How We Got Here
Photo by Max Pratt
My first inklings for True Nature began in the late 1980s. I was a student at Kent State, earning a B.A. in English, focused on creative writing, with as many art classes as I could squeeze in. At that time, I enjoyed collaborating with a group of painters and writers. We’d put together musical and spoken word performances, dive into group paintings and all kinds of artistic experiments. It was a terrifically creative time of my life, and each day was like a new search into who I was and why I was here on this planet.
One day, a friend brought up the idea of building a retreat or “keep” in the woods, a place where people could go to create and be nourished and replenished by the beauty of nature. This idea resonated strongly with me, and we kept it alive for a couple of years - planning and sketching for what might be. It also reminded me of a time in my childhood when my dad had talked about building a cabin with me and my brothers in the woods behind our home. Neither of these two dreams made it “into the world,” but I believe they planted the seeds of True Nature.
In my late twenties, I was beginning to yearn for a simple spiritual practice as a foundation for my day-to-day life. I’d worked with self-hypnosis, meditation and breathwork since I’d been a kid. My introduction to meditation started in a karate class that my brothers and I were in when I was about 10. I was so intrigued by the results of that experience, I kept on doing it for years. The hypnotherapy came at a time when I was a high school track athlete, overwhelmed by competition and even getting sick from it. The fear of losing, the stress of wanting to be the best - It seemed there had to be a way to have more fun with this... Then one day, my mom told me, “I think I know something that might help...” and scheduled me an appointment with a hypnotherapist. I still remember leaving that office after my first session. As I walked to my car, I suddenly had a timeless taste of simply being present - body walking, birds singing, Existence existing. Those 3 or 4 seconds changed my life.
Skipping back ahead in time: As I moved towards the potential busyness of massage school from 1996 - 98, I wished to find a practice grounded in the everyday, and which would help me celebrate the glorious miracle of that everyday-ness. I’d spent a couple of years working with the meditations of Thich Nhat Hanh, then entered a Tai Chi school and learned about the Taoist tradition. Still, I wished for something simpler yet. As I began this work of helping others with massage and bodywork, Soto Zen Buddhism came as a clear answer to my needs. Perhaps most importantly, it came with the profound care, sincerity and kindness of my teacher and friend, Tim McCarthy, the leader of the Kent Zendo.
Tim is a student of the late Kobun Chino Otagawa, Roshi. To simply sit in silence with Tim and the other students was a great gift to my life. It was a catharsis and clarification unlike anything I had experienced before. The fact that we practiced at a country retreat center, surrounded by landscape similar to where I grew up, was such a comfort and a blessing. (It was also pretty sweet to sip tea with these friends and talk about politics, religion, the earth and art - during break periods) For about the next 10 years, I helped organize Zen retreats and also put together meditative retreats for bodyworkers. I was amazed, and still am, at the sense of community that grows in group retreats and the level of transformation that can occur even on a solo retreat.
In 2001, I organized a retreat that was led by two Breema instructors. It was my first taste of this "Art of Being Present," and I was pretty blown away. It took me right back to that experience of Presence I'd known at the hypnotherapist's office so many years before. Here was a practice that included self-care exercises, a form of bodywork that was done for the benefit of the practitioner and the recipient, plus Breema included a simple philosophy that told students to verify what it said for themselves. I was so grateful to have found such a Teaching, and I'm honored to now be a Breema instructor myself. ()
As I continue to teach, lead retreats and provide treatments at True Nature, I see that this work that Alana and I are doing is true Mutual Support. I see that we are students at this school we call earth and the lessons don't stop. I'm grateful for the learning, for the waking up, and sometimes I'm even thankful for the falling asleep.
Soon after we fell in love, Alana and I took up the quote from the great teacher, Jalaluddin Rumi as a guiding principle for our life together: "Let the beauty we love be what we do." We keep returning to that wisdom and the aliveness that those words point to, knowing that our work at True Nature is being guided by an intelligence and benevolence far greater than what we alone could create. What an honor this is.
Shortly after the death of my grandmother in the late fall of 1995, I began a profound journey. I had been searching for something unnamed for many years and had grown very discontented trying to live “a straight and narrow” life. I was scheduled to spend a semester abroad in Rome beginning that upcoming January. Upon leaving the States, I knew that something very big needed to change in my life. It was unclear what needed to change; it was only clear that something needed to change.
In the midst of my studies and daily wanderings along the streets of Rome, I heard a voice within calling me to New Mexico – to Santa Fe, specifically. I had never been to New Mexico before but trusted that I must go. For what reason or reasons, I had no idea. I only knew that an answer had come.
