Spring is coming...

On the slowness of Spring in the Upper Valley

Britton Mann, DAOM, L.Ac.

       Spring takes its time to arrive in the Upper Valley, but murmurings have been around for a while. Small moths have appeared and first crocus greens have pushed up.
      Following suit, soon, is the surge. There is an enormity of biomass getting ready to push its way up and out of the soil to take advantage of the ephemeral growing season. At first it will look young and tender – undifferentiated thin green shoots. But collectively, it is a massive force of growth.
      Chinese medicine associates certain physiologic processes with seasons. The anatomic liver has awesome anabolic and regenerative forces: it cooks up bile, packages fats, makes proteins, and is able to regenerate after trauma. Unsurprisingly, springtime is Liver time. The capitalized “L” refers in Chinese medicine to not just the anatomic liver, but also to the physiologic processes governed by the organ.
        The Liver governs emotions, and in its governance of emotions, does not like to be constrained. Constraining the Liver is akin to throwing weed guard over all the green biomass wanting to push up and out of the earth. A constrained Liver is an irritable Liver. An irritable Liver makes for a bad neighbor – it harasses the Stomach and causes indigestion, it pokes at the Heart and adds to anxiety and insomnia.
      Here we come to the Upper Valley springtime conundrum. At a time when much of the country is enjoying blossoming trees, warm breezes, and spring salads, we still have snow on the ground. We want to throw off the scarves, enjoy a slow walk outside with friends, roll down the windows in the car. Instead: cabin fever. This is the New England analogy for the Chinese medical diagnosis of Liver Constraint.
     There are many possible remedies for Liver Constraint – herbal medicines, acupuncture, qigong and taiji, yoga, meditation, eating sprouted seeds, mindfulness training, talk therapy. There is patience. Spring is coming and the biomass is unstoppable. Channel the springtime Liver energy appropriately and the irritability becomes growth potential.


Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Tools
Tuesdays, 5:45 - 8 pm, May 9 – June 27
Daylong Program: Saturday, June 17th
Instructors: Landon Hall  and Miriah Wall 
Please register via elhall888@gmail.com, miriah.opendoorwrj@gmail.com

Mindfulness-based Cognitive Tools (MBCTools) is a practice and study group that strengthens mindfulness-based cognitive tools for living.  It is based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at UMass Medical Center.  The program is designed specifically for people living with chronic emotional distress, and has been scientifically proven to help people suffering from anxiety and depression.  This group is not recommended for anyone in the midst of a period of acute depression or anxiety, and for those suffering from chronic (not acute) emotional distress, it is recommended that they be under the care of a licensed counselor or therapist while taking the class. 

Nutritious Soups
Instructor: Holly Westling, RN, MS, CNS
April 27, 6:30 - 8:00pm
Price: $50

Bone broth has been used medicinally for centuries in many cultures.  While its name may not sound appetizing, it is loaded with minerals and nutrients that support digestive, bone and joint health, and tastes delicious.  Join our nutritionist this evening and learn how to make your own nutrient rich broth and nutritious soups.


Bootcamp For Yogis and Dancers
Hanna Satterlee
Friday, April 14th 3:30-5pm

Using a mix of yoga, pilates, ballet barre and body weight resistance training, intermediate to advanced dancers can enjoy conditioning specifically for their art form. We will train for length and strength in our muscles, integrating proper alignment and dynamic use of breath for health, longevity and endurance. Together we will cultivate a supportive and uplifting atmosphere while becoming strong and resilient.

Guest artist, Hanna Satterlee

FOR MORE INFO OR TO REGISTER: https://www.opendoorworkshop.com/registrations

I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.
 Anne Lamott



Shadows and Light

         Late winter afternoons offer a crisp contrast of light and shadow.  The tall pines cast  gray paths along the pristine white snow.  I like the the idea of shadow and light symbolizing choices we make throughout our days. We stand in the light, faces to the sky, hopeful. We, also, at times walk along the shadow path, needing time to reflect. Both these options call us and the contrast and appeal can be most clear on winter days.
         Many of us are ready for spring, have had enough of the cold and muck. And many of us still find a way to walk the winter paths, enjoy the quiet of snow, and notice the rosy cheeks of our companions. Each moment is a fleeting opportunity to revel in the season as it is. This is what I love about New England- the ever changing climate offers an opportunity to be present, to wake up and to be patient as winter turns to spring.

         May you find time to savor the quiet and may we all get enough time to stand in the light.


Upcoming events:

Cooking/Nutrition Classes

         Open Door is now offering monthly nutrition/cooking classes.  Last month, we successfully offered an anti-inflammatory cooking class where people learned about the importance of reducing inflammation and how best to do that. Attendees also enjoyed some great cooking tips and a delicious dinner.  This month (March 29) we will be offering a “Healthy Eating on a Budget” class.  Often I hear, “I would eat healthier if I could afford to, but the more processed foods are just so much cheaper!”  Well, that is not always the case!  During this hour and a half class we will be learning how to create a meal plan while sticking to a budget, and we will prepare and enjoy 2 inexpensive and delicious dishes.  In April, we will learn how to make our own Bone Broth and nutritious soups.  Stay tuned for more upcoming cooking classes by checking out our website.  Also, please send Holly an email and let her know if there is a particular cooking class you would like to see on the schedule.


Mindfulness Based Cognitive Tools

         Mindfulness-based Cognitive Tools (MBCTools) is a practice and study group that strengthens mindfulness-based cognitive tools for living.  Based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at UMass Medical Center, the program is designed specifically for people living with chronic emotional distress, and has been scientifically proven to help people suffering from anxiety and depression. The program emphasizes working with and understanding the psychological and cognitive aspects of experience.  It includes many components of a traditional MBSR class, such as meditation, gentle stretching and movement, as well as group dialog, all aimed at increasing moment-to-moment awareness in everyday life.

