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Stone and Crystal Medicine

If you give an apprentice a stone, she’ll have it when she is gray.
-Sarah Thomas in Chinese Stone and Crystal Medicine Class

Much of my practice is about helping people return to seeing magic in the ordinary. It’s easy to get confused and feel lost in the mass confusion and harried pace that is the norm for so many of us. This pace wears us down and can cause us to lose sight of the essence of who we are in this lifetime. I believe that mindfulness in everyday life helps us to slow our roll and smell the roses – or gardenias – or whatever it is you slow down to notice and appreciate.

IMG_9436Recently, I graduated from a 72-hour course in Chinese Stone and Crystal Medicine taught by local acupuncturist, Sarah Thomas, LAc at the Appalachia School of Holistic Herbalism. During this course, we learned about various properties of stones such as the chemical composition, hardness, temperature, crystal structure and metaphysical uses. We also went on rock hounding trips where I learned that we live in one of the most mineral-rich places in the world, right here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. To me, the most interesting lessons were in the spiritual medicine that each stone carries. Having never studied stones in this way, it became clear that the medicine of the stones is an ancient language that runs much deeper than words. I’ve come to realize that ancient stones are seeds of information holding the potential for all of life, based on the periodic table of elements. It’s a beautiful melding of art and science, the lessons that each of these stones have to teach based on their structures, formations and experiences over the millennia. I resonate with this medicine in that healing is not viewed as  “A + B = C.”

Earlier this year, a spiritual mentor gifted me with a piece of moldavite. During a particular phase of life, she guided me through ritual to release what I’d been carrying, mourn and let go and to be open to embodying my own essence in this lifetime. Our medicine is what we are here to embody and bring to the world. Poet Oriah Mountain Dreamer penned it this way,

Remember- there is one word you are here to say with your whole being. When it finds you, give your life to it. Don’t be tight-lipped and stingy. Spend yourself completely on the saying. Be one word in this great love poem we are writing together.

In the next fIMG_9118ew weeks, I will be posting about some of the stones whose medicine called most strongly to me. As I share about my own experiences, I hope that you will join me in delving further into your essence and claiming the medicine you are here to share with the community.

What is your medicine in the world?


Mindfulness Through Photography

The next round of Mindfulness Through Photography Starts this evening!



Creativity is vital to our wellbeing – from my perspective, it is our essence. It is allowing whatever it is that we believe in – the Mystery, the Cosmos, the Divine, God- to flow through us, being present to what comes. In my practice, I offer both writing and photography groups that are focused on building mindfulness into our everyday lives. I offer these because creativity – especially writing and photography for me – have helped me find the way forward. This is a poem I wrote in November 2014 while sitting with both grief and gratitude with a photograph of the supermoon from July on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Check my website for upcoming offerings to start in the new year.

International Survivors of Suicide Day: Free group offering in Asheville, Nov 22, 2014

mindful-2This is the first year since I lost a beloved member of my immediate family that I have felt up to holding space for International Survivors of Suicide Day. My loss happened 11/18/10 and was the impetus to change what felt like almost everything in my life. I offer this as a labor of love to others who are in their own journeys with this life-altering experience. I know that love, light and connection with others helped me get past the darkness that felt it would never end. <3

That said, I’d like to invite anyone who is a survivor of suicide (who has lost someone to suicide) to come to my office on Saturday, November 22, 2014 to participate in a gathering for International Survivors of Suicide Day. Thousands of survivors of suicide loss will gather together around the world on this day of healing, support and empowerment. In love, I want to offer my space as a place for us to gather. It may become an annual event!

Please contact me if you’d like to come! Flyer with more information is attached. SOS

Fall Groups Announced

People want to connect and to share their stories, to feel a sense of community and to share what they have learned with others. Facilitating closed groups allows for an increased level of sharing and depth. After finishing up a few over the spring and summer, it’s time to gear up for another round of closed groups for the fall.

Fall 2014 Group Therapy Offerings

What is the difference between an open group and a closed group?
Open groups are open to anyone actively involved in the Willow Wellness and Recovery Suboxone program. You may drop in at any time without advanced notice. Closed groups are conducted for a specific amount of time with a particular purpose and require participants to sign up in advance.

for Suboxone Program members 

1st Tuesday of each month | 6-7:30pm | Multi-Family Group Therapy
This group provides support for clients and their supportive family members. Each group will present a recovery-related topic for discussion. This group is appropriate for supportive family members or friends at least 16 years old.

