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@Work: Zen Retreat

April 22, 2005 – What is Zen? It's an easy question with no easy answers—until you walk into the Zen Retreat in Tillett Gardens. From music to décor, everything has been intentionally placed using feng shui to create the most serene atmosphere.
"We practice Zen," says owner and bodyworker Wendy Gatcliffe. "One of the things Zen encompasses is a spirit of space. In a warm, nurturing setting, your parasympathetic system relaxes and provides a spirit of place. I created the place because I wanted a place like this to practice."
That spirit of place is one of the fine points that distinguishes the Zen Retreat from other spas on the island.
The other is the collaboration of private practices under the Zen umbrella that allows the practitioner to spend appropriate amounts of time with each client.
"We find we practice with genuine intention and deep presence," Gatcliffe says. "I really hesitate to call us a spa. This is a retreat. Together we encourage the integration of different therapies."
Zen Retreat has been open for a year and has established a largely local clientele. However, they are seeing clients from villas and hotels without spa services as well.
Practitioners of both contemporary and traditional bodywork can offer clients anything from a therapeutic deep tissue or Zen stone massage, to the more traditional ayurvedic massage
"It's a rhythmic kind of massage; almost like a dance. It's luscious, like sitting down and having dessert."
Aestheticians also offer facials (including the Thalgo Prescriptive and the Collagen Velvet), waxing, and other enhancements such as ear candling and paraffin treatments.
Gatcliffe is also looking for the perfect fit in a manicurist and pedicurist. "We don't want to do it typically, where you're sitting with your hands on a table," she says. Instead, Gatcliffe is looking to offer the ultimate relaxing experience. She wants to let the client lie back and have the manicure and pedicure at once.
"We're learning a lot from our clients because we work with them continually," she says.
Another aspect of the Zen Retreat is the yoga studio.
"It's yoga, but it's more of a movement studio," says Gatcliffe. "We have tai chi and meditation courses." Discover Zen seminars are also offered. "When you learn what it is, you're more interested in getting that type of work." Gatcliffe adds that to truly appreciate the massage work, "you have to understand what you are receiving." Those sessions take place on the last Wednesday evening of every month and include a tea ceremony.
Zen Retreat is also offering a meditation workshop during the month of May. Attendants will learn the step-by-step process of meditation, both practically and spiritually.
One of the best parts about the Zen Retreat may be its location in Tillett Gardens. "I love the garden, it's beautiful. We are a healing art. All art is healing art. To me it was the perfect place," says Gatcliffe. "Rhoda [Tillet] was an amazing woman. I think she would have been happy to have something like this there."
Call Zen Retreat at the spa, 340-774-8044, or the office, 340-776-3290. Click for a full menu of services including prices.

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