GOLDEN DOOR – HUMAN AGAIN CAMPAIGN
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ANNIE LEIBOVITZ
Our guests tell remarkable stories of transformation through the lens of the most remarkable photographers of our times.
Gretchen RubinAuthor, The Happiness Project 2x Guest Stretching@Golden Door’s Bamboo Forest
A key aspect of happiness is an atmosphere of growth. I think we can feel stale in ordinary life. This place shakes you up, for sure.
What first brought you to Golden Door?
Gretchen: I went years and years ago, right after I got married because my mother-in-law treated my mother and me. This last time I went with my sister. Her dream was always to go to the Golden Door, so this was a great sisterly adventure. She lives in L.A. and has a little kid, so it was nice for her to be someplace that really felt like she was having a totally different experience, and yet was convenient. You feel transported when you walk across that footbridge.
How does Golden Door play into your own happiness project?
Gretchen: This isn’t just a place where you go to get a massage. I could have a massage every day of my life, and it would not be enough. But to be happier, an atmosphere of growth is actually what will build more happiness. For me, I had never done Zumba. That made me feel like I was learning something or trying something new.
It’s that feeling of, “I’m pushing myself a little bit, maybe an exercise class that I loved, or I always wanted to try yoga, or I always wanted to do Bollywood dancing.”
It’s a very convenient kind of no judgment zone to try new things. I think for some people, they are very self-conscious, or they do really feel judged. It’s nice to go into a place where you have gotten to know these people, and probably a lot of them haven’t done it before either.
It’s a very warm environment in which to have an atmosphere of growth.
You mentioned that Golden Door really caters to the Four Personality Types.
Gretchen: I was very impressed by how everyone could find their own equilibrium in a lot of different ways. Some people like structure, but some people like spontaneity and freedom.
I thought it’s a nice balance between structure and freedom. It’s a nice balance between pampering and then also exertion. It’s more fun to have a massage if you’ve gone for the hike.
There’s time for silence, and there’s also time for conversation. If there has been a little bit too much conversation for you, it’s easy to get more silence. And if you feel like you want more conversation, it’s there. I feel like the way that it’s structured makes it easier for even more introverted or shyer people to feel comfortable entering in.
It’s not easy to meet both extremes for everybody. Golden Door did a great job of that so that people who are happiest in different environments could find the place that they needed.
Can you speak to how outer order can bring inner calm?
Gretchen: It is funny, outer order really does contribute to inner calm. It’s like even if you can’t manage it in your own environment, you can borrow it for a time here and get that sense of focus.
At Golden Door, you don’t even bring much. It’s like, yeah, you’ve got one pair of shoes, or maybe two pair of shoes. It’s like, “Are you going to wear your running shoes or your flip flops? The room is very beautiful, but it’s spare. There is this feeling of everything being in its place, and everything is needed. There’s not a lot of noisy art. There’s not music pumping through the air.
I think for a lot of people, especially people who have lives that are crowded and chaotic, it’s very restorative to be in a place that is so beautifully ordered. Of course, that’s very Japanese, very Asian. Even bamboo trees are a very orderly kind of plant.
For a lot of people, they want to make space for that to happen in their lives. They need to step back. I saw it happening all around me. Several people commented to me that they’d had a major revelation or epiphany. I think that they had gone there thinking that they needed to give themselves an atmosphere that would engender that.
Would you say the program and environment help you to do that, but so do the other guests?
Gretchen: It’s an atmosphere in which everybody is very much asking those questions and raising those questions. You feel like it’s top of mind.
I came away with real new friends that I’ve seen in New York, and that I’ve been emailing with. That’s pretty rare when you can just show up someplace, and then you have a real friend. Because there is this intimacy. There is this sort of trust that everybody just has in each other right away. It’s quite extraordinary.
People do want space, but they also want to have meaningful connections with people. Nothing is more energizing than feeling like you’re really connecting to someone new. As you get older, that’s harder because it’s harder to make new friends because people are busy, and you don’t have that much opportunity to come against people that you don’t already know.
If you said what is the secret to happiness if you had to pick one thing, ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists would agree that it is relationships. To be happy, you have to have enduring intimate relationships. You have to feel like you belong. You have to feel like you can confide. You have to be able to give and get support.
