An integrative approach to healing ourselves and our world: honoring people, plants, planet

Archive for the ‘Wellness’ Category

Looking Backward and Forward

January, the first month of the year, is thought to get its name from the Roman god Janus, “the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces” (Wikipedia). Wikipedia also writes that “Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace. The gates of a building in Rome named after him (not a temple, as it is often called, but an open enclosure with gates at each end) were opened in time of war, and closed to mark the arrival of peace (which did not happen very often).”

We are at a point this January where we looking backwards and forwards, and we’re also still in this liminal, in-between space of no longer and not yet. The vaccine has arrived, yet the virus is raging worse than ever. There is an end of a presidency and the start of a new one, and currently we’re kind of in a place of both and neither. For the Janus-like looking at beginnings/endings, war/peace, life/death, and transitions, I’m reflecting on 2020 and announcing what is to come in 2021.

2020 Looking Back

“There must … be something great in the mortal soul. For suffering, it seems, is infinite, and our capacity without limit.” 

― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces  

“Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.” 

― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces  

“Death opens a door out of a little, dark room (that’s all the life we have known before it) into a great, real place where the true sun shines and we shall meet.” 

― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces  

Here we are at the beginning of a new year following a year that will always be held with a difference. We’ve all experienced the uncertainty with a full range of emotions while navigating the way, moment-to-moment, of how to respond. So much of what we’ve gone through reminds me of the meaning in C.S. Lewis’ book Till We Have Faces, that we are confronting the delusions we hold in our mind and apply to life, ourselves and others. When 2020 was a new year and decade, people spoke of 2020 vision. We didn’t know it, yet, on January 1, 2020, but we were definitely going to see things more clearly. 

This year has been one of loss for everyone, but for some, it has been an experience of great loss, isolation and tremendous suffering. We have lost loved ones; we have lost years of socialization, which has been so harmful for all of us, but mostly for the youngest and oldest; we have lost milestone events that are rites of passage; we have lost businesses, music venues, restaurants. We have lost the freedom to hug.

I am humbled by the resilience and grace with which many have faced this loss. I am welcoming self-compassion, self-gratitude and acknowledgment for how I have been transformed through this experience. I invite you to join me in taking a deep bow to yourself for coping as well as you did and discovering insights about yourself along the way.

Living and adapting to life through a pandemic hasn’t been all suffering. Many of us uncovered in the stillness, and quiet, a new pace that allowed for us to connect to oneself and others in more satisfying ways. We were made to be and allowed to be alone, which caused loneliness, and also gave us access to parts of ourselves that often evade our grasp when in the company of others. We found permission (thank you, COVID), to be an introvert, to not be the one who always has to travel to Thanksgiving, to say no to gathering with casual associations or to accommodating the people in our life out of guilt, fear and obligation. We found permission to be intentional about with whom we share our breathtime. We found permission to rest, to take long walks with the dogs, kids, and close friends. We gave ourselves permission to get dirty planting a garden and harvesting the goods for canning. We were slowed down enough to enjoy with presence a spring, summer and fall season that to me were each superlative as being exceptionally lovely, which leaves me wondering, were the spring ephemeral flowers more profuse, was the summer temperature more mild, were the fall leaves more stunning, or was I paying more attention, and therefore, more able to experience delight, beauty, awe and wonder? There was space, and permission granted for once, to do something different.

You know, the brain loves novelty. Newness keeps our brains active. Relationships need fresh perspective, flexibility, freedom to show up or not show up out of mutual respect and emotional nurturance. Many of us, though not without pain, have stretched our brains to experience personal growth through the Pandemic. 

Another COVID adjustment that has brought positive insight and growth has been healing from a bad case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Having anxiety about what to do with all the options was eliminated suddenly. In its place grew more intentional awareness of one’s choices and agency of what to do, or not do. Also, many people chose to turn off social media and instead, chose to read, walk, meditate, cook, garden, or be with someone in person or on Zoom or talk on a real phone call. Those with children, though challenging, have found that this time of slowing down, staying home, and not shuttling the kids around to all the things has been a time to be savored. Without all the distractions, noise and busyness of “normal” life, we were able to sustain our attention long enough to focus on what really matters.

Again, I invite each of you to place your hands on your heart and take a deep bow for what you have been through. 

2021  Looking Forward

February 1st, Whole Idea Healing: psychotherapy, mindfulness & herbal medicine will relocate to 513 East Main Street, Chattanooga, TN 37408. (423) 240-4578

For 15 years, I have held the intention of practicing in a space capable of hosting psychotherapy sessions, herbal classes, groups, and meditation sits, while also being able to formulate made-to-order botanical medicine blends and retail some of my popular formulas. All of these things I have offered over the years, but starting February 1st they’ll be able to be consolidated under one roof at the new location on the corner of Main Street and Adams Street. There is parking on Adams Street on the side of the house. If it’s ever full, there is street parking on Main Street on the other side of the street. There is a fenced backyard, so when weather permits, I will offer classes, meditation sits and workshops in the backyard. Stay tuned for events, which will, of course, be mindful of safety. 

