It’s a beautiful transformational scenario that plays out at Optimum Health Institute (OHI) holistic healing retreats in San Diego and Austin on a daily basis. Guests, many facing significant health opportunities, arrive for the first time feeling anxious and rather isolated. They are immediately greeted warmly, and assigned an “OHI Buddy” to help orient them and answer questions. Before their first plant-based raw organic meal, they gather in a circle with other guests to share a few moments of spiritual fellowship and inspiration. In the dining room, they are immediately drawn into supportive and validating conversations with others.
Strangers become friends, and all are enveloped in the accepting, non-judgmental OHI community that supports and encourages them through each moment of their 21-day stay. During classes like Food Combining, Self Esteem and Conscious Breathing, guests assist and reassure each other, sharing their fears, their hopes and their laughter. Strong bonds are formed, and many coordinate return visits so they can enjoy “reunions” while rededicating themselves to strive for optimum health in body, mind and spirit. This community-building dynamic that has been at the heart of OHI since day one is now being corroborated by scientific research. Clinical studies show the validating experience of being accepted into a group of positive, like-minded people can set significant healing transformations into motion.
“Humans are wired for connection with others,” says Matthew Lieberman, UCLA professor of psychiatry and biobehaviorial science. “Life does not usually go well when we try to live it on our own. Oftentimes, when we face a problem or crisis, we feel as if we can and should handle it by ourselves, but it’s the opposite. We need to handle it with the help of others, even if only with one person.” 1 Dr. Lieberman is one of the founders of social cognitive neuroscience, a discipline analyzing how brain function underlies social thinking and social behavior.
Dr. Dean Ornish Says…
This healing power of community has such a profound and measurable influence that cardiologist Dean Ornish writes in his book Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy , “I am not aware of any other factor in medicine – not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery – that has a greater impact on our quality of life or incidence of illness. Anything that promotes a sense of isolation often leads to illness and suffering, while that which promotes a sense of love and intimacy, connection and community, is healing.” 2
One thing OHI guests mention repeatedly is how their interaction with others facing similar opportunities gives them strength and hope. Instead of feeling alone, they experience a powerful connection with others whether they’re on the same path or not. They can develop a sense of accountability to each other, which helps them collectively stick to their goals.
Hard Wired to Help
The cooperative dynamic that compassion for others helps the person providing assistance is also supported in clinical research. Dr. Sara Konrath, a faculty member of the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan, writes, “Social connections can be good for us. We are hard-wired for face-to-face contact that includes lots of touch, eye contact, and smiles. Such interactions release a hormone called oxytocin, which helps us to bond and care for others, and also helps us to handle stress better.” 3
Experience the healing power of community during an extended stay at OHI San Diego or OHI Austin. Save throughout the month of February when you mention promotional code SELFLOVE when booking your 2 or 3-week stay. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org , and call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.
1. Matthew Lieberman, PhD, Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect, Crown Publishers, 2013.
2. Dean Ornish, MD, Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy, William Morrow Paperbacks, 1999.
3. Sara Konrath, PhD, EverydayHealth.com, Copyright 2013. See: http://www. everydayhealth.com/depression/how-volunteering-can-lessen-depression-and-extend-your-life/
Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things
Optimum Health Institute developed a healing community over its 40+ year history. One that has relied on word of mouth to spread the message of our healing mission. This Spring we are featuring the story of Lynne Haaland an OHI guest for 20 years and founder of Vity.co, a website that connects brands with social media influencers. It is no coincidence that Lynne had a tremendous influence on sharing OHI’s message to others. She is a true connector in the sense that she brings people together in a way that very few people can.
Lynne’s first visit to OHI was in the late 70’s at the age of 18. OHI has been a key fixture in her life ever since. We sat down with Lynne to learn more of her history with OHI, the importance of a ‘reset’ from the perspective of a successful entrepreneur, and her kinship with the next generation of OHI devotees.
Your first visit to OHI was 20 years ago, what keeps you coming back?
I’ll start by saying that it’s an honor to be participating in this feature. Moreover, I have incredible gratitude to my mother for exposing me to OHI at the young age of 12. She was years ahead of her time, advocating clean and healthy living way back in the 70’s.
OHI has been an ongoing staple throughout my entire life; it has provided me with a ‘toolkit’ for success. I keep returning because it’s such a special program – and it works! There’s no place like it on earth, and it’s why people travel from all over the globe to come here.
Many professional women such as yourself visit OHI to ‘reset’, what does ‘reset’ mean to you and how has it evolved over the years?
I define “reset” as having my rhythms back on pace. I feel revitalized and reinvigorated with an abundance of life – on a cellular level. My skin is glowing, energy levels are up, and my mind is calm. I realize how toxic I had become since the last visit.
My goal on every visit is to is to follow the program as close to 100% as possible. I encourage others to do the same. By embracing all aspects of the program, you will achieve life-altering results.
Old habits, thought patterns and practices take time to unlearn. By surrounding myself with positive things, people, and places like OHI — my thoughts and my energy balance are also reset.
