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Healthy Aging

How One Week Taught Me Important Real-Life Lessons

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 03/23/2011
Last Updated: 11/12/2018

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Maybe you've noticed my absence; maybe not. I certainly have felt it. During my stay last week at the famed Golden Door resort north of San Diego, every day I thought of all of you. Each time I learned or discovered something new, I thought to myself, "I can't wait to write this down and share it with all my readers!" Honest.

So now that I'm home and fighting the ensuing jet lag, my mind is slowly taking it all in and sorting it all out. And it'll take a long time and a lot of posts to share it all. Expect to hear from me on some new and exciting fitness tips, nutrition news and more in the coming weeks and months, interspersed with my usual non-spa oriented timely health news.

Most immediately, I'm ready to share the more emotional things that shone through during my week away. Any time I go to a new place, my mind and body are primed to experience something different. Only this time I was overwhelmed at how I was able to relate my experiences to real life. Oftentimes, benefits of vacations are left behind as soon as you get home—a sort of out of sight, out of mind experience. Not so this time. Maybe it's because I didn't want my memories to remain 3,000 miles away. I wanted to keep them with me and open them up; be able to relate them to everyday life, not just one week.

Let go of expectations. I thought a visit to Golden Door meant spa cuisine, exercise and pampering. It took exactly one hour, after my in-depth interview with my personal program interviewer, to realize that there was so much more to the program. After reviewing my personal interests and desires and getting to know me better, she was able to create the perfect schedule for me, leaving plenty of room for adjustments as the week progressed.

How it translated to real life? It proved to me that I should never assume that something is the way it is just because I think it is. A little digging will reveal much beneath the surface. And there are very often pleasant surprises just waiting to be uncovered. And this also opened me up to getting to know people beyond the surface of first impressions alone, resulting in making .

Live in the moment. OK, I know that might reek of cliché. But it's so, so true. A moonlight walk on the beautiful labyrinth (lucky us, it was a full moon!) with soothing music playing in the background absolutely grounded me. There was no yesterday and no tomorrow—only what I was doing just then. My mind experienced a freedom it seldom gets to feel. I had the same experience when I took the meditation hike. It was the third hike of the week, yet the first time I had ever actually slowed down enough to hear the gravel crunching beneath my feet and notice the tiny snails scattered along the path, along with the furry caterpillars hugging the tree trunks.

How does that translate to our lives? So often are we mired in yesterday and tomorrow that we forget about where we are right now. For example: I have to write this quickly since tomorrow is my deadline. What did I neglect to do yesterday that I must get done today? Things like that. Taking a moment out to be just where you are gives you peace, clarity and composure. Since I've always been too ants-in-the-pants to sit still enough to meditate, a walking meditation (thus the labyrinth and hike) was perfect for me.

Lighten your load. Since the Golden Door supplies just about everything you need—exercise clothes, daily laundry service for your socks and underwear, jackets, hats and a week's worth of skin care—I had the option of leaving so much "stuff" behind. While I rarely manage carry-on, this time it was effortless. The freedom of traveling light made me so giddy that I am tempted to give away all my large suitcases. Need one?

How does that translate? I realized that life can get so weighed down with many unnecessary things, whether that be one pair of shoes too many or negative thoughts or feelings that nag at us. Often we don't need everything we think we do. Simplicity has an effect that inevitably calms and nourishes the soul. It's like sloughing off that extra layer of dead, flaky skin. Simplify and you will . Ahhh.

Savor your food and eat it mindfully. Great care was given to the arrangement of food on the plates, whether it was cottage cheese with fruit or miso-glazed cod. And the plates were of the 8- or 9-inch variety, so they looked bountiful and packed (and the food was always enough to fill me up). The veggies were colorful and artfully set; the plates were garnished with a sprig of fresh herb. Little touches like that made each meal a treat.

Translated to real life, it reminds me to take the time—and it only takes an extra moment—to make a meal visually pleasing. It automatically cues your body into eating slowly and mindfully, as if you are slowly peeling away a creation, not wanting it to reveal itself in one gulp.

Live your dreams (if only for a moment). A confession: I've always wanted to be a dancer on Broadway (OK, writer came second). Any time I see someone dancing up there, I get great pangs. So, you can imagine how I jumped at the chance for one of the many dance classes offered—one offered dancing to Broadway tunes. In fact, I took two, back-to-back. For just a little while, I was that dancer. Someone even asked me after class if I had been a professional dancer. My day was made!
Back to real life now. And no, I'm still not a Broadway dancer. But those few hours gave me such huge pleasure and filled a deep longing whose effects still linger days later. Instead of seeing my name up in lights, what I do have is a certificate that was presented to me the last night at dinner, which unbeknownst to me, was "award night." Dancing Diva, that's me.

