Serenity on a Hilltop
A perfect vacation has just a few requirements. First, I need to be separate from my Toyota minivan. (I love ya babe, but we need a break.) Second, I require a view. How can you contemplate your being without a view? OK a beautiful view works best. And third, I have to learn something. I never got over graduate school being over. So a vacation that comes with a course is my kind of getaway.
I found it all at The Crossings, a lovely retreat center poised on a hill overlooking Lake Travis in Austin, TX. Once you drive there you tuck your vehicle in the trees never to be seen until you leave. Almost everywhere you look you see what's below, a lake, a forest, and gentle trails scattered with brilliant wildflowers. There are several courses to choose from neatly packaged in weekends or weekdays taught by various visionaries. You can also design your own business retreat. Need yoga at your desk or learn how to cook vegan? They can arrange that. I chose a workshop with the rock star of the movement world, Moving Medicine with Emilie Conrad.
The Crossings is the vision of Joyce and Ken Beck (Beck is an ex Dell executive and Joyce Beck is a psychotherapist.) They invested $25 million in building a retreat center for curious health-seeking citizens and businesses. The place is built with intention through and through; there's not a thoughtless structure on the grounds. Built according to the principles of permaculture, the trails all follow the natural curves of the hillside. Special care was paid to not interrupt various species mating practices during the building process. Building are clustered close together to reduce impact to the landscape. It's a green heaven. So if you are looking for a low carbon profile vacation, look no further. The place is healthy without being full of itself. Yes, you can drink coffee, wine, and enjoy fish and other meats. If you like to read, there are wonderful decks nestled throughout the grounds.
Is a vacation ever complete with out a little visit to the spa? I think not. No buff and puff hair and pampering fat farm feeling here, The Crossing's Wellness Spa is devoted to creating a complete experience. “Come early, enjoy the sauna, the cold plunge before your treatment, then linger afterwards with a cup of tea,” advises owner Joyce Beck. “We are interested in the educational component of the spa experience. We want you to take a taste of serenity home with you.” And that's exactly what I did. A little soak in the vanishing-edged pool which visually merges with the lake is a must pre or post treatment. I enjoyed the orange blossom massage where my senses were treated to the delicate aromas of various fragrances such as geranium, and ylang ylang. Warm stones, hot foot towels, and cooling eye tea bags added to the drama of the treatment. The In-season body treatment changes with the what's in season of course. My luscious experience included a cranberry pomegranate sugar scrub topped with a chocolate truffle body wrap. Eminence Handmade organic Skin Care of Hungary make it an especially healthy event. (Ever notice how young Hungarians look?) Apparently chocolate is great for the collagen because its rich with antioxidants. And all this time I was eating the stuff. All these delectables are washed off with a Naseberry yogurt cleanser. I never met a Naseberry but I am glad I did.
The Wellness Center at The Crossings could easily take up the whole day. The menu is vast and filled to the brim with wonders for the body, mind, and spirit. Several hard to find techniques like Trager and the Alexander Technique are also available. Various classes such as Nia, Tai Chi, Yoga, and meditation are available free for guests throughout the day. The The Watsu Aquatic Massage is a must try. In a separate body temperature pool you reunite with your watery beginnings.
Speaking of the power of fluid, Emilie Conrad's question to all of us is, “If we are made of mostly water why are we moving like robots at the gym?” Here's the bottom line, there isn't a single right angle in nature or the body for that matter; our design is made from spirals, spheres, cylinders, and curves. So why are we moving in linear patterns that are putting our brain in a soma coma? Conrad is the founder of Continuum Movement, a bio-based approach to movement and health that focuses on primacy of the body's fluid system. Dense fluid in the way of armed muscles might make a toned corpse but little has nothing to do with the inherent design of the body. Continuum employs non-habitual movement sequences, breaths designed to penetrate dense tissue, and sound. It's not just about surviving, but thriving. Conrad's version of apparatus known as an explore board enables you to utilize your body in many dimensions. Did you think we were supposed to just be upright all the time? Conrad, at 73, is proof enough of the validity of her work. Supple and able to hang upside down and move like an octopus, this septuagenarian defies the rules of aging and decrepitude. Conrad's new book, Life on Land, is just out, and will sure to take the movement world by storm. She turns most of what you have held sacred about health and fitness on its ear, and she's not afraid to tell you the gruesome details of what we have all been doing with ourselves all these years. But I promise you will be thoroughly entertained as the myths shatter around you. With Continuum its never to late to improve. Conrad knows her stuff and is uncompromisingly clear and precise in her presentation.
Conrad is one of many visionaries that visit to the crossings. Deepak Chopra, Julia Cameron, Brian Weiss, and Caroline Myss also make yearly pit stops. If you are not a workshop type and in need of a little R & R, you can't beat their getaway spa weekends.
I forgot to mention that a good vacation for me involves good food, food that I had nothing to do with getting in front of me. Chef Fred Perry saw to that. Choices for vegans, vegetarians, or eat everything types like myself, are available three meals a day. The Treehouse Cafe is about to expand to be a full-service restaurant shortly. Munch deckside while the sun sets. Some nights feature live music from Austin singer songwriters.
As for sleeping, there are several options. The handsomely furnished lodge rooms make you feel like Barbara Stanwyck on The Big Valley. Your deck overlooks the hill tops with nothing but nature in sight. The Bunkhouse, the economy choice, is a cozy option, small but lovely individual rooms with shared bathrooms. For deep contemplation head straight to the Solidago Sanctuary, an intimate retreat for all faiths. For those that like to stay wired while away, several locations have wirelesss connections.
Serenity may not be the first things you think of when it it comes to Texas. That just might change after your visit to The Crossings.
by Nancy Wozny