I am excited to announce that also in February 2021, I am beginning the two-year Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program led by Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield. I was introduced to mindfulness in the year 2000 through a teacher retreat. In 2003, I began to seriously practice mindfulness meditation. Over the decades, I have deepened my practice and blended it with psychotherapy. My intention is to continue to deepen my own practice, and also to refine my skills as a meditation teacher. It’s a great honor to be able to learn from Tara and Jack. 

Whole Idea Healing, the name I first gave my herbal medicine and therapy practice in 2005, will be revived with a new home and an old/new vision. Whole Idea Healing will be a place for mindfulness, therapy and botanical medicine. 

Also on the horizon in 2021, I will be breathing life back into Forest Bathing, mindful nature walks and backpacking programs. We will need to have fewer COVID cases for backpacking, but I am hopeful that that will happen later this year. 

Questions to ask yourself in this time of looking back and looking forward: 

What is something I see more clearly?

What am I letting go of in order to cross through the next threshold? 

What am I intentionally bringing with me? 

What choices will I make in 2021 based on what I experienced in 2020? 

Until we see each other again, stay healthy. And may you have peace, comfort and wisdom this year. 

whole idea healing     513 East Main Street, Chattanooga, TN 37408

What happens when the #BestOutdoorTownEVER is forced inside?

Grief. That’s what happens.

Yesterday was Day 1 of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke’s Executive Order to stay at home, and included in that order was the closure of all city parks; the celebrated Chattanooga Riverwalk; park trails at Stringer’s Ridge and Greenway Farms; and a symbol of the Chattanooga Renaissance, the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge. The city doesn’t manage all public land around Chattanooga, but in short order, the National Park System shut down all Lookout Mountain Trails within the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Battlefield Park Land; the Tennessee State Park System shut down all TN state parks, including the popular Cumberland Trail System running from Chattanooga to the Kentucky border; the Prentice Cooper TN Wildlife Management Area closed access to its trails; the Cherokee National Forest closed campgrounds; TVA closed boat ramps and shut-down paddling the Ocoee River; the Tennessee River Gorge Land Trust closed its trails; and Lula Lake Land Trust closed its open gate days even to its annual members, mostly to protect staff who work the gate. My two friends and I, who are all self-employed health professionals who have been either closed completely by executive orders or been driven to only virtual telehealth sessions, have been keeping up our mental health by meeting 2-3 times a week for a walk along different trails around Chattanooga. Yesterday, with the closures happening so fast we couldn’t keep up, we went from one parking area to another, only to find all trails were closed. We settled for standing 6 feet apart along the road by Suck Creek to process what was happening to our lives.

6-foot distancing.

Just the day before, people were allowed to use those trail systems in accordance with 6-foot social distancing guidelines. With the closure of restaurants, bars, festivals and events, for weeks the only thing left to do was to walk, run, bike, climb, paddle or fish. And for Chattanoogans, the love for those activities and the many ways in which to enjoy them in their city, is what makes Chattanooga the twice-voted #BestOutdoorTown EVER. Now, they’re indoors.

March 17, 2020 in Coolidge Park looking at Walnut Street Bridge.

Over the last three weeks a walk on the iconic Walnut Street pedestrian bridge, where it’s always uplifting to see the diversity of the Scenic City’s families enjoying a stroll over the TN River, became a deeper unifying experience, quelling fear while bridging communities within Chattanooga. One of the best symbols of Chattanooga’s Renaissance and its return to the river is closed.

While the spring ephemeral wildflowers have been in full bloom–during what is, in my opinion, one of the prettiest springs we’ve had in a while–residents took to the trails, making them more heavily traveled than I’ve ever seen. Kids of all ages were with their parents splashing in streams, climbing over rocks, looking at flowers. It made Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, which claims that children are suffering from nature deficit disorder, look like a concern of the past no longer pertinent to today’s kids. Since most of their schooling has gone virtual on screens, kids have finally been excited to be away from their devices and screens. But since now they’re confined to their yard or the streets, they’ll likely go back to their devices.

We had a brief moment of something a little better than normal. Even when we were facing financial distress, doing what Chattanoogans do in full force, getting outside, was glorious. One thing we are collectively experiencing is a new appreciation of what we value as it’s taken away from us: our places of worship, whether they be churches, synagogues, mosques, yoga studios or nature. Being in nature during the blooming of the spring ephemeral wildflowers is a sacred annual celebration of new life that occurs with Easter. We will find a way to be alive before we’re dead.

