Step Inside the Legendary Golden Door Resort and Spa

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It was a rough start to the year and I was seriously drained. The election. Overwhelm. Underwhelm. Relationship woes. I felt like a house that had fallen into neglect and disrepair way too long. My cup wasn’t overflowing. Thankfully, I knocked at Foundation

” target=”_blank”>The Golden Door Resort and Spa in Escondido, Calif. Yes, there actually is a golden door. And when it opened, I found myself in the nurturing warmth of everything missing in my life: self-care, self-love, the feminine, and ample time for spiritual rejuvenation.

Affectionately known as “The Door,” the spa resort claims that “It will change you”. I was more than amenable to change, yet, what surprised me most was just how deep and lasting the changes were. I left healed and whole, feeling frisky, and effervescent. My newfound enthusiasm and joie de vivre have only grown stronger. And the memory of that broken down woman I was when I knocked on The Door, was simply an untruth I falsely believed about myself.

To give you a taste of the spiritual magic that is The Golden Door Resort and Spa, I offer you seven ways how it took me from broken to whole.

1. Heartfelt Female Camaraderie

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Yukatas, sweatpants, and ponytails. Sans make-up. It was women’s week. And that’s pretty much all I wore at The Door. Imagine not putting on your identity in the morning for an entire week. It does something to you. You lose your sense of clinging to the material world to define who you are. Our “spa wardrobe” allowed me to connect deeper with myself and to other women.

I had traveled by myself, which I rarely do. And at first, I was nervous about joining in. But that quickly melted away, just like the stress of the outside world as I connected with inspiring women in surprising ways. I relished our heartfelt conversations at lunch and dinner and on hikes in turquoise sweatpants and evening yukatas. I felt welcomed everywhere I went. There was always a warm smile and a hello, even if we hadn’t met before.

It had been a long time since I connected with women so deeply and openly. And I missed it. Perhaps, it was easier with our identities left on the other side of The Door. There was a refreshing feeling of anonymity – as within The Door – no one spoke much about who they were outside. Either way, the female camaraderie was a warm bath of oxytocin bonding. And I dove right in. We spoke our truth and listened to each other in a safe space. Which was incredibly healing in itself.

2. The Labyrinth of Answers

Life had given me so many questions. And the Labyrinth delivered answers every time. In between classes, I snuck away, rang the chime, and asked the powers that be my question. Then I began my meditative walk. Often, it took only two steps. Other times, my answer didn’t come until the end of this winding spiritual path that opens the psyche. Yet, without fail, a lightning bolt realization always shot through me. The truth I hadn’t seen before hidden by my blindspot. Walking the Labyrinth, helped me understand that the answers I seek are within me. I need only to slow down enough to access them. And the more I released the need to know, the faster my answers came. I slowed my steps, appreciated the oak trees, felt the sun on my back, heard the birds chirp, and opened my mind as I twisted and turned along the path of my psyche. I learned to trust the process. I listened. And then voilà! There it was. The perfect plan. Just the right solution. That came from a high place of knowing and joy that made feel that indeed the universe really is on my side.

3. A Return to Feminine Ritual

In my rushed and hurried life, self-care and beauty rituals fell off the table. But inside The Door? Soulful pampering is an all-important part of reconnecting to the feminine. I witnessed my own transformation. Dark circles disappeared. My skin positively glowed. There was a skip in my step. And I smiled at myself in the mirror.

When I say beauty rituals, I’m talking daily massages, progressive facials, mani-pedis, blowouts, wraps, and more. It was some kind of magic to break away from (albeit) an inspiring conversation because it was “time for my massage.” Music to my ears and it made me felt incredibly special. I was reminded that beauty and self-care aren’t indulgences. Feminine beauty rituals are sacred. Being lovingly wrapped in steaming sheets soaked in rosemary felt so natural and right. For the first time in forever, I could just melt, truly let go, and let someone to care for me.

