Building a bridge to living more fully through mindfulness and meditation.

Denise Costello and Vanessa Gobes are the founders and guiding spirits of the Chrysalis Meditation Center, located in a serene second-story studio that Vanessa describes as overlooking ‘the most gorgeous oak tree in the world,’ on the Winchester Town Common.

As a Captain in the Gulf War, Denise served as a Flight Nurse with a specialty in high-risk obstetrics and health promotion. Even then, she inspired the women she was stationed with to participate in her movement classes, and she has always known the importance of healthy eating.

Vanessa comes from an equally creative background. She had worked in many enterprises —“I’m not afraid to fail,” she laughs — one of which involved designing and marketing her own line of golf clothes. At one point, however, she began to sense that shining higher reality that underlies our day-to-day lives and set out on a path of spiritual growth.

Both Denise and Vanessa were seekers, in other words, and as two advocates for mindful and living and determined ‘practisers’ of compassion, they believe they were fated to meet. Shortly after they did meet, the Chrysalis Meditation Center was born. We will let them tell the rest in their own words.

Interview with Denise Costello and Vanessa Gobes

Tell me a little bit about yourself. What called you to this work?

Denise:

I grew up in an Irish Catholic family in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My background is in nursing and began my nursing career as a Captain in the Air Force. While in the Air Force, I served as a flight nurse in the Gulf War, and as a health promotion officer. I also worked in high-risk obstetrics. That led me to the University of Illinois, where I received an MS in Adult Corporate Fitness and Health Promotion. The focus was on empowering individuals to maintain a healthy lifestyle, thereby keeping them out of the hospital. I moved to Winchester when I married my husband, Peter a Navy P3 Pilot who I meet while stationed in the Azores. I was involved in the creation of the Winchester Breast Care Center as the nurse coordinator. When my twins were born, I became even more interested in learning how to keep my family healthy and protected from disease.

I have always loved food and cooking. I still remember my very first Charlie Brown cookbook and making Lucy’s Lemon Squares for my dad. As a mom I started thinking of food as medicine. Committing to healthy habits can be a challenge because we lead such busy lives. I know first-hand that even when you commit to living a healthy lifestyle, you still need to be flexible and frugal in order to make those good habits stick. I am very passionate about motivating and educating busy overwhelmed individuals and families towards wellness. I wanted to share my creative solutions that  come from my medical training as a registered nurse, my love of food, and the holistic approach I take to living and staying healthy. So I started my business The Energized Body in 2013 where I coached individuals how to get back into the kitchen to discover  how they can follow a practical, holistic way to eat well and enjoy life’s pleasures.

Vanessa: 

Becoming a mindfulness teacher was never something I sought out. I was a few weeks into my third pregnancy, designing and launching the second season of my own golf clothing, when I looked around and started wondering what the hell I was doing. No stranger to the blues, I was starting to feel the yuck (my pet word for depression) thicken around me. I felt panicky, desperate to find a way to rise above that yuck. I discovered a book called Many Lives, Many Masters, by world-renown psychiatrist Dr. Brian Weiss, which tells the true story of a woman who finds healing through past life regression. Something clicked as I read. The world became orderly all at once. Massive paradigm shift.

I began to learn about hypnosis and meditation so that I could experience regressions myself, which I did. This opened the door to a long list of studies, which included Buddhism, psychology, religion, mindfulness, energy healing, and more. In the past decade, I’ve read over a hundred books on various approaches and constructs, attended dozens of retreats, earned multiple certifications, written a book on mindfulness, and taught thousands of people of all ages how to meditate.

What did you see as the need in our community that you might fill?

Denise:

Flash forward and my twins are now 18 and my youngest daughter (who we adopted from Russia when she was 2 ½) is now 16 and I am noticing different strains on our family’s health — a modern  lifestyle resulting in new health issues-stress anxiety and depression. 2015 was a difficult year for the youth in our town and I could see the toll it was taking on our youth. I wanted to do something more than provide a physical and nutritional focus. I wanted to help them deal with the stress and pressures they were facing. It was in July that I met Vanessa and we both knew at that moment that our personal missions were aligned — to bring this peaceful practice of mindfulness and meditation to our community as a holistic way to manage the stressful lives that we live in; and to bring hope and compassion to a place where people can commune and support each other.

Vanessa:

I live here. I know how competitive and high pressure this town can feel. For many years, I felt it myself. I constantly compared my house, my lawn, my income, my clothes and my accomplishments to those of my neighbors. I was not like this as a child or adolescent. This was a mindset that I’d developed after moving to Winchester. It totally stressed me out.

