By Nava & Michael Raviv
Are you looking for some “me” time to re-energize and rejuvenate your body and spirit? Head to the Menla Mountain Retreat a peaceful, serene place in the Catskill Mountains.
Menla was founded in 1987 by the Tibet House under the guidance of HH the Dalai Lama to promote authentic Tibetan healing and teachings to the West. We recently visited Menla for a relaxing weekend and participated in the “Tibetan Rejuvenation Immersion” series led by prominent Tibetan Doctor, Nida Chenagtsang and renowned Tibetan Scholar, Robert Thurman. The weeklong program attracted a variety of guests including practitioners and teachers of Tibetan medicine and Buddhism, frequent travelers to Far East ashrams, and serious students of Tibetan philosophy. In fact, several attendees flew in from as far away as Goa and Bali.
As we entered Menla’s wooded property, we immediately aligned with the natural surroundings. It seemed surreal that within a two-hour drive from Manhattan, we were driving through the quaint town of Phoenicia to be surrounded by scenic mountains and acres of the majestic Catskills, nestled deep in the Forest Preserve. We later learned that the area was held sacred by the Esopus and Mahican Tribes, and throughout the years it was home to several healing retreats. It was easy to feel the balancing power of this place. The area is serene, with sprawling green expanses, small shrines, a tranquil pond and wooded nature trails surrounding the main buildings.
HEALING & PAMPERING
We couldn’t wait to be pampered at Dewa Spa, located in a modern building created by New York City architect Duke Beeson and Clodagh Design. The exquisite interiors were appointed with handcrafted details designed by Tibetan master artist Rabkar Wangchuk. We indulged in the spa’s signature Ku Nye Massage, a 90-minute Tibetan treatment combined with soothing herbal oils, heat, acupressure, and exfoliation with chickpea powder. After an hour and a half of relaxing sensations, we emerged in a state of pleasurable warmth and well-being. The spa features an array of Western, Ayurvedic, and Ancient Tibetan treatments, all customized to a guest’s individual needs. Of course, Menla specializes in traditional Tibetan therapies such as Yuk Cho (tapping with herbal or wooden substances to increase energy flow), and Me Bum (applying suction cups to the body’s chakra points to detoxify and stimulate circulation). We booked a private consultation with Doctor Nida Chenagtsang who practices Tibetan medicine, a 1000-year-old healing art that integrates Chinese, Indian, Persian, and Greek modalities. The diagnosis is primarily based on pulse and urine analysis. Our prescription for rejuvenation? Walk an hour a day, meditate, take holistic pills made from high altitude medicinal herbs and Tibetan flowers and replace dinner with a nutritious broth.
We followed most of the doctor’s orders—but just couldn’t bring ourselves to skip dinner. The cuisine is one of Menla’s highlights, after all.
Meals, mostly vegetarian, were served buffet style in the dining room or the outdoor veranda providing spectacular mountain views. We particularly loved the salads with mustard agave and curried raisin dressing, the roasted beets with feta, the barbecued beans, and the cauliflower with balsamic roasted pearl onions. (We also loved the daily broth, even though we refused to subsist on soup alone.)
THE ALL-IMPORTANT PROGRAM
But let’s not digress. Our purpose was to feed our minds, and this we did aplenty. Although the immersion series was intended for advanced students in search of enlightenment—at times we felt like freshmen in a senior class—we expanded our knowledge and appreciation of the Tibetan culture. We learned a variety of meditation techniques, healing yoga postures and, most importantly, we were given an authentic and immersive glimpse into the vast world of Far East mysticism and Buddhist teachings.
While the “Tibetan Rejuvenation Immersion” package is presented only occasionally, Menla offers many other themed programs: Cleansing Getaways, Yoga Retreats, Shamanic Journeys, and customized individual and group programs. Menla also offers integrative healing—merging Tibetan, Ayurvedic and other holistic traditions—along with fresh, clean air, hikes and perhaps the most authentic Tibetan treatment therapies this side of Lhasa. According to Thurman, “This place is a precursor of the global healing spa.”
For more information on Menla Mountain Retreat, visit menla.us.