• How to Build a Strong Family & Community

    As we breeze into fall and find the holidays on the horizon, now would be a good time to talk about what makes a healthy family, and look at how we can leverage holiday rituals and traditions to bring that healthy family closer together.

    What is a “family”?

    Family includes people we love, and those who love us — parents, children, grandparents, and siblings.  “Family” can also include close bonds with friends and neighbors.  No matter who you consider “family,” it all boils down to those we feel connected to through a shared history and experience.

    Why is a strong family important?

    Our family teaches us how to function in the world.  Children learn manners and appropriate socialization skills from their family.  They learn how to communicate, how to cooperate, and how to problem-solve.  They learn empathy and trust, find meaning in shared values, and take on responsibility.  At its best, family members provide unconditional love and support to each other.

    What are the characteristics of a healthy family with strong bonds?

    Researchers from the University of Nebraska conducted a study on the characteristics of strong families, and they recognize six major qualities that all contribute to family happiness and strength:

    Commitment: They make their relationships a high priority.  Put the welfare of other family members before yourself.  If everyone chooses a path of selflessness, the family as a whole benefits.  When you hold yourself responsible for valuing another person’s feelings and needs over your own, that empathy grows to become the foundation for a strong family bond.

    Appreciation:  They let other family know, daily, they are appreciated.  Use appreciative language and gestures with each other.  Greet everyone warmly as they walk in the door.  Ask them about their day.  Thank whoever cooked dinner.  Go out of your way to be kind.

    Communication:  They talk to each other about issues both big and small.  Keep your communication positive, listen to all opinions, and don’t forget to lighten the mood with laughter when tensions are running high.

    Time Together:  They are deliberate about planning activities.  It’s the small daily family rituals that are often the most meaningful.  Eat dinner together.  Watch a movie on Friday nights.  Walk the dog together.

    Spiritual wellness:  They believe in a greater power and have shared beliefs.  Model acceptance and tolerance.  Share your views about your beliefs, and why they are important to you, but also be open to learning more about the beliefs and values that your loved ones hold dear.

    Crisis and stress:  They are able to cope with difficulties and crises because they are resilient together.  Everyone processes stress differently.  Give everyone room to vent and work through their stress in their own way.  Just be available to provide support as needed.

    How do we develop and cultivate the traits of healthy families?

    Here are seven simple keys to growing healthy families:

    The power of modeling.  What kids see you do as they grow up is what you’ll likely see them do when they’ve grown up.

    Giving the gift of time.  Set aside special time for individual family members.  Take an interest in their passions, and introduce them to your hobbies.  Be curious and open to new ideas.

    The power of nourishing love.  Cherishing and nourishing your family are two very different things.  Cherishing means to value and care about it.  But do you express it?  Nourishing is the action that expresses that love, and reinvigorates the relationship.

    Cultivating an encouraging environment.  An encouraging environment is one in which you spend more time building and encouraging your loved ones than you do scolding and correcting them.

    The gift of healthy anger.  When a person understands anger and learns how to express it in healthy ways, it can be an ally and actually lead to increased trust, greater intimacy, and stronger relationships.  While we may have minimal control over when we experience anger, we have total control over how we choose to express that anger.

    Nurturing quality communication.  Good communication doesn’t just happen.  Healthy families set aside a regular time for focused communication, where individuals really listen to what others are sharing, and show sensitivity to each other’s feelings.  Quality communication also recognizes the importance of nonverbal aspects of communication — hugs, laughter, tears, etc.

    Conflict — a pathway to intimacy.  Most of us haven’t learned the value of conflict, and interpret it as an attack.  When we avoid healthy conflict, we avoid growth.  Instead, make your primary goal of conflict to understand the other person.  Take a few minutes to acknowledge, discuss, and define the conflict, and then LISTEN.  Ask yourself “What is MY contribution to this problem?”  And finally, commit yourself to understand what the issue looks like through the other person’s eyes.  It is through this journey of empathy that you will be able to resolve conflict.

    How do rituals bring a family closer?

    It is important to actively find ways to bring your family emotionally closer.  In his book, “The Intentional Family,” family therapist William Doherty focuses on the idea that the way we enact our family relationships through rituals is just as important as how family members speak to each other.

    So what exactly is a ritual?  Doherty defines a family ritual as an activity that has meaning, has coordinated activities that are significant to the family, and is repeated.  Not all family rituals necessarily involve the whole family.  Some rituals involve just two members (ie: a grandparent/grandchild playing a game together), some involve the larger extended family, others include close friends of the family, and still others connect the family with a larger community such as a church or synagogue.  Family rituals give us:

    Predictability:  A ritual brings a sense of order to family life, and that brings calm to the environment.  If there is no predictability to a ritual (ie: reading a bedtime story EVERY night), then the ritual loses its power.