6-7pm | Skills Essential to Recovery
Every Tuesday other than 1st Tuesday when Multi-Family Group meets
This is an excellent group for those new to recovery as well as those in later stages interested in sharing their knowledge and growth process. The focus of this group is building a strong foundation for recovery. It is a mixture of education, support and practical skills. It heavily draws upon concepts from Seeking Safety and Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

9-10am | Cultivating Recovery
This resiliency-based group consists of education, support and positive psychology exercises aimed at building human strengths. Positive psychology views the “good life” as a combination of three things – connection to others, positive individual traits and life regulation qualities. The group covers topics such as motivation, mindfulness, relationships, creativity, well-being across the lifespan, religion and spirituality. This group is ideal for those in middle to late recovery but is open to everyone in the program.

10:30-11:30am | Mindful Recovery

This group uses mindfulness to develop a recovery lifestyle. Groups are built around the Ten Doorways of Mindful Recovery from Mindful Recovery, Mindfulness and the 12-Steps, and The Mindfulness Workbook for Addiction. Each group explores how mindfulness can be used to develop greater self-understanding and acceptance. This group is good for all stages of recovery.

for Suboxone Program members or interested community members
(subject to brief screening)



The Art of Recovery | August 20—September 24 | 6-7:30pm
This experiential group encourages creativity as a tool for healing and growth. Each week, creative expressive arts therapy exercises will explore issues such as identity, connection, strength, compassion, autonomy and goal setting. The importance of the process of the work rather than the content (what it looks like!) is emphasized so no prior art experience is required. This group is appropriate for those in recovery from addictive behaviors or any mental health or related issues.

Practicing Mindfulness Through Photography | October 15—Nov 19 | 6-7:30pm

This unique group uses photography as a self- exploration and healing tool. Members will be invited to bring old photos to share with the group and will be given assignments in between groups. Though no fancy equipment is required, you will need access to a camera of your choosing. Though you may learn some technical skills, this class is focused on the process of mindfulness and “seeing the magic of the ordinary” when capturing images.


Writing for Recovery | August 21—September 25 | 9-10:30am
This group utilizes writing to awaken your creativity and encourage your own unique voice to emerge, enabling a more authentic life. Group members will have the opportunity to write and share during group each week. Exercises may include timed-writings with prompts, guided imagery and home assignments. Group members are encouraged to bring a favorite notebook or journal and a favorite pen.

Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention | October 16—November 20 | 9-11am
This is a research-based, structured group focusing on learning mindfulness as a relapse prevention tool. These groups are 2 hours and include mindfulness meditation. This group is for those in middle to later recovery who have established a recovery lifestyle.

Mindfulness Through Photography Starting June 25 | Sign up now

New Group Offering! 8-week Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention Group

Announcement: New Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention Group!

An evidence-based, mindful approach for individuals in recovery from alcohol/drug use or other addictive behaviors
8-week class | Thursdays April 17 – June 12 | 6:45-8:45pm (no class May 15)
Space is limited to 7-10 participants so register early!

MBRP is an integration of standard cognitive-behavioral relapse prevention treatment with mindfulness meditation practices. No meditation experience is necessary.

Course Objectives:
1. Develop awareness of personal triggers and habitual reactions, and create a pause in this seemingly automatic process.
2. Change your relationship to discomfort, learning to recognize challenging emotional and physical experiences and respond to them skillfully.
3. Adopt a nonjudgmental, compassionate approach toward yourself and your experiences.
4. Foster a lifestyle that supports continued mindfulness practice and long-term recovery.

If you would like to register or would like further information, please contact me at or 828-513-0546. Please see flyer for additional details.

