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At Open Sky, meditation is taught as a means to assist our students in becoming healthier by invoking a sense of calm and reducing stress. Research has proven meditation is effective at supporting individuals with a variety of mental and physical health issues including anxiety, depression, stress management, drug abuse/addiction, and interpersonal relationship distress. The practice of meditation correlates with higher self-esteem for those who are meditating. Additionally, several positive physiological effects occur in the body during a meditation session which can reduce stress, and enable individuals to think more clearly and thereby make better choices.

In this second installment of our 3-episode guided meditation series, Family Wellness Counselor and Certified Meditation Teacher, Norman Elizondo leads a 10-minute embodied mindfulness meditation. In this episode, listeners receive practical instruction and have direct, immediate practice on how to:

• use the senses and the posture of the body to come into the present moment
• train yourself how to mentally label and disrupt repetitive thinking
• find calm and focus through purposeful breathing
• and rewire your brain and nervous system for greater emotional resilience



Norman Elizondo, BS

Norman earned his BS in Business Management from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Following the death of his mother, he considered her parting advice about doing work that really helps people and began his career in wilderness therapy as a field instructor.

As an immigrant from the Philippines, becoming educated and assimilating into American society has driven Norman to work hard, adapt, and feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for being a U.S. citizen. As such, he has enjoyed tremendous opportunities; one of the most meaningful was to help found Open Sky.

Norman takes great pride and pleasure in helping Open Sky parents understand their child’s work. He assists parents in developing the same basic skill sets including emotional regulation, assertive communication, and effective boundary holding, all of which are crucial in parenting. Norman facilitates Open Sky’s Wellness Weekends, parent support calls, graduations, meditation instruction, and field guide training.

Meditation has been a cornerstone of Norman’s life. With prior study and practice in the Southeast Asian Theravada tradition beginning in 1995, Norman has been studying and training as a meditation instructor in the Tibetan tradition since 2001. Norman is a certified meditation teacher with the Dharma Ocean Foundation.



Wilderness Therapy, coping skills, emotional and spiritual growth, self-confidence, emotional support, healing, young adults, recovery support, empowerment, destructive relationships, substance use, personal trauma, family dynamics, oppositional defiance, adoption/attachment issues, treatment resistance, navigating non-traditional and complex family systems, substance abuse, substance addiction, depression, anxiety, meditation, mindfulness


“It’s a feeling that you can find, and when you’re balanced, when you think you’re centered, notice how it feels. You can actually mentally label that feeling of being centered.”


“When you have been mentally labeling you’ve also been stimulating your brain in a very specific way, firing the midline circuits of the prefrontal cortex and integrating the prefrontal cortex with the midbrain, the limbic system, the emotional part of the brain, and all the way back down to the brainstem, the reptilian part of the brain, that keeps us alive. So you have been integrating the three different regions of your brain.”


“The way we release challenging emotions is to be aware of them and then to develop the capacity to feel them, experience them.”


Emily Fernandes

On a wilderness trip in Alaska with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in 1995, Emily discovered she could combine two of her passions: working with youth and being outdoors. Since then, she has worked for Aspen Achievement Academy, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, and Connecticut Wilderness School. She was part of the founding team at Open Sky.

Emily worked as the lead therapist for adolescent girls for her first 5 years at Open Sky. Her areas of clinical expertise include depression, anxiety, grief and loss, trauma, self-harm, disordered eating, and adoption and attachment issues. Her clinical approach is informed by cognitive behavioral, psychodynamic, family systems, and attachment theories. Relationship building through letter writing is a major focus of her work with students and families.

As a founder and owner of Open Sky, as well as the Clinical and Executive Director, Emily brings a breadth of knowledge with her background as a therapist, field guide, trainer, logistics coordinator, emergency responder, and field director, Emily is known for her direct, caring leadership style, her ability to inspire excellence in others, and her team oriented approach. The student treatment plan is her compass for her decision-making regarding Open Sky’s students, families, and employees.

Emily loves reading, writing, yoga, mountain biking, telemark skiing, rock climbing, spending time with friends and family, and cooking with foods from the local farmers’ market.


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