Category Archives: Mindfulness

On a Rock, In a Bay, On and Island, In Jamaica: Rockhouse Spa

Something to know about me when I travel: me + jet lag = a headache. Almost inevitably. Unfortunately my time in the paradise that is Jamaica was no exception. I struggled with a splitting headache through the first two days of vacation, choosing to have fun despite the pain, hoping a bit of relaxation would eventually help my head catch up to the fact that we were on vacation. But by day three, I needed more than a bit of hope and the regular administration of Excedrin Migraine.

Enter the Rockhouse Spa.

The award winning spa was just what I needed to finally kick the headache.

This place was incredible. From the moment I walked into the open air building, I felt a sense of calm. The space struck the perfect balance between “Jamaica” and “spa” – light rock and dark wood, sunshine and the sound of trickling water, brightly colored and relaxing spaces set amid green tropical plants.

For my treatment, I chose the signature bath house bathing ritual, which was said to release tension, boost immunity, and reduce pain. It sounded like exactly what I needed.

After checking in and changing into the provided robe, I was led to a cozy chair where I got to soak my feet in a copper tub of flower petal laced hot water. I allowed my body to sink into the chair as I took some deep breaths and settled into a sense of calm.

After a few minutes, I was given a lovely foot scrub with the spa’s signature island mint tea scrub to welcome me to the spa.

Despite not feeling quite ready to move from the comfortable chair, I was led away to a treatment room for a much needed 60-minute aromatherapy massage.  It was wonderful. As each moment passed, I could feel the pain in my head begin to ease.

And then, the best part, my own private bath with an unmatched view of the ocean.

The sunlit bathhouse was beautiful and quiet, the sound of the ocean gentle and soothing. The deep soaking tub was full of steaming water infused with a combination of Jamaican botanicals designed to help me relax and recover. Dandelion, cerassie, green tea, green rooibos, lemongrass, lime leaf and spearmint floated in the the water, pleasantly scenting the room in combination with the salty ocean air. The Epsom salts, sea salts, and baking powder also mixed into the water added to the detoxifying powers of the bath.

After ensuring I was comfortable in the bathtub, my spa therapist brought me a tray of fresh island fruit for me to eat during the bath. I consumed the energizing and healing ginger shot (it burns in a good way) followed by a bite of banana and a sip of water, before being left alone to enjoy.

There are some moments in life that seem almost too wonderful to be real, even as you’re living them. For me, this was one of them. I soaked in the infused water, the heat settling deep into my body. I ate the cold tropical fruits, enjoying the contrast of the warmth of the water and the coolness of the fruit. I gazed out at an unbelievably blue ocean, simply being in the moment, taking in every second before I woke up from what was surely a dream. I could not imagine how this moment could be any better, any more beautiful.

And then, there were dolphins. At first, I almost did not believe my eyes, certain that my entranced gaze had led me to misperceive the movements of the ocean. And yet, there were more. As I sat there, ensconced in the bath, I watched as a pod of dolphins made its way down the coast, smoothly breaking the surface of the water one at a time. It was all too much and I did that weird thing that I do and cried at the beauty of it all. This spa experience redefined bliss.

At the end of it all, when my spa therapist gently suggested that perhaps it was time to get out of the bath, I reluctantly left the warmth of the water. The ocean breeze was pleasantly cool on my skin as I dried off and took one last look around the bath house. And then I noticed it. For the first time in days, I did not have a headache. And I was genuinely relaxed, perhaps more so than I had been in months. The aromatherapy massage, the therapeutic bath, the tranquil place – all had worked together to heal me.

And there was still more. Thankfully, I did not have to jump right back into reality (although, to be fair, being in Jamaica hardly qualified as reality). I was able to sit in the garden, an ice cold towel on my neck, for the last bit of my spa experience – a tea ceremony.

I sipped my tea and savored the moment.

You may be wondering what Brandon was doing during all of this. I believe he was snorkeling and jumping off of things. As I was finishing my tea and debating the merits of never leaving the spa, the peace and quiet was interrupted by someone “whispering” my name rather loudly. After rather disturbing the spa vibe, Brandon found me sitting in the garden. He filled me in on the excitement of his morning and I shared the relaxation of mine. And I believe we both felt perfectly happy in our individual choices and somewhat sorry that the other had chosen to spend the morning in such a manner, each certain that our choice of activity was the best one. But because this is my blog, I get the last word. My morning at Rockhouse Spa was one of my favorite mornings and my spa day was obviously far superior to any morning spent snorkeling and jumping off of things. Plus, I finally got rid of that darn headache. That, my friends, was worth every penny.

