Apr 052013

Author: Anna Palmer

“You are the creator of your own happiness and well-being.”  More than a philosophical statement, this motto has become inseparable from the life and passion of a vibrant, openhearted and authentic soul in the Fort Collins community.

Combining psychotherapy with yoga, meditation and spirituality, Gwyn Tash, in essence, has created a new emerging field of counseling that she intuitively and whole-heartedly believes in.

Gwyn Tash

Gwyn Tash

Outlining her methodology at OM Counseling and Yoga, Tash describes it as a mix between yogic and Buddhist psychology.  Seen as natural and in-the-flow, she views counseling as going hand in hand with spirituality.

“There isn’t another way to do psychotherapy.  [Traditional talk therapy] is just ‘psycho-babble’. [It’s] all about the illusion of life,” Tash said assuredly.  By approaching psychotherapy from a more natural, spiritual place, she encourages her clients to find acceptance of one’s nature through ‘karuna’ (Sanskrit for ‘compassion’).

Throughout childhood, Tash struggled with depression, low self-esteem and distorted body image.

“My own life struggles made me adept at what I do,” she said.

A graduate of the University of Maryland, Tash moved to Colorado in 1989.  She worked as an addiction specialist at LARICO Center for Youth Addictions for about two years, commenting on the “rough, over-her-head type work.”

After leaving LARICO, Tash worked in senior and elderly counseling before the “depressing” nature of the work encouraged her to take a job as lead counselor at Island Grove Regional Treatment Center in Greeley, Colo.

Meanwhile, she struggled to keep her head above water in her personal life, amidst the grips of an emotionally and physically abusive marriage.

Feeling “burnt out in the field” and struggling to be a mother and wife, Tash reached her breaking point.

“I was extremely overweight, and didn’t take care of myself,” she said. “I got to the point where I knew I couldn’t live that way any longer.  I wanted to commit suicide.”

After 11 years of marriage with one daughter between them, Tash courageously left.  This turning point in her life led to her reacquired yoga practice and immersion into the yogi lifestyle.

“After a period of time, I fell in love with yoga.  It helped me heal and reconnect with my body,” she said.  “Yoga brought me to a space of empowerment.”

Tash continued to heal through yoga and meditation until she worked up the strength to attend a yoga teacher training.

“I was paralyzed with fear and almost didn’t do it.  I ended up getting the last space in the class,” she said.  “It brought me back to my body and healed me in so many ways.”

A little over a year ago, a life-threatening spider bite almost turned the table for the worst.  Deathly ill and incapacitated, Tash was highly poisoned.  After seeing a naturopath, she was finally diagnosed and put onto a strict anti-parasitic diet to detoxify.  She never thought she would teach yoga or counsel again.

However, the diet built up her immune system to the extent where it fought off the deadly infection and she slowly began to heal.  Returning to yoga this past June, she is grateful for her life.

Since recovering, Tash has become lead songwriter and vocalist for a yoga, spiritual rock band, called “Leelah.”  After not singing for 25 years and not feeling like she had a voice, she was initially hesitant.

“I was petrified.  Fear was not a good reason not to do it.  It was really hard, but it was meant to be,” Tash said.

Her main focus though, with this on-the-side “creative and expressive” outlet, is her yoga teaching and her counseling.  As someone who “works for herself,” she is able to combine all the elements she deems fit for psychotherapy: yoga, meditation, self-inquiry, self-reflection and spirituality.

“I work intuitively.  I zone-in on where that person is and what they need.  I take something that they’re wounded from to help them heal and question themselves,” Tash said, identifying herself as a ‘guide’ rather than a ‘fixer.’

As someone who is also “constantly healing,” she uses her authenticity to encourage her clients to find acceptance and move away from the ego.

“We are all spiritual beings.  It’s not religious at all.  It comes so naturally,” she said.

Identifying this process of spiritual growth as a “constant evolution, a constant trust,” Tash urges others to send out the energy they wish to get back.  She empowers others to recognize their role in changing and controlling their thought patterns.

Tash also combines a form of hand-free “massage-like” energy work, called Reiki, into her counseling approach.  This method of transferring her healing energy for emotional, physical or spiritual pain is concluded with the client’s self-reflection on the experience.

