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Natural Awakenings South Central Pennsylvania

Interwoven Local Communities Uplift and Empower

Nov 30, 2019 09:29AM
by Gisele M. Siebold

Within each three-dimensional human being lies an intricate connection of body, mind and spirit that is unique. As individuals, we share threads of life with others, weaving the fabric of small groups, which then have the opportunity to gather and form a multicolored, woven tapestry that becomes a larger community.

The South Central Pennsylvania Natural Awakenings community is a good example of this model of community formation. Individuals and small groups from the disciplines of local farming, healthy foods, yoga, fitness, holistic health and wellness, body work, energy work, spiritual growth, self-awareness and the arts have collectively formed a larger and loosely connected community that supports and serves the collective good of the group and the public community at large.

The Farming Community brings the goodness of the earth to the table. Local farms like the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education, in York, are creating an agricultural model based on soil health, biodiversity and mutually beneficial relationships. Regenerating the soil and offering a nutrient-dense bounty, local farmers take their role seriously.

Striving to care for the land, the animals, those working in the fields and those being fed, reverence for the process motivates the farming torch to be passed from one generation to another. Children are growing up in farming families, planting and growing the food they eat on urban plots, and in schoolyard and community gardens, understanding how delicious food tastes when it’s grown with their own hands in healthy soil.

“The sustainable model of community supported agriculture allows young farm kids like me and my brother to grow up feeling and witnessing the true support and encouragement from our own community to return home [after college] and continue our family farms,” describes Lucas Brownback, CSA manager at Spiral Path Farm. “Twenty-six years later, we are both here as second-generation farmers and stewards of the land.”

The Healthy Food Community works with local farmers and producers to provide the opportunity to purchase fresh, flavorful, in-season produce, dairy, seafood, eggs, meat and poultry. Eating local fruits and vegetables in season brings an appreciation for the food’s authentic taste, eaten when it’s grown, quenching hunger and fueling the body’s desire to innately appreciate eating what each season provides.

With a mission to sow seeds and nurture growth of healthy and harmonious living, the team at Sonnewald Natural Foods offers their core values as SEEDS for the community, which includes sustainability, education, empowerment, diversity and service. “We are committed to living gently on the Earth. We support lifelong learning. We cultivate awareness and encourage positive action. We celebrate differences and seek unity, harmony and peace. We are servants above merchants,” says Willa Lefever, speaking on behalf of the Sonnewald team.

We cozy up in autumn and winter to soups, stews and chilis made with Pennsylvania-grown meats and veggies, crisped, roasted hearty greens and cobblers made with orchard apples and cherries, along with vine-ripened pumpkin pie. Succulent berries and lighter fare are enjoyed in spring and summer when they grow naturally. Our palates are excited to experience these seasonal items at their peak as the local growing season calls for them.

“By serving our friends, neighbors and the community, we join together to promote a return to fresh food consumption and a vibrant local economy,” says Tom Maurer, founder of Palmyra Real Food Emporium.

The Yoga Community ripples its life-changing offerings throughout all age groups. Through the practice of yoga, children, teens and adults are learning how poses build quiet, inner strength and patience, and how meditating and slowing down help us understand that being is worth as much, if not more to our wellness journey, as doing. “Yoga, to me, is about bringing people together and making a connection to something bigger than ourselves,” says Tina Stroh, founder and owner of Just Plain Yoga.

“When we gather together to explore the numerous benefits of yoga and the connection of mind, body and spirit, our community’s capacity for love rises to the surface,” shares Chelsea Parcels, founder and organizer of the Central PA Yoga Love Festival.

The Fitness Community empowers us to find strength in choosing to move, whether at a Pilates studio, core training facility or open gym, taking part in barre, cycling or dance classes or by experiencing urban walking, rural exploration or forest bathing. With concerns about brain health making headlines, moving regularly circulates blood flow, encourages active participation and strengthens not only our bodies, but our minds, as well.

We’re uplifting our human selves with each breath and step we take moving forward, not because someone is telling us to get physically fit, but because it feels good to inhale deeply, exhale slowly, perspire readily and move freely. “When we learn and grow our holistic interests and reach for our own goals, we actually strengthen the health of our entire community,” offers Courtney Farinelli, an H2L Studio instructor.

