Luxury, of course, right? We’d be so healthy and rejuvenated if only we had more money, comforts, alone time, and maybe some pampering. That’s definitely what I used to think…
I have listened enviously to friends tell me about their retreats at health centres. They stayed in luxurious accommodations where all their needs were taken care of while they focused on their chosen wellness program. They were served gourmet meals cooked by qualified chefs, and treated to healing treatments by beauty and wellness therapists. They came back from these retreats feeling so pampered and relaxed. But experiencing it for myself always seemed out of my reach due to the very high prices for accommodation and food, plus any extra costs for treatments.
So I had to pinch myself this morning when I woke up early to the sounds of roosters and chirping birds to join a morning meditation before my green breakfast smoothie and yoga on the roof, overlooking a lush tropical beach village in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. I am nearing the end of my own week ‘away’ at a wellness retreat, and what an amazing week it has been. But it didn’t cost me much at all, and instead of luxury and pampering, I was treated to something even more valuable…a community.
When I found the website for The Sanctuary, the ‘healing haven’ looked like a wonderful place to relax, detox and get away on my own for a while. The prices were so low, that I thought there must be a catch. Ah yes, Guests have to work or contribute their time one hour per day, Seva Guests work 2-3 hours per day, and Volunteers work even more, serving as longer term staff.
I can hear you say, “Work time at a health retreat? Didn’t you go there to get away from work?”
However, isn’t a wonderful concept? The guests working together lowers the costs of running the place, so that lower rates can be offered for accommodation, food, treatments, and activities. This way, a health retreat is accessible to people of all budgets, as it should be.
And as I found out, this concept offers something even deeper and more valuable than getting a good price on a holiday.
After morning yoga on the palapa (roof veranda), we have our work time for an hour or two. Today, Barbara does some gardening, grinds some spices, and sews a ripped cushion cover. Eva waters the pot plants and sweeps the verandas. Tony puts away the clean dishes, feeds the cat, and fills up the water filter. I get to work making some signs for the bedrooms and bathrooms.
On the surface, we may seem like unlikely companions, varying widely in our ages, belief systems, experiences and personalities. But working together like this gives us a community feel that filters into the rest of the our day. It creates deep conversations, friendships, support-systems and connections that help us heal and grow.
Under the guidance and generosity of our host, Pete, we are learning to heal ourselves and others. Instead of having professionals take care of us, we are learning how to do our own detoxification rituals, meditations, and emotional healing techniques. We are learning much more about healthy cooking, supplements and food than if we never went into the garden or kitchen. This way, our physical and emotional health continues to improve even after we leave the retreat.
On Sunday when our young local cook Jose takes the day off, we all make lunch together in the kitchen, sharing ideas and expertise, and experimenting with flavours – all the while enjoying each other’s company and putting lots of love into each dish. When it’s done, we feel very proud of our meal, and the contributions we’ve made to our temporary home.
You see, here we are working together. We are contributing our various talents and ideas, feeling useful and needed, being a part of something bigger than ourselves. We are learning that whether we are in our 20’s or 60’s, whether we live a life of struggle or privilege, whether we are in good or poor health, we are all people with the same needs of love, cooperation and community.
This large Mexican style home called The Sanctuary is a place for relaxing, centering, and healing, yet there are no qualified ‘healers’ here, no gourmet cooks, no luxurious suites or professional body treatments. But what I realised this week is that sometimes the best treatment for our minds and bodies comes not in getting, but in giving and sharing with others.
See a video of me at The Sanctuary Healing Haven!
Do you feel rejuvenated and healthier from some community activity or group? Please comment and inspire us with your experiences!