So, I packed up my car in the late summer of 1996 and headed west to The Land of Enchantment (as New Mexico is fondly known). Shortly after settling into my new life, I decided to continue (actually finish!) my undergraduate studies at The College of Santa Fe. I fell in love with my coursework in religious studies, philosophy, and literature (especially the work of Willa Cather) and received a B.A. in Humanities in May 1998. I was also introduced to the practice of yoga while a student at The College of Santa Fe, and the practice has been a part of my life ever since.
I became a registered yoga teacher twelve years later in 2010 after completing a 200-hour teacher training with Tias and Surya Little, Linda Spackman, and Nicolai Bachman at Prajna Yoga in Santa Fe. A year later, I completed another 200-hour teacher training through Yoga on High in Columbus. I have also had many wonderful opportunities to continue my studies attending a variety of workshops led by Max Strom, Glenn Black, Angela Farmer, and Sonia Nelson. I am currently working toward my 500-hour certification with Tias and Surya Little of Prajna Yoga.
My inspiration to birth True Nature Holistic Retreats came in great part from my time spent working at the OMEGA Institute in Rhinebeck, New York between 2005 and 2006. I was enlivened by the sense of community I found there and perhaps this is where I really learned the meaning of the word ‘sangha.’
I am grateful to teach our guests here at True Nature and am also an adjunct faculty member at The College of Wooster where I have been teaching Introduction to Yoga classes since 2011. I have also taught many classes at The Yoga Place in North Canton and assisted with the 200-hour teacher training programs at The Yoga Place from 2012-2014.
I especially love teaching beginners. I also have a strong passion for bringing yoga into the lives of those actively struggling with eating disorders. I had the privilege of teaching a regular weekly yoga class at The Center for Balanced Living (an eating disorder treatment center in Worthington, OH) for nearly four years (December 2010 - November 2014) and was deeply inspired by my work there.
In addition to the practice of yoga, I have been cultivating a regular journaling practice (writing nearly every day) over the course of the last fifteen (or so!) years.
Sitting with tea, a pen, and a blank page
(and a cat nearby!)
make my heart sing.
Spending time with Dave,
cooking, traveling, and meditating
are also song-makers in my heart.
Alana (Generson) Pratt, B.A., E.- R.Y.T. 200
David Pratt, B.A., L.M.T.
Dave is a licensed massage therapist with over 20 years of experience in the field. His certifications include Breema bodywork, Somatic Release in Clinical Massage and Bodywork for the Childbearing Year. He is also a certified yoga instructor and Breema instructor. Although he now works almost entirely at True Nature, he has taught throughout Ohio and in nearby states including: The American Massage Therapy Association events including both State and Regional Workshops, The Gathering Place in Cleveland, The Unitarian Fellowship of Wayne County in Wooster, The Cleveland Center for Conscious Living, The Inn at Honey Run, The Yoga Place in N. Canton, Harmony Farm in Dayton, Lil Yoga Shop in Akron, The Camp Asbury Yoga Retreat in Hiram, Second Path Yoga in Miamisburg, Asheville NC, Chicago IL, Buffalo NY, at the Somatic Pedagogies Conference at Denison University, and of course - ongoingly here at True Nature in Holmes County, Ohio.
Alana is a Registered Yoga Teacher who has completed two 200 hour teacher training programs and has assisted with two 200 hour yoga teacher training programs. She has been practicing yoga since 1997 and is working toward her 500 hour certification. In addition to teaching at True Nature, she is an adjunct faculty member at The College of Wooster.
We are Alana and Dave, wife and husband and stewards of this beautiful place that we call True Nature. We offered our first retreat here in the winter of 2009 and a small number of group events the following year. Since then, we have continued to welcome individuals and groups, with an ever-increasing emphasis on helping our guests develop their own home practices.
Most of the people who come here are over-worked, over-stressed, and often talk about wishing to have a quieter mind or time to simply slow down. They are tired of the busy-ness of life and don't know how to find their centers in the midst of hurried days filled with endless "to dos." The beauty of what we offer (we feel) is that it comes from our own practices and what we have learned from our own teachers over the years. We don't suggest anyone do anything that we have not verified and worked with ourselves, and what we present is simple, yet has potential to transform anyone's life.
Let the beauty you love be what you do,
Dave and Alana
Photo by Oliver Pratt
This winter, we have discovered a new adventure with the help of our mini sled dog, Tisky. The videos at left and right show how powerful our little pooch is!