A New Age of Wholeness in the Wellness World Frenzy
Our managing editor set out to see what all the wellness fuss is about
I am 64 years old and when I get out of bed in the morning I feel like a snail trying to make it from the front stoop to the roses lining the walkway. And let’s not talk about the acrobatics I have to go through to get my socks on. So, yes, I exercise—because I have to. I do 20 minutes of stretching in the morning to get my blood to reach my brain. (OK, so not every morning and sometimes it’s 10 minutes and there’s a distraction.) I also still play tennis once a week for almost an hour (and I even remember to take painkillers before I play so that I can play). And I like to walk—two miles of the six-mile Lake Murray trail, twice a week. But obviously, I’m not as gung-ho as fitness celebrities Todd Durkin, Tony Horton or Cassey Ho, whose workouts are “pulse-pounding” (is that a good thing?).
Anyway, fitness, wellness and nutrition are as hot as recycling and going green, so editor Wendy Generes decided that I, green to the world of fitness equipment, programs, products, food and even spa-ing (yes, I’m this old and have never been to a spa or had a massage) would be the perfect person to go out into that world and discover what all the fuss is about.
I start at a spa and find out that today’s spas will pamper you with facials, massages, manicures and pedicures but they can go beyond that—like, way beyond that. Then I go to the annual Idea World Convention where I discover that fitness and nutrition are huge—and by that I mean big bu$ine$$. I chose the convention because it touts itself as “a gathering of the greatest personal trainers, group fitness instructors, club owners and managers, mind-body professionals and nutritionists from around the world who come together for cutting edge education and to sample new products from over 300 exhibitors in the IDEA World Fitness & Nutrition Expo.” Phew, I’m tired already…
To reach the inner sanctum of Leucadia’s Four Moons spa, I have to walk under two wooden poles in the shape of a teepee. I wonder if the poles are supposed to represent the trails from Earth to the spirit world like the Dakota tribe taught. Along a flagstone pathway, flanked by giant birds of paradise, a rustic, teepee-shaped chalkboard sign tells me which direction I need to go to check in.
But I snoop around a little first. Palm trees with strings of tiny lights traveling up their trunks must be impressive in the evenings but now the sun shines and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. On the grounds near a grove of bamboo, a small but great-bellied Buddha statue smiles at me. Amid the grove, koi flecked with golden-orange swim lazily in a lilied pond. The sound of the pond’s waterfall soothes and adds to the meditative atmosphere. In fact, a thatched-roof, wooden, Bali-style pavilion built on the water offers a lounging area perfectly suited for contemplation, although there also are plenty of other areas to sit and think or just enjoy the setting.
Playhouse structures dot the scenery. Some, like the pavilion, are thatched. One, painted white with a striking blue Dutch door, reminds me of Sweden. I peek into a couple of simpler buildings and spy someone getting their toes tended in one and see a yoga class taking place in another. But I’ve wandered enough and now it’s time to head back to the building where I should have gone first—check-in.
My expectation of spa goers—wealthy, fake-fingernailed and fake-eye-lashed, svelte, suave and snobby—is dashed as I enter the reception area of Leucadia’s Four Moons, “a modern SPAce for wellness,” and am greeted by the wholesome-looking (OK, she’s svelte and probably suave) co-owner Courtney Mars. She tells me that she and her business partner, Letha Sandison, opened the spa about a year ago after they met at a New Moon Gathering and realized they were each looking for a “next project” and had a lot in common, including a shared passion for health and wellness (Letha was the founder and executive director for Wrap Up Africa, an enterprise to empower Ugandan families struggling with cancer; Courtney was a spa owner for four years before moving to Indonesia to start a family.)
But wait, back up one second. New Moon Gathering? Sounds a bit Wicca-ish. When I mention this to Courtney she says it’s not that. It’s just a gathering of women during the new moon to support each other on their journey to attain what they wish to manifest in their lives. At the meet-up Courtney and Letha attended, astrologer Shannon Aganza offered guidance via astral insights—hence, I suppose, the insight to open this business for wholeness as well as its name, Four Moons.
OK, now that we have that straight, we can return to the reception area, which also serves as a boutique shop. As I look at the deck of tarot cards, the She Wolfe Tarot Guidebook and Shaman Isabella Stoloff’s Good Vibes Positive Affirmation Cards for sale on a little round table by the door, déjà vu hits, I’m 17 again and it’s the hippie-era of the late ’60s-early ’70s minus the incense and the beaded doorways. Indeed, the shop is a collective (which must be a buzzword because an awful lot of businesses use it in their names nowadays), where other companies within the same genre of “self-actualization” and “raising the frequency of our planet by starting within” pay for space to sell their wares. (In the ’60s, co-op was the buzzword and each participant owned a portion of the business.)
Courtney brings me back to the present. She has my day lined up for me and apparently, it’s starting with an energy healing session done by energy worker Sarah Martin. Say what? As Sarah, dressed casually in a simple sleeveless top, jeans and sandals (what, no tie-dye?), leads me to the little cabin where the consultation will be held she explains that she is a conduit for life-force energy so that “Whatever I need will become apparent—the soul has a template of answers.”
