There we were, lying on our backs on jubilant serapes that blanketed the floor of a brightly lit pavilion as our sound healing journey commenced. Beside us were twenty or so other resonance enthusiasts on a warm winter afternoon at the world famous wellness resort, Rancho La Puerta.
But there we all were, hovering in the ethers of an incomprehensible dimension listening to the sound healing treatment of our spiritual musicians Mark and Denise of Paradise of The Resonance Code, traversing the wormholes of yesteryear to a soundtrack of Koshi chimes and quartz bowls, lulled by the dust from the rings of Saturn.
You see, during our week-long stay at the ranch, this midday sound healing session became one of our favorite activities from the impressive list of workout and wellness classes that included everything from glute-blasting barre workouts to morning meditations.
The eighty-year-old wellness resort has long championed itself as a place of peace and respite by instilling tranquil surroundings, encouraging technology cleanses, and reinstating a healthy, plant-based diet, all alongside one of its main draws: an award-winning spa. And beyond the gorgeously landscaped property are an extensive network of trails throughout the sage scrub and chaparral of the San Ysidro Mountains that act as their very own pathways for a kind of moving meditation.
The goal of the resort seems to be the indulgence of mindful moments. Of getting truly lost in one’s present. It can happen anywhere on the ranch. You can be taken to a new realm in the middle of a splendid deep tissue massage, on the courts rallying with the tennis pro, in the pool in the arms of the Watsu guide, or like us, on the floor surrounded by 300-year-old Tibetan singing bowls, Nepalese and Paiste gongs.
The History of The Ranch
Originating in 1940 by Edmond and Deborah Szekely as a fitness resort and spa, Rancho La Puerta has always been at its same location and has always been family owned. In fact, Deborah, now in her nineties, still comes to the ranch each week to meet with guests and recall stories of the ranch throughout the decades of its existence. Her love for her husband, affectionately known as “the professor,” is evident each time she mentions him in her tales. Together, they started what was once considered to be a cult, but what now is one of the leading health and wellness resorts in the world, and they have the frequently returning guests to prove it. Located just across the Tecate border, an hour from San Diego, Rancho La Puerta was designed as a one-week experience, the ranch becomes a place where digital devices are frowned upon and comradery with fellow guests is encouraged, with the latter being one of the main goals of the ranch since day 1 when the wellness resort was often considered to be “cult-like.”
When the ranch first began, guests stayed in shared quarters that consisted of very basic accommodations, which included a cot and a blanket. Fast forward to today, and guests now have various options of housing. There are 86 garden casitas in seven different sizes/rate categories, each beautifully decorated with the majority of them fitted with wood-burning fireplaces, yet they do not come with televisions or internet (although there is wifi available in limited locations throughout the resort for those who need a lifeline to the real world).
The ranch has everything you’ve heard of in modern fitness culture, as well as things you could only imagine in your wildest dreams. Among the standard classes are mini-trampoline workouts, cardio boxing, circuits, Zumba, rope and kettlebell training, TRX, cycling, and many more. Among the wild are Feldenkrais, Gyrokinesis, high aerial skills, a striptease dance class, cardio drumming, water jogging, and yoga classes for all levels, but honestly, the 75-minute Level 2 class almost took us as casualties as we slipped in our pools of sweat in chaturanga. The ranch’s neatly organized schedule allows you to pick and choose your daily fitness activities like you’re a kid at summer camp and the world-class instructors help push you as far as you want to go.
It’s not all about working out your body, as the ranch has an abundance of ways to exercise your mind as well. From a beautiful labyrinth to classes in chanting, tai chi, sound healing, meditation, and even art classes including sculpting and watercolor, there’s no shortage of ways to fill your day. We made sure that each of our days was a healthy mixture of both active classes as well as more restful classes, a balance that proved to be successful not only for our motivation but also for our aching muscles. One of my favorite afternoons was spent watercoloring, something I had never done as an adult, and something I never knew I needed to do as an adult, especially with a clear mind. My creations weren’t anything I would hang on my wall, but releasing the creativity I had buried away inside of me with each stroke of the brush was liberating.
Hiking and Obstacle Course
Our favorite hike ended up being “Raven” a 4.5-mile hike that ascended high up into the chaparral and circled the lower flanks of Mt. Kuchumaa, a 3,883-foot peak of the San Ysidro Mountains. On the hike, we could see the far mountains of the Otay Wilderness area looking up at Kuchumaa, the cleft of the ugly border wall on the mountain of great cultural significance to the Kumeyaay people. As we hiked back to the ranch we became mesmerized by the swoop and glide of the vultures and red tail hawks.
On one of our first mornings, we were lucky to experience the new obstacle course the ranch has assembled. We jogged the course, monkeying across bars and rings, crawling under nets in sand, lifting hundred pound logs, spider-manning our way over walls, and climbed two-story tall towers. The course is an adventurous addition to the ranch and arms guests with their own personal Tough Mudder.
The first couple of days at the ranch are tough on your stomach, because the truth is, you might find yourself hungry. That being said, for those who don’t want to stick to portion controlled meals that are expertly crafted to fit within a regimen centered on wellness and fitness, you can always ask for larger portions or second helpings. Pro-tip: Bread is not placed on the table, but you can always ask for some. The meals are vegetarian-centric although some options include seafood, and by day three, you will come to love the anticipation of sitting down and looking at what’s on the menu. The kitchen team is definitely creative when it comes to coming up with healthy dishes that don’t taste like your typical healthy dishes...These are good.
Although at times they feel never-ending, our days go by quickly when we work and zip about in cars and stare at our own little personal screens. What I loved most about the ranch was the agreed upon culture that shamed you for looking at technology. And so the days stretched on and time was lead-footed. It was a handsome reminder to seize days and slay and enjoy mindfulness in the precious respite we are sometimes given. I’m not sure what to call my extraterrestrial state of deep relaxation during sound healing, but for now I will go with the fourth dimension and I will always remember being called back to our mundane third at the end of the session by the calming, guiding voice of Mark of Paradise, who metaphorically pat our backs and reminded us that reality is rad, too. - Miles
I’ve done my best to take a piece of the happiness that I felt at the ranch home with me and find ways to incorporate more “me time” into my daily life that seems to always be filled with constant movement. During one of my meditations at the ranch, I left my eyes open and just gazed at a tree, letting my focus glaze over as I stared at this ordinary tree that at that moment wasn’t so ordinary, but instead, magnificent. I was able to enjoy that fifteen minutes of aloneness with my tree, just outside the window, and I’m looking forward to more moments like that in my daily life - taking the time to appreciate what’s around me. Additionally, my stomach and appetite shrunk considerably, and I’m aiming to keep it that way! - David