What was an “Aha” moment for you while you were there?
Gretchen: It’s pretty unusual for me to feel an immediate intimacy with people. I very quickly relaxed into that, and I think that is unusual. That easy friendship. An unspoken acceptance of myself and of other people. I think that’s unusual. I was happily surprised by that.
“Anyone who has been here a lot can testify that you make some of your great, great friends at The Door. The whole experience has a way of bringing out the boyishness in men.”
The Golden Door Boys Club
Jim Pedas 134x Guest
Gordon Diamond 86x GuestAlan Fischer 97x Guest
Ted Pedas 120x Guest
Regrouping @Golden Door’s Oaks Alley
Anyone who has been here a lot can testify that you make some of your great, great friends at The Door. The whole experience has a way of bringing out the boyishness in men.
How did you earn the distinction of “The Godfather of Golden Door”?
Jim: Well, number one, I guess I’m the oldest guy there, so that helps. It’s my 90th birthday. I
was 49 or 50 when I first started going there, so I’ve been going there for 40 years.
How did you first discover Golden Door?
Jim: A friend of mine called me and said his wife gave him this gift to the Golden Door. He said, “I’d like you to go there with me.” And I said, “Well, I’m not interested in those kinds of activities. I don’t think I need it.”
He said, “You know, this is a very boutique type of place where you can go, and you can exercise and do these things, and concentrate on yourself.
So he finally talked me into it by saying, “We’ll stop in Vegas for a couple of days.” So when I came to The Door, I had just come from three days in Vegas, and I’m sure that after three days there, I really needed The Door.
Finally, I got to it, and it was a life-changing week for me because I was presented with a week where everything was for me. The program was for me. You take inventory of your life, of what you’re doing or what you shouldn’t be doing, and finding out what is healthy for you and how you could cleanse your mind of all the different things that our everyday life accumulates, which really mean nothing.
Then you also take inventory of your health and make sure you maintain a regular, natural, more normal lifestyle which can give longevity. And so I bought into that idea. And from then on, I learned to ask myself, “Am I doing things that are life-enhancing, or am I doing things that are life-diminishing?”
How have your many visits to The Door changed you?
Jim: I happened to be in a business which is not only time consuming, it monopolizes your life, and you’re always doing something for somebody else. You know, whether it’s your employees or whether it’s your family, everybody else but yourself.
But here, you come for a week, and you rejuvenate yourself because you’re concentrating on yourself, you’re concentrating on what you should be doing and not doing. Which is why I went back many, many times to The Door.
By cleansing the soul, you’re cleansing your mind, I made some of the best decisions and life- changing decisions, which were the wisest thing that I could have done in the course of my life.
How has Golden Door changed over the years?
Jim: When I first went there, 40 something years ago, spas were not the thing…people were
not into that lifestyle. Golden Door brought it to a new level.
The culture of The Door and the program are fundamentally the same, but, of course, they’ve always stayed abreast of what the latest health trends are, what the new exercise and nutrition programs are. They’re right on the cutting edge of what’s going on. And your everyday life is so busy you don’t have time to be aware of these things. But that’s why you go there to re-orient yourself to what is right for you health wise.
You go to Golden Door with your brother, Ted, a lot. Do you find that time important for bonding with him?
Jim: It’s bonding with everyone. Men’s Week is when everybody bonds. You’re there with a lot of smart people, and you know, you exchange your thoughts and you exchange your ideas, and you broaden your horizons.
Everybody is able to talk about their different experiences. And then you learn. The smartest way to learn something is from somebody else’s mistakes or experiences instead of your own. Everybody has some unique experience that you haven’t had, sometimes it’s like you are comrades-in-arms.
You know you learn a lot more from listening than you do sometimes from talking.
What about the younger men who are now coming to The Door?
Jim: Yeah, they buy into it. When they first come there, they wonder what they’re doing and
why did they come. But after a week they want to find ways to be able to go back again.
When somebody is new there, they always like to know more about The Door and so forth. So everybody is very accommodating to all the new guys, and they’re embraced into the family, the Golden Door family.
Do you ever go to coed weeks?
Jim: I went one time, but I won’t go again. It’s a different experience (laughter). You’re not with your buddies. Of course, the thing is when you go there, you should go for yourself. You go there with your wife or with your husband, you’re going to be worried about them. You want to get away where nobody is asking you for anything. You want to do the asking and get the giving. The Door is The Giver.