    Connection:  When a family feels connected to each other through rituals, it’s because they have built trust within a shared experience.  (ie: the bedtime ritual is often the primary one-on-one time between parent and child)

    Identity:  Rituals provide a sense of belonging and defines what is “special” about the family.  Maybe your grandmother once knit matching sweaters for everyone, and now your family has taken the tradition to a new level by all wearing ugly Christmas sweaters at the holiday.

    Values:  Values demonstrate what we believe and hold dear, and religious rituals are a good example of the way rituals enact values for a family.

    According to Doherty, the idea of the Intentional Family is to create rituals that reflect your family’s own unique values, histories, religions, and cultures, and to leverage those rituals to consciously plan your life together.

    What are the different types of family rituals?

    Let’s examine the five different types of rituals identified by Doherty:

    Family rituals:  Not all family rituals involve the whole family.  Some rituals involve just two members — a married couple going out to dinner or a grandparent reading to a child.  Successful intentional families learn to ritualize everything from pairs to large community families (church group or volunteer group).

    Connection rituals:  These offer everyday opportunities for family bonding, such as family meals, morning and bedtime routines, or family outings.

    Love rituals:  These focus on developing one-to-one intimacy, and make individual family members feel special.  They can be divided into couple rituals and special-person rituals.  Examples of couple love rituals are anniversary celebrations or date nights.  Special-person rituals generally center around birthday celebrations, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, etc.

    Community rituals:  These have a more public dimension than connection and love rituals.  They include major family events such as weddings and funerals that link families to their communities, as well as religious activities in churches, synagogues, or mosques.  In addition, community rituals include conscious efforts to connect with a wider social network than the family, to both give and gain support.  The healthiest families give to their communities and receive support back in good measure.

    Holiday rituals:  Thanksgiving and Christmas have evolved into a special category of family ritual, involving three functions of rituals — connection, love, and community.  There are the grand rituals of the calendar year for the majority of families, Christian and non-Christian alike.

    So while we still have a few months before Thanksgiving and Christmas, why not take the time to assess the rituals your family keeps, and create or change them in response to the way your family has grown and changed over time.  Multi-generational families are a gift, and it is a delicate art to balance the weight of tradition with the desire to incorporate fresh rituals as new members join the family with their own values and opinions.  Major transition times in family life are good opportunities to review your rituals.  Focus on the needs of the group, and the values you want to promote.  Building and maintaining a strong family bond is a process.  Enjoy the journey together.

    At OHI, our caring staff members are eager to give you all the unconditional support, inspiration, and transformational tools you need to bring your body, mind, and spirit into healthy balance in a serene, peaceful setting. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org, and call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.


    “The Intentional Family” by William J. Doherty, Ph.D.

    “7 Keys to Building Strong Families”, Dr. Gary Oliver, iMom.com

    “What makes a family strong?, Gail Innis, Michigan State University Extension, December 2, 2016, canr.msu.edu

  • Meet Dr. James Novak, Optimum Health Enterprises’ Holistic Medical Practitioner

    Optimum Health Enterprises (OHE) is a third-party vendor who offers colon hydrotherapy services at OHI San Diego and OHI Austin. In Texas, prescriptions are required to receive a colonic, therefore OHE provides practice management for a licensed medical doctor to supervise colonic services at OHI Austin. California does not require a medical doctor for supervision; however, we recently identified a local holistic medical practitioner in San Diego, Dr. James Novak, to provide supervision of colon hydrotherapy services for OHI San Diego community members.

    Get to know Dr. James Novak with our quick Q&A…

    Q. Why did you join Optimum Health Enterprises (OHE)?

    A. Many of OHI’s staff and guests have been my patients over the years, so I was well-acquainted with their program. I knew they had always offered guests colon hydrotherapy service via a certified colonics therapist (either a licensed vocational nurse or a registered nurse) using state-of-the-art hydrotherapy equipment.  During the pandemic, there were times when OHE had to put a pause on their colonic hydrotherapy services because it was not overseen by a medical practitioner, and therefore it was not considered an “essential” business.  To make sure guests are never inconvenienced by a pause in services in the future, I joined OHE as the medical specialist overseeing the colon hydrotherapy practice in San Diego.  I have been so impressed with OHI’s immersive body-mind-spirit detox program over the years that I was inspired to join their team.

    Q. Give our guests a little background on yourself.

    A. I earned my undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, and I received my medical degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1980. I was an NHS Corp physician for three years, working predominantly on Native American reservations.  I started an Integrative Medicine private practice in 1985 in Pacific Beach, CA., and as of this month have been a licensed, practicing family physician for 40 years.