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Sleeping in Seattle Day 3

Of the things I love in this world, time alone to recharge and to think is surprisingly high on the list. I say surprising, because I absolutely love the people in my life. I have said before that they are simply the best, most wonderful, and amazing people that could possibly exist. But sometimes, I just want to be by myself. More recently, I’ve discovered that I also enjoy the luxury of alone time while traveling. Of course I love exploring with others, but exploring alone is an entirely different and utterly enjoyable experience. My last morning in Seattle, I took the opportunity to do just that. Without the pressure of conversation or the need to be aware of another person, I could fully notice.

Notice the delicious tastes and textures and sounds as I treated myself to breakfast at Shaker + Spear, the Palladian’s onsite restaurant.

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Notice the smells and the noise and the color of Pike Place Market on a Saturday morning. Notice the lives that were being lived all around me and yet were separate from my own.

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Notice that what I really wanted to eat for lunch was the taste of authentic Chinese food, which I had been craving for months (thanks, Natalie, for the perfect recommendation!).

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And notice how so very grateful I am for the people and places, the sights and sounds, the tastes and travels that make up my life. What have you noticed today?

 

Laughter and Gratitude

It was just one moment – one extraordinary, fleeting moment in a weekend with more than any weekend’s fair share of extraordinary moments. Captured in a slightly blurry photograph, this moment was peace and happiness and laughter induced by some ridiculous joke my brother was making. All too often moments like these pass by without notice or any special awareness. But these are the times that matter – the quiet, relaxed, joyful flashes of the meaningful. In a year characterized by painful moments and too many tears, this picture reminds me to not take for granted the times I can smile and to appreciate the people in my life who make me laugh. This week, take time to notice and be grateful for the wonderful moments.

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. — John Milton

Dogwood Canyon and Cedar Mountain Preserve

Another Saturday, another hike. This time I checked out Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center and the nearby Cedar Mountain Preserve. It was another cool, cloudy morning, but I could not wait to be outside for a few hours. Or maybe I was just looking for an excuse to not study.

Dogwood Canyon currently has two miles of trails, with additional trails planned for the future. The main trail is the West Rim Trail. After a quarter-mile climb, the trail loops for a mile around the western rim of the canyon. The other trail is along the canyon floor and is ADA accessible. Although I did enjoy being outdoors (and more to the point, not being indoors studying), I imagine the scenery will be a little more beautiful in the spring than it was on the late winter day that I was there.

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Cedar Mountain Preserve is accessible from the Dogwood Canyon parking lot, although you will first have to walk along the road and feel like you look conspicuously weird and are almost certainly going the wrong way and/or are lost. Or something like that. The natural surface trail is about 2 miles long and mostly wooded.

Cedar Mountain Preserve

Cedar Mountain Preserve

Cedar Mountain Preserve
A friendly reminder that you could DIE while hiking
And one more just in case you missed the first 3 warning signs and were not quite anxious enough yet.
And another set of signs just in case you somehow missed all the other warning signs and were not quite anxious enough.

Cedar Mountain Preserve

Cedar Mountain Preserve
Because these were two short trails, I took the time to slow down and really pay attention to what I noticed around me. I heard the wind through the trees, listened to the distant whir of cars driving by on the road below, noticed the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet and the swish of my jacket, and caught the almost imperceptible sound of small animals scurrying in the woods. Although at first glance the scenery was various shades of brown, I began to notice glimpses of green and pops of color when I looked more closely. What initially appeared to be a solid gray sky was in fact varied in color and texture. I paid attention to the feel of the wind on my skin and the pressure of the ground beneath my feet. I smelled the coldness of the day and the scent of grass and cedar trees and dead leaves. I appreciated having a healthy body that allowed me to easily walk 4 miles.

Try taking some time to fully attend to something that you do today. Although it might be an everyday activity, being mindful can change your experience. You might be surprised what you notice.

Monday Mindfulness: Arkansas Sunset

Arkansas Sunset

I have not had much time during this past week to put together a post, so I’m keeping it simple. This picture is from my trip home to Arkansas earlier this year. In moments like the one captured in this photo, it is easy for me to remember to be fully aware of the moment, to slow down and focus and notice. It is much more difficult, but no less important, to also be aware in the less wonderful and beautiful moments. This past week, I have repeatedly wished the moments away as I studied and studied and then studied some more. This is a reminder to myself to be mindful even in life’s unpleasant or challenging moments.