It’s a magnificently sunny Sunday in October, on the eve of the second presidential debate. One can feel the tension mounting and the news increasingly hunting for more turmoil, especially with the severe storms on the east coast. With unrelenting fever, the pressure is on and many of us are feeling the impending doom. Some of us are also experiencing a feeling of excitement in the air, a certain knowing that if we can seek out the beauty, the grace, the gratitude in the simple things, everything else will somehow be alright.
“The simple everyday experiences become the doorway to new thoughts and inspirations.”
As a last minute gift to myself I accepted an invitation to visit a sacred sanctuary in southern California. Part destination spa resort, part Japanese temple/monastery, part otherworldly, a place that has maintained it’s pristine nature for almost fifty years. After traveling on a meandering country road, I arrived at the secret entrance to a far away place, where I was beckoned to enter through the Golden Doors. After several tumultuous months of uncertainty, experiencing another life quake, I decided that the minute I entered the doors of this zen-retreat, I would let go and leave the rest of the world behind!
An immediate sense of peace and tranquility drizzled over me, as I stepped through the threshold into the secluded setting, inspired by an authentic Japanese honjin inn (which is a series of buildings).
It has always attracted the uber rich, successful and famous who frequented the serene setting and indulged in spa cuisine, body wraps and strenuous exercise. It still maintains it’s purity, as a sacred refuge from the outside world. It feels like you are entering into an authentic traditional village, with a bathhouse, Japanese gardens, a bamboo forest, labyrinths, koi ponds and a significant collection of Asian art (acquired over the years by the founder and spa diva Deborah Szekely.) Notables who have also crossed the threshold into this enchanted place were Natalie Wood, Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Burt Lancaster and others. These Hollywood icons found their bliss while getting into shape between film roles. Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, Nicole Kidman and Barbra Streisand can be found chilling out while discreet fellow guests respect their privacy.
“The moment you enter through the golden doors, cross the yatsuhashi inspired footbridge and release your cares at the turn, you will be nurtured, guided and transformed in our legendary, all-inclusive, 5- or 7-day body and mind program.”
In recent years, the spa industry has become more corporate and sophisticated. When new owners came onboard, this unpretentious hallow ground has had to step up and become au courant with the other spa movers and shakers. By expanding the property, revitalizing the orange grove and bamboo forest and by utilizing the natural resources, each guest becomes enveloped into the specialness of this sacred land. The exciting changes by the new owners including the renovations, and new GM, Kathy Van Ness at the helm, (former fashion biz wiz), The Golden Door has taken a step ‘back to the future’. The newly restored rooms were upgraded and are back to some of their original furnishings while retaining the utmost serenity.
The latest trend in spas is becoming more eco-friendly, sustainable and green. The land has been revitalized with a transplanted olive orchard, new chickens for fresh eggs, a 3,000-square-foot computerized greenhouse and five biodynamic culinary, floral and herb gardens.
Jeff Dawson is the director of a new lands and farms division who previously created biodynamic gardens for Apple founder Steve Jobs. “Produce includes fruits and vegetables in multiple varieties (there are 50 types of tomatoes) and herbs such as lemon verbena and lavender that are mixed into fresh spa scrubs and a newly formulated, locally produced Golden Door skin-care and beauty line.”
This idyllic setting, with perfect weather today, and a smooth as silk breeze is just what the doctor ordered. The new guests from all over the world are immediately struck by the essence of beauty through simplicity and can detox immediately from their hectic travel encounters.
Although mostly women grace these sacred pathways, many men have become addicts too!
“Jim Pedas, a film producer and former movie theater owner, has visited the Golden Door 115 times since 1979. “I was a spa-hopper until I settled down there,” he said. “It is very special because of the spirit that Deborah ingrained in the place, and that basic spirit has not changed. Opening those golden doors is like entering the doors of paradise. Suddenly I feel very, very calm.”
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Originally published at medium.com