Move with Mindfulness, Write with Ease workshop November 1-2, 2014

Where you can write and learn in the beauty of fall, at Still Point Retreat Center.

Where you can write and learn in the beauty of fall, at Still Point Retreat Center.

Move with Mindfulness, Write with Ease

Saturday & Sunday November 1-2, 2014

One Day or Two Day options available.

10 am to 4 pm each day

Come and experience how movement can assist your writing in a relaxed environment, with periods to write built into the day.

This workshop-retreat offers an excellent opportunity for work on a new or ongoing project (e.g. fiction, memoir, poetry, personal journaling), as we experience the fall weekend that includes Dia de los Muertos, All Saints/All Souls, Celtic Samhain (end of harvest) and the beginning of National Novel Writing Month. You can attend Saturday, Sunday, or both days.

Where is it being held?  Still Point Retreat Center is a small-scale, homey/comfy retreat center with a spiritual emphasis, in Stillwater NY, very close to the Saratoga Historical Park, 30 miles north of Albany.

You can commute to the workshop or stay at Still Point.

How much will it cost? $59/1 day, $118/2 days, including options to experience a yoga class, labyrinth walk and other moving meditation, while supplied with noshes throughout the day. Limited income/NANOWRIMO* participant $29/ 1 day, $58/ 2 days.

Accommodations are a separate charge and should be arranged directly with Still Point. Visit the Still Point website at  for pictures and information about the cabins & rooms and to sign up for housing. In conjunction with this retreat, you can opt to stay over Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday nights, depending on what rooms are available at the time you book your accommodation with Still Point.

Included each day in your workshop fee: healthy & tasty breakfast foods in the morning, tea and coffee over the day, home made soup for lunch. If you are staying over, dinner will be shared potluck and the evening will be free time (ideas: write, visit with others, rest, walk on the grounds or read).

How do I sign up for the workshop?  This is deliberately a small workshop so it is advised to sign up as soon as you know you’d like to come.  First, let us know you are attending and which days, through the Contact Us page on this website, and second, mail a check to Of-the-Essence Holistic Wellness, P.O. Box 1344, Troy NY 12181 or contact us for cash payment options.

[*This event is not affiliated with National Novel Writing Month though I am participating again this year as a writer, and offering a discount for other participants. Find more information at ]

Evening at Still Point. Can't you see yourself here?

Evening at Still Point. Can’t you see yourself here?

Minneapolis Wellness and Work Flow Workshop: Saturday September 13, 2014

(Please note this workshop is being held in Minneapolis, MN.)   You can register for the workshop here.

Questions? Contact us!


2014-09-06 Wellness&Workflow-4



As independent business people and artistic entrepreneurs, we’re exploring new territory every day. We’re both trained in wellness disciplines (massage therapy, yoga, martial arts, theater) with academic background both in STEM (mathematics, computer science, physics) and humanities (English, philosophy, visual arts, theater, creative writing in both fiction and nonfiction). We bring to our coaching practice both direct experience and rigorous training to help community members and students make the most of their role as self-employed creative practitioners.

For those of you who are students, we bring our own experience of graduate and professional school*.  We’re familiar with the stress and the glory, the emotional ups and downs of original research, and the time management challenges.(*as graduate student, students in vocational certificate programs, and as support/partner to friends/family in graduate/professional programs, among them MDs; PhDs in Microbiology, English, Biomedical Engineering, Mathematics, Public Health; Masters in Pastoral Counseling, Theology, Social Work).

Between the two of us, we have over seventy years’ experience learning (including self-teaching), instructing and coaching. We’re here to help you bring your own considerable powers to not just enduring but flourishing, both individually and collectively. We understand the power of cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural collaboration.



Annette Kavanaugh, Creative & Technical Director at Glass Knife Press (Minneapolis MN), received a Masters in Mathematics from University of Minnesota.  During her academic years and when she worked as a data analyst and project manager, she developed the effective methods for self-teaching she now coaches. An independent artist, performer and writer, she is co-founder and facilitator of the Big World Writing Club, a multicultural, multidisciplinary, multi-genre writing community organized around practice. She most recently worked as Coordinator of the Instructional Center at the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence, University of Minnesota, where she recruited, trained and supervised a talented multicultural staff of tutors in mathematics, physical sciences, biological sciences, and East Asian, North American, and European languages.

