Healing group makes Chicago quieter in Pilsen

The soothing bell echoed through the breeze as the birds sang on a sunny Wednesday evening in a small park on the east side of Pilsen. Dozens lay on the ground with their eyes closed and hearts opened to a method of healing that many had not heard of or knew how much it would change their lives.

“We reserved space for our emotions, our heart, our souls, and those we had lost. We identified what was heavy in our bodies and took our time to be weak and supported,” writes Christina Bosio, an energy healing practitioner and meditation coach at Voice Therapy Sessions, held at El Paseo Community Garden each week.

“Can you name what excites your heart and soul? Or what is heavy in your body?” I 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 feelings (and) grief and group feelings (and) sadness.”

Puzio began creating spaces to offer meditation and other types of healing energy to people in her community — Latino families and young people of color — more than five years ago when she realized that few were aware of the practices and their benefits. Meditation practitioners were not available, due to distance, cost, and language barriers.

So I started hosting workshops and meditation sessions in the garden, inviting others to learn about the benefits it can provide and teaching them how to use it as a therapy, just asking for a donation. She said meditation is a way of dealing with physical and emotional pain that helps to reflect on and process life situations, and heal the soul, mind and body.

During 2020, the department has grown significantly. The meditation sessions will bring together more than 50 people not only from Pilsen but from all over the city. Bosseau said the pandemic has highlighted that humanity is linked to suffering, so for many, meditation has become a means of survival.

After losing loved ones to the COVID-19 virus, Liseth Garza, 32, said she turned to meditation to help her deal with grief. For the past two years, I’ve been involved in a meditation circle.

“Women, women, non-binaries or people of color who are most affected by the things that happen in our world, need a space to heal in our community,” Garza said. “It is so important for us to be connected to this land and in a space where we can connect with one another and heal with one another.”

Realizing the need, Puzio began connecting with other spiritual leaders, practitioners, and psychotherapists who helped create a network of Spanish-speaking wellness leaders to provide comprehensive care, energy therapy, and alternative medicine to people in the area at affordable prices — sometimes for free.

The initiative is enhanced as part of the park’s programs, which include weekly meditation and sound healing, yoga, and sanacion Clinic offering Reiki, cupping, massage, smoke clearing and craniofacial treatment on the first Tuesday of every month.

Puzio, now the park’s wellness leader, said the work was done by a group of practitioners and spiritual healers who have a genuine intent to preserve and nurture the community by donating their time and services. Its purpose is to make these services accessible and available to the community, to raise awareness of the importance of their benefits to mental health.

“Meditation is an underutilized method of healing that is often not considered in general health and wellness,” said Teresa Moreno, a McKinley Park resident who attends Wednesday’s episodes religiously.

These alternative forms of therapy and medicine are often inaccessible to communities of color because mental health is not usually a priority, practice takes time and is often costly, said Paola Acevedo, co-director of El Paseo Community Garden since 2015.

Others, she said, don’t believe these practices make a difference to their mental and physical health. Bozio added that Reiki, a Japanese form of energy healing, is now offered at Northwestern Medicine.

This practice is an energy therapy with a technique called palm healing, through which energy is said to be transmitted through the palm of the hand or the practitioner to the patient. It helps treat mood disorders – anxiety or depression – insomnia and chronic pain, among other health problems.

Since Puzio began offering its services in the park, Acevedo has pledged to support efforts as it aligns with the park’s mission to promote environmental stewardship and civic engagement while protecting fair green spaces on behalf of the community.

“Perhaps a lot of people thought they didn’t belong in a room where people were meditating, or maybe they got excited,” Paula said. “We want to create a safe space for everyone.”

When Eddie Galvan, 24, learned about the show, he decided to give it a try after going through a lot of stress, he said.

“I tried to do it at home, but it didn’t work, I needed something different,” Galvan said.

To maintain and expand services, Puzio and Acevedo want to seek funding to hire more licensed practitioners and continue to provide all services at a lower cost. The group is also seeking to create a committee that can help lead the project in the coming months and years.

larodriguez@chicagotribune.com

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