Tuesdays, 5:45 - 8 pm, May 9 – June 27



Ben Cosgrove in Concert
April 7, 7:30pm
Price: $10-20 suggested donation 

       On the night of April 7th, Open Door will feature a live performance by Ben Cosgrove, a traveling composer and performer whose instrumental music focuses on place and landscape. His music has been called both "compelling and powerful" and "delicately romantic," and his live performances have been described as "electrifying and exhilarating." Ben has performed several hundred shows in 47 states and composed music in collaboration with the National Park Service, the National Forest Service, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, and other environmental organizations. He is the recipient of a St. Botolph Society Emerging Artist Award and he has held fellowships with Middlebury College, the Vermont Studio Center, and Harvard University. More information at www.bencosgrove.com.

Tea and Cake at Death Cafe

Article written by Jaimie Seaton: 

Death is the last taboo in our society, so who better to discuss it with than a roomful of total strangers.
Join us at Open Door for our monthly Death Cafe.

Meets the 3rd Sunday of every month from 3-4:30pm, except March 19.
Free and open to the public.
A group-directed discussion to explore death and how to make the most of our (finite) lives.


Our first run of our Experiential Learning Lab/Stress Reduction has gotten off to an excellent start. We plan to offer the course as outreach and in house.
Please be in touch with questions.

Ongoing Classes:
Tai Chi, Dance, Yoga, Cooking, Melt

Each Step Creates the Path...

Dear All,
Lately many of us have been thinking: What can we do to make this world a better place? Crazy times indeed. At Open Door we ask that question daily, focusing on wellness. We believe part of the answer to this question is for all of us to look at our daily habits and choices. Do they facilitate vitality, bring our best side forward? It is the every day moments that are the most ripe for change. One step at a time we create our path. Being aware and taking personal responsibility are critical components to choosing a journey that supports wellness. 
        May you be well,


New Programming at Open Door

Open Door has created a simple 6-week curriculum to examine the nature of stress and to learn strategies to minimize its impact. Our team has targeted three primary areas: mindfulness, physical activity and nutrition. We believe fostering these skills will increase your capacity to manage stress. Our guided curriculum includes discussion,practice, and independent work between classes. Your progress will be measurable using the provided workbook and through a follow up session four weeks after the five core Labs.

Join us on Monday Feb. 27th from 6:30-7:30 for our next Round Table.
The Open Door team will discuss our exciting new experiential learning labs.
Topics include simple strategies to work with stress, sleep, and pain along with maximizing                                          vitality.
Free and open to the public.


I asked our business and creative consultant, Caroline Cannon to give us a bird's eye view on what Open Door is up to. I am grateful for her excellent summary below. - Kate
       Our bodies are amazing ecosystems of interrelated parts and processes and like any piece of complex machinery, need maintenance and an occasional tune up. Today’s medicine can do remarkable things to help us manage acute problems, but sometimes the maintenance leading to long-term good health gets lost in the shuffle of daily life. 
       What I appreciate about the Open Door approach to wellness is that it acknowledges how some key daily activities contribute to our health. Open Door looks closely at the contribution of movement, nutrition and mental balance to overall wellbeing and identifies areas for better care at that intersection and by individual need. The goal is to educate clients about how each discipline contributes to lifelong vitality and to give back to the individual agency over personal health.
       The Open Door integrated programming is rooted in science and the specifics of each practice are backed by research data and published studies. Kate, Holly, Miriah and Britton work separately and together to create practical plans that address an individual’s specific health needs at the body’s systems level. What they have discovered is that small changes in key activities and daily patterns can have major impact on how we feel and how our bodies perform.
       Because the programming is based on specific needs, the Open Door team works with individuals to assess wellness issues, define personal goals and develop a reasonable health plan to be acted on. These plans can be as simple as “I want to feel stronger”, as common as “I am pre-diabetic and need a practical plan to manage/prevent onset”, or as complex as “I live with chronic pain and want to reduce my dependency on medication”. Open Door is experienced working with an individual’s physician to address more complicated needs and providing the day-to-day lifestyle balance to augment the standard medical care.
       Open Door’s mission is to provide practical ways for people to feel good every day and to continue that good health throughout life. As someone who has benefited from their work, I can say it is a treat worth exploring. 
                     Caroline Cannon


New Classes and Workshops at Open Door

    Tuesday, February 14 - 6-8:30pm
    February 21, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
    Begins Feb. 17th, Fridays, 10-11am
    Begins Feb.28th, Tuesdays, 5:30-7pm (first class free, 10 week series ending May 2nd)
    Begins March 16th, Thursdays, 5:45-8pm
    May 9 - June 27, Tuesdays, 5:45 - 8 pm
  • New movement and dance classes. Guest faculty. Opportunities for everyone. More info forthcoming.

Simple Truths

"Owning fewer keys opens more doors.” 
― Alex Morritt

Simplicity and depth are calling me into the new year. Letting go of the unessential, diving deeper into the essential are my hopes for 2017. I am feeling the need to let go of things, including stories that no longer fit me. I am ready for change. Change in that I need and want less and for acceptance of the fact that while letting go, we make room for change.

It's the beginning of 2017 and there are many changes afoot. New team, new mission statement, new web site, new renovations. I am inspired by our work at Open Door. Hard to believe we are into our 3rd year!

We are refining a great "product",if you will. My colleagues and I have put a lot of thought into what Integrative Wellness means. We are brainstorming on what are the essential components of health and are developing programming to tackle some of the primary barriers that decrease vitality. Our intent is to develop modules that encapsulate best practices in the primary aspects of health. Stay tuned for more details...

A few simple truths have arisen in our discussions:

1. Movement can come in many forms but the key is to move daily and move well.

2. Eating food that makes you feel well just makes sense.This is a critical part of what we can do individually to achieve optimal health. The relationship we have with food is of primary importance.