    Q. Why did you start practicing holistic medicine in conjunction with Western medicine?

    A. I had patients who felt they had reached a dead end in allopathic medicine. Those with chronic health conditions like auto-immune diseases or Lyme disease were seeing practitioners who were treating their symptoms as opposed to finding the root source of their problem.  I approach a new patient by trying to find the upstream causes of the current problem, and look to the foundations of good health to activate self-healing — a nutritionally dense diet, adequate sleep, challenging exercise, exposure to natural sunlight and clean oxygen, and a strong mind-body connection.  I want to improve the bio terrain of the body — strong gut health, clean blood, a solid detox of the liver, lymph, and kidneys, and a reservoir of healthy fats in the body.  That restores the physiologic processes that have been interrupted, and optimizes the innate healing power of the body.

    Q. How will you interact with OHI guests?

    A. Guests at the San Diego campus who are interested in receiving colon hydrotherapy will meet with me to take a medical history, and get a brief exam. I evaluate whether it is safe for a guest to do a colonic.  Those who have intestinal or rectal issues like anal fissures, active hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, colitis, or are taking blood thinners are really not appropriate candidates for colonics.  I refer guests who are good colon hydrotherapy candidates to our colon therapists.  It is my goal as an experienced holistic practitioner to always ensure colonics are given in a healthy and safe manner.

    Q. What does colon hydrotherapy do for the body?

    A. Colon hydrotherapy assists in detoxing the body by cleaning out the colon. When the intestinal tract is empty and clean, it sends a signal to the liver.  The liver cleans your blood and breaks down old or damaged blood cells, as well as plays a central role in all metabolic processes in the body by breaking down fats.  The cleansed intestinal tract lets the liver know it is ready to process more waste.  Colon hydrotherapy accelerates this detox process.

    Q. Are there any other new healing modalities that you’ve had success within your practice that would dovetail with OHI’s detox program?

    A. Yes! I have had great success with a variety of oxidative therapies over the last few decades that I hope to incorporate into the OHI detox program.  In particular, I feel ozone therapy would be a great addition to the program.  At its most basic level, ozone stimulates an adaptive response in the body that increases mitochondrial energy production, increases white blood cell immunoregulatory function, stimulates improved blood circulation, and improves hormone balance in the thyroid and adrenal glands.  It also down regulates inflammation throughout the body.  Through these processes, it helps to remove microbes and toxins that don’t belong in the body.  I think it would be a great addition to the current detoxification aspects of the OHI program.

    Q. Any final thoughts as you join the OHI team?

    A. Quite frankly, I think the body-mind-spirit teachings at OHI are the most important aspect of their overall program. The effects of psycho emotional healing are absolutely vital to good health.  I’m proud to be a part of this life-changing program.

    Welcome Dr. Novak!  We are so happy to have you!

    Although colon hydrotherapy services are not required or an essential part of our holistic healing program, they are readily available to you if you choose to add them and enhance your experience. These services are delivered by professionals on-site for your convenience and many of our patients find that they really heighten the benefits of the program. While colonic services are available daily, it is best to schedule appointments in advance, as sessions fill up quickly.

    Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • Guest Spotlight: Meet Nila Sinha, an annual guest at OHI Austin!

    Nila Sinha first learned about OHI Austin 15 years ago, but it took a big life change to springboard her into booking a visit.  “I heard about OHI from my family’s NAET practitioner in South Florida,” said Nila.  “She had been a regular at OHI San Diego for over a decade, and raved about it.  At the time it was early in my career when I was traveling a great deal, and feeling very stressed and burned out.  The detox sounded like a great way to get my body back on track in order to better handle my work stress, but I just couldn’t take a whole week off, let alone three weeks.  I vowed to visit OHI ‘someday’.”

    That “someday” eventually came for Nila in July 2018.  “Basically, my whole life fell apart in the span of two weeks,” said Nila.  “My 19-year career with a company abruptly ended at the same time that my marriage ended.  I was in an emotional free fall!  I tried to flip my perspective, and see these big life changes as an opportunity and not a loss.  I pulled together a list of things I had always wanted to do if I had the time, and a visit to OHI was at the top of the list.  I was long overdue for some self-care.”

    Nila arrived at OHI looking for help.  “Physically, I was experiencing sleep apnea, the lethargy and discomfort from 60 pounds of excess weight, and lots of inflammation in my joints,” said Nila.  “Emotionally, I was feeling completely adrift.  I committed to a three-week stay at OHI Austin, so I could completely detox and give my body the rest it so desperately needed.  After the first week, I could feel the fog in my brain lifting, and began to feel at home in my body.  My inflammation was markedly reduced, and I was amazed that I could sit cross-legged on the floor without discomfort.  I hadn’t been able to do that for years!  After three weeks, I returned to home with a life plan for healthy eating, as well as the mental and emotional confidence to tackle a new career.  I soon launched my own consulting business, and being my best healthy self is essential to the coaching and leadership development side of my business.  I couldn’t have done it without the energy I’ve gained from detoxing at OHI!”

