SwaSwara offers the best of both worlds: cosseted privacy and a mind-expanding freedom.

The Swiss woman from Sudan put her finger on it. She said: “This place is an Energy Centre.” Her companion nodded. “We've flown in from Khartoum. It's a 27-hour journey and before we reached here, Michelle said ‘I'm terribly tired. I'm going to have a bath and sleep round the clock.’ I felt the same way. But this morning… the tiredness had gone and we felt light, fresh, and super-charged. It's magical!”

Both were Caucasians in their mid-forties; one was a West Asian diplomat's wife, her companion was a middle-level diplomat of a European country. And this was their second visit. “We should have expected this,” admitted the companion. Added the diplomat's wife: “But, when you go away, you often forget how out of this world, SwaSwara is!”

It certainly was ‘out of this world': or nearly so.

Getting there

We had been told that SwaSwara was in Karnataka's Gokarna, overlooking the famed Om Beach. But though we spotted the high stone wall enclosing what looked like an orchard, we missed the sharp turning to the left. It was only when we reached the flight of steps leading down to the beach that a taxi driver asked us to backtrack. We did.

At the end of the turn-off was a guarded gate. Beyond was SwaSwara: Konkan-style cottages of red laterite, set in gardens and manicured lawns, linked by winding, stone paved paths. The cottages were spacious, filled with light and air; showers open to the sky; a bedroom with glass walls and light drapes overlooking a sunken lawn and a private dining gallery with wooden shutters for privacy. When they were opened, a breeze rustled through a bamboo grove, across a large rain-water harvesting reservoir, and swept through our cottage. It was herb-scented and cool.

We breathed deeply. Out travel-taut muscles relaxed. This was the best of both worlds: cosseted privacy coupled with a mind-expanding freedom. Freedom, in fact, is the unexpressed USP of SwaSwara. It is the extra mile that it offers beyond conventional spas.We could have chosen to do the entire, spa oriented, yoga-meditation-chanting-ayurvedic-massage wellness programme. We could have swum in their pool, plunged into the sea, had a candle-light dinner on the beach with stars spangling the sky above the gently heaving Arabian Sea. Many of our fellow guests did all those things, benefited by them, and returned to revitalise themselves over and over again. But there were some others, like us, who used the facilities for self-actualisation: to develop abilities and talents that had lain dormant, suppressed by the mounting pressures of our daily lives. At long last, we had the time and the opportunity to strive to be who we could be, rather than whom circumstances had forced us to be. Here we could realise some of our dreams and spread the tightly crumpled wings of our long dormant talents.

Fine tuning

But first we had to fine tune our strengths. We sampled the wellness therapies, awakening the long neglected self-repairing systems in our bodies. We reached out and basked in the friendly attitudes of our fellow guests. One of them said: “We need to absorb the vibes of others' contentment like a passel of purring kittens”.

Strangely, as traditional non-vegetarians, we relished the lightly-cooked fish and vegetarian fare. We did not miss our customary ‘English breakfast' but welcomed the chef as he trundled a fresh-fruit trolley around the dining room and served our choices of succulent slices. And the dosas and idlis were just what we wanted. After that we sat silently in the blue Meditation Dome and let a glowing stillness suffuse us. A little later we were delighted to learn that we were living in a very sensitive domain of ecological sanity, an environment that tried to return to the earth all that it took from it. Colour-coded pipes harvested all rain water, fed it into reservoirs open to the sun and stocked with cleansing fish. Bath and kitchen water went through other naturally purifying processes including pebble and reed beds. So did sewage. The organic gardens and orchards in the estate thrived on the rich nutrients in such re-cycled water. Solid waste from the kitchen and garden was composted and ploughed into the soil, enriching it.

Close knit unity

All this gave us the reassurance that we were partners with the earth, sustaining it, not plundering it. Perhaps it was this sense of close knit unity with the world around us that prompted us to walk to the end of the paved road, past the saplings planted by visitors, to the arts and crafts centre. For years, one of us had wanted to sketch, to capture a fleeting moment that lingered in the mind but could not be trapped by our cameras. In this centre we could have learnt a whole range of skills: clay modelling, collages, pastels, oil painting. But all we wanted was the basic techniques of sketching. We were pleasantly surprised to learn how simple it was. Apparently we had had it in us all the time; we had just not been able to tap it. But more than the quality of these scribbled lines, it has opened a new window of achievement, almost as if we had discovered a sixth sense to enrich the quality of our responses. Other spas had given us wellness that, sadly, was often eroded by our peripatetic way of life. In SwaSwara we did not feel any inexplicable power radiating out of the earth as the friends from Sudan had.

But thanks to its enriching experience we have become much more aware of the world around us. As Aldous Huxley put it, our Doors of Perception were opened in SwaSwara, and that is curiously energising. Like infants gleeful in their ability to walk a few, hesitant, steps, our Wellness has evolved into our Wellbeing.

Quick Facts

Getting there: By air to Dabolim Airport in Goa and then 170 km by road, or 240 km by road from Mangalore Airport.

Accommodation: 24 Konkan villas

For more information contact: cgh earth, Casino Building, Willingdon Island, Cochin 682003. Ph: 0484-3011711 E-mail: contact@cghearth.comd www.cghearth.com

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