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Posted: September 12, 2018

The garden heals as it grows

By Anne Jardine

The Columbia Gardens Enhancement Society presented a seminar on Wednesday, September 5 at Christ Church Trinity in Invermere in support of the new Columbia House Healing Garden, which was dedicated on July 31 and is still in its first phase of construction.

The evening featured a panel of five speakers and drew an appreciative audience of over 100 people.

Guest speaker Sonya Jakubec discussed her research at Mount Royal University. The studies there were conducted in conjunction with Calgary Community Health and the city’s Parks and Recreation Departments. They support the conclusion that outdoor activities lead to measurably better health outcomes for vulnerable populations including the elderly, homeless individuals, and those with physical and mental disabilities.

Beth Gorchynski is a gerontologist, a member of the Calgary Dementia Network, and a director of the Creative Aging Society of Calgary. She outlined her work with Alberta Parks and their many projects involving inclusive, accessible outdoor activities as a means to improve the quality of living for individuals with dementia.

Her presentation also documented improvements in wellbeing and general job satisfaction for the care workers and family members who accompanied the patients and loved ones walking, cycling, boating, or working in gardens. Whether it involves exercise, social connection, or just being in the fresh air, all the evidence shows that the healing power of nature works in multiple ways, and even helps to ease the loss and grief of bereavement, allowing an outlet for expression of sadness, restoring peace and balance.

Elizabeth Shopland is a local holistic health coach, yoga teacher, horticulturalist and writer. She took the audience on a guided meditation to visit an imagined natural setting and pay attention to the sights, sounds, smells, and other sensory details and memories – bringing the audience peace and relaxation.

Pat Bavin, Feng Shui practitioner and artist, explained some of the principles and elements of design that he has been using as he consults with the people who are creating the garden on the grounds of Columbia House.

Bavin has been concerned with balancing elements or water, earth, air, and fire (sunlight), working with the natural attributes of the landscape to enhance the final outcomes. He also presented a guided meditation about releasing energy.

Sculptor Pat Leuders spoke about the plan for a labyrinth in the garden, going into the historic traditions of labyrinths around the world, showing slides of some of the most renowned examples. The images showed people turning left and right, walking reflectively upon the curved pathways. Some neurologists postulate that such movement strengthens physical balance, and helps the hemispheres of the brain to achieve balance as well.

She concluded her presentation with her personal observations about building a labyrinth at Dutch Creek and watching visitors of all ages respond to its atmosphere.

Moderator Betty Newton introduced each speaker and kept the flow of the evening smooth and interesting. An intermission and after-mingle allowed the speakers and listeners time to share ideas about the development of the new garden, browse a wide collection of books and resource materials about healing, gardens, meditation, Feng Shui, labyrinths, and interdisciplinary research while they enjoyed tea, water and snacks. The Friends of the CoHo Healing Garden signed up many new members.


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