    The pandemic turned everyone’s lives upside down, but Nila still found time for a visit to OHI Austin.  “I have returned to OHI Austin at least once a year since July 2018.  I try to spend at least two weeks on campus for a total body/mind/spirit reset.  I used to come in July, but after the challenges that 2020 brought all of us, I ended up spending two weeks at OHI Austin right before New Year’s.  It was such a rewarding way to start 2021!  I was already on a renewed path to better mental and physical health, and not just making resolutions about it.”

    Nila used the 5 P’s to optimum health (purpose, positive mental attitude, persistence, patience, and prayer) to help her heal. “The 5 P’s allow me to live with intention so that I don’t lose my way again,” said Nila. “Purpose, patience, and persistence have particularly helped on my healing journey. I continue to focus on a foundation theme or intention (purpose), kindness to myself (patience), and a mentality to just breathe and jump in knowing I have to trust that I can handle whatever comes my way (persistence).  I have let go of self-criticism, which I had somehow thought was part of my search for excellence.  OHI has taught me to take a more loving approach towards myself, and to trust my inner wisdom.  I focus more on finding the small gifts in every day life, and being grateful for those things has helped me feel joy.”

    Each time she returns to OHI, Nila feels a rush of comfort and familiarity.  “As I drive onto the OHI campus, I feel an immediate relaxation of my shoulders, and a feeling of hope and safety.  I look forward to that feeling of restoration that I know will come within just a couple of days.  OHI is the place I can always come back to if I need help finding my footing on my path in life.  And when I’m not on campus, they’ve taught me how to take responsibility for my own good health.  For me, a juice fast helps reset my body/mind/spirit in times of stress.  I try to do a juice fast at least once a week to give my body a rest.  If guests learn just one thing at OHI, it’s how to listen to their body, and give it the healing it needs.”

    Come to OHI and learn the 5 Ps to optimum health. We will motivate you to stick with your commitment to health and discover new ways to empower yourself. Explore the holistic healing program offered at OHI. This program offers three week-long sessions, where you will learn to cleanse the body, quiet the mind and awaken the spirit.

    Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • Rediscovering Fellowship in Our New Abnormal

    Greetings to our OHI community; I wish you a cool, comfortable, and colorful fall as the temperature drops and autumn leaves paint a beckoning background. This is such a wonderful time of year to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, and celebrate the spirit of life while noticing God in nature.

    Meanwhile, our Covid-19 world continues to confound many people, including the experts, which makes me want to see our ministry reaching beyond the walls of our two campuses. Our four-and-a-half, decade-long God-centered holistic approach to healing has helped so many people facing health opportunities, and it can help so many more. Ahead of us on the horizon, is the holiday season, and yet new fears, such as the Delta variant of Covid-19, are causing us to pause in our return to normalcy. Still, our physical, mental, and spiritual health is dependent on connectedness within our faith-based and secular communities. Prioritizing fellowship should take precedence.

    You may recall from our January newsletter, we looked at two ways of protecting ourselves during our current circumstances and beyond by using Situational Awareness and Self-Care. In the spring issue I expanded on how we can remain safe by keeping mentally and physically healthy by staying socially connected, and doing so by utilizing Safety Bubbles. In the summer issue, I addressed how we can intelligently and safely move forward into our new abnormal with purpose, mindfulness, and critical thinking. In this issue, I will discuss how we can rediscover our empathy and fellowship in these trying times.

    And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approachingHebrews 10:24-25

    I share these Bible verses because we’re all weary from the pandemic restrictions especially those that have kept us apart from our extended network of friends, loved ones, and communities of faith. Spending time with those we most value – in other words belonging – is a huge part of the human condition; in fact, as I have mentioned before it is built into our DNA.

    Renowned professor of social work, Dr. Brené Brown, says it best, “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

    Avoiding Communication Breakdowns Prevents Misunderstanding

    Covid-19 is a coronavirus which by its nature, isn’t going away anytime soon, nevertheless, it’s time to focus on new ways to get back together and stay involved with our most important relationships.

    Pandemic masking, social distancing, and isolation have disrupted our natural communication structure. Despite that we still strive to stay in touch, feel connected, and enjoy the sense of belonging that comes from our communities. Because of the lockdowns, we have relied more and more on digital communication. But, well before 2020, the world was moving toward a preference for corresponding via email, text, and instant message.

    The problem is that these lack the humanity and richness of one-on-one linguistics. Words, without seeing faces and hearing voices, can be misinterpreted. They simply cannot accurately convey the body language, hand gestures, eye contact, nodding, emotional expression, vocal tonality, and non-verbal cues of face-to-face conversation; and the real meaning of your tidings get lost. Even worse is how much it curtails meaningful conversation and physical touch. And, sadly many people have been upset, and relationships destroyed, over a poorly written text.

    The simple solution is to take more time when you write. Depending on the age of the person you’re messaging limit the use of abbreviations (especially for Baby Boomers like me). When you take the time to use full words, proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation, it can make all the difference in how your message receiver interprets the intention of your words. Ask yourself before you hit SEND, “Could this message be understood differently from what I think it means?” Or even better, hand write your letter and deliver it in person.