What are some of your favorite things to do at Golden Door?
Jim: I used to love the water volleyball tournaments. All of the activities have a purpose, you know. The hikes have always been number one for me and the many different trails that they have there. You cannot be bored. I used to do the mountain hikes twice a day, but the last two years I do the moderates hikes. I try to do the longer one in the morning, and sometimes I go for a little walk in the afternoon.
At the beginning, I used to want to get all I could out of it, now I can only do what I can (laughter).
Do the four of you get together outside of Golden Door?
Jim: Yeah, we get together outside. We’re all friends, we’ve all had ups and downs in our lives. Nobody’s had a perfect life. And so you learn how to work through different issues.
These guys are extremely smart people. I wouldn’t want to compete with any of them actually. They’re intellectual, experienced, knowledgeable, well-read.
We’re the Four Musketeers. Other people will describe us and give us a nickname..maybe the old men (laughter).
Jennifer Weaver & Molly SchoneveldFormer business partners. Best friends for life. 7x guests Exhaling@Golden Door’s Summit
We’re like fire and water. When one of us burns hot, the other cools things down. Our week here is all about being rejuvenated by friendship and finding that balance within ourselves.
Tell us about your time together at Golden Door.
Jennifer: Molly and I went from talking all day, every day, just being so enmeshed for eight years to really having to schedule a call – which is hard. Especially now, me being on a different time zone, too. It’s sort of just threw another kink into the friendship. So I will say, after spending time together at Golden Door, I feel like we’ve been so much better in our communication, which has been awesome. I’ve missed it.
Molly: It was very much about reconnecting and just getting to spend time together that was just the two of us, which hadn’t happened in so long.
Jen is that sister I never had. I’m an only child, and she is just my ride or die. We were business partners, but we also were just the best of friends, and I feel like we have so much in common. It’s just always so fun to get together with her because we can just talk about anything and everything.
Jennifer: You sort of lose track of who you are as an individual once you have kids, and you’re in the mommy mode, so it was just really nice to have a week of pure inner focus and just remembering things like “Oh, I really love quiet time” and “I really don’t love overstimulation, I don’t need to have background noise all the time”.
I was coming from an exhausted perspective so coming to Golden Door is just amazing in every sense. I mean you want for nothing, so just knowing the attention to detail and how many little things were handled that I don’t have to think about — from all of your meals and your snacks, to your sunscreen and your skincare, your laundry — every little thing is handled.
What are your favorite things to do there?
Jennifer: Molly and I tackle it differently, especially because it’s definitely a feat to orchestrate childcare and all of that to leave for a full week, so I love taking all the classes.
Molly is much more ‘don’t schedule me before ten’ and she will kind of bow out. But she’s also working a little bit of the time as well. So I really do everything from yoga to archery, I tap dance, fence. Definitely, my favorite is archery. I mean, that’s a bucket list, right? To get a bullseye?
Because I live on a farm in Texas, I love the garden and the chicken house, and just being able to kind of walk through that space, and see the sort of nourishment that comes from the land.
Molly: Pretty much for me, every time it’s just to de-stress. I’m not somebody who wants to necessarily lose five pounds, or my goal is to do this or that. Really my goal is to just de-stress because I feel like my job is so stressful. I actually schedule a lot of free time. I don’t like to have my whole day booked. I don’t like to get up at the crack of dawn and go hiking.
I love the pool classes, and I think that’s probably because they’re not super high impact, but it’s also the absolute perfect temperature, and it’s just so beautiful. I love the whole food aspect of Golden Door, so I will always go to the garden. I’m always interested to see what’s going to be on the menu and talk to Chef about whatever it is that he’s got cooking.
How has your week at Golden Door transformed you?
Jennifer: I come back renewed. You kind of come in depleted, and then you’re able to spend all of this time just within yourself, communing with other people, and everything’s so positive and healthy.
Sometimes it’s such a struggle to even nurse yourself because there’s so much thought and labor that goes into it — you have to wake up early to make healthy food or to get that workout in before your chaotic day starts. It requires so much preparation and commitment, and here everything’s handled.
