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My afternoon at a secret spa: Marla Hardee Milling discovers her bliss at the Secret Garden Inn and Spa.

Tucked behind a row of pine trees on Weaverville's quaint Main Street is a secret that's just too good to keep. The Secret Garden previously served the area as a bed and breakfast getaway for ten years. Originally, the 102-year-old house served as the home of the first mayor of Weaverville, and remained a private residence until it was turned into a b&b.

Jacob Lions, who owned some apartment complexes in Florida, bought the house after becoming weary of ravaging hurricanes. He gutted it and transformed it into a remarkable holistic spa and inn. Amazingly, he completed all the renovations within a six-month time period. He opened The Secret Garden in August 2005.

"Our goal was to marry Appalachian and Asian culture. We used all local contractors," he says as he walks around the manicured grounds. The outside features a modern outhouse, converted from a playhouse, shower, sauna, hot tub, and a tea house, which is a gazebo situated on a pond that houses eight Koi fish. Large block stepping stones lead the way over the water to the gazebo. The staff are equipped to offer massages in this area, along with hot stone treatments.

The inn offers five guest rooms: a zen suite in the main house and four rooms in a cottage located across the street. "We are the only intimate destination spa in this area," says Lions. He points out, though, that you don't have to be an overnight guest to book and enjoy the spa services.

Lions is committed to using natural, organic products in the spa, providing a water filtration system throughout the house, and using only eco-friendly cleaning products. "My intention is to also make the spa as carbon-neutral as possible," he says, indicating his commitment to energy efficiency by using compact fluorescent lighting and offsetting the energy use of the spa by planting trees and other methods.

In the spa, "everything that touches the client is all organic. That includes the sheets, the towels, and the robes," says esthetician Karen Svites. They use organic products, including scrubs, salts, lotions, and soaps from Jurlique and WoodSprite, which is a small home-based business in Michigan. They also offer an all-mineral line of makeup by Jane Iredale.

A back room in the main inn serves as a classroom. Classes include Seasonal Health Strategies, Detox Solutions, Aroma and Emotion, Handling Stress Creatively, among others. This space is also the treatment room for Naturopathic Doctor and acupuncturist, Ciel Walko.

Entering a State of Bliss

Soon, Sadhvi Velasquez greets me and leads me into one of the three treatment rooms on the main floor of the inn. Rose petals are strewn across the massage table, along the hardwood floor, and into the hydrotherapy tub, which was already filled with warm water. A tray sits on the bed with a small teapot filled with flowers, and three blue bowls hold the sugar scrub, bath salts and shea butter that she will use for my two-hour "Bathing Beauty" treatment.

This is a signature treatment developed exclusively for The Secret Garden by spa director Alison Dempsey.

I start out lying on my stomach and Sadhvi begins scrubbing my arms, back and legs with a vanilla creme sugar scrub. She holds a sheet up as I flip over, and she continues to scrub. Once my skin is completely exfoliated, I wrap a towel around myself and walk to the tub. Sadhvi sprinkles in a scoop full of a vanilla and lavender buttermilk bath salts. She then leaves the room and I climb into the soothing warmth.

Water beads on my skin from the thick application of the sugar scrub. As the jetted water vibrates against my back, I watch as the lights in the tub change color. They move between red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. These are the colors of the rainbow, and also correlate to each color of the chakras in our bodies. I lean my head back and meditate as my body continues to relax.

Focused Intention

After the soak, Sadhvi leads me back to the massage table where she lathers my softened skin with organic vanilla shea butter. She wraps me in a warm, comforting cocoon, and I imagine myself as a butterfly almost ready to break free.

She begins massaging my face and head, and as her hands work, she speaks slowly and softly. "Marla, I want you to think of an intention--something you want to create in your life. I want you to take deep breaths through your nose, and breathe out through your mouth. Your higher self only wants the best for you. As you breathe in your vision or intention, breathe out those things that no longer serve you. Bless them, give thanks for them, and release back to the universe."

I feel tears coming to my eyes as I breathe in deeply and then work to release a bout of recent emotional hurt that I've experienced. I find myself deeply grateful for Sadhvi's nurturing counsel, as well as grateful for the heartache I experienced and the lesson it is teaching me. As I breathe out, I release the pain and fear with love.

Then she tells me to go to a place in my mind where I feel completely safe. She says it can be a place from childhood, or a current place, or out in nature, or a magical place where anything is possible.

I drift away in my thoughts as she moves to my feet and performs reflexology. Then, she begins to unwrap my cocoon, and gives me a leisurely full body massage. I feel completely nurtured and loved.

At the end of the treatment, Sadhvi taps a tonal bowl, sending a pleasing vibration of sound through my body. She tells me to get up slowly and leisurely and to drink plenty of water to help clear out all the toxins that had been released.

Before the treatment started, Sadhvi told me, "It's my great pleasure to help someone reconnect with their essence."

Now, as I have experienced this incredible treatment, I understand what she was talking about. I felt as if she was a vehicle through which healing energy permeated my body, my mind and my soul, in comparison with a massage where someone is just rubbing kinks out of my muscles. I leave feeling aligned with the universe and grateful for the experience.

Create Your Own Spa Experience at Home

While it's a wonderful treat to be pampered at a professional spa, you can also create a relaxing retreat in your own home. Here are a few fun, and relatively inexpensive, ideas for nurturing yourself on a regular basis:

* Cut out distractions: unplug your phone and turn your cell ringer off.

* Set the atmosphere with calming music and light some scented candles.

* Mix up a simple scrub using an ounce of ground sea salt and ten drops of essential oil. Add water to make a paste and rub all over your body to exfoliate and help get rid of toxins.

* Refresh yourself with other homemade, chemical-free beauty care. Find easy recipes in books like The Herbal Home Spa: Naturally Refreshing Wraps, Rubs, Lotions, Masks, Oils, and Scrubs by Greta Breedlove.

* Bring out your fluffiest towels, robe and slippers. After your beauty treatments, take time to relax, breathe and meditate.

Want to go?

The Secret Garden 56 North Main Street Weaverville, NC 828-658-9317

Marla Hardee Milling is a guest editor for New Life Journal. Reach her at
COPYRIGHT 2006 Natural Arts
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Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Milling, Marla Hardee
Publication:New Life Journal
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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