Diane Kavanaugh-Black, owner, Of-the-Essence Holistic Wellness (Troy, NY) is an essayist, memoirist and photographer who ran a thirteen year massage therapy practice in Chicago before training at the Kripalu School of Yoga in Massachusetts. She taught Community Education classes starting at age 16, and has done extensive volunteer and paid academic tutoring ever since, including adult literacy and assisting artists with vision statements. Diane is co-founder and member of multiple writing and editing work-groups and has been chosen to perform her writing at The Arts Center of the Capital Region, the Rensselaerville Festival of Writers and on WAMC public radio.  She has a BA with Honors from University of Chicago, and combines yoga, writing, hiking and healthy cooking in her current business in upstate New York.



What? Changes Already? Following the Dharma

In re: what is “of-the-essence” lately, I’ve been wrestling with how I feel about leading weekly studio classes.

They’ve been very lightly attended, and in addition, I live in a town with multiple yoga studios already offering a delightful variety of daily classes. I’ve also been reading Stephen Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life, about dharma (simply put, life purpose).

I prepared for each of my scheduled classes, warmed the space with candles and yoga mats, sat in the beautiful silence–and listened.  I watched dawn arrive in downtown Troy, and the hustle-bustle that burst open around 8 a.m. I observed the sun shift through the fall leaves on Monday afternoons.

Because only a small part of yoga is about postures and breathing–yoga also encompasses creating comfort within dis-ease–I asked in the quiet:  What is the meaning of this lack-of-energy, on my part and the part of potential students? And what I am really on fire about?

That’s what I want my life to be:  on fire, lit up, clear on the essence of who I am, what my gifts are, and what I’d like to bring to the world.

In my answers, I kept going to the presuppositions people have about yoga; they think they have to be strong and powerful first, or understand complicated concepts, or be able to wear a bikini or tight-fitting workout clothes to “qualify.”  People WANT to try yoga, but are afraid of injury or embarrassment, being rushed to know something before they are ready, or just not being good enough.

And here I am:  I love listening to people’s individual stories and experiences, having paid attention to the human body and spirit throughout my previous massage career; I know about anatomy and pain patterns, AND how to respond to stress with movement, stretch, aromatherapy, self-care–and now, yoga’s rich variety of tools.  I have used yoga to rehabilitate from surgery and devastating losses; yoga has used me to communicate great and simple truths, to myself.

So I’ve decided–I’ll be guiding people, through a variety of easy-to-attend mini-workshops, to bring themselves as they are and grow from there.  To increase self-compassion, attempt some new experiences (maybe even yoga postures), gently, and then digest them. To pay attention to where their bodies are at this moment,  To slow down. Laugh at the foibles of our busy minds, and humanity.  Feel more deeply. Be a little more present. Learn ways to deal with what life brings, painful or joyous–tools including writing, hiking & walking, breath and meditation practices, and healthful eating.

This is so enthralling! I hope you find something in my on-fire offerings that speaks to you, and I invite suggestions, ideas, dreams, through the Contact Us page here on the website, or in person.

Many of my mini-workshops will continue to be held at my colleague Lesley Kavanaugh’s Troy Healing Arts, where as a studio and healing sanctuary, she is also moving more toward introductory, anatomy- and spirit-based wellness within the approaches of yoga and bodywork.  I am thrilled to be collaborating with her. Look for us at Troy Night Out (Friday, October 25, 5-9 pm) and at Victorian Stroll (Sunday, December 8), at the 270 River Street lobby.

Welcome to Of-the-Essence!

If you’ve been by lately and are looking for classes, please read the latest posts at the “Class changes or cancellations” and “Mini-Workshops” tabs. Yes, changes, already!

Early autumn at Partridge Run

Early autumn at Partridge Run

This website is “under construction,” as we all are:  in process, expectant and wondrously growing, simultaneously feeling the discomfort of new life coming forth.  If you’d like, please “follow” us by email or RSS feed to keep up with the growth, because it is indeed exciting.

As my photo here for fall shows, creek water blurs the details behind a single gorgeous golden leaf.  There’s a sense of hanging, and learning to be comfortable with hanging within the swirling, perhaps moving with what’s around, or not moving. But light glowing through it all.

My hope is to bring that kind of inner stability and peace to my students and the community.

So we appreciate your patience as we build our pages and schedules. Thank you in advance for your feedback, as well.

Please check out the autumn mini-workshops, and Saturday November 2nd Writing & Yoga workshop-retreat, in the tabs above.

Here’s to seeing you around the Capital Region, and on the web.

Jai Bhagwan (May the divine be victorious within you)!