3. Our mental health requires care. We need to find the tools that are unique to each of us in order to feel at ease. Mental health should never be considered a taboo subject. The state of our minds can be subtle and complex and should be considered an essential aspect of health. Using mindfulness as a fundamental tool toward better mental health can be extremely useful.

At Open Door we see health as integrated components which include mind and body. We are committed to offering programs that steer our clients toward optimal vitality.
http://( http://www.opendoorworkshop.com/classes-workshops/)

Since last summer I have been working on developing a more cohesive movement program at OD. My goal is to develop curriculum that is staged depending on one’s movement goals.

My colleague, Scott Stone’s program has been an excellent complement to this.


Please check out our website for more details on all our classes including our movement curriculum.

  • We are pleased to continue to offer Melt workshops with Sarah Goodman
  • We will have a guest teacher, Katie Back, from Montpelier, offering Alexander technique classes and private sessions in March.
  • Britton Mann is developing our Tai Chi/Qigong program with collaborators along with expanding his reach in the community. ( see comments under Research)
                                           To your health- Kate


Clinical Research Study on Acupuncture begins at Open Door!

      Open Door will be a clinical trial site in 2017 for a pragmatic research study investigating the viability of acupuncture for chronic pain sufferers. Britton Mann, the Open Door Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine will be one of several acupuncturists in Vermont participating in this study.
      This study is open to those currently enrolled in Vermont Medicaid who are over 18 years old who have suffered pain for at least three months. Participants will receive a series of free acupuncture treatments and up to $50 compensation.
      The study was commissioned by the Vermont legislature in response to the burgeoning opioid crisis. Acupuncture has been shown in many high quality medical studies to be an effective option for pain management.
      Britton has been involved in medical research and scholarship, from both western and Asian perspectives. This is the first clinical trial of its kind in Vermont, and Open Door will be an excellent site for this research.


Nutrition Program Highlight:

  • Ali Price is offering a soup class on Jan. 28th!

Learn the secrets to making healthy and delicious vegetarian soups. We’ll start by making vegetarian stock from scratch, then create two more soups using the stock. Each participant will take home recipes, broth, and samples of each soup. Please bring your own soup containers to class. To register, email Ali Price.

  • Holly Westling offered her anti- inflammatory cleanse to ring in the new year!

Holly Westling provides nutritional counseling with a focus on functional nutrition. She enjoys helping clients reduce inflammation and resulting symptoms, identify and resolve food sensitivities. and stabilize blood sugar and hormone balance. Holly also counsels clients in sports nutrition, weight loss/gain, and how to create life-long health habits to optimize well-being through one-on-one counseling, group sessions, and cooking demonstrations.
Very well attended!

Giving back:

  • Open Door believes that generosity and gratitude are a critical component of wellness. So we continue to choose to give back when we can. This month we have decided that Planned Parenthood could use a little care….so we are offering a free workshop to their staff.
  • Also, a big shout out to anyone going to Women's March on Washington







Ahh, December's white coat and elegant hush has befallen the upper valley. There is something about a fresh blanket of snow and a blue sky that is beyond compare. I was going to write a thoughtful blog as this is a good time to reflect, but, alas, there is so much going on at Open Door that I want to simply share our list of doings and happenings...
I feel like we are gifted with abundance!

Good cheer and health this holiday season!

4 Pillars of Wellness

1. Movement: Move daily!! Ongoing classes at open door for strength, flexibility, mindfulness and fun. New dance classes beginning, Athletic  Movement Performance with Scott Stone and more...
2. Mindfulness: Be aware, awake, and breathe...it brings on vitality!
Ongoing classes including Qiqong, Tai Chi, Meditation.
3. Nutrition: Eat food that makes you feel well. Enjoy sharing food with others.
Cooking classes with Ali Price. New Year's Cleanse with Holly Westling.
4.Gratitude: We are grateful for our renovated studio and the addition of
Britton Mann and Kevin Comeau to our practice.

Upcoming Events

December 18th- 3pm-Death Cafe.
Cynthia Stadler RN and
Vicky Fish MPH,MSW
faciliate an open conversation around end of life concerns.
Free and open to the public.
Rsvp recommended.   opendoorwrj@gmail.com
More info:

Come join us for a quiet Solstice Event.
December 21st - 6-7:30pm

Labyrinth, music and more.
All welcome - light fare served.
rsvp: opendoorwrj@gmail.com

Giving Back

Open Door offered the Open Door Cleanse to the staff of The Haven with great success.  Holly Westling, Open Door nutritionist,  provided nutritional support to a group of 12 staff members duringa 10 day period.  The staff bravely committed to this pure, elimination diet with great results.  Some of the comments we received were: “This was just what I needed to jump start some healthy changes in my diet.  I certainly feel better and ready for the holidays!”  Another staff member said, “I feel amazing and don’t crave sugar!”   The staff members who committed to the cleanse overall felt energized, clear-headed and more calm in dealing with the daily challenges at work.  They found that during this exercise, they not only felt better, but bonded and communicated more often as a group about healthy lifestyle habits.  Many of the staff members are taking what they learned from Holly and the cleanse and continuing with these healthy habits.

Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into.

Open Door in the News

Open Door in the News

Open Door in the News

We are always delighted to read about what we do through the eyes of the world. Thank you to the editors of Daily UV for including us in their Observer section. Click the button below to read the article. And, this gives us a chance to show off our new interior look. Come and visit!

Open Door Version 2.0!

Open Door Version 2.0!

Open Door 2.0 blog

“If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business because we’d be too cynical. Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.”  —Annie Dillard

Open Door Version 2.0!

Dear Friends-

About two years ago I took a leap when I created Open Door.

I wasn’t sure what it would become, but knew I wanted to take a step toward my dream of offering wellness programs that foster resiliency and resourcefulness. Open Door’s mission and offerings have transformed over time with input from my colleagues and the community. What I have known all along is that finding a business partner in this journey would allow Open Door to broaden its outreach and hone its mission further.

