Access the Treasure of Transition
By Anasuya Basil
Twenty-five years ago my meditation teacher told me that within every difficulty there is a treasure. She said these words at an especially challenging time for me, so I was left wondering how on earth I was going to find a treasure in my experiences. It seemed downright impossible. Through the years, however, I have come to understand the truth in her words and to find the treasure amid the tears.
Going through transition requires letting go of an old life and making room for a new one. The process of change—the death of a loved one, divorce, menopause, childbearing, illness, or a career change—can be painful and frightening. It also, however, can be expansive and exhilarating when approached mindfully and with time to reflect. When we do not retreat and nourish ourselves, we get stuck in stress and may fail to uncover the treasure.
My Own Transition
From 2007 to 2008, I went through several devastating losses: A family member appeared to be plagued by mental illness; I was physically assaulted in a training program; and my marriage collapsed—abruptly ending the 20-year relationship with my husband. I reeled from all the changes, and the days felt dark. While struggling to reconnect with my natural happiness, I contemplated what brought me joy as a child.
I recalled enjoying arts and crafts and how much I loved nature. When I was a little girl, my mother took me on long walks outdoors, familiarizing me with the plants, birds, and animals. I learned to feel comfortable in the woods. As I grew up, I returned to nature whenever I sought comfort and peace.
With these childhood experiences in mind, I took animal-tracking and nature-connection classes, and I began rubber stamping and paper crafting. Engaging in these activities was so grounding and profoundly therapeutic that I became curious about whether there was research about the benefits of nature and creativity. Indeed, there was.
The Science of Nature and Creativity
University of Illinois environment and behavior researcher Frances Kuo has reviewed extensive research indicating that those who spend time in nature receive the following benefits:
- Greater mental health overall;
- Improved cognitive function;
- Increased self-discipline and impulse control;
- Enhanced recovery from surgery;
- Higher levels of physical activity;
- Improved immune system functioning; and
- Healthier blood glucose levels among diabetics.
Research also indicates that creative self-expression helps reduce stress, lower anxiety, and increase self-esteem. It is no surprise that according to The Society for Arts in Healthcare, more than half of all American hospitals now have art programs in place for patients dealing with a spectrum of health conditionsfrom cancer to multiple sclerosis.
Nature in Nurture Retreats
In partnership with my colleague, Suzanne Lorenz, LCSW, I developed Nurture in Nature retreats, an innovate approach to managing stress. Blending nature and creativity, these retreats are held at the Chico Canyon Retreat Center—a facility so beautiful and conducive to positive transformation that it is like Butte County’s version of Esalen.
Nature supports our wellness because human beings evolved in nature. Our modern world is very different from the one in which our ancestors lived, but our bodies and brains have not changed. When we truly reconnect with nature we feel in harmony with the way our bodies and minds were designed to function.
When we engage playfully in the creative process and allow our senses to flow, the intuitive side of the brain is strengthened. Old obsessive ways of thinking fade and new insights appear spontaneously. At past retreats we have found that people arrive with faces drawn and pinched but leave with faces beaming and laughing.
Additional Steps for Supporting Transition
Regular bodywork is like a miniretreat. When my clients come for a session of craniosacral and acupressure therapy, they hit the pause button on their busy lives. They not only relax physically but also allow themselves to release emotions that have been on hold—thus unblocking stuck energy pathways that, through time, accumulate stress and narrow their perceptions.
Nutrition counseling supports healthy food and lifestyle choices. During a stressful change, it is tempting to save time and energy by fueling oneself with caffeine, sugar, and processed foods. Doing so, however, backfires by adding stress on the body and, as such, amplifying the sense of anxiety. As a nutrition consultant I help my clients to make simple improvements that feel right for them.
Savor the Benefits of Transition
By taking out time to receive bodywork, eat nutritious food, play in nature, and create art, you not only can stay healthy during times of change, but you can have the energy you need to develop insights shaping the next chapter in your life. As someone who has been through rough times of transition, I know how challenging it can be. I also know how extraordinary it can be. From this place of empathy and understanding, I encourage you to deeply nourish yourself, seek out that hidden treasure, and celebrate the emerging new you.
Anasuya Basil, NC, Dipl. ABT, CST, is a craniosacral and acupressure therapist and nutrition consultant with a practice in Chico and the Bay Area. She is an instructor at the Acupressure Institute and Bauman College, and she has been featured in media outlets including Massage. For more info, visit www.mybodywisdom.net, call 530-343-2796 (land) or 510-848-8439 (cell), or email email@example.com.