Allison Zang concurs, “Our studios have welcoming and encouraging environments that feel like a second home, filled with a community of friends. We’re more motivated to participate in a fitness routine when it’s fun and engaging, and we feel supported.”

The Wellness Community cares for the health of the body, mind and spirit and encourages us to set aside time to go inward for reflection and make connections with others in meaningful conversation. We’re setting down our devices and making eye contact. We’re growing our capacity for good by strengthening the bonds we have with one another. We’re caring about the human spirit as an amazing source of vibrance that can positively influence our health.

“Our experiences have shown us that our culture is in need of more fun and play to weave throughout our lives of responsibilities and commitments,” explains Tammy Bray, co-creator of Joyful ViBRAYtions.

“We believe in health for the fun of it,” says co-creator Jack Bray. “Making music together brings us joy, breaks down barriers, develops a sense of unity, generates cooperation and improves nonverbal communication.”

“Our philosophy is simple—love all, serve all,” vows Sharon Askey, owner of Gracefull Heart. “At Gracefull Heart, our work is to help others continue their journey to greater wholeness, surrounded by love.”

 The Holistic Community is finding ways to uplift our health using nutrition, fitness and exercise, functional medicine, Ayurveda, herbs, naturopathic medicine, halotherapy and ways to boost the immune system. Strengthening the foundation upon which all else is built and returning to nature suggests avenues to consider when looking to improve our health.


“Our mission is to commit the time and collaboration necessary to educate each individual on comprehensive, evidence-based natural healthcare solutions that go far beyond symptom management, empowering our patients to resolve health challenges and prevent disease,” explains Dr. Jessica Shoemaker, owner of Natural Paths to Wellness. 

“Take time to sit back, relax and breathe,” encourages Melanie McGuire, owner of SaltEFX. “By immersing ourselves in the act of relaxation, we let stress melt away. Less stress encourages the flow of positive interactions within our communities and the ability to navigate negative situations with a clearer mind.”

The Bodywork Community is shining light upon the healing power of touch through massage, reiki, Bowenwork, physical therapy, traditional Chinese acupuncture, CranioSacral Therapy, reflexology and other forms of therapy. Health benefits abound and relaxation is a welcome side-effect.

“When we use our hands, our hearts and our words with the intention of sharing loving, healing energy, we help others feel balanced, peaceful and energized,” shares Rickie Freedman, owner of Reiki by Rickie, ReikiSpace & Learning Place.

“Touch is the most powerful of our senses. We learn, share and grow with positive touch,” says Sharon Muzio, owner of Alta View Wellness Center, in Harrisburg. “At Alta View, we believe in the healing power of touch and are honored to serve our community through our commitment to healing modalities.”

The Spiritual Community supports learning through story or past experiences of ourselves and others in order to strengthen relationships and deepen connections. “There is a basic human need to belong,” suggests Reverend Dan Landis, minister and spiritual coach at Unity of Harrisburg. “When we accept, honor and love everyone for exactly who they are, we grow in spiritual consciousness.”

“We are all on a journey toward a greater understanding of who we are,” believes Karen Kovacs, member of the board of directors for Amethyst Retreat Center. “When we come together as a community for fun, for work or to collaborate, we benefit from the group support and the connection. We feel most alive when we are connected to people and purposes that feed our body, mind and spirit. Our diversity helps to move us beyond our own sphere of beliefs and we grow.”

From regenerative farming to drumming circles, the communities that intersect through Natural Awakenings magazine create strong, real, creative connections that are life-changing and sustainable. Respect and gratitude for the Earth, its land and ecosystems and the people walking the journey together in our surrounding areas has created love overflowing.

A community brimming with love sows the seeds of positivity and strength for a new dawning, a renewed sense of hope, the possibility of a brighter tomorrow. By uplifting ourselves and opening up to display our brightest threads of positivity, we find the strength, courage and motivation to reach out and uplift our fellow weavers as we unfurl the tapestry of community that we are all so capable of creating. It is in this uncovering that we shine the light on the darkness and illuminate our capacity for amazingness.


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