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More than 2,000 monasteries and other spiritual communities throughout North America offer off-the-beaten-path retreats at reasonable prices and gener- ally welcome guests of all religions and spiritual practices. The one requirement is that guests not disturb others. At Ghost Ranch, in the high desert


of Abiquiu, New Mexico, “The scenery alone is spiritual and healing,” relates Nancy Early, a New York film producer. Under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, activities encourage individual and social transformation (NewMexico- GhostRanch.org). Early says the best part is, “There’s one pay phone, and cell phones don’t work here; no TV or radio. You walk away from everything that controls your life.”


Optimal Wellness:


Mind/Body Sometimes the healthy escape we seek can be found at a destination spa, which combines enough structure to slowly wean us from daily busyness with sufficient soothing, quiet spaces and physical nurturing. For Debbie Phillips—who spends


part of the year in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and the other part in Naples, Florida—one visit to a spa was all it took. As an executive and life coach, Phillips founded Women on Fire in 2003 to connect her “on fire” clients with each other via regional meetings and a free online newsletter, and dis- covered that the condition sometimes crosses the line into overwork. “My first visit to a spa more than


20 years ago was when I first learned about the life-changing benefits of tak- ing better care of myself. In addition to the soothing amenities, the peace, calm and quiet usually found at a spa—space to think, nap, read a book or gaze into the sky—often results in ‘less’ becom- ing ‘more’ in your life,” Phillips says. “I have returned home feeling lighter and brighter and even more excited for what is next. The experience gave me just the boost I needed to keep going.” Recently, Phillips discovered


simple techniques to nurture herself all year long by attending a breath- ing and meditation class at the Lake Austin Spa, in Texas. “Now I start each day with long, deep breaths before I


even get out of bed,” she says. “It is so simple, so calming and establishes my day with peace.” Virginia Nelson, a San Diego, Cali-


fornia, attorney, likewise revels in her twice-yearly visits to Canyon Ranch, in Tucson, Arizona. “The pace in southern California is like running a marathon every day. My visits serve as respites that have allowed me to keep up with it this long.


“I first went in 1991 and saw a place to go and cocoon,” recounts Nelson, “but I also discovered incred- ible fitness and education classes.” The spa is essentially a reset button for her. “It’s rest, rejuvenation and reinvention.” Canyon Ranch has several U.S. loca- tions (CanyonRanch.com). Some facilities feature niche


mind/body experiences, such as the psychic massage or chakra balancing at Mii Amo Spa, in Sedona, Arizona (EnchantmentResort.com). Oth- ers specialize in holistic wellness. Tucson’s Miraval Resort, in Arizona, offers an integrative wellness program guided by Dr. Andrew Weil (Tinyurl. com/6p2l237). Chill-out spa services like a hot stone massage are often balanced by breath walking, qigong or desert tightrope walking.


Active Adventure:


The Body Finding a clear stillpoint of one’s soul can also occur while moving and challenging our bodies. Exercise helps us break through not only physical boundaries, but emotional and spiritual barriers, as well. Barbara Bartocci, a long-distance


cycler and author of Meditation in Motion, maintains that moving keeps both our brains and bodies healthier. “Research at The University of Arizona found that regular exercise appears to preserve key parts of the brain involved in attention and memory,” she notes. “It is well known that exercise helps to reduce anxiety, allay depression and generally improve mood, by prompting our bodies to release more endorphins.” Bartocci has experienced the power of these connections firsthand. “Active vacations are truly transformative,” she says emphatically. “When I bicycled across Iowa on RAGBRAI [The Des


natural awakenings June 2012 19


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