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Massage Today
January, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 01

The Five Seasons of Spa: Winter

By Robin Zill, LMT

The seasons of life impact how we evolve over a lifetime, a day or even a moment. If we are in harmony with the physical environment we live in, we experience one of the only constants in the universe: change.

This dynamic interaction between self and environment over time is the essence of living. Observing and integrating the seasons into daily living can enhance all aspects of self: mind, body, spirit and soul. If nothing is permanent except change, and we embrace this reality, we take charge of our own lives; we become conscious pioneers of our own frontiers.

Embracing the living patterns of nature is key not only to a healthy life, but to a successful business. In previous articles, I articulated some of the language and meaning behind the 10 Elements of the Spa Experience:

  1. Water: The internal and external use of water in its many forms.
  2. Nourishment: What we feed ourselves: food, herbals, supplements and medicines.
  3. Movement: Vitality and energy through movement, exercise, stretching and fitness.
  4. Touch: Connectivity and communication, embraced through massage and bodywork.
  5. Integration: The personal and social relationship between mind, body, spirit and environment.
  6. Aesthetics: Our concept of beauty, and how botanical agents relate to the biochemical components of the body.
  7. Environment: Location; placement; weather patterns; water constitution; natural agents; and social responsibility.
  8. Cultural Expression: The spiritual belief systems, the value of art and the scientific and political views of the time.
  9. Social Contribution: Commerce, volunteer efforts and intention as they relate to well-being.
  10. Time, Space and Rhythms: The perception of space and time, and its relationship to natural cycles and rhythms.

In this series, I hope to deepen your understanding of the ousia (essence) of living, using the seasons and how they change and interact with the 10 elements as a guide for spa business and personal lifestyle planning. Let's begin with the season of winter - a time of increased sensitivity and inward movement for the individual. It is a season of resting and silence, and a time of listening. It is a time of contemplation and reflection, and a time to prepare for the spring, which is an outgoing, action-oriented time.

When the environment cools down, animals hibernate and trees become barren: bark and evergreen hues reflect against a clear blue sky. It is important to note how the cool colors and temperature during this time affect our feelings and natural inclinations. Winter is a time to retreat inward; a time to receive, or perhaps even "conceive," in a metaphorical sense. In winter, the seeds of the next life cycle are created. Although the ebb and flow of cycles varies for everyone (and differs according to where we are situated on the planet), this general sense of seasonal winter is something most people experience. However, usually we do not understand or embrace its importance to health. During the winter months, many people consider themselves "not on top of their game," and feel lazy and unfocused. Taking time to listen and reflect is as important as action. I like to think of it as living smarter, not harder. Think of it as the dynamic between the art of being and becoming.

Massage therapists can be excellent mentors in this regard, teaching their clients to relax and receive. Ironically, this act of creating space for the client to be receptive is an active, conscious intention and skill. This month, observe or receive a treatment from an experienced massage therapist you admire. Try to articulate or define the actions, intentions and actual language he or she uses to create the space in which you learn how to deeply receive. What does he or she do that is qualitatively different and unique?

After the winter solstice on December 21 (the shortest day of the year,) the days begin to get lighter again, foreshadowing the new growth of spring and the time for action, birth, plans and vision. From a spa business perspective, the winter cycle is the time to solidify vision and business goals for the future. It is a time to read trade magazines; visit other spas; go to classes; talk with peers; and meditate and reflect on your goals. Because this winter season is metaphorical in nature, the process can happen in any physical season. The key is that you actively embrace the reflective part of creating a meaningful and practical business plan by being receptive, assimilating information, and listening to your deeper self - your inner vision.

Professionally, it is also a time to identify resources and allies, and to articulate business obstacles you may need to overcome. It is a time to organize. I like to think of this time as planning a garden for spring. I love looking at the beautiful, lush gardens of the seed magazines, as I love looking at spa trade magazines featuring lavish and ornate spas - but there are numerous things to bear in mind. Before you "plant," consider these thoughts:

  • Will the seeds you select grow strong, bountiful plants in your soil?
  • Will you be able to maintain them in a healthful way?
  • What flowers will you plant, and when do you want them to bloom?
  • What treatments and services will work in your market, and when?
  • What climate and environment have you chosen for your new adventure?
  • What is your perfect working environment?
  • Is this a wise business choice?
  • Is one plant destined to take over the garden and become a weed?
  • Are all the services you selected marketable and profitable?
  • Are your therapists team-oriented? What about insects and parasites?
  • Can you anticipate (and manage) unexpected bills and expenses?
  • And then of course there is water, the vital fluid. Will there be enough water to sustain the garden naturally, or will you have to irrigate?
  • Have you adequately accounted for cash flow and operating expenses?
  • What do you expect from your harvest? Balance the flowers (beauty) and fruits (sustenance).
  • Have you prepared for seasonal shifts, amenities, and specialty services and packages?
  • How often will you need to till the garden?
  • Do you have the tools and professional support to reap the greatest harvest from your labor and investment?

Maintaining a spa business truly is comparable to maintaining a garden. In essence, a successful spa incorporates many aspects of healthy living, so many choices need to be made. After all, not every flower will bloom in every garden. Discipline will help make your vision and business goals succinct, clear and reachable. Purpose and vision will bring joy to your work. From feasibility to marketing; location; layout; equipment selection; treatment and menu planning; staff training; financing; etc., the garden is a timeless metaphor for keeping you in touch with the seasons of natural healthy living, and as a tool for running a next-level spa business that keeps meaning, purpose, balance and chance at the forefront of your business plan.

Nature is our best teacher.

Click here for previous articles by Robin Zill, LMT.


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