Enlightened Spa Review

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Posts tagged ‘New Mexico’

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Concha Garcia Allen MA, LMT, curandera, ceremonial leader, and Aztec dance leader. Photo courtesy of Sunrise Springs Resort

Native American spiritual guide, Concha Garcia Allen leads a sweat lodge ceremony twice weekly for the guests of Sunrise Springs Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is through the closeness of our relationship with the Earth, she believes, that we are better able to tap into our inner wisdom. When we are in harmony with nature, we can unlock the answers to our problems and better interpret and fulfill our dreams.

Concha reminds us before the ceremony that our close relationship with nature has been broken. It is her desire to help us better understand our place within this world and our interdependence with all that is nature. Through a guided journey we explore the four directions of the medicine wheel.

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A Native American medicine wheel is the physical center of Sunrise Springs Resort. The wheel represents the four physical directions North, South, East, and West. It is also in alignment with the calendar and represents the four seasons. Each quadrant is also used to reframe the four phases of life from birth, adolescence, parenthood, and ultimately, death. The circle represents the never ending cycle of life with no beginning and no end. Each quadrant can represent the four elements as well Air (mental), Fire (spiritual), Water (Emotional), and Earth (physical). Animals totems are also assigned to stages of the wheel of life.

Concha makes a smoke offering to the four directions as well as the universe above us and below us. Chanted prayers and requests for the spirits of this world and all of our present and past relations are brought to mind.  She brings an emotional power to the ceremony.

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Tobacco is burned as an offering

 

Participants are dressed comfortably. Some in spa robes, some in bathing suits, and some in traditional Native American attire. We will enter this journey together, and we are reminded of the interdependence on one another for a successful spiritual experience. Our guide functions not only in a shaman, or curanadera, role, but she is also in the experience with us. Concha is joined by two of her nephews who assist in the ceremony.  We are each smudged while chanted prayers are shared. A ceremonial flute and conch shell are also played.

Sweat Lodge  Ceremony at Sunrise Springs Resort

Outside of the traditional stone and timber sweat lodge we are given a description of the physical and mental aspects of this journey. We are told that it is a place of rebirth. Like the womb of a mother, it will be dark, cramped and hot. Birth is where we begin the journey. In the hot lodge, we move through the four cycles of life in fifteen minute intervals. Guests are offered the traditional Native American “Gatorade”, an icy salted water with lemon. We are instructed on ways to endure the heat. We are also instructed on what type of conversations and prayers will be offered once inside the sweat lodge.

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Sweat Lodge at Sunrise Springs Resort

Heated stones on a stove are basted with water, as in a sauna. Once Concha has said her prayers and opened the conversation, we are instructed to pass a talking stick and share, if we like, how this particular quadrant of the wheel or phase of our life is affecting us. We speak only when we are handed the stick and at the close of our shared thought, we offer up the words “All my relations.”

We on our own individual spiritual journeys, from various religious and non-religious backgrounds. What brings us closer together to our relationship with the earth and its living beings is an understanding that we are all in this cycle of life together. It is through this dark, hot journey that we gain insight to what is blocking us from our personal growth. By reframing our aspirations or problems in alignment with the four elements of air, water, earth and fire, and where we are within our life’s journey, we hope to better understand that we have the answers to all of life’s questions if we can just slow down long enough to think of them. From a practicing Buddhist’s perspective, I am amazed at the similarities between the Native American traditions and the Tibetan.

Emerging from the first session, we spent time sharing childhood experiences and reflect on that ability to naturally use our imagination without the typical constraints we place on those mental aspects as adults. It was hot. I mean really hot! Some of the guests took the opportunity to plunge into the cool natural spring between sessions. These four sessions have us emotionally travel through the various stages in life and to the point to how we understand our place in nature at this very moment.

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Guests can share as much or as little as they like.  We keep our water handy. We also know that if we can just endure one more phase of this circuit, a cool plunge awaits us. There is no shame if one needs to step out early.

We left this experience feeling much more connected to the Earth, our current phase of life, and better understanding the connection to all people physically and mentally.

This is not a treatment for the faint of heart. It will test the physical and mental strength of even fit people. If you have questions about your ability to endure this experience, there are many other helpful services available at the resort, including counselors, a physician specializing in wellness, and much more.

