A desert retreat to heal from trauma?
April 5, 2017 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Where can I spend a week in nature recovering from past trauma and healing with like-minded folks?

In the past 2 years I've partially recovered from a disease and lost 2 loved ones. I'm 40, supposed to be in my life's prime, but I'm exhausted, alone, and at a crossroads. I seem to be resistant to meds, etc, in an attempt to get through this.

This reference seems a little silly, but - in Breaking Bad, the rehab place in the desert where Jesse went? I want a secluded location like that, far away from the east coast, where I can speak with nice people, sit around a campfire, hike, and heal with the help of others. I spend enough time alone as it is, and that's definitely not helping. I would like the support of a welcoming group.

Is there any non-rehab type retreat that fits this bill? I've never actually been to a desert but something about that surrounding seemed like a nice, contemplative location to hunker down for a week and just decompress. Thank you.
posted by deern the headlice to Human Relations (15 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I would recommend Esalen, but apparently they're closed until June because of mudslides. If that works for your timeline, though, take a look.
posted by brainmouse at 8:03 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I should add - I have googled around for places of course, but I am curious if MeFites have actually experienced a place like this first-hand, or have friends or relatives who have and who've felt better after a week's retreat.
posted by deern the headlice at 8:06 PM on April 5, 2017

Rancho La Puerta might fit the bill (depending on your budget). I spent a week there after my mom's illness and death, and it was just what I needed - a beautiful, quiet desert garden where nice people gave me good food and gentle company. Some of their philosophy sounds pretty "woo" but I didn't find it obtrusive. There is hiking, yoga, spa - or just sitting in the garden - plenty of options but no pressure to do anything but relax. I would happily go again next time I need a serious retreat.
posted by tinymojo at 8:41 PM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Maybe The Golden Door? My wife has been, and raves about it.
posted by primethyme at 8:47 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe the hot springs in Death Valley? Hot springs often end up with an informal community around them.

In my opinion, a week probably isn't enough, and you should try to be there (or maybe visit two different places) for 3-4 weeks.
posted by salvia at 10:02 PM on April 5, 2017

I just got back from Death Valley, and it was amazing. And remote. You really can be away from it all there.

Maybe also Joshua Tree NP.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:01 AM on April 6, 2017

I have no specific recommendation but I would look for something in Sedona AZ.
posted by jmsta at 5:23 AM on April 6, 2017

Some years ago I stayed at Miraval near Tucson, which I think meets your needs. Many types of massage! I'd also recommend their horse-care program, which isn't about horses at all, it's a crash-course in dealing with people, and life -- no riding required.
posted by JimN2TAW at 6:32 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tassajara, maybe? It's a Buddhist monastery and they run different retreats all summer (May - Sept) that may suit your needs - meditation, yoga, Zen, mindfulness, also some arts. I think it would be a wonderful place to decompress and heal. The hot springs are incredible, the location is remote and beautiful with lots of chances for hiking, the food is amazing, etc. During a difficult time in my life, I went there for the fall work period and remember it as one of the most restorative experiences I've ever had. During a work period, basically you trade simple manual labor for room, board, use of the hot springs, time to hike and experience the area, etc. I like to DO stuff so I found that really relaxing - I literally spent a couple of days moving rocks from one location to another. The spring work period actually starts tomorrow and runs for the next few weeks, if you're able to go now maybe they still have room! I'm sure the retreats are great too although I can't speak from personal experience on those.
posted by john_snow at 6:32 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

is peaceful and quiet with amazing food, yoga, long walks in the desert, bonfires at night, and HOT SPRINGS! There are also cabins across the road that aren't part of the complex but much cheaper. North of Santa Fe.

Edit: link not working: http://ojocaliente.ojospa.com
posted by cakebatter at 6:50 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Esalen recommendation. My brother committed suicide in the midst of a psychotic break in 2000. It took me 6 years before I could even begin to wrestle with what that meant. The funny thing is I went to that retreat in 2006 with the intention of figuring out what next to do with my life and a raft of old shit bubbled up.

That's the thing about grief and trauma, they work on their schedule not the one we want them to. The only advice I can give is to allow things to unfold as they need to and don't let anyone tell you how best to do the work ahead. Be as open as you can be and know that you can circumnavigate the issues but that closure (a word I truly hate) may never come but more peace definitely can. Seventeen years later I still think of my brother daily but in a far more nuanced way.

Back to Esalen, since my first visit I have been visited a number of times and I've come to think of it as a spiritual home. If you do go try and check in early and wander the grounds a bit and maybe head down to the baths. Soaking in the volcanically fed water as you gaze across the Pacific helps the body begin to let go of it's part of the trauma you are carrying. Add in the amazing massage that's available and you can go pretty deep. Just know that beneath the soft warmth of the place lies some real intensity.

One word of caution, be sure to titrate your openness to where you are in your journey. I know that sounds terribly New Age but in one of my visits I went well past my own guardrails and it took a while to get regrounded. I let the staff know and they were really helpful and kind which was exactly what I needed.

Safe travels,

- Bill -
posted by skepticbill at 8:45 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

I read about a place in the desert that was designed for people who had experienced trauma. It was run by a man who I believe was a Quaker or some kind of religion of peace person. I also think he started it after his son died. I cannot for the life of me find it, but I'm putting it out there in case someone else can.
posted by orsonet at 9:13 AM on April 6, 2017

Rent a camper van in Vegas drive west ninety miles, Tecopa Ca.
posted by hortense at 10:33 AM on April 6, 2017

Maybe look into the various programs available at Ghost Ranch -- it's up in northern New Mexico, north of Santa Fe. It's basically Georgia O'Keeffe's backyard. The ranch is owned by the Presbyterian Church but only some of the retreats and workshops they run are spiritual in nature. They have workshops and retreats with specific intent, but also "R&R Week" options that are more flexible in intent. I spent a couple of days up there two springs ago and it was exactly the chill desert vibe you're describing.
posted by palomar at 12:07 PM on April 6, 2017

A family member stayed at Miraval in Tucson and still raves about it and the horse program that JimN2TAW suggested. Canyon Ranch in Tucson also comes highly recommended.
posted by nestor_makhno at 7:57 PM on April 7, 2017

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