She encourages others who are just beginning their spiritual journey to take up a meditation practice to break away from the ego’s inner dialogue.  By tuning into and listening to the authentic inner voice and breadth, one can find a place of mindfulness.

“We’re not always ready to let go.  The first thing to do is acknowledge the thoughts and feelings.  Allow, don’t push it away or change it.  Honor it (write about it, talk about it) and then let it go,” she advised.

With flowing curly hair, a nose ring and most importantly, an open, authentic heart, Tash appears to be living out the life she was intended for.  “I’m just myself and I’m doing it my own way,” she said with a humble, yet confident smile forming on her lips.

Contact Info:

Gwyn Tash

OM Counseling and Yoga


(970) 690-1045

Student Abroad: Home away from home

 Blogs, Student Abroad, The Well  Comments Off on Student Abroad: Home away from home
Nov 012012

Author: Anna Palmer

This past week I went WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) for a wonderful Kiwi family in the beautiful and majestic Waitaki Valley.  Immediately, I knew I had picked the right family.  As I waited at the bus stop, a woman called out asking if I was Anna and greeted me with a warm, welcoming hug, instantly soothing my nerves.  I had been slightly nervous about this experience, going away on my own, living with a family I had never met and really putting myself out there not knowing quite what to expect.  What I found was truly a home away from home.  The Tyrrell family welcomed me into their home with open and loving arms, making me feel apart of the family.  It was amazing to see the hospitality that a stranger can give to another stranger and the unique bond that comes from this simple gesture.  They had welcomed me into their home in exchange for 4 mere hours of work each day, which consisted of painting

The house where I WWOOFed for a week

The house where I WWOOFed for a week

closet doors.  A seemingly simple task, but one that requires careful and precise movements, I came to find myself quite enjoying the meditative, peaceful state it put me in.  Time seemed to fly by so quickly and I found myself meditating on the seemingly simplistic aspects of life.

In a warm and loving environment such as it was, I felt myself enveloped in this cloud so full of love the entire week.  Their house was nestled in a beautiful, peaceful valley, with snow-covered mountains in the backdrop, a picturesque place where I found much peace, rest and tranquility.  Interacting with the family felt effortless and natural, almost as if I were a relative visiting for a couple of days.  I felt myself opening up to these seemingly strangers and effortlessly conversing with them.  I had some of the best conversations with Amber, the mom, and the conversation between us felt completely natural.  She had much wisdom and love to share and it was absolutely amazing to hear about some of her life experiences and the spiritual journey she has been on.  This week was like a breath of fresh air, as it gave me the chance to converse on a higher spiritual level than I’ve been able to in a while.  We were able to talk about things like meditation, near-death experiences, finding the God within and truly living out your life purposefully and meaningfully.  It was amazing to be apart of this opening up process and experiencing this higher-level connection with someone who was previously a stranger.

With any experience though, I find myself wondering what was lacking.  This experience was not about getting my hands dirty and really immersing myself into the farming environment nor was it about waking up at the crack of dawn and working till dusk.  It was of a different, unique type, one that I am overall very thankful for.  Although I did not get the hands-on experience of working with farm animals, I do believe this was a good starting point.  It was a nice way to ease myself into the WWOOFing scene in a way that has urged me to seek out more opportunities and challenge myself to try out new things, things I may initially be unsure of.

This experience gave me something I didn’t quite know I needed.  It gave me a break from the mundane routine of everyday life.  Being surrounded by a family so full of love and kindness made me appreciate the family I do have back home.  There have been a handful of times while I’ve been abroad where I’ve longed to be with my family.  Being with a Kiwi family, in a way, substituted for the family that I haven’t had while I’ve been here.  It was nice just to be surrounded by that love that so often goes unnoticed and unappreciated in a family.  Being with the Tyrrells made me appreciate my family and look back on all the times we’ve shared with fondness and appreciation.

