research that he has been conducting with students on his “Forest/Field Edge” project. A Forest to Landscaped Edge is something OM Sanctuary is exploring. What the OMS team learned was the project involved four aspects, in order of priority: Health of the ecosystem, educational value, recreational value, and products.
The OMS team wanted to have this discussion with Dr. Ellum in hopes that some of his strategies and techniques could be incorporated on the OM Sanctuary property sometime in the near future to remove hard forest to landscaped edges.(Picture left to right: OMS Caretaker & Landscaping Brian Hines, OMS summer intern Rachel Newcomb, Warren Wilson’s Dr. David S. Ellum, and OMS Communications & Landscaping Aaron Lodge)
This is only what has been accomplished so far in the organization’s plans to create a Holistic Forest Management Plan that will bring health to the environment for the wildlife and people.
Counting Our Feathered Friends
As we count on our feathered friends to sing and bedazzle us with their flittering beauty and grace, we have those who help track the birds by listening, watching and counting them. Steve Semanchuk, an Asheville resident, visited and counted OM Sanctuary’s birds. He made an initial visit to assist in establishing a baseline of the breeding bird species for the property. His findings were reported to eBird which uses the data to further the knowledge of bird life in the city of Asheville, NC and it is now recorded with Cornell as well. May and early June was the most productive time period for bird species at this elevation of 2,000 ft. In a single day’s visit, both numbers and species variety were recorded.
Steve spent about an hour and a half on site. All birds where not seen; many of the species recorded were heard only. It was important for him to pick a day with reasonably good weather, as heavy rain and wind adversely affect the quality of the counting period. As 90 minutes was a small slice of time on the property, Steve has no doubt there are more species to be recorded in a future survey. A fall migration survey in late September or early October will also prove valuable to data collection.
OM Sanctuary Breeding Birds
May 28, 2014 (Initial Survey)
Mourning Dove: 1
Chimney Swift: 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird: 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker: 2
Downy Woodpecker: 3
Pileated Woodpecker: 1
Red-eyed Vireo: 2
Blue Jay: 2
Carolina Chickadee: 1
Tufted Titmouse: 5
Carolina Wren: 11
Wood Thrush: 1
American Robin: 3
Gray Catbird: 3
Brown Thrasher: 2
Hooded Warbler: 4
Eastern Towhee: 8
Song Sparrow: 3
Northern Cardinal: 11
Indigo Bunting: 2
American Goldﬁnch: 1
Steve & Liz Semanchuk. They have participated in yearly breeding bird surveys for Buncombe County, the Balsam Mountains and the Black Mountains for 9 years. In conjunction with the Buncombe Breeding Bird Survey, they do a count on Claxton Farm for Porter and Martha Claxton.
Steve has organized the Audubon Christmas Bird Count for four years, but not recently and is also a Birding Pal, who has assisted birders from Holland, Newfoundland, Canada and numerous areas of the U.S. in finding species of birds specific to this area that they hoped to see. He has been birding since 2000 but has had a lifelong interest in everything outdoors. He notes it is a pleasurable duty to help others become aware of the bird life in the hopes that education leads to appreciation.
The Local Nature Conservancy and OM Sanctuary partner to create an Ecological Restoration Strategic Plan
As caretakers of a beautiful 54 acre property, OM Sanctuary recognizes the importance of restoring the native plants for the health of all the living things in the region. On June 3, 2014 Rachel Newcomb, OM Sanctuary’s summer intern from William Smith College, Geneva NY, will begin working with Shelli Stanback, OM Sanctuary’s visionary founder and Mike Horak and Adam Warwick from the NC Nature Conservancy, who’s mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. The best place to start to bring a healthy balance to your area is to start in your back yard.
Native species are those that occur in the region in which they evolved. Plants evolve over geologic time in response to physical and biotic processes characteristic of a region: the climate, soils, timing of rainfall, drought, and frost; and interactions with the other species inhabiting the local community. Thus native plants possess certain traits that make them uniquely adapted to local conditions, providing a practical and ecologically valuable alternative for landscaping, conservation and restoration projects, and as livestock forage. In addition, native plants can match the finest cultivated plants in beauty, while often surpassing non-natives in ruggedness and resistance to drought, insects and disease.
You can make a difference and impact the future health of the planet by starting your efforts today.
Singing Out Stress
by Stephanie Heidmann
Nowadays, our society suffers from an epidemic of stress. Much of the world is in a constant state of frenzy, and this affects us. It is tough to counter, while the amount of stimulation is overwhelming to try and filter through and to stay grounded. Amidst all of the noise, it is important to unwind and connect with your inner silence again. Inside the silence, is one’s inner wisdom, and there within, your authentic self. I have found, and now teach, how a meditative style of singing, which I call Authentic Voicework, is a wonderful means, of reconnecting with the very essence of who you are, the authentic self.
