Article by Charley Weber – Edited by Petra Schmidt.
The Optimum Health Institute – San Diego
If your immune system feels like it could use a boost because you’ve been burning the candles at both ends – which is common in L.A. – or have just come out of a pandemic where in most public spaces there is a virus which may have run down your system, the Optimal Health Institute could be the perfect retreat for you.
The OHI is a moderately well known secret among those who live and work in L.A. It’s not a pampering luxury Spa Resort like, say, Champneys in the UK. The OHI is about optimal health and mental well-being with an alternative approach: a revolution in lifestyle, a raw food diet and a huge intake of wheat grass taken daily, both orally and in colonic cleansing.
The history of the place is something of a whispered legend in Southern California. People with cancer and other often terminal illnesses are said to have been cured by simply following the three week program of this unique health regime. The founders were devout Christians, but I did’t feel even a hint of proselytising while I was there. All the staff were exceptionally open, charged and thoughtful.
The social side of the stay is, of course, important too and on the first nights in the retreat you’ll find yourself standing in a circle with all the other inductees, introducing yourself and doing various exercises to develop trust as a group but also between individuals. In our intake, after a week or so, socialising began to come very naturally – even to quite shy people like myself – as the inductees became more and more positive and inclined to share their experiences and make new friends.
The woman I stood next to in the nightly circle was the extremely lively and attractive Miss World 1986. We seemed to hit it off well and by the end of the circle, which rounded out most days’ activities, the centre’s guide introduced this lady as the person we should talk to if we wanted to participate in the Friday night performances at the end of the group’s stay.
In the first few days of the wheatgrass diet – which is the staple health tonic, along with raw foods and some fermented probiotic juice – to be honest, all our intake of fifty or so people felt fairly low and fatigued, which is common, as apparently a lot of toxins are being released. We were required to take our wheatgrass colonic irrigation kits back to our sparse, but comfortable private rooms in a flat, usually sharing with one flatmate.
The daily personal wheatgrass colonics baggy system takes a little getting used to but is fairly simple. The process is undertaken in the bath with a bag of wheatgrass which has to be elevated. It’s really not that complicated and you probably won’t notice much more than that your bath water turns green from the wheatgrass, which feels incredibly healthy and if you’re like me you’ll likely ask yourself why you don’t bathe in green mineral substances on a regular basis.
There is morning exercise, meditation, optional workshops for organisation and even group solidarity and trust building exercises. At the end of the stay there is a weekend of music, spoken word and other performance. I probably had more fun there than I’ve ever had on a traditional holiday, just because it made me feel so healthy, happy and good.
In the morning our exercise routine was for everyone to run around a loop of the compound and then gather beneath big trees on the lawn and follow the instructor in doing various stretching exercises and quite amusing group vocalisations designed to wake up the body and the senses.
On the second day you may have booked some optional treatment or course. I had an appointment with a chiropractor, who in a shockingly efficient and also noisy manner made some adjustment to one part of my body, which miraculously seemed to relieve the pain in an entirely different part: my neck.
By the third day or so you should be starting to notice your mood and sense of well-being pick up as people develop new friendships and interests. This feeling of appreciation and attraction towards others is quite noticeable as, for whatever reason, magnetism kicks up a gear.
There is a core set of compulsory workshops for everyone to attend, such as instructional sessions on how to seed, water and use the wheat grass kits everyone takes with them on leaving the institute – with the intention of carrying on the good work at home. Although I have to say, as soon as you leave the compound and join the freeway with the low flying jets passing perilously close to the roof of your car and some guy cutting in front of you, you come down to earth with a jolt.
On the last Friday evening of your stay a number of attendees will perform either a song or a skit or read something, as part of the celebratory performances. I read a two thousand year old Aramaic translation of the Lord’s Prayer and, having borrowed a guitar from the friend I made at the retreat, I performed a folk song I wrote and recorded around that time, called ‘Kinder Days’. It was interesting to note that our performance organiser took the last slot to perform ‘The Phantom of the Opera’.
Leaving after those few weeks, when the people in your induction group – a few of which have become friends – appear happy, though more than a little satiated, I’d be surprised if, a bit like when you leave your favourite school, you don’t start missing them, the place and the general state of well-being.
Although you can stay for as long as you want, for the full cleansing program the OHI recommends a three week stay. It will run into around two thousand dollars a week – which is no small amount – to reconnect with yourself and to reach your optimum state of well-being. As far as I’m concerned it was well worth the price tag.
The Optimum Health Institute San Diego has a sister site in Austin Texas. Optimum Health Institute of San Diego. 6970 Central AvenueLemon Grove, CA 91945. www.optimumhealth.org/locations
Rosarito – Just South of the Border and Tijuana in Mexico
Most of the clients will then be heading north to Los Angeles but alternatively you can head a few miles further south on I-5, across the Mexican border into Tijuana and down a further few miles to Rosarito, which is a great place to extend your peace of mind, enjoy the sea and and a taste of Mexico. The place is legendary for its lobster dinners and is a great weekend away before getting back to the grindstone.