I feel like my soul, my body, my mind, all of it, is nourished, or replenished. I come back just completely reset.
Molly: One of the biggest things is I do feel like I can breathe again. I think when you own a business, and you have clients in the way that I do, you feel an incredible sense of responsibility, not only to them but your staff. And it is just the weight of the world that I feel on my shoulders all of the time.
And at Golden Door, I do feel this sense of letting go. You step across that footbridge, and you’re just like, Oh my God, I can breathe. I can put all that out of my mind and just be here.
And so it’s something that I’m consistently working on. But I think every time I go, it just helps me to have that mindset that everybody deserves to have time off, and time away, and time that’s just our own, and not having to feel like we’re 24/7 attached to a computer or phone or whatever it is. When I left last time, I think I cried on my way home.
Jennifer: I guess the one lightning bolt I was struck by was to be more present in my life and to make time in my life. What do you need in your life? Not a lot – the great people who are important to you, and then finding joy, peace, and the ability to just be with them.
Zang ToiHaute Couture Designer 2x Guest Creating@Golden Door’s Koi Pond
Once I crossed the footbridge, my mind became so free. I felt like 50 pounds had been lifted off me. My mind became so free, I started designing my latest collection. It wasn’t work, it was fun.
What first brought you to Golden Door?
Zang: I read about Golden Door for many, many years. I think for at least 20 years, I always wanted to go there.
Golden Door is legendary, so I wanted to experience it, and also to have some “me time” alone and to go on the hikes that I had read so much about. And of course, all the spa treatments… they were beyond my expectations. Everybody is so kind, and the service is so incredible, they’re so accommodating. They made me feel at home right away. They really care about you. It’s not fake, it’s so genuine.
Why is spending time alone so vital to you?
Zang: I love traveling by myself. I’m with people all the time, and everybody wants a piece of me. I’m in an industry where I always have to make everyone happy. Their gown has to be perfect, their suit has to be perfectly tailored, they have to get compliments all the time.
I leave everything behind once I walk across that footbridge and into Golden Door. I’m there to make myself happy and no one else. It is a great feeling.
I think that’s how I experienced that life-changing effect at Golden Door. You have to have that beautiful moment to yourself, to make yourself feel beautiful. Once you make yourself feel beautiful, you can go out and help make all the other people look beautiful.
After that few days, I’m all recharged, and I can go back out into the world and help to make all the ladies look beautiful, to make everybody happy.
Tell us about that transformative moment you experienced.
Zang: One day I was sitting by the koi pond after lunch. I didn’t join the group for the workout or the activity, I needed some moments by myself, just looking at those beautiful koi. It’s just so peaceful and meditative.
The staff set up a table for me in that garden to do my sketches all by myself. It was just a slice of paradise that was all mine. The surrounding nature is so beautiful, it was just inspiring. My mind became so free. I just kept sketching. It wasn’t work anymore, I was just having fun sketching my collection for hours. I felt like I was floating.
Which activity had the most profound effect on you?
Zang: There’s a really special hike. Everyone has to keep a distance of about a hundred feet between each other. And we all hike in the silence. That was just transforming for me because I’m so shy by nature, but I’m not usually very social with a group of people that I don’t know.
No one had to feel like they had to talk just for the sake of talking. We hiked all the way to the top and all the way down in silence. That was one of the most transforming experiences for me in life. Sometimes I think a little chit-chatting or social talking is overrated.
All you can focus on is yourself. I can just focus on breathing in and out that beautiful, clean air, and just let my mind go free without worry about making small talk to anybody. It was amazing.
What word would you use to describe your experience?
Zang: It’s just so cleansing. It just lifts off so much, especially when you’re so busy. You’re always in a work routine, you don’t realize that you can only carry so much weight on you. That feeling is just so freeing. I feel like I’m 50 pounds lighter.
And for a few days, I have time to pamper myself with all the great treatments, the hiking, the delicious food, and the beautiful environment. I feel great about myself again, then I can go out and share that feeling with everybody else.
behind the Scenes
ON THE SET – VIDEO
GOLDEN DOOR – HUMAN AGAIN CAMPAIGN
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ANNIE LEIBOVITZ
Our guests tell remarkable stories of transformation through the lens of the most remarkable photographer of our times.
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behind the Scenes
ON THE SET – VIDEO