There are many benefits that singing provides. Here is my top 10 list:
1) Regulates mood, encourages more balanced state of being
2) Increases creativity & overall sense of well being
3) Unifies people, creating interactive communal experience
4) Empowers sense of self
5) Brings out inner child & light-heartedness
6) Increases oxygen intake (good for body and brain health)
7) Decreases blood pressure
8) Boosts Immune System by Increasing Immunoglobin A (protein in antibodies)
9) Increases anti-stress hormone hydrocortisone
10) Stimulates part of brain that creates dopamine associated with pleasure
In a nutshell, singing is a safe way to access your feelings. It enhances inner stillness, reduces stress, and allows for a socially acceptable way of expressing emotion. Singing from a place of inner stillness and/or authenticity puts you in the moment, or as Eckhardt Tolle, the now. Music brings us into the now. And your voice is your vibrational identity, and your wisdom is your music within. Hear it, listen, and be amazed!
Yoga of the Voice May Day workshop and Saturday Concert with Stephanie Heidemann. Join this beautiful Authentic Voicework journey on May 1 – 4, 2014. This coursework is NCBTMB approved, offering 14 CE’s for LMTs. NCBTMB Approved Provider # 451581-11.
Disconnect to Reconnect
by Tracy Davids*
There’s nothing like tent camping in the winter to reconnect with nature and find your natural rhythm. By day two of my recent nine-day adventure on the South Carolina coast I was in sync with the forces around me – the volatile weather, the changing tides, the short days and long nights. They directed my actions, compelling me to go with the flow. Before long, I was one with my surroundings and at peace.
Living outside commands attention to your very existence. Without all the trappings and comforts of our modern world you focus on meeting your needs rather than your desires. You learn what is most important to your survival and what you can live without. Your senses heighten and you tune in to the happenings around you – the habits of other creatures, a sudden drop in temperature or increase in humidity, the quickly setting sun. You learn that nature provides the real rhythm in life and that you can create harmony when you step to the beat.
If you find yourself unsettled, unfocused, or just out of sorts this winter, go to your favorite place in nature and immerse yourself in it. When you disconnect from the world we created and reconnect with the natural world that sustains us, you will find inner tranquility, truth, and balance.
* Tracy Davids is a non-profit consultant [fund-raising specialist] who has been working with OM Sanctuary’s Resource Development Team since September 2013.
Technology Free – What?!
by Jaymii Liehr, Programs Business & Marketing Manager
A few of months ago, Shelli (Founder & Visionary) and I were discussing the option of having a technology-free stay at OM. While all of our guests can enjoy our cell phone free zones, we were exploring the idea of taking it one step further by presenting our overnight guests with the opportunity to completely unplug from technology by offering to safely and securely store their cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc while they are staying with us. While I understood the concept, I didn’t understand why anyone would want to do that. Let’s be realistic, you’re already on holiday; you’re away from your kids, your family, your friends … Why would you want to completely cut yourself off? How will you know what’s happening in the world? What if you miss a birthday on FB? And what if 98.1 can’t reach you to tell you just won tickets to LEAF?!
I’m not a politician or lawyer or a music mogul or a film producer. I’m an artist. I’m also the Program Business & Marketing Manager at OM Sanctuary, and I co-own a business – you know, just your average professional Ashevillian. I have 5 current phone numbers, 10 email accounts, and I actively participate in 7 social media outlets. I’m also a pretty social person – I know at least 2 people on every continent, have close friends in every US state, and my immediate tribe is scattered throughout 2 coasts and 4 countries. There is no way I could totally unplug for even a day.
Fast forward to 1 month ago. It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m perched in front of my mac. I’m having my monthly tea-date-Skype with my friend in Montreal. He told me his laptop broke and was in the shop for almost a month and how he couldn’t do any work at home and had to go into the studio to do everything. This of course, makes me shudder. Then he starts talking of his garden and how the flowers are still blooming even though we are technically into fall. He talks about all the time he found while his computer was broken. He said he actually had time to sit in his garden, instead of hastily pulling weeds before moving on to the next chore. He spoke about Shanti (his 6 yr old Newfoundland) and how even though it took 3 hours to brush him, they both enjoyed it immensely. This got me thinking about all the activities I love doing but somehow lost the time to do them.
Sunday morning I woke up bright and early and decide to try out this technology-free idea. After turning my cell and landlines to silent, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. Then Kody and I headed to the neighborhood dog park. We ran into a friend on the way home and I invited her back to my house to lay out by the pool. In the driveway, I mentioned the new technology-free Sunday rule. She smiled and turned her phone to silent. We had a wonderful afternoon – We relaxed in the pool, read the paper, concocted an amazing fruit tea, and spent time together, talking. No texting, no phone, no emails! That evening, I realized what a stellar day I had. Not once did I think about work or wonder what I was missing on Facebook.
Now here I am, with a whole month of technology-free Sundays and I’m feeling great. I actually look forward to Sundays. I’ve even got my friends on board. They all know if they come over they have to turn their cell phones to silent and leave them by the door. Yesterday my friend walked in, turned his phone off, sighed, and then with a big smile on his face, announced to the room, “I love the Sunday rule!” Next month, I’m contemplating a technology-free weekend …