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May 2013

Julie_carmen_mom_lounge_chairs

Spending a day with my mom is always enriching, and receiving massages is high on my list of favorite ways to rejuvenate. Honoring Mother’s Day with a glorious spa day at Spa Montage far exceeded our expectations. Dangling our legs in the water of the hotel’s luxurious rooftop pool after being treated to world class pampering, we’re telling stories and recalling memories that belong to just the two of us.

We are surrounded by the view of the Hollywood Hills so reminiscent of my mom’s former home of Spain. Mom is particularly fond of peaceful vistas which “allow our eyes to find something beautiful as a resting place.” Patanjali, ancient sage and author of the Yoga Sutras, wrote: “When presented with disquieting thoughts or feelings, cultivate an opposite, elevated attitude. This is Pratipaksha Bhavana.”*

My mother may not have known it at the time, but she taught me the essence of Pratipaksha Bhavana. She rewrote her own narrative rather late in life, when she had enough perspective to recognize what could have been, and realized the plagues she’d been spared. I value our time together and I know how blessed I am to have a mom who is grateful for the lucky landmark moments in her life. Her attitude about gratitude has expanded with age.

 

THE SPA

Spending time in the purpose-created environment of the spa — strategically designed for relaxation — facilitates our ability to leave behind the noisy outside chatter. Regular visits to a space of rejuvenation is a necessity for maintaining balance as we regularly hear about the correlation between stress, inflammation, and disease. My family always reads the newspaper and gravitates to information about international current events; we suffer from an overload of caring.  Retreating into the sanctuary of a spa is an effective antidote and a necessary indulgence to restore the overworked mind, body, and spirit.

Entering the interior space of the Spa Montage, the eye travels from the mosaic tiled surfaces featuring patterned motifs in white, bronze, greens, and luminescent blues, to the elaborate light fixtures with cut outs that decorate the walls in dancing shapes and shadows. Water is at the Spa’s core — the central mineral pool, bathed in a soft natural light from the sky dome above it, is symbolic of the restorative bathing rituals of ancient Spain. This area also serves as a gathering place, surrounded by lounge chairs with sheer curtains for privacy and a tea-making station. The combination of flickering candles, the sounds of trickling water, and bamboo flute melodies promotes a calming atmosphere, allowing the nervous system to feel a sense of ease. When I walked in, I sighed deeply, letting go of any stress or daily worries. An inhalation of air scented with hints of coconut, fig, wood, and vanilla – a blend that the Spa Montage calls ‘Mediterranean Fig’—marked the moment. 

 

THE TREATMENT

One of the magical ingredients of a day at the spa is the healing power of the human touch—the pressure of the therapists’ hands—which melts away layers of muscle tightness and restores equilibrium. When the body relaxes deeply, the psyche shifts. The philosophy of Spa Montage is one of holistic wellness that goes “beyond pampering and beneath the surface to a place of connection and surrender.” The spa’s therapists undergo a rigorous year-long training program, resulting in certification by the American Spa Therapy Education Certification Council (ASTECC).

The ‘Montage Massage’ is a treatment tailored to the individual and features a custom blend of essential oils. Mom chose a Moroccan Mint oil; I favored the Spanish Orchard oil with citrus overtones. Nestled under rose petal-strewn fluffy blankets, our heads cradled by heated neck pillows, we placed ourselves under the care of the highly-trained spa experts. The therapist seemed to find the exact places where my neck and shoulders suffer from my hobby of rigorous swimming.  Maybe that’s where everyone holds tension but her technique felt as if she’d been working on my neck for years and knew my stress patterns.

Reflecting back on it, there is something primal about sharing a spa experience with my mom. She drew my first baths, taught me how to brush my teeth and comb my hair.  The decades may unfold, yet these self-care rituals still connect us.

 

STORIES THAT BIND US

A few hours later, we’re relaxing nine stories above a sprawling view of Beverly Hills framed by mountains and palms.  Acoustic guitar melodies swirl in the breeze of our rooftop playground while we clink and toast the day and the bond between us; the daily routine and the mundane long forgotten. Over champagne and guacamole, we exchange stories and laughter.

We are part of a vital oral tradition that keeps wisdom alive through the ages, mothers sharing stories with daughters. Today, and throughout my life, mom told stories about trains and boats, meals and people, love and losses. She has lived all over the world, emigrating from Hamburg to Madrid to New York, and finally to Los Angeles. With her years as a foreign language high school teacher now behind her, shared moments like these today anchor her; listening to memories of her odyssey centers me. I sense that within the European flair of the Montage Beverly Hills, mom feels at home.

HOMAGE TO MOM

This spa day awakened my appreciation of my mother’s strong, independent lifestyle. She taught me that women can learn anything and become anyone we want if we put our minds to it. She’s a bit shy herself, but always encouraging and empowering. Happily married for 57 years, she never let marriage stop her from blossoming as an autonomous professional woman. She even quotes the Dalai Lama who said, “The world will be saved by the Western woman.”

 

Whether moms are still with us, or long gone, their DNA exists in us forever in a unique alchemy.  When I was a child, people always told me how beautiful my mom was. I felt proud, but my respect for her as my role model was solidified by her persistent drive for higher education. Since her childhood schools were destroyed during World War II, she finally earned a high school degree through a correspondence course when I was in elementary school. She finished college when I was in junior high, and NYU Graduate School when I attended college. Her legacy endures with my brother (who earned a MD degree and a doctorate in public health) and with me and my children. If feeling excited about new experiences protects the mind from cognitive decline, I attribute her sharp mind to her being trilingual and for her eagerness towards new perspectives.

Visiting Spa Montage is the start of a new tradition for us. The spa’s a la carte services emphasize hydrotherapy, holistic wellness, and anti-aging treatments as well as complete fitness facilities, including yoga, and Mom’s favorite: Pilates.

Feeling safe is a state of mind we choose. A well-appointed spa helps get us there.

 

Julie Carmen, ERYT-500, LMFT, starred in Robert Redford’s Milagro Beanfield War, John Cassavetes’ Gloria, and John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness. She stars in the upcoming indie flick, Dawn Patrol, opposite Scott Eastwood and Rita Wilson and co-stars in The Last Weekend with Patricia Clarkson.  Currently, she  works as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and is on the faculty of LMU Yoga Therapy Rx program. For twelve years, she’s been teaching yoga at Exhale and privately to Suzanne Somers: yogatalks.com.  

 

*(Translation by Nischala Joy Devi.)

 

For more information about the Spa Montage at the Montage Beverly Hills, visit: spamontage.com.

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