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The Great Spa Conversation

By Robin Zill, LMT

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The Five Seasons of Spa: Autumn Means Change


Author's note: This five-part series is designed to explore the language of nature as it relates to the spa experience.


"I ask not for a larger garden, but for finer seeds"

- Russel H. Conwell

In the natural cycle of growth and decay, autumn is the time to celebrate the harvest, the fruits of one's labor, and seeds that grow full. It is also a time to embrace the cycle of change, as autumn is also the season that sows the seeds of decay. This is, of course, natural and inherent to the living process. The intent of this article is to juxtapose the transformation and symbolic hope found in the seeds of autumn with the precarious and unpredictable social environment or "soil" we find ourselves in.

Throughout this series, I have used the language of nature as a metaphor for exploring and deepening the essence (or ousia) of the spa experience. Integral to this concept is the idea that "spa," like "nature," is not a thing to measure and dissect; rather, it is an energy event waiting to happen - an energy event waiting to dance. Autumn is the season of celebration, change and regeneration. Sensing and experiencing the quality of this beautiful season is an excellent way to contemplate change and growth from both a personal and spa business perspective.

Think of all you have learned as a pioneer in the wellness/spa industry. Remember where the industry was 10 years ago? Look at it now. Then consider how the contemporary massage movement has been a major inspiration in this cultural evolution. Congratulate yourself. You have been an active participant in creating a next-generation industry. We have helped create a culture that is more health- conscious through healthy food, exercise, herbal therapies, massage, spiritual awareness and other integrative health therapies.

Yet in the midst of this positive evolution, we find ourselves facing many global challenges that are, arguably, the worst since humankind has occupied the planet. Water quality and availability are horrible, global warming has increased, new and old diseases are at epidemic levels, social violence is on the upswing, insidious wars have spread, and health costs and poverty are escalating. These are just some of the problems that continue to threaten our well-being, both individually and socially. Culturally speaking, this is not good soil for seed sowing.

What will we make of autumn's seeds? As seeds symbolize food that is concentrated and rich in nutrients, the autumn seed "energy" can be used in a number of ways. It can be eaten, stored, rooted or rot. This is an interesting concept to consider from a spa business or personal-growth perspective. We need to take inventory of our emotional, spiritual, physical and financial resources. We must take care to gather, distribute, store and plant our resources in a balanced way. Ideally, we will conserve some of our energy (potential) for the future while feeding our drive to actively create for today (kinetic).

It is time for us as individuals and an industry to mature and prepare for our next professional transformation - for the next level of our work. We need to remind ourselves why we have chosen this path. What kind of seeds are we planting for the future? Whether the next level is expanding or opening a new facility, stepping up on the career ladder, volunteering for a social cause or moving in an entirely different direction, it is our time to evolve.

The potential within the seed is in all of us - it is part of nature's synergistic mystery. The seeds we sow are not for us alone. We inherit much through the seed - our genetic lineage, cultural story, the potential of our life path - hence, we have much to give back. The seeds of autumn symbolize this dynamic relationship between a healthy living environment and optimal professional and personal fulfillment. That is why, as the spa industry helps to evolve the next paradigm shift, we also must become voices for the earth. This means eliminating waste in our personal and professional lives and using precious resources more consciously. It was encouraging to find focus groups and classes at the ISPA conference in Dallas this month devoted to how the spa industry could become more active in self-monitoring our waste and move forward on these issues that affect so many. I look forward to updating you in future articles and would appreciate ideas you have on this issue.

As we immerse ourselves in the beginnings of this major paradigm shift, we know that historically change occurs as the older generation dies out. But I have greater hopes for us: I believe that we, the "older generation" need to open up, sprout some new leaves and dig deeper roots. The world is too complicated. We can't leave the next generation to fend for itself. I believe that together, by actively re-evaluating and refining our environments at home and in our businesses, we can reverse the trend of pollution, war, global warming, and poverty.

When the environment is strong, healthy and beautiful, it will create future generations that are vital and sustainable. It was only 2,000 years ago, when one of the greatest cultures of all time - the Roman Empire - poisoned and sterilized itself by contaminating food and water with lead, a mineral that was in high demand by the social elite. Let's learn from the past and reach into the seeds of the future.

Imagine the garden we can create!

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