Dancing the Labyrinth: A recap of October’s BATW event at The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco

By MJ Pramik

BATW members learned how to incorporate dance, meditation and the ancient art of the labyrinth in their travel writing during a panel discussion hosted by The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco and organized by BATW’s Molly Blaisdell on October 15. The Ritz-Carlton was recently named Travel + Leisure’s best hotel in San Francisco and the hotel leads the industry in cutting edge health and wellness programs.

Wellness is a top travel goal as people come out of the pandemic, according to Shelly Auyeung, The Ritz-Carlton’s Communication Manager.  She cites a global survey that shows 76% of respondents wanted to spend more on travel to improve their well-being, while 68% say they plan to travel to improve their mental health.

In response, The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco has redesigned its Respite Concierge to include seasonal outdoor yoga, meditation, an updated fitness center, and a healthy meals program. The Respite Concierge offers a curated potpourri of San Francisco experiences in retail (shopping, of course), recreation (off-site tours, sailing the Bay), and relaxation (private Qigong/Tai Chi sessions, and nearby spas).

Kismet: The Ritz-Carlton’s current site was the location of the first Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. This historical link led the hotel to a collaboration with Grace Cathedral two blocks up the Sacramento Street hill. Grace Cathedral provides meditation and yoga, opportunity to walk the labyrinths (indoor and outdoor) and monthly in person “sound baths” (a 45-minute evening sound and light meditation) to alleviate stress, fatigue and depression.

The panel presentation included BATW’s own Lisa Alpine who spoke on the wonders of dance and travel, Darren Main, Grace Cathedral’s yoga and meditation instructor, and Lauren Artress, an Episcopal Priest and the author of “The Sacred Path,” who discussed how to walk the labyrinth.

Lisa Alpine, author of five books on travel, had the audience up and dancing immediately with hard beat songs from around the world. She started with the feet. Easy steps. Feet directly under the hips. A song from Lebanon, baa bum bum, baa bum bum, baa bum bum (one two-three).  She reminded us to breathe. Extend our hands, fingers, toes.

It was Darren Main’s task to calm the audience down. Be still and focus on our breath. Main teaches yoga and meditation at Grace Cathedral. He reminded us that a little practice each day will build one’s capacity of mindfulness, being in “the zone”, in the moment.

Lauren Artress, head of the Mind-Body program at Grace Cathedral, covered the many reasons to walk a labyrinth. She is the founder of Veriditas and The Labyrinth Society. Veriditas is dedicated to inspiring personal and planetary change and renewal through the labyrinth experience. Artress has also written “Walking the Sacred Path” on how to achieve stillness through movement when walking the labyrinth. Twice a year she visits Chartres Cathedral and its more than 800-year-old labyrinth. “In the Middle Ages walking the labyrinth was used to teach illiterate people to journey to the center, to concentrate on the feeling in your body, the movement of your hands and fingers,” she says. “The labyrinth meets you where you are, but you have to turn up, in mindfulness.


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