From True Nature Healing Arts
By Nicolette Toussaint
Sopris Sun Correspondent
Amid laughing children and a dozen other walkers, Alejandro Rico paces with Zen-like focus. Her sandals dangling from one hand, her eyes half closed, she steps barefoot from one slab of honey-colored sandstone to another. After completing the labyrinth, Rico, a Carbondale librarian, reflects, “I wasn’t conscious of walking. I was letting the experience take me where it would go. It took me in memories to times that were deeply beautiful and important to me.”
Kindergarten teacher Janice Forbes loves labyrinths; she has walked this one and the famous Chartes Cathedral labyrinth multiple times. She says, “You assume it will be quiet, but each time, it’s different. Today, being in community is part of the experience.” Forbes notes that labyrinths are calming and healing; a Glenwood Springs hospital now has one, and more than 225 are used by hospitals across the United States.
Rico and Forbes were among more than 200 people who inaugurated the Peace Garden during last week’s Sacred Fest at the True Nature Healing Arts spa, yoga and meditation center. The garden’s designer, landscape architect Laura Kirk of DHM Design, was there too last Friday evening. Observing the crowd, she said, “The Peace Garden is a wonderful gift that Deva and Eaden have shared with all of us. I want to make sure that we thank them for their incredible generosity and vision in creating this amazing community asset.”
The garden is open from dawn to dusk daily and is free of charge. True Nature Healing Arts is located at the north end of Third Street, across from American Legion Post 100.
The vision of the Peace Garden sprung from the creative vision of True Nature’s owners, Deva and Eaden Shantay. Covering almost half acre, the garden complex includes a five elements reflexology path, a grassy yoga area bordered by a spiraling ramp of Colorado buff sandstone, a fire circle and an edible garden, in addition to the labyrinth.
Last Friday, a pile of sneakers and sandals marked the entrance to the reflexology path. “Reflexology is an ancient healing art from India,” explains Eaden. “There are more than 7,000 nerve endings in the bottom of our feet that correlate to various organs and systems in the body. If our feet feel sore walking on the path, it may be due to the settling of toxins or internal imbalance.” Eaden demonstrates the proper method of rocking a foot over a stone and encourages beginners to “warm up” by first walking on shallower black stones for about five minutes. For maximum benefit, he says, the path should be trod for 20 minutes, three times a week. Simple at first glance, the spiral reflexology path is actually an intricate mosaic of amber, ivory, green, gray and black river rocks; it took four artisans 27 days to lay the out the pattern. In one section, golden stones form a yin/yang pattern as their axis of orientation reverse. Inspirational quotes are engraved onto larger stones.
Although one stone bearing a quote from Yoda states, “Do. Or do it. There is no try,” a few tender-footed adults try the path tentatively, leaning on a handrail that increases accessibility for those who are older or less hardy. Meanwhile, kids pound across the stone in a foot race.
“You’re basically accu-pressuring your feet,” says Deva. “The path takes you through all five elements of the Aruveda — an ancient healing art from India — and through the chakras as you walk.” “I really did feel myself going through the different elements,” says Carbondale resident and leadership coach Gwen Garcelon. “I didn’t expect that.”
In remodeling True Nature Healing Arts’ original building, and in the garden, the Shantays feature architectural antiques from Kashmir, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Morocco, but executed their vision using mostly local materials and talent.
Walking through century-old pillars and carved wooden doors from India into the garden, visitors are greeted by a bronze Nepalese prayer wheel and scents of a garden filled with purple and green cabbage, rosemary, lemongrass, lavender and strawberry plants.
On the south side of the path that dissects the garden, a dramatic, geometric pergola covers a stone fire pit surrounded by cob couches. Warm and glassy to the touch, the jade green benches are made from cob — a mixture of sand, clay and straw — and covered with a Moroccan limestone plaster finish. Laura Bartels of GreenWeaver, the builder who constructed Carbondale’s first straw bale house, supervised the bench’s construction last year. “We all stamped on the cob mixtures like grapes,” said Deva. “It was a community effort.”
Numerous other local artisans contributed their creativity (and sweat) to the Peace Garden. They include Shara Kees, Ginger and Rob Janssen of Basalt Mountain Gardens, Keith Brand of Terralink Structures, architect Dennis Powell, land planner Bob Schultz, metal workers Bill Rice and John Hoffmann, and painter Alpin Badgett.