8 pillars of wellness

These 8 dimensions, also known as the 8 Pillars of Wellness offer an invaluable, forward thinking model and map to becoming a flourishing, productive and well person. Too many people assume that whenever they’re not ill, they’re healthy. We do yoga or meditation, eat well, and all seems just fine, but we feel that there are still some unfulfilled gaps and blind-spots. This giant carbon footprint, me-generation, speed based, competitive capitalism is hardly sustainable, and if we are honest, many will say that our modern life didn’t really make us happy. It is indeed a challenge now to “self actualize” while many of us are home-bound, but it’s a great time to reflect on our lives and goals, what has been working, and what hasn’t. I believe this holistic, whole person approach to well-being and wellness must be considered and implemented. Even with the inconsolable loss of life with our current pandemic, will get a chance to wake up, reset and restart our lives, with the hope of a much better way forward.

I have spent much of my life as a spiritual seeker, devoting my life to Tibetan Buddhist Dharma and a guru or two, but regretfully, haven’t seen that many really transformational, positive results in our community as a whole. What are we doing wrong? Were we using our meditation and mantra practice for credential, excess intellectualism and spiritual pride? Did we use our religion and practice as an existential escape to bear nothing more than becoming self-righteous “slactivists?” I don’t mean to be so harsh, but I must ask, does it serve our best interest to retreat, repeat mantras and perform complex rituals all day, borrowed from Tibetan or Indian culture?

I thought that if I was a devoted student and trusted my guru, signed up for a tried and true ancient training, I’d have some spiritual insurance of success in this life, and indeed any possible “future lives.” No such luck… why? If it hasn’t been working, should I just do more and expect a different result? The older, feudal religious social structure of giving one’s power to an authoritarian guru in both the Buddhist and Yogic traditions is now being reconsidered by no less than the Dalai Lama himself.

There were many, many essential components missing in my training, that I believe are the cause of our collective stagnation. These forward-thinking pillars shed light on places that my training did not consider, and can become the basis for creating structurally healthy people and can be extended into engaged dharma, societal models as well. There are eight powerful and essential pillars of holistic wellness: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, occupational, financial and environmental.


The absence or mitigation of illness is an integral part of well-being, but that’s only the beginning. To be physically healthful, a person should also ensure they are: stretching, walking, exercising, sleeping well and taking good care of our bodies. Nutrition is connected to physical well-being. A person’s nutrition should be customized based on their age, activity level, along with other factors, so we should meal plan carefully and even consider using supportive free apps for suggestions, consumption and recipes.  Sadly, the vast majority of adults don’t consume the recommended number of vegetables and fruits every day, nor correct dietary ratios, which may rob the body of nutrients and greatly effect our quality of life. Nourishment give our bodies the energy to function and are integral to our happiness, and should be a #1 priority. Try the free amazing app: MyFitnessPal.


We all know all too well that life brings us unexpected and painful surprises, ups and down and inconsolable losses. Our fight or flight chemistry responds by flooding our brain with hormones which cause varied emotional responses, throughout our days, weeks, years and lifetime, right up until the last moment. Assessing, being connected to our emotions, allows us gain control over them can make life’s natural problems seem much smoother and endurable. People can access the powerful, transformative tools of a spiritual or yogic practice, grounding breath-work or mindfulness, while others prefer to journal, or share with friends and family. The more “in-sync” we are with ourselves, the greater we can cultivate our emotional intelligence or E.Q., and thus the potential for the happiest life possible. Many studies say that having a high E.Q. is more correlated to happiness and success, even more than one’s profession or education.


Engaging your brain is vital for good overall health. Many times, personal advancement and community activities are the best way to help keep your brain engaged and learning new things. It strengthens us to use critical thinking, stimulating curiosity, problem solving, and creativity. We can take online classes, many are free, debate, learn a new language, shut down the internet and read an interesting book. Intellectual well-being isn’t confined to a classroom, each moment is a growth and learning opportunity.


Humans are social beings, akin to pack animals by nature and we generally flourish in community. We have an inborn desire to be part of a group and encircle ourselves with loving and supportive people who care for us. Social health is about forming positive relationships and dealing with conflict resolution fairly and productively, in personal, community and multi-societal relationships. Volunteer online, offer to be of service to others, just being there for a friend in need and listening is more powerful than we know.