Behind a rustic barn door, walls are painted a pale pink and little niches hold rose-colored crystals. Sarah puts her phone down on a stool and sets it to some sort of “music to relax by” and bids me to lie down on a single bed covered by a sparkling pinkish blanket. She asks if the temperature is OK, which it is, takes a standing position at the foot of the bed and asks if there is anything I want to focus on. I mumble about my arthritis, my knee, my hip but I’m more comfortable being the one to ask the questions, so as she begins by passing her hands over my feet, legs and knees, I ask her how she got started in energy healing. She says that in 2005 she had gone to a healer for her own migraines and discovered that she could receive intuitive guidance for her clients—she was an injury rehab specialist at the time.
Sarah asks me to open my vision and tell her if I feel anything that might need to be addressed. She says that sometimes things only come through her, sometimes only through her client, and sometimes through both. What came through for me was that my posture needed work, so Sarah took some cell phone photos of me standing up so I could view my stance as it should be and as it is. But instead of being alarmed at my Hunch Back of Notre Dame posture, my main thought was, “When in the world did I get this fat?” By the end of the session, though, Sarah intuited some of the barriers that keep me from moving forward in my life. Yep, I’ve got some work to do. (You didn’t think I was going to tell you what my personal barriers are, did you?)
I get to go to bed again in the Balinese redwood bungalow where my massage with Kathryn Anorga is next on my to-do list. Strewn red rose petals greet me as I step into the little thatch-roofed structure.
Meditative music plays in the background. A tiered shelf houses soft glowing candles, snow-white orchids and a mystical portrait of a white-robed woman, with a transcendent aura and a third eye reflecting a state of higher consciousness.
None of this calms me. I’m in a robe that I’m about to have to take off and some stranger is going to touch me. But when Kathryn steps in, I feel better. She just seems…well, nice, sort of comforting. And OK, the oil I let her place under my tongue probably helps too. It’s CBD oil, which is cold-pressed from cannabis but doesn’t have any THC, the molecule in marijuana that gets you high. It tastes sort of earthy-spicy, so Kathryn has water on hand.
After a few minutes (to allow the compounds to diffuse into my blood stream, I guess) Kathryn has me lie face down on the bed, sticking my face into the breathe hole. My thoughts briefly flash on how many faces have been down this breathe hole before me, so maybe the CBD hasn’t quite settled in yet. She has me sniff a few teeny scented bottles so that I can choose a fragrance for aroma therapy but, to me, all of them have the whiff of cleaning agents—especially the lemon, which reminds me that I need to dust when I get home.
Kathryn asks if I want a deep massage, but no, I want to be touched as lightly as possible—if at all. She gets to work, and it feels, hmmm, not bad. It’s not painful like I expected, even when she’s kneading knots that are, well, everywhere. Kathryn uses the oil topically too. She says she studied with herbalists all over the world and that CBD oil is very beneficial for skin, muscles and joints. By the time she’s done, my knots are too and I’m relaxed enough to enjoy a salad, via the Four Moons’ Uber Eats account, at the little tranquil pavilion by the water.
November 5, 2020: an auspicious date for me to retire—at least that’s what astrologist Shannon Aganza reads in my chart. She’s sitting across from me at a desk in the same room where I received my massage. The bed has been moved toward the pond-facing window. She’s talking as she’s scribbling on a legal pad while occasionally looking up at her computer to view my astrological birth chart (a map of where the planets were when I was born that holds the key to my life path and personality).
Shannon, who also teaches astrology, says that people tend to think astrology is all about the zodiac signs but it’s more about the different planets and where they are when you are born. “Everything has a chart,” she says, “from this glass that I am holding, which was made at a specific time, to our nation, which was born at a specific time.”
She says that some beginner students are shocked when they discover astrology is a science with loads of technical information to learn and lots of math to apply. “We learn just about everything an astronomer would learn,” she explains. “Astrology maps the cycles of time. Here, where we practice Western astrology, we measure a tropical zodiac, meaning we set our wheel to align with the seasons.” In Vedic astrology the wheel aligns with fixed star groups.
Learning astrology certainly sounds challenging—and ongoing. The person who taught Shannon nearly a quarter century ago, told her that even after 40 years as an astrologist, she still didn’t know everything about her own chart.
Even my short reading sounded complex: My Jupiter is in Cancer on Uranus, meaning Jupiter is in its place of exaltation. I have “angel energy,” like many spiritual leaders. Hmmm. My Sun is in Virgo, meaning I can do spiritual things on a practical level—the Mother Theresa level, Shannon called it. Mercury is my ruling planet and Mercury is in Libra, hence my communication skills. My Moon is in Cancer, which is its favorite place, translating to my ability to love unconditionally. Wow, I sound great! Jupiter becomes my ruler later in life so I will do what I came here to do (elevate others!) within the next 30 years. Wait, I’m 64…
And our nation? America is in for some big changes, Shannon says. For the first time Pluto is coming back to where it was when our nation was born, so America is “adulting” and we are waking up. Mars, the god of war, is receding and Venus, the ruler of romance, is coming in.
At least, that’s how I understood what she said about me and America. But here’s what I hope I heard right: I can retire with ease in November 2020!
Read Eva’s account of attending the IDEA World Fitness & Nutrition Expo in San Diego, and what she noticed as the hottest trends in fitness, health and wellness products.