I am happy to announce that I have found that partner in Britton Mann, who will join Open Door in November. Britton is a highly regarded doctor of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine who has an excellent following here in the Upper Valley just two years after moving his private practice from Portland, Oregon. The depth of Britton’s medical knowledge will add a new dimension to Open Door, and by joining us he will be able to expand his reach. We celebrate his joining our team!

Britton and I are supported by healthcare collaborators Miriah Wall and Holly Westling. Miriah provides mental health counseling to individuals and groups at Open Door while walking the talk in her own life. She has an ability to be grounded in truth—simple, direct, and compassionate. Holly offers evidence-based nutritional counseling in a way that supports the success of her clients. Her depth of knowledge is reinforced by her kindness and understanding of the complexities of our relationship with food.

he roster of Open Door practitioners continues to grow. Kevin Comeau, LMT, will offer massage in the two treatment rooms currently under construction. Kevin has two decades of massage background and has taught bodywork and functional anatomy to most of the massage therapists and yoga teachers in the Upper Valley.

Our team at Open Door has a diverse skill set and a common belief that everyone desires ease and vitality. To that end we aspire to thoroughly listen to and understand our clients so as to develop pragmatic solutions. These aspirations may seem simple, but are not. They require an understanding of what works (evidence), perseverance (follow through), and patience (it can be hard).

I am excited about our growth and feel flush with hope. Stop by and see the evolution of our space, and check out our new fall classes.

To your good health and happiness-

Kate Gamble, Founder

Opening the Door to Our Youth

Opening the Door to Our Youth


Opening the door to our youth blog

At the age of 12 the word “wellness” meant little to me beyond the idea that I was supposed to eat the vegetables, get the exercise, and stay away from the drugs. Being healthful was something that for the most part I did, but wasn’t something I thought about or even took an active role in. If the salad was on the plate, I ate it. Sports were fun so I did them. My family and friends were enjoyable so I spent time with them. I was fortunate enough to have been brought up as I was but wellness was not an intentional act.

Today, via an unplanned and rather circuitous route, I find myself working in the field of wellness with a focus on assisting our young ones in finding deliberate and effective paths to personal wellness. Although I am fairly new to the field I have some ideas about how to begin the cultivation of holistic health in our youth: 1. Discuss more, instruct less;  2. Make it fun.

I have my own theories about what it means to live well but that is not where I start when working with kids. Rather, I ask the kids to map out the aspects in their lives that help them live well, and we start our discussion from there. While the visuals (markers and big paper make everything more fun) may begin simply,  and discussion may start with with healthy foods and exercise, with further discussion my clients almost invariably come to a more expansive and nuanced description of what living well means to them.

Recently, my good friend Sage and I held a workshop at Open Door for Girls Leadership Camp. Our aim was to get the girls thinking about and engaging in activities around wellness. We began by posing the following questions and let the girls split off into groups to discuss before coming back together to share.

What does it mean to live well?
What does integrative and holistic health mean to you?
Who are your wellness role models?
What steps are you already taking to live well? 
What are 1-3 wellness goals you have for yourself?
What/who holds you back from living well?

The discussion that followed was rich and surpassed our expectations for where we imagined girls of this age could go with the topic. As a group, we came up with several metaphors for holistic health—many buckets, spokes on a wheel, a Venn diagram—and all centered around the idea that optimal health comes via multiple and interconnected avenues.  

From our conversation the girls then engaged in several experiential wellness activities including yoga, mindfulness, cooking for the Haven, and, because “fun” is a very important “bucket”, a dance party. Play, collaboration, and engagement were woven throughout the day, and during our closing discussion we were a room of happy, connected, and tired ladies. 

For some of the girls the discussions may be but a seed that will stay dormant for a time. For others their wellness goals will be operationalized tomorrow. We cannot predict how our youth process ideas but we can provide them with opportunity to think about and experiment with ideas in their own ways. 

—Miriah Wall

I Will Take the Sun in My Mouth

I Will Take the Sun in My Mouth

“I will take the sun in my mouth, and leap into the ripe air, Alive, with closed eyes, to dash against darkness.”  
—From I Will Wade Out by E.E. Cummings

I will Take the Sun in My Mouth

Last evening I walked through Pine Knoll Cemetery and saw the arboretum bathed in the sunset’s burnt orange light and the beaver skimming the surface of Mink Brook with her most perfect branch, and I felt so at ease. But watching the news and reading  blogs, I learn over and over of anger, hate, and fear, and I ache with disbelief and sadness. The beauty of these summer days contrasted with the darkness of current news highlight a divide in our reality.

So, what can we do? With humility, I choose as often as I can to bring more light to the darkness. I “take the sun in my mouth.” I take the words of Martin Luther King to heart: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Working at Open Door with passionate colleagues and promoting my clients’ good health helps me to trust in the potential for goodness and to have hope. We are eager to work with the community to bring ease and wellness for all. 

Please join our Classes & Workshops, Events, and Camps this summer , or take advantage of our professional services. And please be in touch with ideas for programs you’d like us to offer. 

To your good health and happiness-
Kate Gamble, Founder




When she was younger, [Westling] would often keep her ideas to herself, rather than risk rejection. Improv, however, turns this whole concept on end as the very premise is “yes, and…” meaning participants accept and work with whatever idea is handed them and then build off of it...

When she was younger, [Westling] would often keep her ideas to herself, rather than risk rejection. Improv, however, turns this whole concept on end as the very premise is “yes, and…” meaning participants accept and work with whatever idea is handed them and then build off of it...