As a Mom with three kids in the public school system, I saw the effects of pressure on them. They were losing their authenticity to keep up with the crowd and I was losing my mind shuttling them all over the place. I could barely handle it as an adult, how could they handle it as children? I’ve found that mindfulness helps.

 

Tell us how you see this calling of yours enriching our common life.

Denise: 

Vanessa and I founded the Chrysalis Center to bring the practice of mindfulness and meditation within a supportive social setting to manage stressful lives. As we move into a new space this year it will allow us to bring together all the components that will help individuals of different ages and cultures to take an integrated holistic communal approach to becoming healthy vibrant souls. With our larger space we will be able to combine mediation, movement and music to heal.

Vanessa:

Practicing mindfulness doesn’t make the pressure go away, but it provides us with practical tools that allow us to rise above it. Insight gained through awareness teaches people of all ages a sense of acceptance, confidence, and compassion. It works. I see it working in my life and in my kids’ lives. We still have issues and obstacles, but we aren’t caught up in this insane wave of outdoing one another — and that makes stepping into authenticity that much easier.

That “rising above” is just one of countless ways mindfulness can enrich a life. The practice supports physical health and healing, it stimulates creativity and solutions-oriented thinking, it entrains a person to higher-level communication, and it even stimulates synchronicities.

When one teaches, two learn is a known adage. What have been the highlights of your experience so far?

Denise:

I have learned to trust in God’s hand; in God’s plan for me. I have learned to listen and have faith that things are as they should be and that I don’t need to worry.  Before opening Chrysalis, I connected to my soul or developed my spiritual practice through going to Mass, praying the rosary, yoga and actually lived a fairly mindful lifestyle. I actually was not a daily meditator but after committing to a daily practice I have become a better Catholic, a better mom and I now live a more mindful life. As Vanessa says, its like putting rocket fuel on your mindfulness practice. Praying or meditating with your business partner at the beginning of the day puts you in a calm, centered and productive frame of mine.

Vanessa:

This is so true. I have had the great privilege of learning from students of all ages. Young children are especially gifted teachers, as they are naturally curious and captivated by the present moment — they blow my mind all the time. And the seniors I work with at the Jenks Center are wonderful sources of wisdom and insight. I often joke that they should be teaching my classes. I’ve also used my practice to channel higher thinking so that words flow through me, not from me. When I started teaching, my personal practice — which I call spiritually based mental health — shifted from a gentle stream to a strong current. Sometimes information pours through that is new to me as well, so I learn alongside my students. Through teaching, we’ve learned that mindfulness CAN BE FOR EVERYONE, but teachers must be creative about teaching a variety of approaches. Not everyone likes sitting still. Not everyone likes practicing alone. Not everyone likes silence. For now, we are tucked away in an upstairs studio in Winchester Center, and if you have never been to visit us, imagine a cozy second-floor space that overlooks the most gorgeous oak tree in the world, which vibrates every time the commuter train rumbles into the center’s station. This Church Street location serves us well even as we look ahead to expanding to a larger space down the line, as we continue to establish ourselves as a trustworthy source for mindfulness practice in Greater Boston. Chrysalis Center now teaches mindfulness through movement, meditation and music. Our diverse and collaborative staff offers uplifting and connective classes that include: aerial yoga for adults and kids, crystal sound healing, Latin flow, sober dance parties, Thai massage “nesting,” Baby Boomer yoga, chanting, and so much more. And, of course, we continue to produce our beloved, nurturing events like the Stone Barn Retreat Series and Soulopreneur.

 

Since this is the month honoring women, who is one woman who has inspired you and why?

Denise:

My female role model has been Blessed Mother Mary. She said YES to what God was asking of her with total trust and giving of herself and is the example of  living an unselfish, faithful, compassionate and loving way. She is committed to our children and families and I have always leaned on her through prayer during my times of difficulty. She is the Queen of Peace whose mission is to bring peace to our world and families. Bringing this peace is what we, in our own small way are trying to do – but it has to start with ourselves first, which is why it is important to connect with your soul and go within. “Peace begins with me” meditation, prayer and Mindfulness all help you get there.

Vanessa:

Mother Theresa for all the reasons you think.

Any advice you would like to share?

Denise:

Take the time to go within and connect with your soul. Bring the spiritual part of you, back into your life. You are not alone: your spiritual guides are there to help you. You  just have to ask and keep the dialogue going.

Vanessa:

Yes. Meditate!