Other rituals I came to love were the nightly walk to the knock at The Door, meditations before dinner, and the farewell Fire Labyrinth Walk. Ritual brought me back to the beauty of the moment. And isn’t that what happiness is? An awareness of a series of beautiful moments?

4. Shake Up Routine

I never claimed to be a morning person. That’s because I never knew what magic mornings held. Especially, a six o’clock hike at The Door. My first reward for getting up was hot tea and delicious mini-muffins. My next reward was an invigorating hike through a bamboo forest and orange groves, switchbacks with a view, and a descent under oak trees. Witnessing the misty darkness of night fade into the golden sunrise changes you. Not to mention, the wonderful feeling of already having climbed a mountain and it’s not yet eight o’clock.

Then there was the morning meditative hike with sunrise tai chi on a mountain top. With each (at first, painfully) slow and mindful step, I discovered just how rich silence is. It’s far from empty. But full of insight, beauty, and wonderful surprises. With each breath, I felt the space within the space. And a vast infinity between moments.

5. Just the Right Amount of Solitude

Ah, single rooms in elegant ryokan-style with zen garden views, meandering streams, and majestic oak trees. After a glorious early morning mountain hike, breakfast was waiting for me in my room to enjoy with me, myself, and I.

Relishing in my solo silent breakfasts, I integrated what insights and inspirations shot through me from my hike. I wrote them in my journal in-between sips of steaming ginger tea. With a maximum of forty guests, hundreds of acres of property, bamboo forests, meadows, and havens for meditation, it’s easy to slip away and enjoy moments of sweet solitude. Certainly, I buzzed in and out of social events and classes. All the while returning to the quiet respite inside myself and enjoying stolen moments perched on a swing overlooking an elegant waterfall.

I had forgotten how delicious it is to be alone. Like the silent and the deep that I fell into on my meditative walk, I discovered how solitude is rich. There is so much to explore within me. I simply hadn’t slowed down enough to notice.

6. Life-Changing Classes

With 85 life-changing classes, talks, and demonstrations, this was the university I wish I had graduated from. The overall attitude at The Door is DYOT (do your own thing) which means you can pop into as many classes as you want. Or none at all. If you prefer to walk through a meadow or simply relax by the pool, do it. A consummate student of life, I learned Bollywood dance, how to restore my fascia, personalized exercises to correct my posture, spinal stabilization techniques, Yoga Nidra (for better sleep), a Chakra meditation, and the list goes on. As do the classes with The Golden Door Speaker Series featuring interviews with luminaries on soulful topics such as Recipes for a Sacred Life, Gratitude is Everywhere, Vegetable Literacy, and more inspiring life-changing videos.

7. Mindful Dining

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My first day I gazed at the portions. Is it enough? Will I still be hungry? It took me a full day to truly understand and for my body to accept mindful dining. How to simply take enough for now, fully enjoy it, and just how satisfying it is to be hungry again. I slipped into a true rhythm between my mind and body. Whereas before I was caught in a cycle of stressful eating on the go and battling sugar cravings, instead of mindfully nourishing my body.

Every mouthwatering meal is made with fruits and vegetables picked fresh from The Door’s private garden. Dishes are colorful, flavorful, and visually stunning. Every mouthful was an invitation to appreciate a flavorful moment. The Door defines mindfulness as “a calm awareness of one’s body, feelings and mind so that we may live our lives well, with kindness toward others and contentment in ourselves.” Masterminded by executive Chef Greg Frey Jr. and Nutritionist Susan Piergeorge, I experienced exactly that by the end of my stay. A calm awareness of my body and its true needs. And a peaceful mind.

On The Other Side of The Door

As I stood for one last moment on the inside of The Door, I didn’t want to leave. Until I realized that I never had to. Inside of every one of us is a Golden Door that opens to self-love, self-care, spiritual rejuvenation, and celebration. And we hold the key. Where all is good. All is golden. And all awaits us.

Wake to golden light
Mind, body soar to new heights
Just open the door.
– Guest, P.C.F. 

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Images courtesy of The Golden Door Resort & Spa. 100% of all proceeds at The Golden Door go to help children in need.