Scottsdale, San Diego & Rancho La Puerta (World)

Like a lot of people who visit the Ranch, walking is a highlight. There are early morning invigorating two and three-hour hikes that take you near Mt. Kuchumaa, considered a sacred mountain by the native Indians; there are afternoon bird watching walks, seven hour hikes, and a garden walk that offers an extraordinary breakfast and a tour of the organic garden, where all the vegetables for the Ranch are grown.  If you aren’t into hiking, there’s an outdoor meditative labyrinth you can walk, hammocks to swing in, a pool and table tennis room, an art center, and all those daily classes: seven each hour from nine to four. You can take introductory or advanced or restorative yoga; Pilates, African dance and drumming, salsa, Fitball, weight circuit training, cardio cycling, Tai’ Chi, Qui Gong, workouts in the swimming pool, back strengthening, and Feldenkrais. If you don’t know what something like Qui Gong or Feldenkrais is, all the more reason to find out, because it’s always surprising how something new can be an adventure in the fitness trade.

Then, of course, there are the treatments. You’re at a health spa, you expect to get a massage, or a manicure, pedicure, facial, or haircut, but how about a Loofah Salt Glow, where you’re scrubbed clean with a salt, oil, honey, almond and oatmeal paste? Or an herbal or seaweed wrap, where steaming hot linens steeped in herbs or seaweed are wrapped around your body? You can have water sprayed on you in a Hyrdotherapy massage, have your scalp treated, your feet energized, or go for the Happy Hands and Feet, where both your hands and feet are massaged and then placed in hot paraffin. One of the most popular treatments is the Hot Riverstone Massage, where smooth black stones are heated and placed under your spine and on your chest as you lay on a table feeling better than you’ve felt in years.

These treatments can be done at any time during the day or in the evening (they’re a third of the price the Scottsdale Willow Stream Spa charges). But if you decide to leave your evenings free, you can plan on a highly entertaining night of bingo (led by Barry, who will tell you that while he leads various cardio classes, it’s written in his contract that he has to emcee the Wednesday bingo night, because he’s hilarious, and everyone knows it), see a different current movie each night, listen to a piano or jazz concert, or attend a lecture dealing with sex, nutrition, Mexico, health, philosophy, Spanish, or literature. Then there’s the unexpected, like when Bill Moyers agreed to talk one night and a hundred people filled the Tolteca workout room to hear him. Or the expected, like when the Ranch’s 83-year young founder, Deborah Szekely comes to talk about why we should expect to live longer, and how we should learn to make the most of those extra years.

“It all begins and ends with the body,” Deborah tells her adoring audience. “Everything is either life enhancing or life diminishing. You should find a Sabbath in your life. Read a chapter of something that nourishes the mind before you go to sleep. Consider it a diet for the mind, to put your mind on a different path.  When you wake up, wiggle—say good morning to yourself. Be aware! Be healthy, strong, energetic. You feel this after climbing the mountain in the morning. Remember: this is a fitness resort: we’re trying to provide what you lack in your life. Take advantage of that. There’s no law that says aging means getting old and sick. I’m 83, and I’m not in a rush to be a sweet little old lady. Think about going through previous daily calendars you’ve kept, so you can track how you value your time. Underline in black what you would not do again. Underline in blue what you could have delegated instead of doing yourself. In red, what did you do that, compounded, would add to your life? In green, look at all the things that were challenging for you, that allowed you to grow by reaching out. And then in yellow, highlight what you did with your family and friends, what you did to have fun. Once you do this, you can then project and see your life in five years. If you don’t like the patterns from your past, change them. Take control of your destiny. Write down all the things you wish for, cross out what’s unimportant, and then write down what you want. Create a timeline—what you want to do first, then second, then third. In other words: have a reason to be. Because a lot of you will live to be a hundred. Make use of that fact. Have a passion for life.”

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