Spiritual wellness is highly personal, cultural and means something different for everybody. Prayer, meditation and practicing mindfulness are a few common ways for someone to discover their sense of purpose. One of the reported most powerful, spiritually nutritive methods is to walk in nature, breathe fresh air and sunshine or at night, star gaze. This is sometimes called Nature or Forest Bathing. If you aren’t religious, how about hiking or gardening?


Zen and the Art of a Home Budget. For better or worse, financial health is an integral part of life. The first task is to really look at our money, what do we really need each month vs. what we make? What are our long term goals for retirement, school funds, property ownership? What can we do to save and be more secure? Shopping less, being happy in nature, spending time with family and friends, more simple cost free choices are often the most heartwarming. If we can save, we can begin to pay off any debt and feel protected within a spending budget, and this may do wonders for maintaining peace of mind and more of a balanced, stress-free life.


What makes you want to wake each day? Indeed, our work can seem redundant and tedious at times, and not every job is glamorous, but we all find a helpful place as viable members of a healthy society doing what we are good at. We can set personal performance goals and ambitions, consider our job satisfaction, as well a feeling of belonging, meaning and purpose.


We need a physical, healthy place to flourish. An environment might be homes, our neighborhood or our country. Environmental well-being means leading a lifestyle that values the relationship between ourselves, our community and the environment. We care for our world, clean our homes, create safe communities and schools. We can find ways to be harmony with the earth, recognize our impact on its environment, and promote practices like recycling, biking, gardening, and energy conservation that will sustain our resources.

How an individual approaches holistic health will vary by person, family or community. Nevertheless, most experts concur that the focusing on only one aspect like our meditation practice, or absence of sickness isn’t only what leads to a healthy, meaningful fulfilling life. I love the premise of the Kingdom of Bhutan, they measure the success of the nation not on commerce, capital, trade, or the GNP, but on Gross National Happiness.  Assessing the pillars that need attention and personalizing our health and life goals is the initial step toward mastering holistic wellness. As inconsolable as things are now with this pandemic and such a loss of life, I am hopeful and excited about what we can create in our future. We have the chance now, to envision true, modern spirituality, real dharma and a whole new way and healthier world for our children, posterity and indeed our earth.


Stay well and strong,

Dawn Boiani-Sandberg

Owner of Sakura Designs

meditation with beads


1. Reconnect to our daily meditation and yoga.
2. Burst exercise- 6 minutes interval jumping jacks and walking, count to 60 jumping jacks, then fast walk in place to cool down x 3, powerful! You can do this cardio… anywhere! ?‍
3. Drink lots of water, lemon water and tea (staying hydrated in mouth and throat helps to prevent illness they say, washing down any viruses to be destroyed by your stomach acid).
4. Eat simply, nutritiously and well (or as best we can with the ration foods). I bought high grade multivitamins with Zinc and Extra Vitamin C.
5. Take warm baths and warm oil baths, (in Ayurveda, lightly heat up coconut or sesame oil and put…everywhere even in hair, then a bath, and use a body brush, scrub away from heart for lymphatic massage), lavender steam facials, manicures and pedicures all around
6. Get off of internet and read a good novel (or for me, political and social theory, non-fiction).
7. Play chess or card games, charades with family.
8. Family movie nights with popcorn, stop internet and video games! Connect!
9. Go for walks, put on music, ecstatic dance and sing.
10. Clean, sterilize, organize, purge and Feng-shui, the whole house and fridge, cabinets and closets and egads… garage!

woman pampering bath

Thank you to our heroes, especially medical and food chain workers who are bravely taking care of us all now, and I pray that we can somehow heal and bounce back. It is shocking and heartbreaking, the loss of lives from this pandemic, peace to everyone who becomes ill or loses a loved one. If we try to make the best of it, vigilantly stay home and use some this time for an at home wellness retreat, whether or not we get Covid-19, we can, with hope, come out of this time renewed and ready to rebuild a new and maybe different way forward.
Stay Safe and Well Everyone,
Dawn Boiani-Sandberg
More Wellness Ideas

* images thanks to:
Hand photo created by katemangostar –
Woman photo created by freepik –

I am an ardent, rigorously honest, spiritual seeker, the owner of Sakura Designs, and offer Mala Beads for meditation and yoga. I have a degree in Contemplative Psychology from Naropa University and with a minor in Buddhist Studies, and have been looking to find a viable spiritual path since I was a teen. I’ve recently been reading The Guru Papers- Masks of Authoritarian Power, and some noted spiritual training “churches” and self help groups can have as many as 30 or more levels of training.

