Genesis Center team offers several ways to de-stress

WESTFIELD — As area residents combat the stressors of everyday life, there are unique ways to de-stress — from walking a labyrinth and yoga therapy to meditative nature drawing.

This fall, the new Healing Arts Team at the Genesis Spiritual Life & Conference Center on Mill Street invites individuals and groups to consider a multitude of ways to address stress — and to find support with spiritual healing and growth.

Area residents are welcome to walk the Living Labyrinth at the Genesis Spiritual Life & Conference Center in Westfield during daylight hours. (LORI SZEPELAK PHOTO)

“The Genesis Healing Arts Team meets guests and clients where they are at, regardless of what words they use to describe their experiences,” said Liz Walz, ASP, executive director at Genesis.

Walz noted that visitors might use words including “tired,” “stressed,” “sad,” or “desolation,” as well as more positive-toned experiences, or seeking to “relax and sink into the retreat experience.”

“The sisters and staff at Genesis have helped guests attend to their bodily felt experiences of God and Spirit for decades,” said Walz. “This new formation of the Healing Arts Team reflects that the one-on-one modalities we offer cover an array of verbal emotional and psycho-spiritual processing, as well as healing touch.”

Walz said that chronic stress adversely impacts one’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

“The way stress manifests in each person’s body and life is unique,” said Walz. “Our bodies are designed to ‘ramp up’ in response to stressors, and it is critically important that they ‘ramp down,’ through activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.”

Walz added that staff members at Genesis have noticed an increase in grief, anxiety, and irritability by talking to spiritual directees and retreat guests.

“Reports and articles in the national media confirm that as a world body, we are still under pressure from the past year and anticipating the delta variant adds to the mix,” she said.

For area residents walking the Living Labyrinth for the first time, a packet of Hope & Healing Support Cards can help one connect to the sacredness of the space. (LORI SZEPELAK PHOTO)

While funding lasts, complimentary hope and healing sessions are being offered with a minimum of six people required per session, and a maximum of 15.

“We’ve started offering ‘Hope and Healing’ sessions, with the first group being the Westfield Meditation Group,” said Walz, who serves as facilitator of the sessions.

Walz noted that nine sessions have been set up for employees of Baystate Noble Hospital in August and September. The sessions include a centering with music followed by several choices, ranging from guided hand, face, and ear massage with aromatherapy, to a guided labyrinth walk. Additionally, reflection questions for journaling or creative expression with art materials will be provided. Depending on the time of the session, either a nutritious lunch or dinner is also offered. Each session will end with an optional group sharing experience.

“Then, we will turn to other groups as long as the fund lasts,” said Walz, adding the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s lives and changed the world immeasurably.

“We are collectively still carrying the impact in our bodies and psyches,” she said. “Come enjoy time at Genesis to relax, reflect and renew your spirit.”

“When we process trauma and stress collectively we are carrying it and may not realize it,” added Deb Ondo, program and marketing manager. “We are all in this together and we extend an invitation to groups and employers to consider this Hope and Healing program in the future.”

Anyone interested in the Hope and Healing program should call Genesis, and will be contacted when additional sessions are scheduled.

“We are keeping group size small to maintain a quality experience,” said Walz.

On a related note, an uplifting program titled “Meditative Nature Drawing: Walk, See & Sketch Beautiful Patterns in Nature,” led by multi-media artist Sadelle Wiltshire, will be conducted Sept. 18 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The workshop includes connecting with nature by looking for the leafy, flower and organic patterns found in the surrounding woods and gardens in a quiet, contemplative manner. 

“Sadelle Wiltshire is committed to creating and teaching art as a spiritual practice,” said Ondo. “She believes that everyone has a creative gift to share and loves helping people find their unique gifts.”

Cut pieces of wood are available for seating around the perimeter of the Living Labyrinth at the Genesis Spiritual Life & Conference Center in Westfield. (LORI SZEPELAK PHOTO)

Participants are asked to bring a waterproof pen, pencil, eraser, watercolors and sketchbook. The cost is $65 per person and includes lunch. The deadline to register is Sept. 17.

For persons visiting the Genesis grounds, walking the living labyrinth behind the red shed is also a spiritual journey to one’s heart, according to Walz.

Walz explained that the labyrinth, a Santa Rosa style with seven circuits or “pathways” from the outer edge to the center, allows one to be open to the One Who Calls.

“For persons walking the labyrinth for the first time, we ask that you call ahead so someone can welcome you and explain the retreat center,” said Walz. “For those familiar with the labyrinth, we trust they will honor the contemplative environment.”

Walking the labyrinth is open to area residents during daylight hours and a facilitated group experience could be scheduled if desired, according to Walz.

“The walking surface itself is mowed grass, so if someone chooses, they can walk it barefoot,” she said.

Cut pieces of wood are located around the perimeter allowing individuals to observe, meditate and pray, before or after walking the labyrinth.

“Unlike a maze, there is only one pathway into the center, and you follow the same pathway back out,” she said, adding, “There are no dead ends.”

Walz encourages those marking or celebrating an important date or transition in one’s life to consider walking the labyrinth.

“That would be a total blessing to us,” said Walz.

For area residents with accessibility or mobility concerns, a finger labyrinth is also available at the office.

As part of the overall healing arts offerings at Genesis, Walz said there are an array of enhanced programs including biospiritual focusing, heart-centered meditation, yoga and massage therapy. 

Megan Elliott is Genesis’ in-house certified integrative yoga therapist and also has certifications in complementary healing modalities including Thai Yoga Massage, Energy Work and Positional Therapy.

“Megan’s work here at Genesis builds on our foundation of facilitating personal growth and healing, and deepening our relationship with Spirit,” said Ondo.

In addition to Elliott, other members of the Healing Arts Team include Jo Ann Bourquard, spiritual direction; Madeleine Joy, S.P., 12-Step Recovery sponsorship; Christina Leaño, associate director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, virtual spiritual direction for environmental advocates and activists; Ruth McGoldrick, S.P., biospiritual focusing and spiritual direction; Donna O’Connor, biospiritual focusing and spiritual direction; Elizabeth Oleksak, S.P., biospiritual focusing and spiritual direction; Jean Risk, massage therapy and oncology massage therapy, and Lisa Wilson, massage therapy.

For more information on any of these stress-reducing programs, call 413-562-3627 or visit

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