    Take the Time to Make the Impersonal More Personal

    If it’s not urgent, let it sit for a while as a draft, then re-read it before you send. You’ll be surprised how often stepping away, then returning with a fresh set of eyes, will enable you to view your words in a whole different light. It also helps to read your messages aloud in a neutral tone of voice as it will help you hear the tone of voice as your recipient will.

    If you must quickly send a brief message, and you don’t want it to come off as curt or insensitive, use an emoji.  I know, I know, I had to be dragged into the 21st century too, but the fact of the matter is that humans are hard-wired with a negativity bias that makes us assume the worst when the objective of a message is unclear. Using an emoji helps clarify your emotional intent, and because of this their acceptance has grown immensely.

    The best solution, if you can’t meet in person, is a one-on-one conversation via Zoom or Skype. These real time applications enable us to see and read faces while hearing the tone of voice nuances so vital to understanding intention. And, let’s not forget a good old fashion phone call. The goal is to stay connected and not allow today’s circumstances to keep us apart.

    Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sisterRomans 14:13

    The future is here, and it looks like we’re going to be blending the in-person world with the virtual one for a new hybrid community. How well that will work depends on how much we reach out to the people in our communities. Most of us will have several communities such as work, family, friends, hobbies, and communities of faith, such as the OHI community.

    As we head into the holiday season, we will be test driving this hybrid community with our family and friends. Many of us have seen how it functions at work, now we can expand it the rest of our lives. Imagine a Thanksgiving dinner with a computer screen logged into Zoom at one end of the table, and around the rest of the table will be seated the host and those guests who are able to attend in person. We may have to learn new forms of etiquette in order to make those attending virtually feel fully included. These friends and family will still be praying together, showing gratitude together, and conversing together, all while sharing a meal together.

    Fellowship and belonging, which I’ve written about before, is vitally important to revisit as we move forward into our new abnormal. It affects our life satisfaction, happiness, health, mental health, and longevity; and it helps us find and achieve our purpose.

    Hybrid Communities Provide the Sense of Belonging We Need

    According to Forbes Magazine, belonging is more than just being part of a group. It is critically tied to social identity, which means having a shared set of beliefs or ideals with the members of your group. Belonging has to do with identification as a member of a group and the higher quality interactions which come from that.

    Belonging is a powerful emotion. Sometimes we don’t notice how the sense of belonging really feels until it is gone. Have you ever gone back to visit friends at a company where you once worked? The place looks the same, your friends are happy to see you, but it feels different than you remember. That’s because you are on the outside of the group, versus the inside.

    It is crucial right now to maintain contact with the members of your groups during this time of change and adjustment, so that you don’t lose that special feeling or those connections. Without a sense of belonging, we can fall into loneliness and depression. Social media helps, but it falls short; it simply doesn’t provide the personal interaction that we all need and crave.

    How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! Psalm 133:1

    As I mentioned above, I see this hybrid world as a new opportunity for our ministry to reach out beyond the walls of our campuses. A church may have five areas of participation and influence: worship, mission, discipleship, ministry, and fellowship. Here at OHI, we have all five.

    We worship individually and together as each of us understands our creator. We have missionaries who help our new guests navigate the curriculum. We have disciples who advocate to their friends and family the benefits of becoming a guest. At the core is our ministry: a holistic healing program for the body, mind, and spirit that teaches participants how to: cleanse and nourish the body with diet, fasting, and exercise; quiet and focus the mind with journaling and meditation; and renew and awaken the spirit with study, prayer and celebration.

    Best of all, we create a safe and sacred environment for fellowship that lasts a lifetime, and with people who understand you better than anyone else. Reach out this holiday season and spend time with your cohort either here at OHI, or by creating your own hybrid community.

    The Safest Place You Can be Away from Home Keeps Getting Better

    We’ve made these recent updates with your safety and comfort in mind: At OHI San Diego, all 60 guest rooms have been remodeled including replacing the carpeting with wood flooring. This upgrade is more hygienic and makes the rooms feel larger and warmer. At OHI Austin, we added new wood flooring and carpet to our exercise classroom. At both locations, we added 100% certified organic cotton bedding. And, by the time you’re reading this, we will also have certified organic cotton towels.

    We hope to see you at OHI soon – either to help us celebrate our 45th Anniversary or for the Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year holidays.

    Inside this edition: Read further about building strong families and community and best practices in communication. Get to know our colonic provider, Dr. James Novak; Jane Jones, an OHI San Diego missionary; OHI guest, Nila Sinha; and Jan Hemming’s story of how the OHI Scholarship helped her. We remain humble and grateful to all those who contribute and help people like Jan. Please also consider contributing to the OHI Scholarship Fund which helps OHI community members in need. And finally, be sure to turn to page 10 for details on your Optimum Fall Cleanse.