Many of these may show signs of definable cult-like organizations, and use common tactics, namely that we are sick, unwell, need healing, improvement, and offer the solutions through a tiered path, that only they can provide. The general premise is that we are not enough as is, we doubt ourselves and must follow their spiritual formulation to evolve. My seeker question now is… is this all true, can and should we change and become something better?


I’m looking at our a basic Buddhist path, Buddhism is about 2,500 years old and the scholars seemed to love to create lists. We have : 4 Noble Truths, 6 Realms, 12 Nidanas, and 52 stages of a Bodhisattva. As far as to become a Buddha, or fully awakened being, there these 10 enlightened stages called Bhumis, a progress of purification to get to “enlightenment.” A friend recently asked today do we even need a Guru, and my question even before that is, what really is “purification and progress,” and are any of us “accomplished” or showing “signs”? In all of my time in retreat and with Dharma friends, I never experienced anything like a stage.

It’s like if I told my pre-teen daughter, you aren’t ok as you are, you are karmically sick, someday of you practice a LOT of meditation and yoga, you’ll evolve, become better, some idyllic image of a better maha-human. It reminds me of the Dove beauty ads, we see that the idealized version of these women was unattainable and not real. We have to culturally undo unrealistic notions of beauty to ourselves and our daughters, and accept ourselves, as we are, perfectly imperfect.

To suggest something or someone greater, would be cruel and make her doubt herself and feel that she’s not good enough as she is. Furthermore if I told her, living your life, well that’s a form of wasting it, you should really withdraw become a yogini and use your human life as an opportunity to spiritually evolve. We are told that “obtaining” a “precious human life” is very rare and it’s the only vehicle for attaining enlightenment, and we should focus in on our spiritual development, over fettering this life in the workplace or as a mundane “householder.” It’s akin to the old Christian adage:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do no break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Should we rather invest in what is “permanent,” spiritual vs. what is worldly? It seems the Buddhists and Christians concur that the former is of more value.


The folks that went “all the way” in some famous religious self-help, “clearing” groups are they really showing amazing spiritually evolved “signs,” clairvoyance, power, compassion? (no, I haven’t see it) Are we as Buddhists? I have a long term yogi friend who’s done all of the more secret retreats, alone in the dark for weeks, an expert yogin, and still at times, he has a semi-violent, mercurial temper even to this day, 30 years later.

I must be honest and say that many more, just use their experience for spiritual credential to feel superior, or to not really live this life and use their practice to find solace as an escape. With all due respect, I see many of my “dharma” friends even after a lifetime of practice and empowerment not really showing such amazing signs, and some no signs at all. We, including me, seem to have a lot of suffering and attachment even more than non-practitioners. Life does get harder as we age, and we often get less patient, we have physical pain, etc.


I wonder if the “spiritual path” might be more of a radical honest and acceptance and being ok with who we are, as we are, the beauty and the imperfection. In the Dharma we call it ‘Maitri,’ or self love. I’m not sure that people really change their learned karmic imprints, *ever* and maybe, just maybe we should fully live this life, without us “never being good enough,” the dubious the promise of something in the next life or being something unattainable more amazing? Of course, we can get healthier, change bad habits, and the way we live and how we treat others matters. I just don’t want to live a life of an eternal, self improvement project, there must be some middle truth.

I’m raising a daughter and I want her to have a full, meaningful life, be a basically decent person, not have her put on a shrine holier images of a “female Buddha” something better that she could eventually be, and make her feel bad about her self, right? Maybe, simple kindness and appreciating the vivid magic and preciousness of our lives, *this one life,* forgiving and even accepting our flaws, with a light aspiration to improve and help, is the very most practical “spiritual attainment” of all?

Here’s to Stage 2 of my reductionist discrimination. Questions-

  • What is really there?
  • Historically, how do spiritual traditions and self-help groups monetize the “path,”or bait people to start with a promise.
  • Is there even such thing as real spiritual evolution?
  • Are our teachers really exhibiting authentic and genuine spiritual qualities that show that this is all working?

I will continue to ask, research and explore, and will post findings, please stay tuned and join me in asking these important questions.

Dawn Boiani,

Mother, Dharma Practitioner, Mala Artist and Political Activist in a curiously dark but hopeful time, Boulder, Colorado.