Does the idea of doing improv intimidate you? It shouldn’t assures Hollis Westling, who along with Stephen Griswold is teaching Open Door’s Sketch Comedy and Improv Acting Class, July 18-22. The workshop, for teens ages 13 to 18, promises not only a plethora of fun, but the opportunity to walk away with something a little deeper: “the tools to help them find their own voice,” said Westling.

Westling has been doing comedy in one form or another her whole life, starting with basic banter with her father to eventually performing as part of Emerson College’s The Girlie Project. Griswold, too, is a member of The Girlie Project, while having also performed at Improv Boston and studied comedy writing.

Rejection is a big issue for teens. Westling identifies with this. When she was younger, she would often keep her ideas to herself, rather than risk rejection. Improv, however, turns this whole concept on end as the very premise is “yes, and…” meaning participants accept and work with whatever idea is handed them and then build off of it to the benefit of all those involved.

“Improv has definitely helped me thinking more quickly on my feet. I go to school in Boston and there are definitely people who will cat call you or call you names when you are walking down the street. Improv has helped me grow in confidence and find things to say back to them that diffuse the situation,” she said.

“A big thing improv helped me with was getting to know myself better, which may sound weird, because improv is all about working with people, but in improv there are also no gender roles, which can be very empowering—a boy can play a girl and a girl can play a boy. It’s very refreshing, especially for girls, to be able to improvise their own scenes as opposed to having them written for them in stereotypical ways,” said Westling.

While improv may help build confidence, it is at its heart fun and an alternative to more traditional types of camps. As Westling suggests, “It is very easy to talk about serious things when you do so in a funny way.”

Why not give it a try?

—Kim Gifford
Kearsarge Magazine

Eat, Play, Love!

Eat, Play, Love!

Eat, Play, Love!

Nothing changes until you change.  Everything changes once you change.

Nothing changes until you change. 
Everything changes once you change.

Dear Friends-

I am thinking about transformation on this late spring day. It’s remarkable how this beautiful act happens before our eyes. We know it in all its forms—bud turns into flower, caterpillar into butterfly, my lovely boy into a young man off to college in NYC, ready to fly. And me—can I still be transformed? 

I believe I have no choice but to change, and this is why we must stay curious, continue to let go of preconceived notions, allow ourselves to fall in love again and again with this one simple moment. Sometimes we need a little support or a shove. Lately my husband says he wants to shake me out of my state of worry or doubt. I love this. I do think the body needs a wake up call once in awhile.

This summer we have a myriad of opportunities to wake up, transform, and have fun!  

Classes and Workshops --choose from movement, cooking, dance, and more. 
Events: Come to one of our community events—this week we'll have a Roundtable discussion on "Blue Zones" with Dr. Laura Duncan of Dartmouth Health Connect.  
Kids & Young Adults: Check out our summer camps and classes—creative moment, cooking and healthy eating, sketch comedy and improv, and more.

To your good health and happiness-
Kate Gamble, Founder

Take Another Look

Take Another Look

Take Another Look— An Exhibit of Real Faces in the Upper Valley

Opening held at Open Door, April 1, 2016

Outside: Late evening sun moving in, rain moving out; the door is open to the Open Door studio in White River Junction. Light reflects in shallow puddles to reveal a hopeful blue sky.

Inside: Folks greet each other with warm smiles and kind eyes. Black and white portraits of moments witnessed. A generous invitation to bear witness.

Strength in Collaboration:  Take Another Look, a multigenerational, multimedia exhibit, is made possible by the effort of four organizations: Thompson Senior Center, United Valley Interfaith Project (UVIP), ReThink Health: UCRV, and CATV. The mission of our collaboration: to creatively document the unique perspectives of senior citizens living in the Upper Valley.

Three CATV youth filmmakers, Allegra Harvard, Clare Swanson, and Jack Spinella, created short films that thoughtfully engage with themes such as Medical Attention, Coping with Challenges, and The Benefits of Aging in Woodstock. All stories are told by seniors living here in the Upper Valley. These three films premiered at the April 1st exhibit and the full program can be watched on CATV.

After the screening, folks in the audience listened as Allegra, Clare, and Jack offered their perspectives. The exchange felt authentic, supportive, and brave.

Leah Torrey, executive director of UVIP, reflects on the evening at Open Door: “It was amazing to see months of work come to life in the intersection of gorgeous portraits, stories told over film, captured quotes, and the live smiles and buzzing comments of viewers. People of all ages mingled and talked about community and art. It was a unique event anchored in a rich collaboration. I am so grateful I was able to take part, and now I am looking forward even more to the next Take Another Look exhibit in July at the AVA Gallery in Lebanon.”

And Rachel DiStefano from ReThink Health: UCRV said, “My favorite part of the exhibit was having all of the people who made it possible together in the same room, honoring and celebrating the work, the people, and the stories. Within just a half-hour I was greeting one of the seniors featured in the films (I had interviewed him back in August!), catching up with a Listener, and listening to the filmmakers/ editors so eloquently share their insights about the process and the project as a whole. Sharing the exhibit with friends, family, and community members was the final special ingredient, completing the circle. For me, it was also a testament to the power of collaboration—it is one thing to learn and talk about it, and quite another to experience it firsthand. It was through this exhibit that I was able to clearly see how, in partnership, a group of organizations, each using its unique strengths and assets, is able to create something more beautiful and complex than any one of them could have created on its own.”

Special thanks to Open Door for so generously providing us with the space to share this exhibit with our community.

For more information about the Stories Project, visit the UVIP website.  

--Sophie Bodnar

Beginner’s Mind

Beginner’s Mind

Beginner's Mind

Beginner's Mind

I don’t know if I’m getting older and feeling my age, if my chronic injuries need special attention, or if part of me is just getting “lazy”, but lately, after 20 years of practicing yoga (with a 5-year stint as a teacher), I increasingly find myself drawn to beginner yoga classes.

