Choose Your Own Adventure

04 Dec 2021

Skyterra, an acclaimed wellness retreat in the Pisgah Forest

Kristin E Landfield

Ok, I'll say it— I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted, and most likely, so are you. Exhausted by the pressures of modern life, with all its abundance and opportunity, all its access and connectivity, all its mobility and its "on" status. We're presented each moment with innumerable options—ones that can yield a sense of freedom, or in some cases, paralysis.  Such astonishing choice is a consequence of modernity's relative wealth—success in adaptation—yet in many ways, it's a burden foist on us that our species never evolved to shoulder. We have a portal to the universe in our pockets, and that same portal can be our prison. So, we're collectively tired.

It's relatively recent in our human history that self-actualization has become a goal of everyday living. As we move up the hierarchy of basic needs (i.e., beyond food and shelter), we have energy to focus on higher-order endeavors.  Though Plato and Aristotle contemplated eudaimonia (human flourishing) in 375 B.C., it's only as a consequence of our modern comforts that we expect unwavering satisfaction.  We, as present-day humans, are victims of our own success. We are technologically, socially and physically spent.  We are bloated from processed foods and hungry for real nutrition. Our brains didn't evolve for the ceaseless stimulation and artificial light that detach us from the rhythm of earth on its axis.  Our nervous systems didn't develop to moderate global communication and the incumbent existential pressure to become more, do more, to have it all.  So we deprive ourselves of rest, sustenance, connection and movement in the service of maximizing our potential.  We sit longer, we commute further and we keep checking just one more email, one more thing, but who among us feels especially satiated by all this abundance?  The same technologies that provide global opportunity are the very ones that steal our moments. Time and attention are our modern-day currencies, so despite all our resources, we feel like there is never enough and that we are never enough.

"Living your best life." "Becoming your best self." These ubiquitous phrases, hashtagged under curated Instagram posts, are floating in the zeitgeist, laying claim to the peak of modern cultural values.  Yet floating in the very same zeitgeist are competing conditions: adrenal fatigue, executive burnout, emotional exhaustion, cognitive burden, digital concussion, eating disorders, sleep disorders, metabolic syndrome...and on.  This seeming paradox, between living our "best life" and epidemic-level fatigue, is at the crux of our modern-day malady. We are in fact living with the pervasive peril of our "best selves." Right now, at the end of a year and the beginning of a new one, we're even more inundated with prescriptions for a "new you" in a new year.       

Equally, I'm exhausted by the thought of hope, dejection and castigation of yet another diet, yet another restrictive and unattainable regime, yet another futile attempt to shape-shift into happiness. I'm tired, like many people in our culture—for whom daily demands and societal messaging have landed us in a cycle of hypervigilance and lethargy. Years of conditioning can make it hard to course-correct on our own.  We need help breaking away and relearning how to focus; we need to disconnect to connect.  Indeed, we need a nervous system reset. Skyterra Wellness Retreat in Brevard, NC, has built a community around exactly this notion.  They have become a refuge for anyone wanting to find a genuine sense of wellness and an authentic approach toward healthy living.  Through their flexible program and holistic philosophy, Skyterra has created a space and a sustainable program wherein our bodies can remember how good it feels to move, to eat real food with recognizable ingredients and to find a rhythm for sleep, strength and stress management.

Founded by two sisters with a passion for healthy living and a desire to create a legacy of wellbeing, Skyterra came into being first as a more traditional health and wellness retreat.  What sisters Sue Crowell and Teresa Ostler found, with help from Executive Director Jeff Ford and their team of dedicated experts, is that most health problems cannot be divorced from cultural and lifestyle problems.  As guests brought their own experiences and struggles to the retreat, Skyterra evolved to accommodate and nurture a broad array of wellness needs. Now Skyterra is a nationally-recognized haven for people looking for comprehensive health: anything from seeking a physical reset, an emotional retreat, grieving a loss, reestablishing circadian and sleep cycles, to those seeking expert fitness coaching, clean eating, or integrated restoration in a beautiful natural setting.  There are as many experiences as there are people who spend time on Skyterra's pastoral property. 

The team at Skyterra predicates their program on the assumption that our bodies seek equilibrium with our inherent self-regulatory systems.  These systems navigate input from our environment and find some sense of stability. Many "bad habits" with negative health outcomes are, in fact, maladaptive strategies to help regulate complex and competing demands.  Therefore, it's neither an effective nor reasonable approach to bully ourselves into healthy living. It won't work.  Our internal systems will adapt; the urge towards self-preservation is too strong.  Eventually, we will react and overcompensate.  There is no room for a restrictive and punitive approach in this model. Skyterra's registered dietician Lindsay Ford steeps her scientific understanding of metabolic health in a rich kindness.  This creates a supportive environment in which to attune to, nurture and redirect our bodies' essential processes.  The Skyterra team applies a scientific and therapeutic posture to wellbeing that harnesses our human birthright: our bodies seek strategies for homeostasis.  Our nervous system directs our entire system. Skyterra locates their approach to human wellness at an intersection where science, compassion, commitment, love of nature and sense of community all meet.  In the heart of the southern Appalachian Mountains, Skyterra offers a place to seek new rhythms rather than more rules.  

For more on Skyterra's rich array of programming and individualized options, visit, where you will find more detailed descriptions of the campus, spa services, fitness and culinary programming, recreational excursions and mindfulness practices, as well as information on Skyterra's Embrace program, a satellite campus for young women offering a therapeutic approach to total body and mind wellness.

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