Ten Doorways to Mindful Recovery

Each week, I facilitate groups for people in recovery from opioid dependence. While most have at least some familiarity with 12-Step programs like AA or NA, many haven’t heard of the Ten Doorways to Mindful Recovery. These doorways guide much of what is offered in these groups. While these groups are focused on recovery from opioid dependence, these doorways apply to anyone seeking to face addictive behaviors to live a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Why mindfulness? From my perspective, mindfulness is the opposite of addiction. Addiction is about grasping for anything to quell discomfort in the moment. Mindfulness is about cultivating a vast, open heart able to sit with discomfort and know that it will eventually crash just as waves do upon the shore.

Ten Doorways to Mindful Recovery
From Mindful Recovery: A Spiritual Path to Healing from Addiction
by Thomas Bien, Ph.D. and Beverly Bien, M.Ed.

  1. Doorway One: Seeing the magic of the ordinary and returning to the present moment. You can get overwhelmed by memories of the past, worries about the future, and other distractions. When that happens, you may be in danger of relapse. By bringing a gentle, compassionate awareness to your surroundings, your thoughts, and your feelings, you will discover that your need to engage in addictive behavior diminishes.
  2. Doorway Two: Consider your life as a story you are still writing. Many people hold on to life scripts connected to their addiction, which perpetuate negative life stories as well as continued attraction to drugs and alcohol. You don’t have to get stuck there. You can write a new story.
  3. Doorway Three: Use journaling to deepen awareness of your life story and open the door to spiritual awakening. Regular journaling brings the power of mindfulness to bear on repetitive patterns and aids in contacting your inner wisdom.
  4. Doorway Four: Practice meditation to become more accepting of yourself and your life. When you become more accepting of what hurts as well as more aware of life’s many positive aspects, you establish a firm spiritual foundation for recovery.
  5. Doorway Five: Find ways to connect to the natural world. Addicted people are often alienated from the natural world. A return to nature is incompatible with addiction. Conscious, mindful choices about your recreational time prevent you from squandering it on passive pursuits that do not employ your higher human qualities, such as intellectual, artistic, and spiritual activities.
  6. Doorway Six: Cultivate healthy relationships that discourage addiction. Many people become addicted in part because of painful and unsatisfying relationships. In turn, addiction can destroy even the best relationship. As you become more mindful of relationship patterns, you can begin to change them, reducing the need to indulge your addiction.
  7. Doorway Seven: Explore dreams to expand your view of who you are beyond the limited point of view of your conscious, rational self. Dreams offer clues about what is missing and what is out of balance. Often these are blind spots which we have difficulty seeing consciously.
  8. Doorway Eight: Practice mindfulness at work. A mindful life involves mindfulness in all areas of life. Practicing mindfulness at work can help you stay calm and centered there as well.
  9. Doorway Nine: Learn to hold and embrace difficult emotions to ensure successful recovery. There are well-established methods for dealing with difficult feelings. If you need extra help, therapy may be a useful aid.
  10. Doorway Ten: Living moment by moment: practice, practice, practice. An intellectual understanding of how to change life is just the beginning. Direct experience brings the peace, health, and wholeness you seek.


intention candle

This week focused on “Doorway Four: Practice meditation to become more accepting of yourself and your life. When you become more accepting of what hurts as well as more aware of life’s many positive aspects, you establish a firm spiritual foundation for recovery.”

Before engaging in a guided meditation, each group member was given a simple candle in a glass vase and asked to reflect upon and write his or her hopes, aspirations and intentions upon the candle. Each person shared his or her intentions with the group as the candles were lit. As the candles burned in the center of the group room, group members were led in a metta meditation. Metta is a Pali word that means “loving kindness.” In essence, a metta meditation is a prayer of the heart asking for loving kindness first for oneself, then for others and finally continuing in an outward, widening circle encompassing all.

If you’re interested in learning more about metta meditation, Sharon Salzburg, a renowned meditation teacher and author who spoke at the Asheville Unitarian Universialist Church last fall, has written vastly on the subject.


background image © marshaan

Helpful Article: Coping with Grief at Milestones (Omega Institute)

Many people struggle with grief during the holidays. I happened upon this article today and think it gives a helpful “advice snapshot” for managing grief at this time of year. Grief can feel like it swallows us. If you are experiencing grief this year, be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to do nothing or to do something or to create new traditions or to break tradition. -Peace

8 Ways to Cope With Grief at Milestones 

Halloween Group Therapy