    Call us to book your reservation today: (800) 588-0809. Or visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org.

    Wishing you health and wellness in this blessed fall season.

    Yours in prayer,

    Robert P. Nees, Jr.

    Senior Pastor and Chairman

    Optimum Health Institute of San Diego and Austin

  • Equinox: The Balance of Darkness and Light

    Mark your calendars – the northern hemisphere officially welcomes the Fall Equinox September 22 at 19:21 UTC.

    Equinox signifies the time of the year when the sun and moon each claim 12 hours, creating a cosmic balance of darkness and light.  It symbolizes the world itself moving into balance, creating a period of symmetry and harmony across the world.

    This moment is a perfect opportunity to reassess your own balance of body, mind, and spirit—and take positive action steps to heal any imbalances to bridge your past and your future.

    First, in the physical, have you been gifting your body with the care and attention it deserves?  A healthy mind and spirit require a healthy, balanced body.  Have you been neglecting any of the basics – predominantly live, raw organic vegan food, sufficient pure water, and daily stretching, brisk walking, and other exercise?  Take this opportunity to renew your commitment to honoring your body temple.

    In the realm of the mind, take a moment to reflect on the things that nourished and depleted you this year.  For those positive things – how can you bring more of them into your life from this point forward?  And for the challenging ones, now is the opportunity to release them.  A simple affirmation statement, like, “I release all worry to the light,” is deceptively powerful.  Just saying the words, even if you don’t quite believe them 100%, will start to set a healing shift in motion.

    As Albert Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”  Neuroscience shows that affirmations effectively create brand new neural pathways in our brains, literally transforming our mind with a positive new directive.  It’s a proven way to assure that your future will not just be a repeat of your past.

    Concerning your spiritual balance, the fall equinox has ancient associations with the last harvest of the year, and joyful celebrations to mark the gathered bounty. The prevailing spirit of community and gratitude is pervasive, and a powerful catalyst to seek out and cherish joyful fellowship.

    This time of inner and outer balance is ideal for reconnecting with old friends you’ve neglected, or writing a note of gratitude to a former teacher, mentor, or boss.  Track down that inspirational movie or book you’ve meant to get and spend more time in journaling and quiet reflection.  All will nourish your spirit.

    Embrace this time of transition and balance, and reap a lot of benefits in body, mind, and spirit throughout the coming seasons. Find the support you need to experience your own personal growth with a visit to OHI. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • Healing through Generosity

    As challenging as crises can be—from wildfires to the pandemic—they can also be moments of true human compassion. Why? Because in every crisis, countless people quickly respond by sharing their time, their resources, and their compassion.

    Being generous goes a long way in helping others heal…while at the same time it can help you feel happier, healthier, and more fulfilled.

    A famous line from The Mr. Rogers Parenting Book is frequently quoted in challenging situations: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.”

    This generosity of spirit cuts across all age barriers.  Another powerful example of openhearted compassion this year centers on a 5-year-old with inoperable brain cancer.  Doctors have given the boy only months to live, and his parents made the tough decision to take him out of kindergarten.

    When the only thing he wanted for his 6th birthday was cards, his unselfish wish went viral.  Over 100,000 people responded immediately, and the delighted youngster has been seen on the national news sitting in mail bins stacked with well wishes and climbing over piles of envelopes.  Other children around the nation also responded, wielding crayons to create personalized construction paper cards adorned with hearts and angels.  The generous outpouring of compassion has made the child’s remaining months joyful ones.

    Moving stories of previously mind-mannered people suddenly stepping forth and putting others first serves a dual purpose.  It not only confirms the innate goodness of others; it kindles an urge in all who learn of their deeds to likewise be of service.  Generosity of spirit, it’s been scientifically proven, is catching.  Even if we feel we ourselves don’t have enough, when we see others reaching out, we’re willing to go the extra mile to help someone else, too.

    In this season of bringing in the harvest and celebrating our blessings, it’s an ideal time to think about new ways we can share our own spirit of generosity, without waiting for a crisis to trigger a desire to help.

    Identify a cause you feel passionate about and go on-line to find local opportunities to share your time and get involved.  Everyone probably has at least a few books you’re not going to read again.  See if your local library or school could use them.  Buy an extra bag of dog food and donate one to an animal shelter.  When you let your friends know what you’re doing, they’ll be motivated to get involved, too.

    If the OHI healing lifestyle program has enriched your own body, mind, and spirit, you might want to consider sharing that gift with someone else through a donation to the OHI Scholarship fund.  Every dollar you share goes directly into a scholarship, and every donation is 100% tax deductible.

    Learn more about how generosity enriches everyone it touches at OHI in San Diego and Austin, Texas. Our caring team will give you the tools, encouragement and inspiration needed to improve your outlook on life, quiet your mind, and rejuvenate your spirit while you are surrounded in serene beauty. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • Looking for Opportunities to Grow

    A freelance artist found a home that was a perfect complement to his creative soul. Nestled in a pocket of woods near the heart of downtown San Diego, it’s striking lines and walls of glass and stone were both inspiring and moving.