In these “easy” classes, rather than rapidly flowing through a series of yoga postures, I become deeply curious as I get to really explore the inner experience of each pose.  I like the slowness, the intentionality, the quality of “less is more”, the level of very present attention, and, quite honestly, the degree of real physical exertion that I feel when I practice in this way.

Contrary to what my mind sometimes thinks outside of class, there’s really nothing “lazy” about this practice at all.  It seems that by working in this way I can bring the quality of curiosity associated with a “beginner’s mind” attitude to each moment in the class and I leave feeling much more embodied than simply having had a good workout.

So, once again (as is so often the case in the articles I post to this blog), I wonder what does this have to do with public speaking presence?  I feel intuitively that there’s a connection, but I’ll need to tease it out as I write this post.

In the more advanced yoga classes I sometimes find that in attempting to keep up with the class, particularly during fast moving posture flows, rather than paying careful attention to how it feels inside, I’m scrambling to simply get to the right place at the right time.  And, by the time I’m settling into where I should be it’s already time to move on to the next posture.

It’s also more likely that my ego will get in the way.  Can I go as deeply, as far, as flexibly as other people in the class?  If I’m not really careful, I can sometimes push beyond what’s healthy for me in my attempt to achieve what I see others being able to do.  The perfectionist in me can sometimes take over as does the performer, where I become more concerned with how I look from the outside rather than authentically listening to what is real and right for my body in that moment.

Speeding up, needing to perform and be perfect, and worrying about what our audience thinks of us are often the biggest obstacles to speaking presence.  Rather than taping into what’s most important and real for ourselves and our audience and speaking authentically, we can obsess about not wanting to make a mistake, about looking good, about sounding like we know what we’re talking about.  These concerns have the effect of taking us out of ourselves and creating enormous amounts of anxiety. Which, in turn, cause us to lose our ability to connect with our audience and to remember what we want to say.

When I work with clients on specific talks, I often find that the most crippling part is the  fear of making a mistake or of forgetting what they want to say.  There are two basic things that I help them discover.  The first is that they can take their time.  There’s no need to rush.  The second is that I encourage them to try to say less, to simplify their message, and to speak to that message conversationally rather than as a presentation (performance).  The “less is more” attitude is so essential in giving themselves the space to find what they truly want to say and also in helping the audience really get the fundamental message of the talk.

What if we were to approach each speaking situation with the curiosity of a beginner’s mind, letting ourselves pay careful attention to what we want to accomplish in the talk, to how we articulate what we want to say, to how our audience is able to comprehend what we are saying?  What if we were to speak less and “listen” more?  What if we let go of the need to perform and allowed ourselves to be real?

Maybe then every speaking situation could be like a beginning yoga class.

-Carla Kimball

Sunlight and Shadow

Sunlight and Shadow


Sunlight and Shadow blog

Dear Friends-

I trust we can all feel the healing, reinvigorating influence of the longer hours of daylight. Spring calls for hope and renewal. And yet, this reawakening can also highlight what is not in sync with this season of optimism. For myself, there can sometimes be discord between what I actually feel and what I think I should feel. In my life there is so much to be celebrated—and at the same time there can be an equal measure of challenge. As we all know, the world can be simultaneously breathtakingly beautiful and frighteningly tragic. Even as I write this I think, "we should not talk of these things on this glorious spring day.” However, it is important to address both sides of our reality. Perhaps we must acknowledge the dark shadows, the hidden places, in order to celebrate and truly feel the exquisite brightness of spring.

Our work at Open Door is wedded to the idea that we all strive for ease and health. To have a client come in the door, struggling with some aspect of their health, and be given the opportunity to speak openly about their experience and not have to pretend all is well—this itself starts the process toward well-being. By acknowledging the truth of our experiences we step along the path toward optimal health. It is a privilege to be part of this transformative process.

May your spring be a time for rejuvenation. We have many new offerings at Open Door and we look forward to seeing you soon.

To your good health and happiness-
Kate Gamble, Founder

*Painting: Heron Leaving by Roderck MacIver

Building integrated health and resiliency

Building integrated health and resiliency


Building integrated health and resiliency blog

What is health?  This is one of the first questions that Marisa Hebb, Didi Pershouse and I ask at the beginning of our Health And Resiliency Training (HEART) program.  I’ve been surprised, and delighted, by the answers we get.  People start offering words like: ‘Free’, ‘Joyful’, ‘Aliveness’, ‘Happy’, ‘Vital’, ‘Energized’.  Before we’ve finished the go-around, we’ve already begun to develop a qualitative sense of health.  It’s as if we all intuitively know what health looks like, and feels like inside ourselves.  I find this particularly fascinating, given that our society’s mainstream health education and literature focuses on benchmarks like blood pressure, cholesterol numbers, and the absence of pathogens and symptoms.  It has relatively little to say about the state of vibrancy that is our intuitive sense of health.

The etymology of the word ‘health’ ties in closely to this intuitive sense that emerges in our discussions with students.  ‘Health’ is derived from the Old English word hal, which is also the root of ‘whole’ and ‘holy’ in contemporary English.  Centuries ago, one word, hal, was used to describe all three qualities simultaneously – hal was the state of a whole, healthy, holy person.  It meant a person who was whole, or, as we might say today, ‘integrated’, both within their own being (‘whole’) and in relationship to forces and powers beyond their independent self (‘holy’).

In strictly physical terms, being ‘whole’ means that all parts of our body are flexible, fluid, and able to function in balance with one another.  A blockage or constriction in any body system (musculoskeletal, nervous, digestive, cardiovascular) impedes the free flow of blood and nutrients throughout the entire body, and so an integrated health system must provide ways to create a free and balanced structure where all systems are free of blockages and constriction.  This can be accomplished through proper nutrition, and exercise grounded in awareness and relaxation, and time spent engaging with the natural world.

