Categorized | Career Development

3 Weekend Getaways to Soothe the Spirit

The kind of mind and drive it takes to earn an MBA doesn’t get turned off at the end of a degree program, or the end of the work day, or the end of the week. Quite the contrary: Unless they’re making a conscientious effort to refresh and renew regularly, it seems safe to bet that most of the time, most MBAs are in need of a vacation.

Whether they’ll get one comes down to circumstances. Taking a week away from work is more than many business people (especially independents and entrepreneurs) can manage. A weekend getaway is often the closest thing to a vacation they’re likely to get – and with just two or three nights to enjoy, choosing the right destination is crucial.

Of course, it’s a huge plus if you needn’t spend the initial hours of your getaway – not to mention your return — fighting traffic. A weekend getaway must be far enough for removal, but near enough not to make the trip itself a time-consuming hassle. Just as important, a destination’s diversions must be a sure thing when it comes to providing the break from routine that a getaway promises. High-powered people don’t always make the transition easily from work to anything; many need all the help they can get to go away and stay away.

Finding the time and space for such a break is easier than many city or suburban dwellers realize. The real challenge is deciding and planning what you’ll do while not working – because that hard-driving MBA personality needs a firm focus to avoid returning to the office mentally, if not physically.

With all this in mind, why not consider a getaway that nurtures your spirit while providing your body with a much-needed removal from everyday stresses? Spas, resorts, and low-key retreat centers across the country offer guests the opportunity to look inward while you’re separated from your everyday setting. Some work from a religious focus, but adherence isn’t required for guests to avail themselves of spirit-soothing seclusion.

Cenacle Retreat Houses

For a getaway that’s guaranteed not to be what everyone else is doing, pack yourself, your soul and some comfy clothes and head for the nearest Cenacle Retreat House. These low-key centers for spiritual retreat and renewal are located in or near New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans, St. Louis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Gainesville and Lantana, Fla., and Vancouver, B.C. They welcome men and women of any faith, whether they wish to attend organized activities while in residence, or if they simply want some peace and quiet at a remove from daily life.

The Cenacles are a worldwide mission of the Cenacle Sisters, an order of Roman Catholic nuns founded in France and now working on six continents. They do not emphasize doctrine in their retreat centers, but rather focus on various programs created to help visitors along their spiritual paths. Formal programs include specialized sessions, such as those designed for visitors doing 12-step regimens, as well as “directed” or “guided” retreats for individuals, in which participants receive direction from a Cenacle advisor and also spend time in solitary reflection. Some programs offer annual spiritual journeys corresponding to such religious “seasons” as Lent. Religious services are open to all visitors but obligatory to none.

Many Cenacle visitors come for one thing: silence. Individuals are welcome to take up residence for a couple of nights or longer, during which they may keep entirely to themselves if desired in a private room. Spiritual direction is available from a Cenacle nun, or those making a private retreat may bring their own reading materials.

All Cenacles share a hospitality and serenity that aren’t easy to find in the secular world – and speaking of the secular world, Cenacle prices cannot be beat. Comfort and a nurturing atmosphere are paramount at these facilities, which mean the food is plentiful and tasty, but not haute cuisine; rooms, likewise, are comfy but not four-star. And it shows in the Cenacles’ rates. At the Warrenville, Ill., Cenacle near Chicago, for example, an overnight stay including three meals is just $60 or $80 if you choose to add a session with one of the Cenacle’s spiritual directors. A daytime stay, with lunch as well as with access to all facilities and grounds, costs just $25.

Each Cenacle has its own personality. Warrenville, for example, has a labyrinth that all are welcome to walk as a means of focusing. The Lantana, Fla., Cenacle has a busy schedule of activities, including a week-long trip to Tuscany, Italy, for July 2010, during which participants will explore art as prayer by creating their own work in addition to viewing some of the greatest Renaissance works and visiting the Tuscan hill towns of Assisi and Siena. At the Ronkonkama Cenacle on Long Island, May brings an “overnight for busy moms” and, in June, there’s the fourth annual spa retreat, “The Beauty and the Beast,” with massage and reflexology available in between spa-cuisine meals and sessions of prayer, reflection and camaraderie. And the Chicago Cenacle, located on busy Fullerton Parkway, is almost startling in its quiet and remove from the surroundings of its noisily fashionable Lincoln Park neighborhood.