    Even the moon cooperated, shining through a skylight in his bedroom, lulling him into a deep slumber every night.

    Yet, after three idyllic months in his new home, the man suddenly realized the “moon” hadn’t moved, as the moon must do. He went outside to investigate and discovered the “moonlight” that had been so soothing was actually a streetlight.

    The man was furious. How was he supposed to sleep with that blasted light in his face? For a week, he tossed and turned, unable to fall asleep, fuming at this unacceptable intrusion into what had been a perfect place. Then, even in his exhausted state, he made a realization. The fingers of light streaming into his bedroom since his first peaceful night in the home hadn’t changed. The only thing that WAS different was the meaning he gave to the light.

    He was first shocked, then intrigued with the growing awareness that he gave the people, places and things in his world the value and power they would have to him. As he dedicated himself to looking past what was on the surface to find the deeper truth in every aspect of his life, everything began to change for the better. Through pain came great emotional and spiritual growth.

    When everything in our world is moving along smoothly, it’s too easy to drift into a relatively comfortable rut. We tend to disengage from what’s happening to us because at least we’re getting by. We can become spectators in our own life.

    Our real spiritual, mental and emotional growth happen when we’re faced with a situation that pushes us out of our comfort zone. The situation demands our immediate attention and thrusts us into unknown territory. Maybe it’s a major health opportunity, or a change in a close relationship, or a shift in our financial security. That’s when the adrenaline kicks in. We have to assess the situation, determine the most appropriate response, and take action. Frequently, at least part of the most effective action will involve shifting how we view the situation.

    When we learn to see the things that frighten, annoy or confuse us to be potential opportunities for growth, we’ve taken a huge step on our spiritual path.

    Find the safe and sacred space, the support, and tools for walking your spiritual path at the OHI missions in San Diego and Austin, Texas. Learn more about finding opportunities for growth at the Optimum Health Institute (OHI). Our caring team will give you the tools, encouragement and inspiration needed to improve your outlook on life, quiet your mind, and rejuvenate your spirit while you are surrounded in serene beauty. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • Overcoming Suffering

    There is a certain transformation that can happen after someone experiences a traumatic situation. Those who experience suffering often see and feel positive growth afterwards.

    Bill Gates’ first business, a data processing company, failed miserably. Stephen Spielberg was rejected – twice – by USC, the nation’s top film school. Bethany Hamilton was just 13 and starting to surf competitively when a shark bit off her left arm. Benjamin Franklin’s family didn’t have the money to keep him in school after he turned 10. Jewish Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was interred in a Nazi death camp during WW II. Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was 3.

    The one thing all of these people have in common was their refusal to give up when faced with horrific odds. Being able to tap into deep emotional resources in challenging times and not only survive the obstacle, but actually thrive, is such an important trait that psychologists have even coined a name for it – “post-traumatic growth.”

    It’s something deeper than “resilience,” the ability to rebound from setbacks and resume your life. Of course, resilience is a positive reaction to negative situations, and represents a healthy ability to stay mindful in the present moment and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

    The difference, though, is people who exhibit the quality of post-traumatic growth actually end up using the major setback – personal injury, betrayal by a trusted acquaintance, losing everything in a devastating storm or fire, the tragic death of a loved one – as a steppingstone to redefining ‘normal,’ and creating a more purposeful life path.

    Frequently, too, the person will re-dedicate themselves to being of service to others in a similar situation. For instance, Dr. Frankl counseled other prisoners in the concentration camps, and saw proof that those who had deep meaning in their lives – something purposeful left to do – survived. He created the equation, “Suffering without Meaning equals Despair,” and after his release wrote the ground-breaking book, Man’s Search for Meaning.  Bethany not only resumed an award-winning surfing career – she is at the heart of the non-profit foundation, Friends of Bethany, that offers spiritual support to those in need. Franklin, Einstein, Gates and Spielberg all helped elevate and change the nation, and the world despite their early bleak experiences.

    If you find yourself emotionally overwhelmed after an unexpected challenge, there are ways to cultivate the powerful and positive road to post-traumatic growth.

    1. 1. Remind yourself, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” Acknowledge the hurt, but also know you have the power to gradually move through it, into a space of acceptance, and then growth.
    2. 2. Don’t define yourself by the challenge. You endured something intense, but that doesn’t detract from who you are.
    3. 3. Realize healing, and growth, take some time. Even if the incident was instantaneous, coming back into optimum balance isn’t. Be gentle with yourself.
    4. 4. Rely on spiritual disciplines. Meditating, prayer, journaling – all are essential for helping you process your emotions, and guide you in a positive new direction.
    5. 5. Consciously choose foods and beverages that nourish, replenish and fuel you. A healthy, positive, balanced mind and spirit require a healthy body.