Being whole also means a balanced relationship between body, psyche, and spirit.  In our Health and Resiliency Training, we emphasize the use of meditation, breathing exercises, and engagement with the natural world as ways to help heal and integrate the psyche, and open the space for active engagement with the transcendent (or ‘spiritual’) aspect of ourselves.  We also emphasize the critical role of a network of support and peer counseling methods.  Nobody can be truly ‘whole’ if they aren’t in loving relationship with others, and this support is essential to building both whole individuals and whole communities.  One of the reasons I love teaching these classes is that health and healing happen best, and the results endure longest, when they happen in community.  

The role of community in supporting healthy individuals is a great example of what we mean by ‘Resiliency’ in our HEART training.  If health is a state of vibrant wholeness, then resiliency is the capacity to return to a state of wholeness when we get knocked out of balance by sickness, injury, or loss.  In our changing world, we believe it’s not enough to strive for an ideal state of health – we have to also consider resiliency.  We teach resiliency in every aspect of the HEART training program, so that responding to stress, unpredictability and change is built into the process of learning health.

Some examples of resiliency that we teach include:

Building a strong network of peer support and allies in the journey of health
Exercise systems that strengthen the body against injury, release tension, and tone the nervous system to respond differently to stressors
Teaching systems of meditation that are not simply a ‘break’ from stress but reveal ways to break the patterns of afflictive emotions at their roots
Learning dietary principles to deeply nourish the nervous system, and the ‘80% principle’ to eat in ways that are both healing and can easily handle periodic intake of unhealthy food
Learning to engage with nature as a source of physical and psychic health, so that we are never without access to a free source of healing power
A resilient health system is self-sustaining, it provides tools for vibrant health that, once learned, can be applied indefinitely with little need for outside treatments, medications, or specialized care

One of the truths that emerges over the course of the HEART training is that every one of the five core aspects of health we cover (diet, exercise, peer support, meditation, and engagement with nature) mutually support each other.  Our approach is intentionally integrative, and we have found that emphasizing the whole person is a much more effective approach to building health than teaching any one of these components in isolation.

We envision building a community, of healthy, whole people, and through this building a healthy, whole world.  We’re excited to offer the HEART training here at Open Door.  Will you join us in this great adventure?

—Mark Kutolowski

Tai Chi and Stress Management

Tai Chi and Stress Management


Tai Chi and Stress Management

After almost 30 years of practicing QiQong (Chi Kung) and Tai Chi, I’ve come to appreciate how much these practices have contributed to my physical, psychological and emotional well-being. Studies have shown that long-term practices of Tai Chi can significantly improve our response to stressful events. Here are my thoughts on why:

We are stressed because we live in our heads. Tai Chi reorganizes the body-mind matrix so that we move from feeling fragmented to becoming integrated and whole. Long-term practice of Tai Chi can enhance our ability to step back from stressful situations and make conscious choices about how to respond, leading to a state of psychological resilience with improved coping strategies. In Tai Chi we begin to strengthen our ability to trust ourselves to be more nimble in stressful situations.
Stress is characterized by speed: our heart, our breath, our thoughts all speed up in response to the fight or flight reaction. The gentle Tai Chi movements change the prevailing rhythms and slow us down, allowing us to respond to stressful events with more awareness rather than to simply react in the moment.
In Tai Chi we move from being “up tight” to being rooted, grounded with a rebounding lightness of being.
Where we put our attention is where energy flows. When we are stressed, our attention is focused on our anxious thoughts which only amplifies them. In Tai Chi we deliberately redirect our attention from our thoughts to our bodies, which leads to feeling more energized.
Most of us live in a state of constant urgency, so that we never relax. Tai Chi encourages active relaxation, where we simultaneously flow between active and relaxed states of being.
In contrast to our achievement-oriented culture, Tai Chi encourages a “less is more” attitude.
Tai Chi is a practice of kindness and gentleness which can influence how we treat ourselves and each other.
Stress is a response to fear. In Tai Chi we listen to our fear and never go beyond 60-70% of our capacity. We also redirect the fear into a gentle, but powerful, inner strength.
In Tai Chi we pay attention to sensation and maintain a safe and healthy attitude toward the body.
How we carry ourselves physically affects how we feel about ourselves. Tai Chi practices place us in body postures that enhance our levels of confidence and decrease stress hormones.
Metaphor and imagery in Tai Chi provide ways to create calm and relaxed mental states.
The Tai Chi practice develops a freer, more natural breathing pattern.
Tai Chi develops a greater sense of physical, mental and emotional balance which can lead to a general sense of well-being.
The meditation in movement that’s generated through the Tai Chi practice enhances our ability to have a present moment awareness rather than being preoccupied with worries, anxieties, concerns, and to-do lists.
In Tai Chi we learn to stay “soft” in the face of adversity or strong emotions so that we don’t automatically go into the fight or flight reaction but rather learn to “go with the flow”.
While traditionally Tai Chi is a form of physical self-defense, it also provides us with tools for emotional self-defense, which for many of us might be most useful, given the Type A environments that can be so pervasive in our culture today.
In Tai Chi you can discover a sense of embodied spirituality as you activate and move the chi (Qi) often described as your vital energy or spirit.

—Carla Kimball

Carla  Kimball has a commitment to contemplative movement modalities including yoga, dance, and Tai Chi. For 40 years she has maintained a regular practice that combines the three. She is training to become a teacher of the Eight Active Ingredients of Tai Chi . She teaches Tai Chi Basics at Open Door .

Try Capoeira: Vamos Jogar! (Let’s Play!)

Try Capoeira: Vamos Jogar! (Let’s Play!)


Try Capoeira: Vamos Jogar! (Let’s Play!) blog

As we enter a new year, we often look for ways to improve our lives. I’d like to share how capoeira has changed my life and to invite you to join us in learning this truly amazing art. Capoeira (pronounced cap-oh-ay-rah) is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music, and is sometimes referred to as a game.

