The soothing sound of a gong echoed in the wind as birds sang on a sunny Wednesday evening in a small park on the east side of Pilsen. Dozens lay on the floor, eyes closed and hearts open to a way of healing many had never heard of, or didn’t know how much it would change their lives.
“We kept room for our emotions, heart, soul and those we lost. We mentioned what was heavy in our bodies and took the time to be vulnerable and supported,” wrote Cristina Puzio, an energy healing practitioner and the meditation instructor of the sound healing sessions, which take place each week at El Paseo Community Garden.
‘Can you name what moves in your heart and soul? Or name what has been heavy in your body?” she asked after dedicating that session to the victims of the July 4th Highland Park shooting and their families. “Please take the time to process your emotions, thoughts and feelings. Find a healthy way to deal with your individual emotions(s) grief and the emotions(s) grief of the collective.”
Puzio began creating spaces to offer meditation and other forms of energy healing to the people in her community – Latino families and youth of color – more than five years ago when she realized that few knew about the practices and their benefits. . Meditators were inaccessible due to distance, cost, and language barriers.
So she started giving meditation workshops and sessions in the park, inviting others to learn of the benefits it had to offer and teaching them to use it as a way of therapy, asking only for a donation. . Meditating is a way of dealing with physical and emotional pain that helps to think about and process life situations, healing the soul, mind and body, she said.
In 2020 the circle has grown considerably. The meditation sessions would bring together more than 50 people, not only from Pilsen but from all over the city. The pandemic emphasized that humanity is connected through suffering, Puzio said, so meditation became a means of survival for many.
After losing loved ones to the COVID-19 virus, Lizeth Garza, 32, said she turned to meditation to help her cope with the grief. She has been participating in the meditation circle for two years now.
“Women, women, those who are non-binary or people of color who are most affected by the things that happen in our world, need a space of healing that resides in our community,” Garza said. “It’s critical for us to be grounded and connected to this Earth and in a space where we can connect and heal with each other.”
After realizing the need, Puzio began connecting with other spiritual leaders, practitioners, and psychotherapists who helped establish a network of wellness leaders who speak Spanish to bring holistic care, energetic healing, and alternative medicine to the people of the world. area at affordable prices – sometimes for free.
The initiative has been solidified as part of the park’s programming, which includes weekly meditation and sound healing, yoga, and a free health clinic that offers reiki, cupping, massages, smoke cleansing and cranial sacral healing every first Tuesday of the month.
Puzio, now the wellness leader at the park, said the work has been accomplished by a group of practitioners and spiritual healers who have a genuine intent to preserve and care for the community by donating their time and services. Their goal is to make these services accessible and available to the community, raising awareness of the importance of their mental health benefits.
“Meditation is an untapped way of healing that is often not considered in general health and wellness,” said Teresa Moreno, a McKinley Park resident who attends Wednesday’s circles religiously.
These alternative forms of therapy and medicine are often considered inaccessible to communities of color because mental health is typically not a priority, its practice takes time and is usually costly, said Paula Acevedo, co-director of El Paseo Community Garden since 2015.
Others, she said, didn’t think these practices make a difference to their mental and physical health. Reiki, a Japanese form of energetic healing, is now offered by Northwestern Medicine, Puzio added.
The practice is an energy treatment using a technique called palm healing, which is said to transfer energy to the patient through the palms or practitioner. It helps treat mood disorders — anxiety or depression — and insomnia and chronic pain, among other health problems.
Since Puzio began offering its services in the park, Acevedo has vowed to support the efforts as they align with the park’s mission to strengthen environmental stewardship and community engagement while protecting an equitable green space on behalf of the community.
“A lot of people may have thought they didn’t belong in a room where people meditate, or they may have felt intimidated,” Paula said. “We want to create a safe place for everyone.”
When Eddie Galvan, 24, heard about the program, he decided to try it after experiencing a lot of stress, he said.
“I tried to do it at home, but it didn’t work. I needed something else,” Galvan said.
To maintain and expand the services, Puzio and Acevedo are looking to seek funding to recruit more licensed practitioners and continue to offer all services at low cost. The group is also trying to establish a committee that can help lead the project in the coming months and years.