I write this knowing the threat of the virus is real. While I have been writing, New York is having a great struggle to deal with the coronavirus. It is serious. We do need to be cautious, to practice physical distancing, etc. Closing our trails is taking it too far. Gov. Bill Lee of TN in his Executive Orders 22 and 23, require people to stay at home unless they are occupied in essential activities.

Those activities deemed essential include–from his pdf of Executive Order 22– d. Engaging in outdoor activity, provided that persons (follow) the Health Guidelines to the greatest extent practicable, including, but not limited to, driving or riding in a vehicle, walking, hiking, running, biking, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, golf, tennis, or other sports or recreational activities that can be performed while maintaining the aforementioned precautions or utilizing public parks and outdoor recreation areas; provided, however, that congregating or playing on playgrounds presents a unique risk for the spread of COVID-19 and is therefore not covered as an Essential Activity. To see the full E.O. 22 or E.O. 23.

Walking the Walnut Street Bridge March 17, 2020. Week 1 of schools being closed.

It is now April 8th, and, as a psychotherapist, I’ve seen clients for 3 days, Monday through Wednesday, after the first weekend of the closure of parks, trails and greenways. Social isolation exacerbates symptoms of despair, hopelessness, loneliness and anxiety on an average day. During a pandemic, when social isolation is mandated, symptoms worsen, and access to nature trails and safe outdoor exercise is needed more than ever. Repeated by my clients is that they were coping pretty well with the social distancing and being out of work until the closure of their favorite trail. By closing parks and trails, are we doing more harm than good?

An aside beyond the scope of this article, but worth reminding people is: the goal is to slow the spread of the virus. It is not only unrealistic to stop the spread, it isn’t wise practice. We will need to have a long, slow exposure to the virus to build antibodies until the vaccine is available. We need to continue to avoid gatherings of 10 people or more when the virus can spread from 1:10 at once, thereby avoiding spreading it exponentially. But we can do physical distancing one on one, or groups of two or three, and maintain a slow spread while continuing to live. And if we can maintain our physical distance on a trail, by a waterfall, in a boat, with a fishing rod, climbing Lookout Mountain bluffs, riding along the Riverwalk to finally cross over Walnut Street Bridge, then we will be living through this pandemic well as Chattanoogans.


At Lula Lake Land Trust waterfall, Feb 1, 2020.


Women’s 2020 Nature Retreat: 3-Day Effect in Nature, Disconnect & Reconnect

Spring Renewal Self-Acceptance Retreat for Women, April 6-7, 2019

Self-Acceptance Retreat, April 6-7, Johnson Woods Lodge in McDonald, TN near Cleveland. An overnight, nature-based retreat for women who have survived trauma, led by Holli Richey and Bonnie Cretton. Bonnie is the founder of Woodsong Forest School. Experiences include, Forest Bathing (mindful walk in nature opening senses to nature’s elements to calm and soothe our mind and body), gentle yoga, herbal identification walks, herbal tea blends, meditation. Meals are included. Lodge setting, but must bring linens, yoga mat, comfortable outdoor clothing. Space is limited. Register with Holli by March 25th, 423-240-4578.


Spring Ephemeral Forest Bathing Retreat, Sat. April 12, 10-3

Spring Ephemeral Forest Bathing 2014

There is a balm in nature to make the wounded whole

The old African-American spiritual hymn was playing in my head, “There is a Balm in Gilead,” and I stopped to listen. My friend, Honor Woodard, once told me of her practice to notice the songs that pop into her head. Since then, I, too, have paid attention, and instead of the song being background noise, it takes on great meaning like exploring a dream as a gift from the subconscious.

The boardwalk protects the abundance of wildflowers from being trampled. Most are nestled in bed for their long winter's nap in this protected cove.

The boardwalk protects the abundance of wildflowers from being trampled. Most are nestled in bed for their long winter’s nap in this protected cove.

It was a lovely day in December with a clear, Robin-egg blue sky, and a breeze with a tint of warm. I had a to-do list, and mid-way through, I decided to surprise my trusted 4-legged companion, Fay, with a visit to The Pocket. The winter-scape provides a beautiful time to be in nature and to listen.

The Pocket Trail is a sacred and protected place for life to live. It’s one of those places whose air emanates a refuge like a great sigh of relief. Throughout the seasons, I’ve been to this place with Fay, with companions, and while leading large groups. Each time, I’m enchanted by the sound of the water and birds; I’m held in the womb of the rock; I’m seen by the trees and herbs; and I’m healed by breathing in the enriched air.

Holli and Fay at The Pocket, 12-17-13

Holli and Fay at The Pocket, 12-17-13

Sitting on a rock by the waterfall, Fay leaning against my side, I noticed that old spiritual hymn in my mind. By paying attention to the lyrics, I heard this deeply felt connection of healing I had with this place through words sung in suffering. I sat until the song played out, my mind went still and the silent mind could receive the place. The sun had lowered, and December’s chilled air motivated me to say good-bye for now; I’ll carry the healing with me.

