God said, "Let there be light!" and it was good ...
And Amy said, "Let there be Luminaries" and they were better ...
Wait a minute! That didn't come out right ..
There is a big difference between the "it" and the "they".
Let me explain, please ... I will get this right, but it may take a minute...
Luminaries Retreat is a wellness retreat center that my wife and I were privileged to attend for two weeks this fall. It is the actioned idea of Amy Sotis n her concern for the health and well being of others. We stayed in a lovely suite called, "The Peacock Loft" because the motif was that of peacocks and their feathers. There is also the "Artist Loft", and the "Copper Room", both also tastefully decorated. They also include refrigerators and cooking facilities. The refrigerators are well stocked at the outset and not too much later, loaded with some great leftovers from cooking demos.
First of all, the program includes delicious healthful food prepared as we watch. Then we get to eat it! This is done in a way that we learn how to prepare it ourselves. Cooking demos are done up in the Lofts for some breakfasts and all lunches throughout the weekdays. Dinners were shared cooking by other retreaters or privately in our loft. Not only did the chefs show us how to cook good food, we also got hands-on help on grocery shopping. Amy took us to the store to help us choose well, "Go around the outside of the store first ..." Do you know the stuff you can find on food labels?! Wow, we need to read those things. Amy pointed out to us that even the raw, organic, all-juice bottles have as much sugar as most sodas - just because it comes from a natural source doesn’t necessarily make it good for you.
As a side note, Thumper from the Bambi movie once said something like, "Eating greens is a special treat. It makes long ears and great big feet, but it sure is awful stuff to eat." I was a lot like Thumper. My opinion has changed through the Luminaries chefs (Bill, Sharlene, Amy, and other retreaters) tasteful and clever ways of preparing good, wholesome food. I’m pretty sure if Thumper were to attend Luminaries, he would change his opinion too! Although we eat a lot of vegetables, we also had seafood, meat, nuts, cheese and new beverages to try.
Secondly, the program provides appropriate physical training and exercise. This includes time with a personal trainer at a local gym where we had memberships, swimming at a nearby pool, and hiking and biking on nearby trails. The St Croix Falls area is beautiful - it takes your breath away. Of course, the exercises can do that too. We are given a daily hourly schedule Monday through Friday and we were able to go to most things on our schedule. But, there is enough flexibility built in to sneak in personal time and reflection as well as an occasional walk or run if desired.
Third, the support groups and Luminaries community members really impacted us. Making a sincere life change is hard, and that is really what a wellness center is about. We had safe times together talking about our personal struggles. There were also some guest speakers that shared how they had struggled and changed. These are some truly courageous people that shared their touching stories before us all. They touched my heart. Some of the guest speakers presented medical information and some were personal stories or cooking classes - all contributed to a well-rounded experience.
"And they were better ... "
Somewhere toward the end of the second week I had an unexpected result. I felt better. My whole body felt in a state of well being, but especially my stomach and all that goes with it. I was unaware that I could feel that good. And I can reasonably say that all of us that came were better for coming. It had made a difference for all of us. I was in pretty good shape before I came, so I was surprised and pleased at how very much I benefited from just two weeks. My wife has begun helping others with all we have learned and has changed her cooking style for us personally. Many people have asked us about our wellness experience and how their personal habits might be in comparison. We are now able to be a luminaries to them to impact their health positively!
Our September residential retreat group pictured with Amy