    Find the support you need to experience your own personal growth with a visit to the Optimum Health Institute. Let go of past old hurts and embrace positive new experiences with an extended stay at one of our healing missions. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • The Upside of Optimism

    Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “look on the bright side of life.” But if you’ve ever been a tricky situation, say, sitting in traffic, waiting a long line at the grocery store, or worse, the loss of a job or the death of a loved one, you know that finding a silver lining can be challenging.

    While it may be our first reaction to get down and feel sad, evidence suggests that taking an optimistic view is important for coping and recovery.

    In short, optimism provides healthy experience in body, mind, and spirit. Rather than being a simplistic “Pollyanna with rose-colored glasses” approach to life, optimism is realizing that things will have the significance we give to them, and then choosing the most positive, constructive meaning.

    Some very good news to emerge from scientific studies recently is that optimism can be learned. Even people firmly entrenched in a pessimistic mode can consciously shift into a happier, healthier frame of mind. Here are a few exercises proven to raise your joy level:

    • Breathe! Any time we feel stressed, angry, or overwhelmed, the first thing we unconsciously do is start shallow breathing. A brain starved for oxygen negatively impacts body, mind, and spirit. The minute you realize you’re not breathing normally, just stop, and take several deep breaths. With restored clarity, you can more realistically observe the situation and choose the most appropriate positive resolution.
    • Start asking yourself at least one time daily, “How can it get any better than this?” It’s an effective way to reverse our culture’s preoccupation with the question, “What else can go wrong?” While it might seem awkward at first, you’ll soon start to develop a habit of pondering what the next good thing in your day will be – and it will begin to appear.
    • Healthy foods = a happy and healthy mind. When your body is struggling to digest processed foods and animal products, your mind can get as sluggish as your intestinal tract. Choose live, raw, organic vegetables and fruits as much as possible, and see how your happiness level immediately begins to rise.
    • Realize that choosing to give a positive meaning to things changes your body chemistry for the good. A negative mental state can potentially create more acidity in the body than poor food choices.
    • Train your brain to think optimistically. Psychologist Marty Seligman, one of the architects of the field of Positive Psychology, suggests that before we fall asleep, we take a moment to review the three most wonderful things that happened to us that day. Besides putting us in a positive frame of mind that sets us up for a night of peaceful, restorative sleep, the practice subtly rewires our brain. When we arise, we’re immediately starting to anticipate the first of the three most positive things we will experience that day. Of course, negative things will still unfold – but now, instead of endlessly ruminating over them, we’ll acknowledge them, and then refocus on seeking out the positive. Doing this exercise for just one week results in measurably raising your level of optimism for a full six months.

    Learn more about the power of optimism at the Optimum Health Institute (OHI). Your body, mind and spirit will be happy with a week, or two, or ideally three, at the OHI holistic health missions. Our caring team will give you the tools, encouragement and inspiration needed to improve your outlook on life, quiet your mind and rejuvenate your spirit while you are surrounded in serene beauty. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809  or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • Create More Mindful Meals

    As you know, mindfulness is a critical aspect of healing. But have you heard of mindful eating? In a world where most accessible foods are processed, it can be tough to eat mindfully by choosing healthier, more nutritious options.

    Processed foods lack nutrition

    When you eat a diet primarily consisting of processed foods, you may not be getting optimal nutrition from your food. Processed foods have also been tied to an increased cancer risk, so you might be ready to change the way you think about preparing meals for your family. Start by eliminating processed food and appreciating the natural flavors of fresher choices. Below you will get a look at the ways to bring out the best flavors in your food and ensure better health through more nutritionally dense meals.

    Be aware of food texture 

    The various textures of foods should not be overlooked when it comes to creating pleasing flavors for your palate. Foods without much textural variation like soup can be livened up with the addition of crunch from chia seeds, flax, and hemp hearts. Adding textural variation can enhance the flavors of your food and keep you interested in eating healthier foods and increase your awareness of what you are eating.

    Explore pairings of distinctive flavors 

    Knowing how to match flavors with one another will let you get more creative with the same set of ingredients so that you enjoy every meal you prepare. To get a better understanding of how flavors pair with one another, you might experiment with some contrasting elements like hot peppers and sweet fruits. Fresh herbs can also liven up foods by infusing earthy, aromatic flavors into each dish and reducing the need for salt and fat to flavor your food.

    Use ingredients in their purest form 

    Simplifying recipes and using only whole, organically produced foods will be the healthiest strategy for making more mindful meals at home. When you are more aware of where your food comes from, you will be better able to ensure good nutrition for yourself and your family.

    Take control of your health by starting with mindful meals. When you have greater awareness of your body and what you’re eating, you create a clearer pathway to living healthier. At the Optimum Health Institute, mindful eating is a core aspect of our holistic healing program. We use 24 ancient spiritual disciplines to design a curriculum that promotes natural healing from the inside out. Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.