Spa getaways Travel

Learning to Embrace Chaos: Skylonda Lodge, California

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By Wendy Altschuler

I’m busy. Really busy. Plus, I’m outnumbered by my three raucous and beautiful boys who seem to only function at a noise-at-eleven volume and roll around like a blurred tumbleweed of puppies—habitually with our actual pup in the mix.

I meet my work deadlines at my kitchen table, while the chaos and hullabaloo whirls around my space. When he’s not traveling, my husband also operates from home and his office bleeds out into the rest of our little abode, with his laptop and notebook on the coffee table and his half-full mugs of caffeine spread out on multiple surfaces.

To say that I’m the type of person that would benefit from a wellness retreat set in the Redwood forest (and, who wouldn’t enjoy that?), which would include twice-daily yoga, evening massages, hiking in the mountains and colorful, salubrious and delectable meals, is an understatement.

Enter: Skylonda Lodge, a sustainably built hideaway in a nature-friendly setting, using the principles of Classical Feng Shui, with steel beams set to specific degrees called Precious and Jewel Lines.

I had done my research. I knew that this healing space, set in the Santa Cruz Mountains, hosted Hollywood elite in the early 90’s—Robin Williams, Barbra Streisand, Kevin Bacon, Cameron Diaz—and that Skylonda Lodge was reimagined by the current founder and CEO, Ray Blatt in 2014. The cool thing about Blatt is that he is the former founder and developer of Alta Mira Recovery Center, an addiction treatment haven in Sausalito.

He has used his life experiences and connections to amass a vibrant, knowledgeable and compassionate squad to run the retreats at Skylonda Lodge, which, in my opinion, has made the experience a true wholistic sanctuary, which is hard to come by in a world saturated with pseudo wellness-as-a-buzzword facilities.

Teamwork is Dream Work

Shortly after arriving at the lodge, I met Dr. Gabrielle Pelicci, who led me and my group through Happiness Advantage positive psychology classes each day, with enthusiastic eyes and an open heart. Participating in those classes helped me perceive my daily routine differently – I realised I am actually content with the chaos in my life; I just need to embrace it rather than fight against it.

But calming my mind was only part of this retreat’s goal: it also aims to strengthen the body. Thanks to our certified personal trainer and wellness coach, DeAnn Teixeira, we sweated it out on a joyful metabolism-boosting obstacle course under a tree canopy every day, when Daniel Molnar wasn’t leading us on lung-expanding hiking adventures.

To refuel, Isabelle Jackson Nunes provided us with super-nutritious, locally-sourced plant-based meals. Each was designed and arranged in such a stunning manner that I hesitated before stabbing my fork into her creations. Bob Granger, who flew in from Boulder, Colorado to teach us about nutrition and tell us stories about his health journey surviving stage-four bone cancer (as well as past guiding stories—I’m still thinking about that elk he saw run into the ocean to avoid a predator attack)

Mind, body…what’s missing? You got it: Spirit. And Devin O’Dea, who delved into thought-provoking conversations about trees and our place among them, made me reconsider my role in nature.

Each night, with a tired body, still mind and full heart, I went to sleep in my lovely eco-friendly tree house, with all of the windows and porch doors wide open to welcome in the sounds, sights and gusts of nature. Blue jays, red-tailed hawks, and mule deer were all observing me from a distance. I made a promise to myself that when I returned home—pitched at my messy tabletop, enfolded in my chockablock life—I would make an effort to treat food as medicine, to get outside whenever possible, to take deeper belly-warming breaths, and to embrace the chaos.

So far, so good.

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