The last light in The Pocket.

The last light in The Pocket.

Fay and I started our slow walk back along the creek, but before we left, I stopped to hear the song of the beech trees rustling in the breeze.

This winter, my hope for all folks is to find a moment of quiet stillness, to be silent enough to deeply listen. Peace be with you.

Ethnomusicology sources helped me to see layers of meaning in this beautiful song.  *Thank you Honor Woodard

From winter 2010 at Southern Dharma Retreat Center with Teacher John Orr.

From winter 2010 at Southern Dharma Retreat Center with Teacher John Orr.

Herbal Help for Mood Disorders: Radio program 12/11 on Highway to Health

Sorrowing old man ("At Eternity's Gate") by Vincent van Gogh

Sorrowing old man (“At Eternity’s Gate”) by Vincent van Gogh

I’m on West Virginia radio tomorrow for the Highway to Health show with Dave Hawkins, 9:15am. It’ll be available at immediately after the show.

Herbal Help for Mood Disorders
Therapeutic herbs are used worldwide to relieve anxiety, depression and a host of other mood disorders. Healthy Dave is joined by registered herbalist and psychotherapist Holli Richey to discuss a natural approach to therapy using herbs, psychotherapy and stress management practices designed to help the whole person – body, mind and spirit.

Please call in to (304) 422-3154 at 9:15 AM EST.

Grand Opening: Center for Integrative Medicine, Chattanooga, TN

Rear-view of Center on Main

Rear-view of Center on Main

Lotsa Hoop-La happening on Main Street, Chattanooga, TN this Saturday, Dec 7th. Including the GRAND OPENING of Center on Main, a healing center for Center of Integrative Medicine, Center MedSpa and Center Physical Therapy. The ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor Andy Berke is at 12:30. Events at Center on Main include: Ask the Experts Panels, Tai Chi, Zumba, and talks on Acupuncture, Herbs, Spa Treatments, and Gluten-Free Living. Events coincide with the annual festivities of MainX24 Event, which has hundreds of fun experiences all along Main Street for 24 hours.

There will be teas to sample for colds, coughs, and holiday stress relief. Also, you may stock up on liquid extracts for dealing with allergies, cold, flu and coughs. All will be available this weekend.

Making Cold Formulas

Making Cold Formulas

Out with the old…Bring in the NEW! Dec 2, 2013!

old building 004Center for Integrative Medicine has been busy packing up our old office by the historic Engel Stadium for our new location on Main Street in Chattanooga, Tennessee.




Our new location address is:

320 E. Main Street, Suite 200

Chattanooga, TN  37408

Our brand new building, a beautiful labor of love, is a LEED Certified building located across from the Wednesday Main Street Farmers’ Market. We are excited to have a new building that is designed by and for us. We will have a space for therapeutic groups, lectures, cooking classes, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, conferences, and other community classes. December 7th will be our GRAND OPENING during the Main x 24 Event. Please come. Have a tour of our new space and stick around for a day of inspiring wellness classes. Stay tuned for new photos of new digs.

old building 005old building 003old building 002map

Forest Bathing Retreat: toe first then full immersion June 21-22

Forest bathing is a practice of being present, opening our senses to receive all of the forest. It isn't about taking your clothes off to literally bathe. It's a figurative use of the word, as in to fully bask in the atmosphere. This trail is through the forest at Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee.

Forest bathing is a practice of being present, opening our senses to receive all of the forest. It isn’t about taking your clothes off to literally bathe. It’s a figurative use of the word, as in to fully bask in the atmosphere. This trail is through the forest at Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee.

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.  – John Burroughs

Friday, 6pm-8:30pm; Saturday, 7:30am-11:30am *

(6am-7:15am optional start for sitting in meditation at the pavilion.)

Chattanooga Arboretum & Nature Center (Reflection Riding)

Forest Bathing is a Japanese concept of immersing oneself in the sensory experience of the forest with open awareness and no expectations. Studies in Japan have proven that opening one’s senses to the forest will reduce stress hormones such as cortisol, boost the immune system, and reduce the heart rate.

Join Yong Oh, mindfulness teacher, Dr. Jean Lomino, director of CANC and outdoor educator, and Holli Richey, therapist and herbalist, for this Solstice retreat into the woods where we will experience the life-changing practice of mindfulness in nature. Experience how to be present with the body and senses, and learn how to work with difficult thoughts and feelings which generate greater stress and anxiety. Experience what it is to rest in natural awareness. This is the first of more Mindfulness in Nature retreats to come. Toe first, then full immersion.

Register with Chattanooga Arboretum by Monday, June 17th.  Donation, $25 suggested.

*This is not an overnight retreat.


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