Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Oregon Holistic Nurses Association: No Ordinary Nursing Conference

I’ve just returned from northern Oregon, where I had the distinct pleasure of attending the annual conference of the Oregon Holistic Nurses Association (OHNA). I’m inspired, uplifted, and encouraged by what I experienced, and I’d like to share it with you. This post is slightly longer than my usual 600-700 words, but this conference and my experience merit the extra words in order to do it justice. 

 A Collective Homecoming

This memorable and unique nursing conference was held at the rustic Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center in the lush Cascade Mountains, approximately ninety minutes south of Portland. Personally, it was wonderful for me to return to Breitenbush after my last visit more than 20 years ago, and there is nothing but superlatives to convey about both this facility and the conference itself.
Much to their credit, the OHNA has repeatedly held their retreat at Breitenbush, and their return was obviously a collective homecoming. I witnessed happy reunions, smiles, hugs, the laughter and joy of mutual recognition, and an overall sense of beloved community. From the first moment, this was no ordinary nursing conference.
All Nurses (and Others) Welcome
While I was concerned about being a nurse from out of state at a gathering of Oregonian nurses who all knew one another well, my fears were quickly assuaged by the warm welcome that I received.
While a core group of nurses did indeed know one another from previous OHNA events, some nurses were new to the group, and they were all welcomed with open arms. One attendee came from California, and even a non-nurse participated, knowing in her heart that her work of providing holistic care for elders would benefit from what the OHNA has to offer. She couldn’t have been more correct.
Two nursing students from the Portland area were in attendance, and the support and open-hearted enthusiasm with which they were received was deeply moving. If only every nursing student could have such a profound experience during the course of their grueling education.
Integrating Holism
The theme of the conference---“the integration of holism into nursing practice”---was very much honored through presentations on energy hygiene; the uses of astrological knowledge in nursing and health; dance/movement therapy; meditation; acupressure; and a panel discussion on the integration of holistic practice into hospital and clinic settings. Rounded out by soulful opening and closing ceremonies, a drumming circle, ecstatic dancing, and the deep connections forged among the attendees, the conference was a profound success.
More About OHNA
For reasons not salient to this post, the OHNA is not a chapter of the American Holistic Nurses Association. Rather, it’s an independent organization, drawing members and interest from several surrounding states. In fact, I gather that there are discussions of expanding the official reach of the organization beyond the borders of Oregon, and this may necessitate the adoption of a name that more accurately reflects the association’s expansive and inclusive vision.  
That said, attendance at the conference was relatively small---approximately 25---but the energy created was much larger than the numbers belie. And, as E.F. Schumacher once said, small is beautiful. Indeed.
Not Your Usual Nursing Conference
One reason for the particular energy of this conference is the fact that it isn’t held at the usual urban hotel conference center. Breitenbush is a rustic mountain retreat and off-grid intentional community, serving organic vegetarian food in a facility without cellphone reception or Internet. This lack of electronic connectivity automatically changed the calculus of the gathering, with no one distracted by devices that could take them away them from their surroundings. 

During my stay, I felt happily freed from my usual tether to email, text messages and the Internet. It was a delicious sabbatical from being online, and it allowed me (and others) to drop into a space of true vulnerability and heart-to-heart connectivity in the ever-present present moment. 

With natural hot springs emanating from the earth, the resort’s seven pools and unique geothermal sauna offer deep relaxation. Meanwhile, expert massage is available in the beautiful building just down the path from the main lodge. There are several communal spaces for quiet reflection, intimate gatherings and conversation. Breathtaking hikes in the forest are easily accessible, even if the persistent rain continues to fall. Guests stay in a lovely village of cabins nestled in the trees, and the sound of the rushing river is the melody that consistently dances in the background. 

For open-minded, holistically oriented nurses and healthcare professionals who desire a new way of experiencing the profound community and well-being generated by the good people of the OHNA, I cannot more highly recommend attending their next retreat in October of 2015. I plan to attend, and I’ve in fact joined the OHNA in order to remain connected with the vision held by these authentically heartfelt nurses.
Nurses of Heart, Unite
So, nurses of heart, please join me in supporting the OHNA by registering for their 2015 conference at Breitenbush, and experience for yourself the profound energy and enthusiasm of the holistic nurses of Oregon.
I hope to be a presenter at the 2015 OHNA conference, and I encourage those of you who would like to meet with me in person in such a stellar environment to please consider attending. I’ll be there, and I hope many of you will join me in manifesting a new vision of nursing that stretches far beyond the forests of Oregon.  
To further entice you, the first five nurses who send me proof of their registration for the October 2015 event (and who have not previously attended an OHNA conference) will receive one hour of telephone-based coaching with me as an expression of my gratitude for your commitment to the future of innovative nursing practice and community. 
Open-hearted nurses, your time has arrived. Come to Oregon for inspiration, relaxation, valuable workshops and CEUs, and the magic of nurses creating holistic community in the spirit of elevating nursing practice to a profound level of authenticity, joy, and service.
I’m on board the OHNA train. Won’t you join me?
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