Affirmation Mantras


Positive affirmations can change our lives. We experience all reality on the basis of our personal mind, so if we change this mind, our experience changes too.  Indeed, we can reveal our natural divinity with Affirmation Mantras.  Affirmations are simple messages, a word or phrase that expresses an intention of what we’d like to see in ourselves or our world, like “I AM BEAUTIFUL.” Repeated over and over, they start really have a powerful effect on us, gradually shifting our reality and our thinking. Affirmation or intention mantras can release one from nervousness, pessimism, guilt, fear and pain, and bring about a new, hopeful inner strength. These affirmations may start as seeming a bit fabricated at first, one might repeat, for example, “I AM POWERFUL,” after a very painful divorce. After some time, we begin to see these qualities in ourselves, we can uncover this dormant strength and this can become our life’s reality.

The first thing to do is take an honest self reflective inventory, what quality would I like to evoke in me to improve my life and create more balance? For example one might make a list like: “I often have self doubt, guilt about not being perfect, a bit overweight and tend to be reactive and cranky.” What do I envision for myself? “I want to be a healthy, vibrant Yogini, joyful and strong, optimistic, I know somewhere, under it all, there is a hidden Goddess, just waiting for me to release her and shine!” From this, one could create a simple list of personalized, positive affirmations. One could use our intention malas as a way to stabilize the mind and repeat our own self healing mantra. Affirmations have been proven to work as a result of the power of positive thinking, the mind, however patterned, is defiantly receptive to change, and our new life, brimming right under the surface, just waiting for us to uncover it!

Neuroplasticity and Affirmations

The proven science behind this method is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the Cognitive Behavioral Therapeutic science of rewiring the mind for thoughts that are different and making adaptable changes. Children have this naturally, it’s inherent to our human learning and growing process. No matter how long we have had unhealthily patterns, or even the sad traumas and losses we have have experienced, a human mind is capable of change, if we use some effective and positive healing effort. Intention mantras can be an invaluable tool in this process, and it’s a whole lot cheaper and more effective that years of therapy. It relies on the ability for the being to self heal, and ultimately become self empowered, what an inner treasure. It’s important to keep these affirmations simple and concise and positive, as we are “speaking” to our inner, ageless self, not our intellect. Don’t be too disheartened if you don’t see changes immediately, the older we are, thought patterns and actions can be ingrained, so be kind to yourself, and keep at it!

intention mala beads



For example, positive affirmations have been proven help with: weight loss and making healthier diet and exercise choices as well as appreciating our “imperfect” selves and bodies, lack of confidence, improving self esteem, patience, aging and menopause, anxiety and depression, bringing in more or a new love, feeling gratitude and maybe even help with healing from disease! Give it a try and let us know how you do. Try these dally recitations, given by a noted Dharma teacher:
“I am a good person
I am a kind person
I am a loving person”

Modern “Magic!”

Intention mantras are great, because unlike traditional Sanskrit or Tibetan which are usually based on syllables, these are spoken to ourselves in our natural language, so we understand what we are saying so these recitations have much more transformation power. These are modern Mantras for the west, one could even say this practice is akin to modern day magic.
We at Sakura, believe that all beings in their nature are divine, let’s do this!
Namaste, “may see see the divine within us all” and may we all live our very best lives possible.

Outer Spring Cleaning Detox

Spring is our favorite time of year because it always feels that we can have a fresh start, like a whole new life, filled with growth and possibility. We like to take this time of year to begin the new renewal process with cleaning our homes, bodies and mind, to start a new! Take everything out of each room, clean it well, windows and all, and then replace items in a new and fresh way. While you’re spring cleaning the remainder of your house, remember the kitchen, cupboard and fridge, every nook and cranny affects our mind and well being. In Taoism or martial arts, a clean, flowing, sunlit space is called one filled with vibrant “Chi,” or life force energy. When a space is dirty and degraded, ignored, it is called Shaw, or “dead chi.” The good news is that Shaw, can always be healed with a little attention and care!

An important part of the external cleanse for us requires that we  physically grow at least some our own food and that can be done even if you live in a small apartment with vegetable boxes out on your porch. If you’re don’t have the greatest Green-thumb we also discovered that a lot of green houses and tree farms will do a home installation of a small raised garden bed in your backyard, with a drip irrigation so you can grow fresh fruit outside without virtually any effort! There’s nothing like local sustain-ably grown and fresh vegetables right from your backyard to help to strengthen and cleanse the body with deep nutrition that cannot be found from the grocery store. Some cities, now even allow for “urban chickens,” we at Sakura have five, which means fiver organic eggs a day, please look for next month’s article!

The best way to receive healthful is having a lot of this good, healing food available. No one will ask you to throw out all the decadent, comfort foods, but with a cleanse, one can kickstart the body to maximize benefit with regards to eating right.

