Debra-Lynn Hook of Kent, Ohio, is an independent journalist and photographer, a backyard gardener & the mother of three children. A student of the macrobiotic way of life, she is also a consumer of various other mind-body-spirit practices, including Zen & other meditation, reiki, Breema, yoga & cranial-sacral therapy. Photos above by Debra-Lynn Hook.
I have found that the path to healing practices is only as reliable as the practitioner. A teacher can be knowledgeable about the practice, but if there is the presence of unchecked ego, personal agenda or impatience, the practicum will be cluttered and confusing. I imagine it’s not easy to strike this balance - having a special gift to share while holding oneself in humility. And yet, this is what draws me to Dave and Alana. These are not just people who preach humility, peace and calm. These are people who live it. These are not just teachers of Breema and yoga. They are willing students themselves, equal to those they teach.
This is what I experienced as soon as I met Dave at a local yoga studio where he was introducing Breema to a small group. These qualities are what draw me to True Nature again and again, to weekend Breema workshops and silent retreats, to one-one-one sessions and sometimes, just to visit. Even driving in from my hometown Kent 90 minutes away is a journey of the spirit, the last hour a ride through Amish country, with its rolling hillsides and expansive farmlands and farmhouses. It is nothing short of enchanting to discover, at the end of a winding county road, the intentionally created space of True Nature, with its welcoming wood and warmth, its natural light streaming through a wall of windows and its woven rugs and cushions inviting folks to sit, learn and be.
The space itself is inspiration, resonating energy that is fresh, light and open, yet grounded. As are the students who are drawn here; they are always interesting, always thinking outside the box.. As for the work, here in this beautiful, safe place, we students learn what it means to bring the body into the story; so much of us in modern times are disconnected from our bodies. At True Nature, specific sequences build new clarity around the melding of body, mind and spirit, as we mindfully engage with each other’s fully-clothed body while doing Breema partner treatments, as we hold Breema principles such as “no judgment” and “no hurry, no pause” in our minds. I recall one particularly resonant moment when Dave was demonstrating a sequence. Sitting cross-legged between me and another participant, he gently moved his hands to our bellies, a vulnerable place for most of us, yet considered to be the center of the body, the “hara” as it is called in many traditions. As Dave slowly made circles with his hands, emotions surfaced (which is a good thing). In that moment, I began to experience my body very clearly for what it is meant to be, not as a piece of me to be tolerated, but as a willing partner in integration with all of who I am. This would not be the last time I experienced a paradigm shift here at True Nature. I have also had gentle, yet profound experiences with Alana as yoga teacher. Alana is someone I would call a grounded empath, tuned into the world around her, but with a solid ground beneath her feet. This is wholly apparent as she meditatively guides a group through yoga practice, yet picking up on individual needs in the room and carefully adding them to a practice. Her voice is quiet and calm, her body steady and strong, her spirit humble but full — a hard balance to strike, and yet she intuitively knows how to arrive there.
In between morning and afternoon sessions, if a person is lucky enough to attend a weekend retreat, Alana offers beautiful, organic vegetarian meals for participants to share, some of us together at the table outside, some of us in the sweet library area where there are books on contemplative writing or yoga or Breema to browse. At lunch and throughout a weekend experience, there is time to stroll the tree-lined grounds, to sit on the bench beside the pond, to study the fluttering Tibetan prayer flags along a wire fence at the top of the hill. Here, we can take off our shoes and feel the ground beneath our feet, the sun on our faces and the connection of like souls gathered with like intent. We can also laugh. There’s nothing more beautiful than a well-placed sense of humor, which infinitely adds to Dave as teacher. An added bonus of late: Alana and Dave’s little boy, born in the fall of 2015. Ollie brings joy because he is infused with it. To watch Alana and Dave parent this sweet child is to see another piece of love in action.
I continue to return to True Nature because, simply put, I like what I find here, simplicity, love and a feeling of coming home. I return because I not only want to go deeper, but because I want to plant inside myself what I already know of the spirit and energy that beckons me here. As a print journalist and a photographer, I am acutely attuned to a chaotic world that gets more chaotic by the minute. I yearn to weave my work and my days with what True Nature and Breema have shown me. I know I can’t have 24-7 peace, humility, calm and clarity. But each time I visit I find something new to take back with me. I get a little closer to seamless integration with myself.
True Nature reminds me of being in my garden, tending the soil that will grow the upward-growing greens that will later feed my body and my spirit. How and with whom we spend our time, what we feed our body, mind and spirit is who we are. True Nature is a touchstone, showing me what it is my soul craves, and also what is possible. True Nature teaches me how I want to be in everything I do. Whether I’m taking photographs of a wedding couple, writing about the Women’s March in D.C. or making a meal for my family, I want to be grounded in right spirit and thought. True Nature helps me get there.
See more of Debra-Lynn's photos and read her writing at:
DEBRA-LYNN HOOK PHOTOGRAPHY
471 Dansel Street
Kent, Ohio 44240