On a cool August Saturday, I ventured into the woods of the Ramapo Mountains in search of relief after a few particularly anxiety-ridden months. When I made it back to the main road some hours later, after a reiki and sound resonance gong bath session and having met and played with rescue animals, I felt calmer, lighter, and even a little less scared of equines. (I was once thrown off a pony at a circus—and it has apparently stuck with me.)
TevaLand Sanctuary Farm, nestled on 16 acres in Hillburn, NY off the historic Stag Hill, offers a one-hour Precious Moments With Nature Experience by reservation which includes time with their animals and the aforementioned reiki and gong bath in an open-air tent situated among the trees, as a stream flows gently beneath you.
“You start with eco-healing, then you do the gong therapy and the reiki. You don’t remember what you left behind in the car,” says Taly Ron, the sanctuary’s founder and owner, who is a certified reiki master and regularly performs the practice on the animals, who she lovingly refers to as her kids.
Kevin Portscher, owner and chef of the Village Green Restaurant in Ridgewood, NJ, has worked with TevaLand for several years, holding raffles and collecting donations as well as donating produce scraps every week to supplement the animals’ meals.
“The winter is the hardest time for them,” he says. “We always try to do a couple fundraisers to get them through the winter.”
When Portscher finally had the time to try a healing session, it was an experience he didn’t expect. “It left me a little more open to everything going on in my life. It gave me a positive attitude that stuck with me for a while,” he says. “Afterwards everything cleared itself up for me. I looked at my situation differently.”
It’s not just reiki either, he says. “It’s the land they’re on, it’s the area, it’s the animals. It’s how everyone is joined together that made it special. The animals bring some kind of energy to what’s going on. I don’t think it would have been as effective if it was done at some massage parlor.”
TevaLand depends heavily on the kindness of others to continue running. As a 501(c)3 non-profit, everything the sanctuary makes from the Precious Moments With Nature Experience, donations or book sales (they wrote a book about Puffi, a blind duck they cared for until she passed at 7 years old) goes back to the animals.
“It takes a village,” Taly says. It also takes “a lot of good humans” to right the wrongs done to these animals. “It takes one minute [to harm an animal] and to undo that one minute that person inflicted will take me one year, two years, sitting with them building trust.”
Like the Island of Misfit Toys, TevaLand is a haven for animals of all kinds including two 70-year old koi fish they inherited with the land, goats, horses, geese, ducks, and a big goofy dog—all of which were previously unwanted, rescued from abusive or neglectful situations (and even one circus escapee). Taly knows the names of all of them, down to each chicken and bunny that make up the majority of their rescues.
Taly and her husband, Farmer D, came to the Ramapo Mountains around 10 years ago in search of a “quiet place to escape,” as D puts it. But having so much space, they looked into getting goats and saw so much neglect and cruelty that they decided to start rescuing them.
“No one in our area helps those kinds of animals,” Taly says. “Three years later we made the steps to become non-profit... We kind of brought love back to the mountain."
Every animal’s rehab is customized to their specific needs when the Rons meet them, like Ollie the pig who was previously living in someone’s home and had water in his brain due to a poor diet of cereal.
“[He wasn’t] ready to be outside, so we had to teach him,” Taly says. “We let them relax and start getting to know who they are. We’re letting them tell us their stories.”
And when an animal comes to live with them, they’re there to stay. “I don't re-home the kids,” Taly said. “How can I promise a forever loving home if I don't know the person?”