San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Health Retreat Offers Cleansing, Rejuvenation and Inspiration

THERE are many rivers to cross on the way toHacienda del Sol, a special health retreat in the jungle nearthe black- and white-sand beaches of San Juanillo and theturtle nesting grounds at Playa Ostional on the Nicoya Peninsula,in the northwestern province of Guanacaste. Thereare even some rivers one cannot cross during the green season,which turns the 15-kilometer trip to Nosara into a journeyof several hours by way of Nicoya and Santa Cruz.The front gate of Hacienda del Sol is a giant butterfly,a collage-like creation fashioned of painted panels, coloredglass, crystals and fanciful ironwork. The colors on theinside of the gate, through which you return to the “realworld” after your time at Hacienda del Sol, are muchbrighter than the ones on the outside. Perhaps this isemblematic of what happens for people here – cleansing,rejuvenation and inspiration.The butterfly, a symbol of transformation, represents theentrance to a world apart within a tranquil, caring communityof traditional Costa Rican campesinos and fishermen.True, there are hotels, other retreats and even a large, gatedcondo community and spa nearby, but they seem to livelightly on the land. All one sees on the road are their signs.Menlha Bruneau is the owner and creative force behindall that has evolved at Hacienda del Sol.“I’ve made a paradise in nature to support people’shealing,” she said. “All of the programs here take place inthis context.”BORN in British Columbia, Canada, Menlha set off onher life’s search for the mysterious “more” at the age of 21.First, she lived alone off the land and the sea on anAustralian beach. Later, she traveled to India, Java, Nepal,Central America and other parts of the world.She has also journeyed deep within herself as a studentof yoga, Tibetan Buddhism and the work of Osho, the iconoclasticIndian guru formerly known as Bhagvan Rajneesh.It was in the course of her esoteric studies that she receivedher spiritual name, Menlha, which means “medicineBuddha.” She had intended to spend her life in Australia, soit was quite a surprise when shefound herself settling in Costa Rica10 years ago.The founder and director of theKootenay School of Rebalancing inthe mountains of British Columbia,Menlha began teaching two-month,professional rebalancing trainings inCanada 15 years ago. She is currentlyin the middle of conducting hersixth annual training to take place atHacienda del Sol.Rebalancing is a form of therapeuticbodywork that integrates thewisdom and style of several of the great pioneers in thefield of holistic mind-body healing. These include Ida Rolf,Milton Trager, Moshe Feldenkreis, Wilhelm Reich, JohnUpledger and others.HACIENDA del Sol has 13 double-occupancy,thatched cabinas, simply but comfortably furnished andwith subtle and colorful artistic touches wherever the eyemay pause. Two large bathhouses with hot water are sharedamong guests, along with a fully equipped kitchen, open airdining area and living room, and a large meeting spacewhere classes take place. The jungle is literally withinarm’s reach, as evidenced by the family of howler monkeysI watched at play from the hammock on my back veranda.This special retreat has evolved over the years as anexpression of the creativity of Menlha, her family and herstaff. Guests from all over the world have also contributed.The clay bath, for example, was built after a guest spontaneouslyput some clay from the area on a facial blemish thathad resisted numerous other treatments. After the blemishdisappeared in just three days, the clay bath was born.Hacienda del Sol is now ready to receive visitors andhost seminars year-round. This season’s schedule began inNovember 2004 with an eight-day Cleansing andDetoxification Retreat, which will be repeated later in theseason. The program is also available to individual guestsby prior arrangement.The cleansing program begins and ends with raw foodsfor the transition days. In between, six days are spent on aliquid diet of fresh juices, herbal teas and protein drinks. Asfar as possible, all fruits and vegetables are organic.Participants learn and exchange digestive-system massageto hasten the elimination of toxins, and use the clay bath topromote cleansing through the skin. They also learn how togive themselves a colonic with a colema board, a slantboardsystem for colon cleansing that utilizes the force ofgravity. Private facilities on the property are available forall of these intimate activities.Although several people claim to have reversed life threateningconditions on this regimen, Menlha generallyprefers to work with people who arewell.“I am not a doctor. Anything ispossible, but people must take totalresponsibility for what happens tothem.”Menlha has been a vegetarian for35 years and underwent her first fastwhen she was 16 years old. She saysshe never liked meat and left itbehind once and for all after she gotfood poisoning from a Thanksgivingturkey.A year ago, she switched to acompletely raw diet – something that is becoming a familytradition. Her daughter Crystal and Crystal’s fiancé Steve,a former “meat and potatoes all the way” guy, openedTree’s Lounge in Nosara, which, as far as they know, is thefirst raw-food restaurant in Costa Rica. They have addedsome cooked vegetarian items to the menu for this season.THIS will be the busiest year yet at Hacienda del Sol,but, if my few days there are any indication, visitors willnever feel a sense of hustle, bustle or stress. No postedrules and regulations exist, yet things happen in a serene and orderly fashion. Peace and love reign at Hacienda delSol because that is what is in Menlha’s heart. She is awoman who clearly walks her talk and enjoys sharing hercreation with her guests.If you decide to walk through the butterfly gate for aprivate cleanse, a vacation or a course, expect to be nourished– body, mind and spirit – in unexpected ways. Call828-4080 or visit del Sol 2005 ScheduleFeb. 15- Professional Body-Mind Therapy TrainingMarch 14 (in French and English)Sponsored by the Tao Centre of MontrealMarch 16-25 Cleansing and Iridology with Bruce Martinfrom New YorkApril 4-11 Yoga in Costa Rica with Amarin Van TighemApril 16-22 Yoga for Body, Mind and Heart withDavid WalkerMay 2005 Advanced Rebalancing Training with Menlhaand staff

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