Paige Stables

So often in life, he asserts, we are in a state of fight-or-flight — and we can become subconsciously frozen there. Instead of working out the “knots” of life (or bound-up energy) with a massage, Amaral directs his clients’ focus to specific areas where they hold trauma. “Most people are taught to ignore what they feel and push through in order to achieve,” he says. “I’m helping to get the mind and body more in sync again.”

Similarly, psychologist Peter A. Levine, PhD, has said “trauma is perhaps the most avoided, ignored, belittled, denied, misunderstood, and untreated cause of human suffering.” Decades ago, he developed something called somatic experiencing to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight, or freeze responses and help free their body. 

Throughout daily group sessions at Hacienda AltaGracia, Amaral guides us through different exercises: a scan of our seven chakras, hour-long meditations, visualization exercises. My inhales and exhales have never felt so profound. Slow breathing has been proven to be calming, according to recent studies by Stanford University, and for the first time I experience this on a deep level.

It is like I am closing all the open tabs — traumatic life experiences, stresses, challenges — on my iPhone so that my internal battery can function most effectively. And I feel in control of this freedom. “So many people are in the future or in the past, and to become present in the moment, that’s where the most power is. That’s where the most energy is accessible,” says Amaral. “Be present” is a tall order in our real lives, but in this slice of utopia there are no distractions.

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