Inner Spring Cleaning Detox

We have found the very best Ayurvedic Cleanse that you can do for free here.

Growing seasonal veggies has the bonus of making certain they are eaten at their peak, when they are packing the most nutrients they can. If you can’t grow your own, we recommend purchasing them in the farmers market so they have the very best nutritional value and aren’t transported from long distances. On your next shopping trip, pick these superfood powerhouses: Green peas: full of vitamin C and thiamin, green peas help allergy sufferers and help ward off depression. Artichokes: Skip the cooked and also learn how to cook them fresh, because artichokes include cynarin and a probiotic called inulin. They assist with digestion and are an amazing part of our cleanse. Asparagus: rich in vitamin K, vitamin A, protein and folic acid, this spring green aids transport calcium into your bones and boosts your immunity. Fava beans: High in fiber, iron and also protein, these often overlooked beans function to lower your cholesterol and stimulate passion and fertility.

Lettuce: Think anything, but iceberg here. Different types of lettuce are all chock filled with anti-oxidants and come in a number of colors which will make your salad more appealing. Arugula: A great addition to salads due to its peppery flavor, arugula can be a source of magnesium, which can help strengthen bones, keeps your immunity system going strong and also aids in muscular health. Radishes: Eaten with broccoli, that they work together to ward off cancer. They’re also a great source of vitamin C in their very own right. The leaves are also edible and can be better for you, with even more vitamin C, calcium and protein. Green onions: In addition called scallions or spring onions, these little men are packed with an anti-oxidant that lowers your blood pressure level and reduces your risk of coronary disease. They also act like an antihistamine, which can be perfect for individuals with allergies. Spinach: Popeye will be proud. This leafy green is an unexpected source of vitamin C, as well as folic acid, betaine, lutein and zeaxanthin. Plain old yellow crookneck squash has vitamin C, folic acid, beta carotene, calcium and also all 10 of the amino acids that your body needs, but doesn’t produce. Strawberries: Packed with fiber and vitamin C, garden strawberry shield your heart and increase high-density lipoprotein.

Take this growing and shopping list, do a cleanse, make smoothies, salads and juices, and you will experience a health overhaul and rebirth… depression gone! Weight…Gone!


Spring Equinox MalasSecret Spring Cleaning Detox

The “secret” spring cleaning detox is more of taking the time to discharge and prune out all of the stress, fixation, colorful political drama, family drama, work drama that we’ve taken on and the toxicity is circling around and around our minds and affecting our visit physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. The good news is that within our humanness, there is a treasure trove of stillness, silence,health and well-being regardless of the external conditions of the world. This can be accessed by taking some self-care time being quiet, walking in nature, taking some time for a morning yoga and meditation to still the mind. We have an amazing collection of mala of prayer beads to facilitate this process. Please look at our collection of over 500 healing prayer beads that can be used as a tool for secret spring cleaning detox. Here’s to our outer, inner and secret spring!

water lily nuphar lutea aquatic plant mirroring 158567

Yoga is a meditative practice that attends to both the spiritual components of the mind and the physical structures of the body. Aligning these elements is a crucial part of any yoga practice and is achieved by setting intentions which help us recognize changes we wish to see within ourselves. Intentions are difficult to manufacture for those just beginning yoga, but even experienced yogis have trouble identifying and honoring these goals during practice. Mala Prayer Beads are excellent for adding meaning to our practice and are useful for signifying our intentions and helping us focus on spiritual goals.

Mindfulness & Malas

Strengthening our ability to focus on intentions aids us in developing mindfulness skills that are carried with us through our daily lives. However, building focus requires effort. This exercise in intention is made no easier by the fact that yoga was designed to help us achieve a state of calm and peace. Oftentimes this means we must empty our minds of wandering thoughts, but doing so makes focusing on personal intentions challenging. By adding Mala Prayer Beads into our sessions, we can set a mental focal point and begin to associate our Mala with our intentions.

Onyx for Grounding & Healing

The Onyx Knotted Mala is a perfect tool for aiming intentions. Onyx has natural healing properties and motivates the growth of internal power to facilitate changing bad habits. The serpentine in these prayer beads is especially effective for someone who is looking to overcome emotional trauma and foster acceptance. During practice, these beads are held or worn around the neck to signify our practice goals. For example, if we want to learn to recognize love for ourselves, we will use these beads to remind ourselves that we are worthy of love and acceptance. In future practices, our beads will symbolize this intention and serve as a guide to keep us focused on the path our intentions create.