Photos by Lauren Thomas
Health is the condition of wisdom, and the sign is cheerfulness – an open and noble temper.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
It was fitting that the same day that hundreds of athletes tested their mettle in the Survival of the Shawangunks Triathlon at the Mohonk Preserve, below, in the heart of the Village of New Paltz, the Elting Memorial Library held its fourth annual Holistic Health and Wellness Fair this past Sunday under blue skies and crisp air. The event, originally spearheaded by Earthgoods owner Clement Lau, has only continued to grow and expand in terms of vendors and visitors.
Although holistic health can be categorized as a “progressive” take on Western medicine, many of its practices, essential oils, acupuncture, reflexology, hypnosis, reiki, iridology, karate and massage therapy have roots that date back centuries, before modern medicine and invasive surgeries existed. It’s no surprise that New Paltz — a Mecca for athleticism, outdoor recreation, progressive politics and family-owned and CSA farms — would also have a plethora of holistic healing practitioners, many of whom were on hand at the fair to give samples of their services and answer questions that the public might have.
Gary Mercurio, who is on the event’s organizing committee, said that part of the impetus for this fair is to help “people see what other health care options are out there. We have massage therapists, reflexology, rolfers, yoga teachers and yoga therapists, astrology, acupuncture and iridology…we have such a vast base of healers right here in our community, and it’s a great way to educate the public on these alternatives and their health and wellness benefits while at the same time helping our library.”
Although the event is free to the public, donations can be made to the Elting Memorial Library, and the cost of vendors renting space is given back to the library coffers.
According to many of the healers present, there are various maps to the body including the foot, the hands, the face and, in the case of iridology, the eyes. “The eyes are a map of all of your organs and body systems,” said one of the iridology practitioners, based out of Highland. “By studying a person’s eyes, those of us trained in iridology can detect that the pancreas might not be working as it should, or that someone is having kidney problems, or have a genetic weakness or joint pain. And then we work with the patient on the specifics of why there are these imbalances and how to treat them.”
After receiving a free five-minute hand massage by MaryJo Johnson of Open Pathways to Health, Ann Errante said that Johnson was “wonderful, very intuitive, and gave me great information about my acupuncture pulses, which I want to pursue with her.”
Patrick Dillon, a veteran hypnotist, explained how hypnosis works to encourage weight loss, reduction of stress, smoking cessation and relief of phobias. “With hypnosis you retrain a person’s inner mind, their subconscious,” he said, “so that they think and behave in a new manner. This is achieved when the mind is half-asleep and half-awake, similar to the state of meditation.”
He meets with patients twice, and the second time teaches them how the art of self-hypnosis works when the desire to eat or smoke creeps up, or mounting stress and phobias. “I had one man who suffered from a fear of flowered furniture for 45 years,” he said. “He was smothered in a flowered couch when he was three years old. It was one of the strangest phobias I’ve come across. But when we were done, he was cured!” He said that the most common phobia that he deals with is the fear of bridges. “And in this area, it’s hard to escape bridges!”
Botanica Massage and Wellness — run by Amy Mosbacher and located on 21 South Chestnut Street in the Village of New Paltz — was doling out free neck and back massages, much to the pleasure of those stopping by the Wellness Fair. “It’s great for the mind, body and spirit,” said Mosbacher. “Everyone loves a massage!”
Botanica’s clients include those who suffer from shoulder, back and neck pain due to overuse, like those hunched over in an office all day, or others who may be typing and suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. They also have those who use massage for stress reduction, or athletes rehabbing from a specific injury. They can provide couple massages and prenatal massage, as well as reduced rates for those with cancer, as they’re also trained in oncology massage.
The air smelled of lavender oil and flowers from the beautiful Vera Rushforth Reading Garden in the library’s courtyards, as well as a palpable sense of health and radiance emanating from the practitioners and those seeking to improve their lifestyle and well-being.