Beacon practice is devoted to elements of nature
By Alison Rooney
Donna Brickwood’s Sacred Space is found on Beacon’s Main Street, but her real sacred space is outdoors, anywhere in the natural world. Her overall umbrella of healing arts includes many facets of her training: wilderness survival, Eastern philosophy, martial arts, massage therapy, myofascial release, cranial-sacral work, essential oil therapy and nature awareness, all in service of promoting a “healthy lifestyle of balance, well-being, and the interconnectedness to all things,” she says.
Prompted by a thought, years ago, from a martial arts teacher: “If you know how to hurt someone, you should know how to heal them,” Brickwood’s studio, which has been open for about six years, is devoted to understanding energy, something she herself was drawn to, partially because of the mystery.
At Sacred Space, Brickwood offers individual and group sessions, meditations and workshops and guest practitioners. She also conducts many workshops outdoors. A licensed massage therapist for 14 years, she says that often her therapeutic massages are a gateway to other holistic therapies. “I’m very fortunate; a lot of people come in and afterwards say ‘do what you feel you’d like to do.’ Then I can be more open with healing techniques. I try to be respectful, knowing the boundaries.”
Brickwood was raised in Cornwall, in a home where her parents encouraged her to “find my relationship with nature and spirituality, though for the most part it is something I came to on my own.” Her Korean mother exposed her to Asian traditions and culture; there is also some Native American in her father’s family line. “I always had a deep connection to nature, a reverence for the deep beauty of it and how the elements made me feel: the radiance of the sun, the wind on a mountaintop … I bring people out on nature adventures — yoga hikes, stand-up paddle boarding out on the river. Really, my love is teaching people about their own awareness and how we’re rooted to the earth. That part is usually missing in their healing. If they’re connected to nature, that can spark their core being.”
Brickwood’s own connections to nature were strengthened during her time at Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracker School (trackerschool.com) when she was in her early 20s. A description on the school’s website reads: “If you want to be ‘one’ with the Earth it is not enough to just have good survival skills, but to strive for a more rounded combination of philosophy and skills … tracking, nature observation, and awareness…”
“I went deep into the training,” Brickwood recalls, “and lived in the woods for three to four years; I was in a tent for most of a year, including overwintering, and it was there I became connected to a deeper sense of learning, living closer to the earth’s ancient skills.”
Brickwood set up her studio with a specific intention, bringing in the four main elements of nature: earth, air, wind and fire. People coming to the studio, whether it be through massage, a need for other physical healing, or simply by signing up for a hike, range from those very familiar with the practices to those never before exposed. What’s important is not that people accept or understand everything she puts forward, but that there is a curiosity about it.
“Everyone is different,” Brickwood says. “Some are naturally very spiritual but have never been on a hike before, others might be in a rut and filled with anxiety or depression, and to connect to nature can enliven them. People get insight into themselves … it’s tapping into a person’s potential. Society has trained us to be in a tunnel mind, with our gadgets and gizmos. With more awareness and observation, we can open up a lot of potential awareness. When we move into that space we can use the tools of awareness in our day-to-day lives.”
Others come to Sacred Space for help with physical ailments, and that’s where myofascial release (MFR) comes in. In Brickwood’s description, MFR is “based on the connective tissue of the body. Whether it’s chronic issue, injury, trauma, stress or dehydration, the fascia almost dries up. When fascia is healthy it’s viscous and fluid and energy and water move through easily. When restricted it gets tight and gluey and binds down and the body can feel like it’s in a strait-jacket. In MFR work there is holding for lengths of time, using opposing forces to allow the tissue to release, working on both a tissue layer and on a deeper layer — it really goes down to a cellular level, and it’s a re-education of the body.”
If Brickwood feels a massage client might be receptive, “I explain to them there are tools to open things up. This gives me the liberty to work on an area or a problem. You can see a difference really quickly. A lot of people wait forever to deal with pain.”
Cranio-sacral therapy, on the other hand, is like working with the hydraulic system, Brickwood explains, calling it a “gentle manipulation of the spine and cranial bone. Tuning into the rhythms of the cranial system and central nervous systems. The cranial bones are not fused. They breathe and can be manipulated.” A typical client has headaches, hip pain, spinal issues or balance problems. “It’s like connecting to a very tangible harmonic in the body, you can feel waves in the body and the body does the healing naturally — you’re a guide — if the body allows it to happen.”
Other therapies Brickwood is trained in include Reiki, Integrated Energy Therapy, Shamanic Therapy and Violet Alchemy. She also works a lot with essential oils. Of course, many clients have no idea what might work best for them. “Whether a person comes in with a specific intention, seeking counsel or seeking overall spiritual growth, or maybe overcoming a challenge, we talk, and I decide what type of therapy after tapping into the energetics,” she said. “Everyone is different. There might be a part of ourselves that we don’t want to confront. I pick up intuitive impressions.”
The idea of Sacred Space came to Brickwood about nine years ago, when she was at the Tracker School. “A big part of being there was to identify my mission in life. Being in a sacred silence so that you receive information on how to walk with integrity in the life you have on this planet. Sacred Space came to be from that formulation. When I approach anything here, it’s with that reverence.”
Sacred Space is located at 436 Main St., Beacon. For more information, visit sksacredspace.com or call 845-742-8494.