The oxygen almost echoes around the orb. Your rhythmic inhalations amplified like those within the helmet of an astronaut floating through space—the galactic metaphor emboldened by the sense of weightlessness as you lie atop a saline solution laden with half a tonne of therapeutic-grade Epsom salts. There is even a button that breaks the blackness of the chamber with tiny ceiling lights, like stars gently twinkling in the distance.
Breathe in… breathe out… breathe in… breathe out…
Before entering, I am told that, with my senses “unencumbered by sight or sound”, and in a state of complete relaxation, I may “surrender to a deeper a state of consciousness”, which I thought sounded pretty darn awesome. Once inside, I am imbued with a feeling of infiniteness, that, though the floatation orb is barely larger than a hot tub, I could glide in any direction, forever. That iconic scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey permeates my thoughts; when the bone is tossed toward the heavens before cutting to a shot of an orbiting satellite—from savages to spacemen, the history of humanity, in the blink of an eye. And then, with a blink of mine, I imagine my never-ending capsule as a cocoon, as a womb. From our most advanced state, to our most basic. I close my eyes and, with a cleared mind, floating, drift into the deepest and most peaceful of slumbers.
Floatation therapy is one of several almost spiritual offerings from Earth Energies Sanctuary, New Zealand’s newest wellness retreat that is so exclusive its secluded cabin is the only guest accommodation on the sprawling, 200-acre site. Overlooking the verdant Waikato, the dramatic Coromandel Ranges and the calming waters of the firth of Thames, guests are invited to indulge in half- and full-day treatments such as zero balance, cranial massage, aromatouch therapy and clinical hypnotherapy.
“All of our therapies have the common theme of bringing our guests to an alpha or even deeper theta brainwave state, thus restoring balance essential for optimum relaxation, creativity, insight and mindfulness,” says Marie Latus, who founded the sanctuary with husband Duncan McKenzie. “Our therapies make it possible to experience profound relaxation, bringing about complete balance and enabling the body to reset.”
The sanctuary also provides ongoing support such as guided self-hypnosis to enable guests to “maintain their new sense of balance when back in the reality of their daily lives”.
“We may not always be able to change what is happening around us but we can certainly control how we react to it,” says Marie. “Stresses of daily life do not discriminate. It doesn’t matter if you’re a stay-at-home parent, athlete, builder, hairdresser, farmer or city corporate – everybody feels pressure.”
And so this Earth Mother sees it as her life’s mission to alleviate such stress: “There is something beautiful and balanced that comes forth when you allow things to evolve as you are following a life purpose, calling or dream.”
Both Marie and Duncan hail from mining backgrounds—Marie working in an environmental and health and safety role, and Duncan as an explosives technician. After more than two decades of “long hours, moving to a different state or country every three years” while juggling family and other commitments, “it was time to make a change”.
For the previous 35 years, their 200-acre haven had served as a run-off for a local stock agent, comprising six paddocks with “no road, no power, no buildings, and no trough systems” (“what were we thinking!”). So, over a 10-year stretch, the pair built the sanctuary from absolute scratch—including laying down a couple of kilometres of power lines and the gravel road that winds its way up the hillside (and, much to this writer’s boyish delight, over a ford crossing).
What followed, admits Marie, was a “steep learning curve in animal husbandry, raising stock and caring for herds of cattle”, and, she says, living off the land become part of the family’s daily lives. That organicity seeps into the sanctuary’s every molecule, from the architecture, to the treatments, to the pervading sense of serenity and the sweeping views. Marie says that deer regularly visit the grounds, and though I didn’t witness them during my stay, I was lucky enough to marvel at a storm rolling in during the evening to awake to sun kissed pastures beneath an expansive, cloudless sky.
“The journey to get here has not always been blissful, there has been a lot of hard work in developing our organic farm and building the sanctuary infrastructure,” says Marie. “Much of the property was developed and built by Duncan along with our local tradies, under the careful eye of my creative design.”
Stone and timbers used throughout the construction were locally sourced.
“Everything we do here is based around the right energy, working with nature on the land, growing native kawakawa for our ointments, caring for our cattle, nurturing the beehives and looking after our guests,” says Marie. “We try to keep everything in a natural balance.”
The hilltop timber-clad cabin almost feels like Cathedral Cove with its cavernous roof and floor-to-ceiling windows that proffer uninterrupted views of a rolling landscape that cascades into the sea; the silence broken only by the occasional birdsong. The ripe surrounds may be further enjoyed from the suntrap deck, or the comfort of an egg-shaped bath. Another indulgence comes courtesy of a wood burner. There are two bedrooms, the master positioned on a mezzanine with more jaw dropping views. You don’t feel simply a connection to the surrounding environment, rather a part of it.
Thousands of native trees punctuate the site that’s also roamed by red devon cattle, poultry and peacocks. Four stony-bottom creeks lace its base.
“It a pleasure to see the natural ecosystem thriving with the return of native birds, frogs and wildlife,” says Marie. “Running our farm organically has really seen a return to a more balanced ecosystem. We have two bee yards, two kilometres apart, which ensures bees are an effective part of the natural ecosystem, enhancing clover pollination in pastures and improving native bush.”
As for nourishing visitors, guests may choose from a fine-dining menu, again, comprising locally sourced ingredients prepared by a local chef.
“Staying here just provides a certain sense of peace and calm,” says Marie. “Walking around the bush is so invigorating and brings a sense of balance to the mind. No matter the effort we have put into developing this little patch of New Zealand paradise, it certainly gives back so much more.”
Therapies at a Glance
As well as Marie’s diploma in clinical hypnotherapy, she hasspent four years studying zero balance, includingZB 1 and 2, alchemy of touch, freely moveable joints, forms and fulcrums, and secrets of the skull. She has completed floatation therapy training, is aromatouch certified and a doTERRA wellness advocate. A consultant medical herbalist and naturopath assists with referrals, while products are handcrafted at the sanctuary, with many of the ingredients, such as kawakawa and beeswax, harvested on site.
Floatation therapy: buoyed in a giant, enclosed orb, it may reduce stress, depression and anxiety while also relieving physical aches and strains. Many report improved sleep, a feeling of wellbeing, and enhanced creativity (I did).
Full spectrum infrared sauna: this rejuvenating heat and light therapy penetrates tissues, muscles and joints and is said to help purify the body of toxins. Other benefits include increased metabolism, and muscular pain relief.
Clinical hypnotherapy: can assist with rewiring the brain to avoid destructive thought patterns while alleviating stress and encouraging positive thinking. Can also be beneficial in tackling phobias and addictions.
Aromatouch: involves the application of essential oils to key reflexology points on the body to balance the mind and the nervous system, while reducing pain and inflammation.
Zero balance: is a mind-body tool that uses touch to “address the relationship between the structures of our body and energy flow” for “bone-deep relaxation”. Also includes a skull treatment. Felt super-supple and relaxed after this one, was one of this writer’s favourites.