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

Archive for the ‘Wellness’ Category

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.

Image

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.

Image

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 http://www.motherearthworks.com/ 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.

forestbathing3

Anatomical ways of knowing

Lichen Heart in moss at Rock Town, GA

Lichen Heart in moss at Rock Town, GA

I love language expressions that convey a deep intuitive knowing using human anatomy, blending body and mind. Two of my favorites are “to know by heart” and “it’s in your blood”. Within these expressions are a poetic understanding of life’s phenomena.

“To know something by heart” is to say that one has learned something to the degree that she no longer has to think about it. It becomes a different quality of memory, which seems to bypass conscious striving for recall, and emanates from a place other than the brain, a place where Taoist acupuncturists say a powerful source of the human spirit resides, the heart.

When we say we know something by heart, the context is usually within the recitation of something that has been memorized. I played the piano years ago and memorized many pieces, playing them by heart at recitals and for the Guild. I’ve also memorized Shakespearean monologues and soliloquies and recited them by heart for teachers, students, friends and for my dog.

A farmer's market potato heart.

A farmer’s market potato heart.

My knowledge of plants is in this heart realm of knowing. When I’m with a plant that I don’t see very often, and I stop to greet it, it’s name comes to me from another place where there is no effort. It’s a different place of knowing.

Recently, I listened to a program by an agency who works with people with Alzheimer’s disease. The presenter described how the mystery of memory presents in people who seem to have lost crucial aspects of their memory, though other memories still remain. The challenge is in discovering what these memories are for each person with Alzheimer’s.

The agency presenter described a case of a caregiver who met with a male patient with Alzheimer’s who had grown quite despondent. The agency learned that this man had been an artist, a painter. The agency suggested that the caregiver get some paints, brushes, canvas, and an easel. Then the agency said to the caregiver to set up the easel in the patient’s room and begin to paint even though she didn’t know how.

The caregiver painted every day in the patient’s room, while he sat in his chair disinterested. One day, the patient got up from the chair and walked behind the caregiver to look at what was on the canvas. The patient grew angry, and said to the caregiver, “No, no, no. You’re doing this wrong.” (That’s my paraphrase.) He took the paintbrush out of her hands, sat down, and began to correct her painting. The agency said that he continued to produce many paintings on his own after that. This was something that he knew by heart.

I wonder if knowing things by heart strengthens that spiritual aspect of the heart which Taoists describe, and if that is the strongest, longest-lasting place of our memory. Perhaps memorization of poetry and music does something for our hearts and our spirits in addition to strengthening our memories. What do you know by heart? It’s likely to be something even more special than that which you could do in your sleep, or know like the back of your hand.

My other favorite expression, “it’s in your blood”, also has a connotation of the type of knowing that avoids the brain; it has a meaning that says we come to something more from a genetic fate, than from learned reason. When something is in one’s blood, it also joins a person to a host of people, the individual merges into a pool of ancestral genes.

We can easily get into the question of nature and nurture here. What about the stories, though, of people who weren’t conditioned by their immediate caregivers to do what they feel led to do?

I was born in West Virginia near my grandparents, but moved to suburban Atlanta when I was a small child. Though we visited the WV family farm annually, I was raised far from the farm-life of my grandparents and great-grandparents. Natural areas and going home to the farm were always special to me. When I discovered from a local herbalist in college how to make medicine from plants, I fell in love. Although it might have looked like lunacy in my suburban upbringing to pursue becoming an herbalist, I knew that it was what I needed to do. While on this path, and visiting with grandmother Ruby, I learned that my great-grandfather James Dovenor (he never knew how to spell his middle name, so I don’t know either), a fur-trapper, carpenter, farmer, and fiddler, also grew ginseng. Knowing that made sense, somehow, of my mysterious longing to work with the healing properties of plants.

Since then, I’ve learned much more from my father and grandmother of how they harvested and used local plants. It was knowledge almost forgotten except that it’s life was in my blood, latent, waiting for a sign.

What is in your blood? What do you know by heart? I would love to know.

Love after Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott, 1986

http://download.publicradio.org/podcast/speakingoffaith/20090416_opening-to-our-lives_uc-poem-walcott.mp3?_kip_ipx=1453630575-1364431090

Tag Cloud