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When Mindfulness Hits

by Jason Kessler

I took my first mindful vacation ever at Rancho La Puerta and came back with a renewed sense of self that I haven’t felt in years
What’s your ideal type of vacation? Maybe you’re one of those people who likes to sit on the beach reading trashy fiction and sipping margaritas. Perhaps you’re the type to squeeze every inch of excitement out of a city, running from museum to restaurant to concert in a nonstop cultural marathon. Most people fall into one of these two camps, but I’m here to tell you there’s a third option: the mindful vacation.
Instead of trying to escape everyday life, a mindful vacation forces you to confront who you are, in a situation outside of your daily routine, and decide if that’s who you want to continue to be. I took my first mindful vacation ever this year at Rancho La Puerta, “The original destination fitness resort and spa,” and I came back with a renewed sense of self that I haven’t felt in years. Seven days of organic eating, yoga, fitness classes and Mexican sunshine will do that to you.
Truth be told, I think “vacation” is a misnomer here. A week devoted to introspection and self-improvement isn’t a vacation at all. It’s hard work. It’s also perhaps the most valuable way you can spend a week of your time. At Rancho La Puerta, they put you through your paces with enthusiastic instructors, all kinds of crazy classes (when was the last time you spent an hour on crystal bowl sound healing?), and special guest speakers like life coaches and meditation experts. While there, I tried spinning for the first time and went on the first truly challenging hike of my life. I fought my lifelong resistance to meditation and learned to quiet my mind – a little bit, at least. I ate completely organic food and didn’t once crave anything processed. Being at the Ranch made me feel like the best version of myself, and I hadn’t felt that way in a long time.
The entire experience felt like a personality detox. By the end of the week, all of the rough edges that had built up over the years had been sanded down and polished. I was more patient than I was when I arrived. I was more forgiving of mistakes. I found myself excited at the prospect of being better in all ways. You just don’t get that sipping unlimited Mai Tais in Honolulu.
While it may sound counterintuitive, I actually welcomed the end of my mindful week. That’s because I knew I was going to return home as a new person. The mindful techniques I picked up at the Ranch—focusing on exercise, eating real food and taking time to clear my mind and just breathe—are wholly applicable when you get back, so I was able to implement them right away and keep the mindful buzz going long after my week was over. That’s the beauty of the mindful vacation. Regular vacations end, and you miss the escape they offered. Mindful vacations end, and you’re excited to face your life as an improved person.
I don’t think every vacation I take from now on will be a mindful one. I’m still too attached to both relaxing on beaches and exploring awesome new cities. I do, however, think it’s important—vital, even—to take time every so often to step outside of your everyday life and evaluate yourself. Mindful vacations make that happen. That’s why it may be time for you to cancel that trip to Jamaica and find a place to explore yourself for a week instead.
Jason Kessler is a lifestyle writer/columnist for Bon Appetit, Food Republic and a slew of other publications. Follow him on Twitter @FlyDine.

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