A view of the Waitaki Valley

A view of the Waitaki Valley

I am so thankful to have had this experience, not only this past week but of these past 4 months.  It’s all too often the case when I am unable to appreciate what is directly in front of me whether it be the amazing beauty of New Zealand or the love of a family.  Although I long to be near to my family and long to be back home every now and then, I stop myself because I know that once this moment is gone I will long to have it back as well.  Everywhere I go I’ve been seeking to really appreciate and soak up each and every moment for I know once it is gone I can’t get it back.  I’m slowly working toward being content and satisfied with what I have and what I am experiencing in this moment, not reaching toward the future or delving back into the past.  All I have is right now, this moment and I can choose to check out and miss out on all the beauty and love right in front of me or I can consciously choose to remain present with all the love and bliss that surrounds me at all times.  This love is within me and accessible at all times and all that is needed is to make the choice to access this true state within me and let go of all the worry and fear.  So in this moment, I choose to return to this state of love and align myself with all that is good for in this moment all is well and all is just as it should be.

Student Abroad: No Regrets

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Oct 252012

Author: Anna Palmer

A view of Lake Alexandrina

A view of Lake Alexandrina

As I’ve slowly begun to get back into my meditation practice, I have noticed some resistance.  This resistance comes from the ever-racing mind that rarely ceases to quiet and sink into the background for even one moment of peace and calmness.  My mind is simply not used to the quiet of sitting in stillness and has been fighting to maintain its grip, by flooding me with thought after thought, worry after worry.  As I sat in my meditation this morning, the same anxiety, the same pattern of racing thoughts resurfaced until I was unable to even enjoy the brief moments of silence. Getting back into my meditation practice has been nothing short of a struggle and I am regretful of not keeping up with my practice while I have been abroad.

Sitting in my brief meditation today, a simple thought floated to the surface.  How would it feel to live a life with absolutely no regrets? How would it feel to simply leave the past behind, accept what you did and did not do, and move freely, uninhibited into the present moment? I feel like I’m consistently struggling to maintain a grip on the now, without feeling drawn into the past, for what it was and was not.  To live a life of no regrets would mean to accept the past for what it was and was not, accept the situation for what it was and was not, and simply learn from these past experiences in order to enhance growth and fulfillment in the now.  But, the mind ever struggles to allow this simple, effortless process of letting go to take place and instead fights even harder to maintain its grip on things.

Instead of regretting the past and wasting time dwelling on what went wrong why can’t we simply acknowledge these shortcomings or mistakes in our past and learn from them?  It sounds so easy and yet it is all too common to repeat the same cycle, never learning, never growing.  Maybe it is easier to dwell on the past rather than actually taking the initiative and changing these maladaptive patterns.  For these patterns are what we know, what we are used to and to sway from them would be a journey into the unknown, the unfamiliar.  But to keep repeating them would be an even bigger disservice to ourselves and to others.

Sheep being herded on the drive to Mt. Cook

Sheep being herded on the drive to Mt. Cook

Looking back on my time in New Zealand, I would like to say that I have no regrets and, for the most part, I do not.  But a part of me, the part that continues to pick at the past, obsessing and analyzing and fretting over what was and what could have been persists.  My regrets revolve around me getting in the way of myself.  This struggle of mine has persisted here in New Zealand.  My anxieties, my insecurities, my fears have continued to block my path at times, preventing me from being fully present and able to enjoy the moment right in front of me.  However, the times that I have managed to keep this presence have been some of the best that I have had in New Zealand and in my entire life at that.  When I have been able to let go of my racing thoughts and get out of my head, I have been able to thoroughly take in my surroundings and soak up the experience and people around me.

Though my meditation practice has been somewhat non-existent since coming to New Zealand, I’ve found myself slowly acquiring the ability to draw myself back into the present as I go about my day.  This growing sense of awareness of what I am experiencing in the now has dramatically enhanced my experiences lately.  This past weekend, I traveled to Lake Tekapo and Mt. Cook with a group of friends and I can honestly say it was one of the best weekends to date.  The reason for this exists in the fact that for the majority of the weekend I was able to maintain presence with each experience and resist the urge to be pulled into the ramblings and worries of the mind.  I was able to continually bring myself back to the present and because of this I fully experienced all the beauty and wonder that surrounded me.  I was even able to enjoy the seemingly unenjoyable, from camping in the snow and raging wind to taking a dip in the freezing, but beautifully blue lake water of Lake Tekapo.  And I can honestly say that I came out of this weekend with no regrets and only a desire to return to this state of awareness.