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Wow, it sounds fabulous, and awesome real-life lessons. And you know, so many of the stuff we think of as cliche really IS true. Slow down, live your dreams, eat mindfully, let go of expectations, live in the moment... all good reminders to keep these in the front of our minds.

It was fabulous; and the best thing is being able to keep it with me by incorporating it into real life.

I am so envious of all these great spa visits you have. Maybe someday I will get to do one. I love the idea of not having to pack much for this!

I hope you get to go someday, too. It is a real treat!

Sounds like a delightful experience. Unless I'm packing a giant portion of salad onto my plate, I always use a salad plate for my dinner plate. It is plenty large and reminds my tummy that less is usually sufficient.

I love the small plate trick. It really works perfectly.

I was particularly interested in the "slow down" lesson. Wish I could go to a spa! Looking forward to hearing more. (And, I did miss you!)

Yes, Alexandra, the slow down lesson was worth it all! We all need to do this but sometimes it is so hard to remember it.

Your writeup gave me warm cuddlies and smiles, and brought back lots of memories of my time at G.D. several years ago after my Mom died. Still hope to make it back.

Oh, how nice that you got to experience it, too! Hope you can make it back, too. It struck me how many people are return guests, year after year. They're so fortunate to be able to return to such a special place.

Fascinating post. I've never been comfortable with spas or being waited on, though. What's wrong with me?

Wow, it sounds like you really learned so much about yourself and your health during this one week. Good for you for being so open and adventurous and really getting into the activities, etc. I especially love the thought of the Labyrinth in the moonlight. And, how lucky that you made such unexpected and fantastic friendships! That must've been such a bonus! Anyway, I'm anxious to hear more about it... are you writing another article about your week?

Yes, Ellen, I did learn a LOT about so many things. The Labyrinth in the moonlight was an added bonus to add to the list. And the friendships - priceless and even more of a bonus! I'll be writing more about my week as soon as I sort out all the details.

Wow, it sounds like you learned so much in just one week! Such wonderful things we should all be aware of: mindfulness, good eating habits, nutrition, exercise, meditation, etc, and I especially love the part about doing the Labyrinth in the moonlight! And, the unexpected and fantastic friendships must have been such a bonus! I would love to hear more; are you going to write another article about it?

So glad you got to experience a whole week of immersion! I'd love to try this sometime - and I'd love to be a Broadway dancer for a day too. (Sounds like you're a LITTLE more coordinated than me, though.)

Just find a way to dance for a day, Casey. You'll feel so good!

From the tone of your post, it truly sounds like you learned some important life lessons at the Golden Door Spa. I would love to experience a spa vacation like that. I can't wait to read more of your posts about the experience.

Donna, I hope that you will get the benefits of a similar experience. I was so very fortunate to have it and share it with others.

That sounds so relaxing--I like the part about not having to lug much with you. Is it hard getting back to real life after escaping so thoroughly?

Kristen,Yes,sooo hard getting back to reality. However I must say this: in some ways it is made easier, since I took away skills to help me cope with stress and have such pleasant thoughts to reflect on.

You get to go on the BEST trips!

Wile I was reading I was dreaming that was me the one at the Golden Door! I love your post, so vivid! and so true!
We get caught in the day to day madness that we forget to live the today. Life is not yesterday o tomorrow, is now! Thanks for share those wonderful experiences!

Well, it's nice to dream, isn't it? Yes, we do get so caught up in the madness...it's always nice to take a time out, even if it's just for a few brief moments each day.

Could not be more jealous. This getaway sounds fantastic.

Wish I could have brought everyone along to give them a taste of it!

I spend most of my time caring for others and have always thought of the spa expience as something that other women indulged themselves with. I saved up for the Golden Door and am happy to say I would have paid more than I did. To be able to let someone else take care of me for a week, just so that I could clear my mind and my schedule for a while was soothing and uplifting. It was hard for me to let go of the day to day concerns, and know that I deserve to be treated with such gentle kindness was a blessing and a transformational experience. I'm glad you got to visit this beautiful retreat and are sharing it with your readers.

Thank you for your thoughts, Susan. And so happy to know that you had such a wonderful experience as well!

Golden Door sounds heavenly, Sheryl, even to a non-spa person like me. I've always wanted to walk a labyrinth and it truly sounds magical to do so in the moonlight.

I like all these suggestions - they are an invitation back to simplicity, to inner time and to appreciating what we really do have.
Welcome home!

Can I be your roomie next time, please? Sounds divine -- and just what the doctor ordered.

What an enriching experience it must be to learn to live in the here and now
and to appreciate each and every of our blessings, mindfully.
I hope you can carry this experience, with you for a long time.I loved the article.

Can't wait to get there! In the meantime, I'm going to try to learn from your lessons~


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