What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
On the importance of health, wellness and ‘the reset’? The first thing I would say is: ‘Great job getting to OHI so young at 18, Lynne …and next time, attend all the classes!’ Back then I thought, ‘Ah well.. I’m young, the mere fact I’m here, eating this weird food is enough.’ Years later, I realized you get out of the program what you put into it. You must live and breathe it every day!
Finally – I’d say to me, or any others at 18…“You get ONE body, and how you treat it hourly, daily, weekly, monthly — will make all the difference down the road – trust me.”
Do you feel a sense of sisterhood for millennial women who seek to heal?
Humbly said, I think I’ve become a walking testimony and a sort of leader of this movement. Despite being guided early with wheatgrass shots at 12 years old, it was nearly impossible to find organic, healthy food anywhere.
When I explain OHI and the methodologies, which to most may seem odd, I walk them through the “logic” of why they need to detox their bodies, colons, etc. and then I witness them having that “Ah ha” moment. These people then become very excited and want to come to OHI, and or begin changing their lifestyles, immediately.
This is attracting the community or sisterhood towards those, like myself, who have the knowledge, and likewise, I gain a sense of helping others to improve their life, which in turn, gives me profound joy.
Any closing thoughts?
I find it encouraging, providing a wonderful sense of support, when I return to see familiar faces, such as Peg , Dan, and others — some that were here in 1988! Thank you to all the courageous and giving people I’ve met at OHI over the years. To the founders and leaders for their teachings, and for always staying true to OHI’s principles. Finally, to the Creator of all…I am immensely grateful.
Frequent OHI San Diego guest Stacy Potter has known ‘how to serve’ from her youth. She won the National Collegiate Singles Tennis Title her freshman year at USC, then captured the National Collegiate Team championship the next year. She went pro for a decade, competing in 25 Grand Slam Championships, including eight at Wimbledon, 11 at the U.S. Open, and six at the French Open.
Stacy played mixed doubles with John McEnroe in 1978, and competed in a Battle of the Sexes with Kate Latham against Bobby Riggs and Pancho Segura in 1983. Besides reaching a singles tennis ranking of 18 th in the world, Stacy collected numerous honors including the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame, the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and the Beverly Hills High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
As stellar as her professional career has been, it is a single facet of her fascinating journey before discovering OHI in 2000. Stacy earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology, and is a certified health coach helping people across the country make smart nutritional and exercise choices while they manage stress. She and her husband also operate Trails by Potter, a hiking, biking and rock climbing service throughout the Ojai Valley and Ventura, California.
Despite a lifetime of achieving and maintaining top physical form, it was a health opportunity that brought her to OHI. She had read an article about the retreat years earlier, and thought at the time she’d like to try it. When Stacy started training for a tennis tournament in 2000, years after her retirement from the professional tennis circuit and against her better judgment, she ended up with a debilitating case of tendonitis in her foot. Through the pain, she suddenly remembered OHI, and immediately booked a one-week stay.
“I remember limping into OHI that Sunday,” Stacy said. “I was in agony! But by the end of that week, I experienced a miracle. I had absolutely no pain, and I was able to play an hour of tennis the day after I got back home.”
Stacy said she arrived with an open mind – she didn’t know exactly what to expect, but she was eager to try all of it. ALMOST all of it.
“When my roommate and I were in the first week class learning about Es & Is, we whispered to each other that was the ONE thing we wouldn’t do,” Stacy said. “But our teacher was very strict, and everyone knew it wasn’t a question – we WERE going to do this!”
Since that first visit, Stacy has booked several stays at OHI every year, and has experienced all three weeks of the 21-day holistic healing program many times over.
“Some big breakthrough always happens each time,” Stacy said, “and I’m always fascinated to see what’s going to be revealed. I’ll get an idea for my coaching business. Or I’ll rearrange furniture at home for better Feng Shui. Something always is healed. Maybe not the thing you THINK you’re there for – but it’s always the thing you most need. It’s like you’re falling back onto a soft bed of pillows. Everyone is vulnerable, and we look out for each other. We’ll come back the same weeks for mini-reunions.”
Stacy said the biggest change she’s noticed through the years is how being an active part of the OHI community has opened her up physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
“I have the courage to go outside the box at OHI, particularly in the talent shows,” Stacy said. During her most recent visit, she was particularly interested in developing healthier sleep habits. “For the talent show Friday night,” Stacy said, “I read a very personal letter I wrote to sleep, as if I was in a challenging relationship with it. SO many people came up to me afterwards thanking me, including an OHI staff member who was only able to sleep about four hours a night. People appreciated my vulnerability, and said the letter helped them create a healthier relationship with their own sleep habits.” Stacy, by the way, is now sleeping soundly.
Experience your own transformational breakthroughs, and meet other remarkable women and men during an extended stay at OHI San Diego or OHI Austin. Save throughout the month of February when you mention promotional code Valentine$175. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org , and call us at (800) 993-4325 to make your reservation.