Trips That Will Change Your Life: Learn to… Never Be Anxious Again

I can’t believe that I actually meditated. And that it actually worked

"THE COLOR FOR the lungs is white,” said Kazzrie, our lovely blond meditation guide, “and the animal is a white tiger.” Behind her was a wall of windows looking onto the perfect snow-covered woods that surround the Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, Pennsylvania. The place is basically Narnia, and there John and I were, sitting cross-legged and breathing in joy and courage and the color white, per Kazzrie. Somehow — and please don’t ask me to explain it — the deep breathing works, and we felt all these good things fill our lungs (and later, as the meditation continued, our kidneys, livers, hearts and spleens).

[sidebar]The most amazing part was that less than an hour before, I’d been in my usual state of mind, somewhere between Irrationally Agitated and Frantically Anxious. (I keep meaning to do yoga and meditate at home, but then I somehow find myself reading People magazine instead.) We both hadn’t been sleeping, and had been existing in Polite Zombie mode for a month. I could actually hear John thinking “This is not relaxing” as big wet snowflakes fell on tiny Poconos country roads and we missed a turn near Wind Gap.

Personally, though, I was so happy to be heading to a spa that I would have hitched our dog Murphy to a sled to get there. It sounded like heaven: a resort tucked amidst acres of trees, nature trails, ponds, gardens and a lake, where people whiled away the time with art or cooking or exercise classes, relaxing in yoga studios, in pools, and on the masseur’s table. John is not a spa guy, but when I mentioned to him that Woodloch is less than a three-hour drive and has a beautiful gym, he agreed to go, I think privately hoping to just work out and get some time in front of the fireplace. He was so ready to get away that he even agreed to meditate, and to try to breathe courage, joy, and the color white into his lungs. And after that first hour, he said, “That was amazing. Let’s take another class in the morning.”

So there we were, meditating again at 10 a.m. with wonderful Kazzrie, and it was just as great as it had been thefirst time. Under her gentle direction, we found ourselves mentally miles away from the negative and anxious thoughts that tend to fill the mind. (At least, our minds.) In this guided meditation, I found myself in a different place, a calm place, where I think somehow I cleansed my liver and reunited with my beloved cat Spike.

Afterward, we went to work out, still looking out onto the snowy woods, and thought how incredible the same trees would look in spring and summer, lush and in bloom. We visited the huge indoor pool area with waterfalls and multi-level spas — and the Aspen-style outdoor hot tub, and then I headed off to the kitchen for a cooking demonstration taught by a cute chef. I learned to make duck with persimmon sauce, seated near two sisters from Manhattan with matching huge diamond rings.

Between slices and stirs, the chef explained that Woodloch, built a year and a half ago by a married pair of spa consultants, the Lopises (they designed the Borgata’s spa, and worked for years at Canyon Ranch), doesn’t operate in deprivation mode. That’s why everywhere you turn, there are huge armchairs and warming fireplaces — even in the spa waiting room — and big fluffy pillows and cups of herbal tea and afternoon hors d’oeuvres. Here, it’s about surrendering to healthy pleasures, living and eating mindfully.

And, thankfully, drinking mindfully, which is what we were doing by 6 p.m. — that is, having a nice pinot noir in Tree, the elegant Woodloch restaurant. Since there are just 58 cushy rooms at the lodge, everyone in the place can fit in Tree for breakfast, lunch and dinner, where meals may be black cod in chimichurri sauce, oysters with verjus mignonette, grilled venison, or roasted lobster with an apple-celeriac ratatouille.

 “I love that there’s just one restaurant,” I said to John. “I can’t make any decisions while I’m here.” That night, we dined on grilled scallops and bison; the next morning, it was whole-wheat waffles and fruit, followed by a bison burger later, for lunch. A very petite bison burger, but who can find fault with a spa that serves burgers? Not us. In fact, it’s rather hard to find fault with anything at this perfect hotel and spa, our own private Narnia. As for our other discovery, the meditation, we both breathe in the calm, and joy, and color white, every time we’re up at 2 a.m., trying to wander back to sleep — or at least peace — as we mentally return to a moonlit patch of snowy woods.

IF YOU GO:  Contact: The Lodge at Woodloch, 109 River Birch Lane, Hawley, 570-685-8500, Get there: Three hours from Philadelphia.  Details: From $350 per person, per night, including all meals, classes and activities (i.e., meditation, yoga, fitness walks, cooking, golfing, biking); special promotions available, too.

INSIDER TIP:  Try one of Woodloch’s worth-it watercolor or drawing classes. They may help conquer an old, defeatist attitude about your artistic aptitude — and there’s plenty of nature here to sketch.