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Ask the Naturopathic Doctor

Away From It All

A healthy retreat can offer a host of physical, mental, and spiritual benefits

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Q: Lately, I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed with work, family, my health-everything. It just doesn’t seem like I can ever slow down and get a grip on things. Do you have any suggestions?

– Christine C., Cleveland, Ohio

When life seems overwhelming, a retreat can truly be a blessing. This past summer, I had the good fortune to spend time at one of the oldest healing retreat centers in the country. Aptly named the Optimum Health Institute (, this beautiful campus in San Diego provides a 21-day holistic healing program that can be broken up into one-week increments. It offers more than 40 classes in mind/body/spirit rejuvenation techniques, including raw food preparation; meditation; the anatomy of digestion and detoxification; and gratitude journaling.

Serious Healing

Rachel Solomon, a self-confessed “party animal” into her 60s, founded OHI in 1976 after being diagnosed with cancer. She realized that she needed to turn her life around, and she discovered the work of Ann Wigmore, a pioneer in the field of holistic health. Solomon studied with Wigmore for several years before striking out on her own to open OHI. Currently, Pam and Bob Nees, who were groomed by Solomon, manage the institute.

This retreat center is unique in its approach. This isn’t a spa, and it’s not about being pampered. It’s a didactic program that requires commitment-an hour each day is devoted to stretching and exercise; fresh organic juices are the only “food” served for three days each week; wheat grass juice is administered orally and by rectum several times daily; and the courses include homework that requires introspection and honesty. In short, this is a serious program for people who are serious about improving their health and their lives.

Profound Program

Personally, I’m very sensitive to wheat, but I was delighted to discover that wheat grass isn’t a problem for me at all. And it’s a good thing, too, because much of the OHI regimen revolves around wheat grass.

Self-discovery is another cornerstone of the program. There’s a huge amount of support available for the radical change in diet, as well as for the psychological component. Really, what OHI wants from you is 1) speak truth, 2) do your best, 3) don’t take it personally, and 4) don’t make assumptions. OHI’s stated mission is to improve the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of everyone who passes through their program.

The excellent didactic classes left me with many tools for promoting healthy changes in my life. For example, I came away from OHI with daily, weekly, and monthly commitments: daily meditation and one all-vegetarian meal; weekly family time and a juice-day; and monthly community service activity. Not too hard, but certainly transformative. Such a program can be of benefit to those who need to take a step back, reassess their lives, and renew their commitment to good health.

Avoiding the Runaround
During my stay at the Optimum Health Institute, I particularly enjoyed the “road map” course, which is designed to help us get out of the “runaround dilemma.” Because we haven’t consciously decided which things in life are really important to us, everything seems important. Because everything seems important, we have to do everything. When other people see us doing everything, they begin to expect us to do everything. And this keeps us so busy, we don’t have time to think about what is really important to us. And that’s the runaround dilemma. If you’re trapped there, consider spending two weeks-or even better three-at OHI. Their programs can help you get a handle on your life, pare down the unimportant parts, and discover what’s truly important to you.