The official Wellness Guide at Castle Hot Springs, Colleen Inman brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to the guests at this historic hot springs resort. She’s a published author and true Yogi at heart with a focus on reshaping breathing techniques, easing physical tension, and helping to create a pattern of peaceful thoughts. I recently signed up for her Personal Elemental Constitution session, based on Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine (it was wonderful), and sat down with her to learn more about Castle Hot Springs’ new Zen Wellness program.
Tell us about the focus of your Zen Wellness program.
The program’s primary focus is to aid the participant in nudging towards closer harmony with the natural flow state of their body, vitality, and mind, thus reducing suffering and symptoms of dis-ease. Although the program requires a minimum of a three-night stay, a guest might consider a stay of five to seven nights to get the most from the program. In this way, they may genuinely settle into a new pattern and dislodge previous, less beneficial ways of being. The program includes four hours of private instruction with spa credit and options for additional private sessions for more extended stays.
“A well-timed retreat is a right move to restore energy to persevere.”
What does Zen Wellness actually mean?
Although Zen usually connects to Chan Buddhism, which blossomed in Japan, the usage of Zen here applies more as an artful approach to the moment instead of a religion. It is the approach of tuning in to the moment’s tranquility by remaining in a state of non-attachment, non-resistance, and non-judgment through skillful means such as yoga, qigong, meditation, tai chi, and martial systems. Wellness in this context reflects one’s physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual health, which are intertwined and inseparable. When combined, Zen Wellness is the unification of the three symbolic balloons of body, mind, and vitality by devoting the mind and actions to the Tao or divine for the outcome of ascending suffering.
Please share a bit about your background.
In the spring of 2000, my first introduction to the art of Chinese Astrology arrived. Within a year, I began physical training in qigong, yoga and tai chi, meditation, Taoist inner alchemy, and energetic anatomy. When I walked out of my first class, I heard the question inside me ask, ‘how do I do this every day?’ Each following year added additional teachings and training with the addition of Anusara-inspired Hatha yoga in 2003, and my first connection to the Vedic knowledge via Jeffrey Armstrong – Kavindra Rishi. By 2005, my first yoga teacher training was complete through Forrest House Yoga, and within a couple of months I began building my teaching practice in the Phoenix Valley.
The past 17 years have been a balanced mixture of teaching full time to various demographics, owning studios, running teacher training programs, and an instructor placement business. This timeframe also included writing Zen Yoga books and studying for Master’s Degrees in multiple yoga styles, martial arts, Medical Qigong, and Doh Yi. Aside from physical practices, my training includes thousands of hours of study in TCM, Ayurveda, Taoism, Vedanta, Chinese and Vedic Astrology, all of which hinge on the observation of cycles within mother nature and the sky above. Throughout the last 20-plus years, my passion has been the study and overlaps of Vedic and Taoist arts and science to weave a tapestry with their common threads uniting opposing cultures’ ancient wisdom applicable to modern-day. The universal truths found inside each system breathe life into the statement, ‘if it is true, it is true for all or not at all.’
Given your background, can you define what a retreat means to you?
An ancient Taoist text, the I Ching, is a book of the natural cycles or changes of time, energy, and matter. Within this book, there is one chapter known as an image of heaven over a mountain, referred to as a retreat—the lessons of when one has reached a point of a hindrance to one’s life path, a well-timed retreat is a right move to restore energy to persevere. It is the art of non-doing to overcome. For thousands of years, those seeking higher knowledge and inner tranquility retreated from village and city life to the stillness of the mountains (often the Himalayas) to find answers within. These journeys were in search of a teacher to illuminate the path of ‘heaven’ to liberation from suffering. In this way, retreat means to draw into oneself by stopping the outflow of sensory energy and instead pour that energy inward to re-fill one’s proverbial cup. With the clarity of the inner and outer world’s interaction, one can sense the observer or true self more adequately. The remembrance of the inner self allows each of us to walk one’s path in the world of impermanence joyfully. Although it does not require one to travel to realize this, the journey and teacher often provide the necessary pattern interrupt to bring this awareness to the forefront.
How does your Zen Wellness program differ from what’s available to retreat-goers today?
From the research I have done, it would seem that many other retreats lean toward either a side of fixed austerity or overly relaxed pampering. They may have the essence of what we do; however, few offer comparable depth. The few retreat options in between are just coming of age and show the potential of profound transformation of a holistic method combined with a luxurious yet utterly natural setting. The fact that the springs and surrounding nature of Castle Hot Springs remain au naturel with only the most refined touch of construction allows the matching of the holistic teachings and environment. It offers a polished experience that transforms the individual’s understanding of life within while caring for the physical body outward.
The program we offer is one not only learned but lived for decades both on the breath of teaching it to others and within personal lives. It takes time to become or embody the teachings. In some yoga traditions, a seeker would sweep floors for seven years to prepare the mind for the education. In today’s information age, almost anyone can find the information. However, the secret sauce is to find someone to take you through the process using properly handed down methods. The beauty of our guides living decades of the teachings is the depth to take retreat guests through multiple layers for many journeys around the sun.
What can a guest who books the Zen Wellness program hope to walk away with—hope to take home to incorporate into their lifestyle?
The encouragement is that the guest not only takes home personalized protocols, but also walks away with the inspiration to return each journey around the sun to reveal the next layer on their path. We are happy to give as much information and guidance as the guest wishes up front. However, it can be much like drinking from a firehose. You are thirsty, but it is too much at once, and the teachings require integration between sips. In some ways, a retreat through the program is like finding a series of great books. Sometimes we find a great book but nothing substantial to follow it. The Zen Wellness program can nourish a guest repeatedly for years to come.
What is the most common mistake you see people make while on retreat?
Specifically, at Castle Hot Springs, the most common mistake is not scheduling time in the springs. The transformation inside requires an exchange of the completed for that which is incoming. The mineral content of the water combined with the temperatures provide an environment conducive to letting go and renewal. The mistake is not giving the allotment of time to do nothing in retreats. By not doing, nothing is left undone. Make sure to allow time for stillness so the inner world may settle into tranquility.
What’s your best advice for people seeking a retreat?
To consider the mindset of retiring each year instead of waiting until in later seasons of life to take the time to refresh oneself. Take the time annually, or seasonally, if possible, to make sure you include yourself in your portfolio. A new society of the last 100 years encourages working without end, while nature promotes annual hibernation or lull inactivity. Take the cue to plug back into the replenishment found in retreating.