Medical Considerations

  • If you have any chronic medical conditions, please consult with your medical provider before attending the Sweat Lodge ceremony.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water during the day of the ceremony. It is recommended to have at least 6 glasses of water prior to the event.
  • The lodge is an enclosed circular space and the number of participants may vary. If you have a tendency to anxiety in small, dark spaces, you can be seated near the door.

 

I was a hosted guest of Sunrise Springs Resort, a sister property of Ojo Caliente . All opinions are my own.

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New Mexican Tamale at Sunrise Springs Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico

When dining in New Mexico, the same question is always asked. Would you like red chile sauce, green chile sauce, or Christmas, which means both. As a cook searching for chile sauce recipes you will be asked if you will be preparing the sauce from powder or the pods. This simple recipe only requires chile pods, water, salt, and a blender or food processor.

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I turned to a native New Mexican chef for guidance. Chef Rocky Durham is the executive chef at Sunrise Springs Resort located on the outskirts of Santa Fe. His philosophy is not only authentic to New Mexico, it is authentic to the wellness vibe at Sunrise Springs Resort.

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Red chile is made differently from family to family, and village to village. The two main differences begin with powder or pods. Do you use whole, dried chiles or dried chile powder (not to be confused with “chili powder” which is a spice blend that might contain some cayenne pepper.) The majority of chile makers would agree that starting with whole pods is the preferred method.

A new, easy technique that Chef Rocky embraces follows:

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Chef Rocky Durham recommends pods. Using disposable kitchen gloves will help avoid irritation to the skin on hands or accidental irritation via touching the hands to the face and eyes.

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A knife is handy to split the chile pods. Since the chiles are dry, they can also be broken up by hand. Another great reason to uses gloves. Break off the stems and remove the seeds.

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This is not an exercise in reducing the heat of the chile sauce, but rather producing a beautiful, bright-red sauce. The seeds are pale yellow and dilute the red color within the flesh of the pepper. I saved the seeds in an air tight container for use on my pizzas.

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I place the stemmed and seeded peppers in a container and cover with cold water then placed a plate or other weight on top to keep them submerged.

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Refrigerate the chiles overnight. I used about twenty five pods or half the bag.

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The following day puree the rehydrated chiles with enough of the soaking medium to produce a sauce consistency puree. Add salt and water slowly to taste and consistency. A blender would also work well if you do not have a food processor.

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The purist will add only some good salt to the mixture. The more avant-garde cooks will add sautéed garlic, yellow onion, oregano and sometimes honey to the sauce. Everything is done “to taste” as every chile pepper is unique unto itself and resists being standardized.

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By not cooking the mixture, the color is shockingly red and all those super-B-vitamins (cyanoids) are left intact.
Just warm the sauce “to order” when applicable but do not be afraid to use this for your enchiladas or other baked recipes. Refrigerate for up to one week. Follow Chef Rocky Durham on Instagram for more inspiration.

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I decided to stick to the purist mindset for my first batch. It took much less salt than I expected. I could see adding other cooked veggies like onions and garlic to dial back the heat. Chicken stock could also add some depth. On my next batch, I think I will add some lime juice. Using vinegar instead of water would make it like Tabasco. Fresh is always best and you can definitely taste the difference with this sauce.

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Approximately twenty five pods with about a teaspoon of salt and nearly a cup of the reserved soaking water produced one pint of red chile sauce. My meal plans this week for this batch include using it on grilled grouper one night and on beef enchiladas this weekend. I’m also planning on serving it on omelets for Sunday brunch. Red chile sauce is delicious on eggs.  It would also be great tossed on cooked chicken wings with a blend of sauce and melted butter for Buffalo wings. I’m pretty sure it would also make an amazing addition to a bloody Mary.

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I picked up the local red chile pods en route to Ojo Caliente for a day of soaking in the mineral springs. It is less than an hour drive from their sister property at Sunrise Springs. Hotel staff can arrange day passes if you are staying at Sunrise Springs Resort. Chef Rocky Durham has worked at both properties. Lightweight and easy to pack, chile pods make an excellent souvenir for “foodie friends.”

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