To learn more about Cenacle retreat opportunities throughout the United States, go to and select a location from the drop-down menu at the top of the page. From there, you can peruse the list of activities.

El Monte Sagrado Resort

For a weekend getaway that’s considerably more luxurious, seek the spirit of the desert at El Monte Sagrado, an environmentally conscientious “eco-spa” located in the breathtaking natural splendor of Taos, New Mexico. This first-class spa’s treatments and options go well beyond the normal spa concepts. Here, it’s natural to incorporate alternative approaches and ancient wisdom toward the goal of helping guests relax and reinvigorate their spirits.

The spa’s array of “global suites” includes the Egypt Suite, where the goddess Isis spreads her wings in a wide mural above a king-size bed, and hieroglyphics are everywhere in the suite’s décor details. Egypt also is the source of El Monte Sagrado’s two anointing therapies – a two-hour session or a more intensive session lasting an additional half-hour – that use massage, crystals, and oils to promote healing in the individual’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions. Anointing therapies are conducted by a certified massage therapist with training in aromatherapy and anointing.

El Monte Sagrado also offers spiritual cleansing for body, mind and spirit, conducted by Cherokee medicine woman and master crystal worker Grandmother Jean (Adasti Gadahee). Tailoring each session to the individual before her, Grandmother Jean embraces Asian and Egyptian traditions as well as those of Native Americans in working with El Monte Sagrado’s guests. So don’t be surprised to hear a chant to Buddha alongside sacred vegetation for smudging when you place yourself in the hands of this unique spiritual advisor.

The spa’s unusual treatments also include acupuncture, Reiki, a “life-reading massage,” and even a session on animal communication to help establish a better rapport with your pet. After an initial session, counseling can be done either on-site or by telephone – and you needn’t have your pet along during your El Monte Sagrago getaway.

Of course, it’s not all spiritual work and no play at El Monte Sagrado, a self-made desert oasis where cutting-edge technology and mindful use of resources have created a lush environment full of spectacular flora. (Owner Thomas Worrell Jr. has invested heavily in sustainability and hopes to have the resort off the grid within several years.) The spa’s more traditional treatments – a full range of facials, massages, and so on — appeal to everyone needing to unwind, including the kids, who are welcome at the family-friendly resort. (Not to worry about unfamiliar food: the quarter-pound burger, if not the ahi tuna pastrami, is a reliable favorite, and vegetarian meals are always available.)

El Monte Sagrado is a bit of a challenge to reach for a weekend getaway, but flights to Santa Fe and Albuquerque come close. Guests may drive to El Monte Sagrado, but if you’re really splurging, check out the helicopter. Rooms start at $245 a night, and packages are offered for stays of varying lengths. To book, e-mail or call 800.828.TAOS or 505.758.3502.

Como Shambhala at Parrot Cay

A three-night minimum is no burden at Como Shambhala at Parrot Cay, a tropical dream just an hour from Miami where guests are nurtured in mind, body and spirit. The resort’s special Shambhala retreats are centered in a secluded pavilion with gorgeous island views, where yoga and other Asian-inspired methods take participants to a level of serenity they can only imagine back home (mainstream exercise, such as Pilates, also is on the Shambhala schedule).

The intimate Shambhala Cottage also is available for private bookings, complete with your choice from an array of individual treatments such as reflexology, Indian head massage, Indonesian or Thai massage, and more. All Como Shambhala at Parrot Cay cuisine is organic and inspired by the resort’s Caribbean setting, combining healthfulness with sophisticated menus and preparations.

Those who can devote longer than a weekend to Como Shambhala might sign up a yoga retreat, featuring six days of yoga practiced with topnotch instructors for five hours daily. A three-night Rejuvenation package, which includes yoga, massage, a bottle of French Champagne and other perks, is $1,800 with a garden view, or $2,180 with an ocean view. And families are completely welcome at this high-end yet casual resort.

Because it’s located in the Turks and Caicos, travel to and from Como Shambhala at Parrot Cay requires a passport for U.S. travelers. Visitors fly to the island’s capital, Providenciales, and are taken to the resort by speedboat. To book a getaway at Como Shambhala at Parrot Cay, e-mail or telephone 1-649-946 7788.