I began capoerin 2002 while at college in Chicago. I’d encountered the art in Europe that summer and was enthralled. It was simply mesmerizing to watch, and the people looked like they were having so much fun! I found Gingarte Capoeira Chicago and began training with Mestra Marisa and her students. I was hooked. 

Though I had always been muscular and active (from growing up on a farm and competing continually in high school sports), training capoeira quickly changed my body. It provides a complete, whole body workout, using only your body weight. Capoeira players trade movements—kicks, escapes, cartwheels, jumps, and spins, swaying back and forth continually in an improvised conversation of movement inside a circle called the ‘roda’ (pronounced “ho-dah”). After class, I’d be sore in places I didn’t know could be sore—but it was the soreness of progress and growth. I became lean and strong in a new way. My reflexes, agility, balance, and flexibility improved dramatically.
More than the improvements in physical fitness, though, capoeira had me doing things I had never thought I would do. In spite of a love of music, I was never a good singer (you’d be hard-pressed to find me singing—not even in the shower or alone in the car). Yet, I was captivated by the music of capoeira. It is as essential to the art as the movement. The call-and-response songs require participation, regardless of talent or ability—everyone adds their energy (axe’) to the circle, the game, through singing and clapping. The songs direct the game, they comment on the game, they teach life lessons and pass on the oral histories of Afro-Brazilians and renowned capoeiristas. I learned to play instruments I’d never heard of before. Soon I was invited to join Gingarte Capoeira in performances and demonstrations big and small around Chicago. I remember thinking, “Really? You want ME to go on stage with you!?” 

But capoeira has space for everyone. You do not need to be able to do flashy flips, or to be thin and fit, or to be the best singer. All you have to do is show up, smile, and do what you can. It’s a very good lesson in life.
Through capoeira, I gained a family, literally and figuratively. I met my husband, E, through capoeira, and our children have grown up in the art. Marisa Cordeiro, our capoeira master in Chicago, became my mentor. She guided me through college and grad school, through teaching in some of the toughest Chicago schools, and through becoming a new mother and wife. Capoeira is a worldwide community. There are groups in all reaches of the world, and these groups welcome all capoeiristas, no matter where you are from. In 2006, I travelled solo to Salvador, Brazil.  I was welcomed by people who’d never even heard of me—I was fed, sheltered, taught, taken care of, and appreciated—all because of a shared love of this art.
Capoeira is, at its core, an art of struggle against oppression. Developed first by enslaved Africans in Brazil, it has faced centuries of persecution and prejudice. Practitioners of capoeira learn to smile through the grind, to stand up for themselves, to improvise and react to unexpected things in the circle of life, to sing, to joke, to come together and enjoy one another’s company, to converse through movement and song, to sweat hard and most of all, to continually work to improve oneself in one aspect or another.
In 2014, my husband, children and I moved to Hartland, Vt. In March 2015, we began teaching capoeira classes in Hartland, and in October expanded to teach at Open Door.  We are excited and honored to bring this incredible art to the Upper Valley.
So, if you’re looking for ways to improve yourself in 2016—to push your boundaries and open new horizons for yourself physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually—I invite you to try capoeira.  It is for everyone, regardless of body shape, size, age, gender, athletic ability or disability.  We welcome each of you with open arms and an open heart.  Vamos jogar! (Let’s play!)

-Heather “Dourada” Pogue
Cordao Amarelo, Gingarte Capoeira Vermont

Healthy Winter Comfort Foods

Healthy Winter Comfort Foods


Healthy Winter comfort foods blog

As our days are getting darker, and we are approaching the shortest day of the year, I find myself wanting to curl up in front of the wood stove with some scrumptious comfort food.

Being a nutritionist and following the Open Door philosophy of working towards a healthier self, my concept of “comfort food” has changed quite a bit in the past few years. I used to enjoy a plate of mashed potatoes or a gooey brownie sundae. Yum! It was delicious - and always made me feel tired and a little sick afterwards. Why is it that something so yummy can make me feel so blah!?  Because when we eat a high sugar food, like sweets or potatoes, we first get a burst of energy as the sugar enters our system , but then our energy plummets along with our blood sugar, making us crave even more sweets. 

To avoid this exhausting roller coaster of cravings, try substituting vegetables for sugar. WHAT!? Seriously, it is really satisfying, warming, and you feel great afterwards. 

ere are some of my favorite comfort foods:

1) Cauliflower Florets: Try steaming cauliflower florets until tender - about 10 minutes. Then, mash the cauliflower with some olive or coconut oil, garlic, seasonings and herbs to taste. This has the consistency of mashed potatoes, tastes delicious and is very nutritious. Cauliflower is also deliciously satisfying simply tossed in olive oil or coconut oil and roasted in a medium/hot oven (375- 400 degrees) for 30 minutes.

2) Brown Rice Pudding: A sweet treat . Cook brown rice in milk or coconut milk instead of water -I usually add an extra cup of milk when cooking the rice; when the rice is cooked, stir in some grated coconut/unsweetened coconut flakes and coconut nectar to taste. (The coconut nectar is a fabulous sweetener that does not spike your blood sugar like other sweeteners.) Add salt and cinnamon to taste, some chopped banana or other fruit, and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

3) Roasted Ratatouille: A very comforting food. This is a great recipe my friend, Carole, gave me from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers. In a large bowl, chop into 1-inch chunks: 1  large zucchini, 3 large onions, 1 medium eggplant, 2 medium tomatoes, 2 red or yellow bell peppers, and 6 cloves of garlic (finely chopped). Toss this all together with 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Spread the vegetable mix on a baking sheet (or two). Roast for 1 hour at 450 degrees. Make sure you stir the vegetable mix every 15 minutes while roasting. When the vegetables are done, stir in 1 cup chopped, fresh basil. Add some grated Parmesan if you wish. Delicious!

--Holly Westling