I think I’m finally beginning to understand that all I truly have at any given time is what lay directly in front of me.  I can’t waste my time or energy or sacrifice my happiness dwelling on what could have been.  All I can do is move forward with awareness and presence in each moment and simply breathe in all that is around me.  Living a life of no regrets means accepting the past for what it is, simply allowing the thoughts and worries about what could have been pass on by, learning from past mistakes and moving forward into the present moment, breathing in all that life has to offer.

The power of meditation, achieving peace of mind

 Beats, Fit & Fine, The Well  Comments Off on The power of meditation, achieving peace of mind
Oct 072012

Author: Allison LeCain

The mind is a powerful thing, constantly racing with thoughts about school, work and social life. It controls everything we do, and yet many people focus all their energy on how their body looks or how well-liked they are among friends.

As a college student, the mind is more frantic than ever, but through meditation, anyone can achieve peace and happiness.

Quinn Hutchinson, senior phycology major, created the Kadampa Meditation Club at CSU about a year ago in order to share the culture of meditation with her fellow students.

“The benefits of meditation are really powerful and I think they’re so necessary at this age where we have so much going on,” Hutchinson said.

Meditation is a Buddhist practice of calming the mind in order to gain clarity and peace. It only takes about ten minutes to feel the effects of meditation, and is best if practiced at least once a week. One  goal of meditation is to become a happier person who is more in touch with their mind.

Gen Kelsang Rinzin, a resident teacher from the Heruka Buddhist Center, teaches weekly meditation classes at CSU.

Gen Kelsang Rinzin, a resident teacher from the Heruka Buddhist Center, teaches weekly meditation classes at CSU. Photo by Allison LeCain.

Hutchinson started practicing meditation four years ago when she saw a flyer for a class. Raised as a Catholic, she said she thought the idea of meditation was a little funny at first, but, over time, she said noticed a great difference in her quality of life.

“I was calmer and more stress-free and it really changed my life,” Hutchinson said. “I went from being a big partier to trying to get in touch with something deeper.”

Now Hutchinson said she considers herself a Buddhist, but meditation can be practiced by people of all religious backgrounds. When starting the meditation club, she collaborated with the Heruka Buddhist Center to have resident teacher Gen Kelsang Rinzin, a western Buddhist monk, come to CSU to teach meditation classes every week.

Kelsang Rinzin said that since starting the classes last October, the number of students coming has increased a lot, showing that meditation is becoming more popular in the Fort Collins community. His class sizes at the Heruka Center have grown as well.

Each class that Kelsang Rinzin guides at CSU has a name, such as ‘Developing Concentration’ and ‘Improving Mindfulness.’  This is what drew graduate student Laila Dillsi to take part in the classes.

Dillsi has been practicing meditation off-and-on for 10 years and meditates about four times a week.

“It’s really applicable to our lives as students,” Dillsi said. “[Meditation] keeps me more calm.”

Hutchinson describes similar effects of meditation, as she says it helps her to manage her schoolwork and social life.

“Things don’t bother me as much as they used to,” Hutchinson said. “It’s a lot easier for me to let things go in my external environment.”

As Kelsang Rinzin explains, this is one of the major benefits of meditation. Through meditation, a person can develop peace of mind and the ability to let go of disturbing thoughts. A negative thought can be changed into a positive one, full of kindness. This can change your outlook on life, according to Kelsang Rinzin.

Kelsang Rinzin said meditation can be a good way for students to let go of stressful thoughts; Hutchinson agreed.

“If I start to get stressed out I have five minute brain-breaks,” Hutchinson said. “Five minutes of meditation is so helpful for me throughout the day, like focusing on my breath and tools that I didn’t have before. Our brains are so powerful when you tap in to that.”

The mind is so powerful that Kelsang Rinzin compared it to a wild elephant, as in anything a person can do, he or she can only do because their mind thinks it first. Our mind is in control and our bodies are just machines fulfilling the minds commands. This why Kelsang Rinzin said it is important to get in touch with your mind through meditation.

He helps students do so through weekly classes held in Lory Student Center room 208 on Wednesdays at 3 p.m.

Hutchinson said that at these classes, meditation helps students let go of anxieties and utilizes all the powers the mind has.

“It’s all the power of our mind,” Kelsang Rinzin said. “If we can learn to let go of negative thoughts and cultivate positive thoughts from meditation, then there is so much opportunity to be peaceful, healthy people.”