Mindfulness On My Mind
Lessons learned at a weekend wellness retreat in Mineral Wells, Texas
by Jill Dutton
I sat in the therapist’s office, sobbing – huge tears spilled over like a cup overfilled with emotion. And overfilled I was, yet I had no idea “what” I was actually feeling.
“Why are you crying,” the therapist asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied.
The therapist had told me that I stuffed my emotions, and this outburst was a key turning point in my awareness of it. Since then, mindfulness has been on my mind.
As the creator and publisher of Evolving Magazine for over 20 years, you’d think I’d have the whole mindfulness concept figured out. I’ve had partners comment that I’m incredibly self-aware. So when did this disconnect occur?
I began to practice conscious mindfulness: What I eat and drink, how I move, and what I feel.
I made major leaps last year changing my eating habits, increasing my physical activity doing things I hadn’t experienced since I was a teenager – lots of travel that included bicycling, kayaking, off-road adventures, and lots and lots of steps (oh so many steps in Montreal).
I knew what I was feeling during these activities: I felt ALIVE! I practiced mindfulness meditations in the form of cooking, gardening, and walking, and listened to binaural beats on Insight Timer each night before bed. My sleep improved, I lost weight, and I kept commenting on just how good I felt – mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
According to an article in Your Tango, we can even think our way thin. “After all, studies have shown that perceived health is a better predictor of mortality than actual health.” Just imagine the changes we can make with mindfulness.
Still, it took practice to figure out what I was feeling. Whenever I felt the need to stuff my emotions with food or a cocktail (or binge on Netflix) and numb out, I asked myself,
"What am I feeling?"
Often, I didn’t know the answer. But stopping to ask myself this gave me pause and broke through the need to “fill” whatever it was – and brought me back to the present moment where mindfulness resides.
Journaling became my go-to activity to sort through my emotions. It allowed me to dump whatever I was feeling onto the page, bringing release from the turmoil.
So when I was invited to attend a wellness retreat in Mineral Wells, Texas – and the theme was Mindfulness – I didn’t hesitate to accept. It would be an important next step in my journey.
Although I was hosted at the retreat, all opinions are my own.
Here I Am
I’ve learned through the years that any twinges of anxiety that creep in originate from a place of “What If” (the future). The present moment, and mindfulness, reside in “What Is.” And what is, I’ve found, is always a perfect moment. The saying goes that depression lies in thinking about the past; anxiety in thinking about the future, so reminding myself “Here I Am,” brings me back to the present moment and its resulting peace.
Of course, the day I was to fly to this mindfulness retreat I needed to remind myself of this tactic. The weather forecast for Dallas/Ft. Worth, where my plane would land, called for heavy storms. Before I even left for the airport I started worrying “What if” it was storming during the plane’s arrival, or, if the hour or so drive to Mineral Wells would be stormy. I quickly got my thinking in check, and realized that at that moment, everything was fine – and I knew that no matter what the weather was like, it would be fine then as well.
And it was. My plane arrived before the storms began, and because I was meeting with the retreat facilitator for a couple of hours at an airport restaurant while we waited for another journalist to arrive, I watched as bright flashes of lightning lit the sky from the safety of the airport. The rain was gone by the time we drove to Mineral Wells. (See how much energy would have been wasted on worry…?)
Mineral Wells, Texas has gained a reputation as a top wellness destination in recent years. Known for its natural mineral water wells, the town offers a variety of activities and amenities designed to promote health and relaxation. Visitors can indulge in spa treatments that utilize the town's mineral water, such as hydrotherapy baths followed by a massage at Crazy Water Bath House, or sip a glass of Crazy Water, with four different strengths of mineral content at Crazy Well.
Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the scenic beauty of the area by hiking, biking, or rock climbing at nearby state parks. The town also boasts yoga and meditation studios, as well as healthy dining options. With its focus on natural healing and rejuvenation, Mineral Wells has become a popular destination for those seeking a wellness retreat in the heart of Texas.
It only makes sense to hold wellness retreats in a city known for its healing waters. The story goes that in 1877, James Alvin Lynch and his wife, arrived in Mineral Wells where they discovered that the wells produced unique-tasting water. They tested it on the animals, and when they decided it was safe to consume, wound up curing both of the couples' rheumatism. Word got out and it became a boom town, with people flocking to sample the waters. Then in 1881, a woman was supposedly cured of mental issues (it’s thought possibly because the water contains lithium), which led to naming the tonic Crazy Water.
Above: (L to R) Quiet time at Clark Gardens; ready to soak in a mineral bath; a guest gets a wellness checkup; lion's mane and crab cake with slaw; short rib bowl; a walk through my suite at The Crazy Water Hotel.
A Mindfulness Retreat
I’m not alone in the need to take time to pause and reflect. With technology and the need to go-go-go, many of us find ourselves filled with stress, anxiety, and a disconnect from ourselves as well as the world around us. Mindfulness provides a tool for connecting with the present moment, thereby promoting feelings of calm, clarity, and inner peace.
At the Crazy Wellness Retreat, held four times per year with different themes, we were to experience mindfulness through motion, nutrition and eating, workshops, wellness testing, and play.
Facilitated by Dustin Strong, a certified holistic and applied clinical nutritionist, lifestyle, and wellness expert, educator, and speaker – and founder of Strong On Health, a private holistic wellness center – we were in good hands. Strong lives the life as they say, and his enthusiasm for wellness, as well as an impressive knowledge of nutrition and wellness in general, make him an ideal coach for a weekend retreat.
We stayed in charming suites at The Crazy Water Hotel, enjoying a full apartment plus a coffee bar in the lobby that uses Crazy Water to make their drinks.
The weekend passed too quickly as we savored healthy meals prepared by Sadie’s Eats and Brazos Market & Bistro, listened to workshops presented by Strong, Dr. Jean Lawrence, and Dr. Mark LeMay, attended morning yoga and evening sound baths, and connected with other participants over a glass of organic wine.
One day we enjoyed a picnic at Clark Gardens & Botanical Park – a luscious, creamy vegan ceviche made with lion’s mane mushrooms, plus chicken breasts, and slaw – followed by breakout groups at the park, some of the participants relaxing in the hammocks or taking a stroll through the landscaped gardens and miniature train station.
Another day we took a soak in the healing mineral waters at the bathhouse, watching as the water turned cloudy as the toxins were pulled from my skin, and knowing that the water was also rehydrating my cells with the minerals. Afterward was a massage and a hot towel wrap to seal in the goodness.
You can read the full itinerary here.
Sometimes mindfulness isn’t comfortable, such as the evening sound baths where we lay on mats as a practitioner played crystal bowls for an hour. My body screamed that it was too uncomfortable to lay on the floor for an hour, oh, the sound is too loud…every complaint and discomfort came to mind before I would finally relax into the experience, allowing the sound vibrations to wash over me. After, it was the best sleep I’ve ever had in a hotel room. I was asleep immediately and didn’t wake up until morning. Sometimes mindfulness is uncomfortable – but so worth it.
I returned home well rested, well nourished, and joyful, with new friends and a cache of mindfulness techniques to continue my mindfulness journey at home.