On May 21st, Compare Retreats and Fivelements Habitat hosted a fireside chat at The Upper House, discussing the topics of mental and holistic wellness as well as the burgeoning community of health-focused individuals in Hong Kong. Joining the panel was the editor of the Global Wellness Summit’s Mental Health White Paper 2019, Professor Gerard Bodeker, Fivelements’ Co-Founders Lahra and Chicco Tatriele, and Fivelements Habitat’s Wellness Curator May Nogoy, while leading the discussion was Compare Retreats’ Founder Dervla Louli. Here’s what you may have missed on the night.
From left to right: Dervla Louli, Professor Gerry Bodeker, Lahra Tatriele, Chicco Tatriele and May Nogoy | Image Courtesy of Compare Retreats
“Mental wellness is not a term that has wide currency but you’re going to be hearing a lot more about it in times to come,” said Professor Bodeker, Clinical Psychologist and Editor of the White Paper, a Global Wellness Summit report which addresses the surrounding issues of mental health and wellness pathways and modalities.
Speaking on the shifting attitudes of the medical world with regards to psychological diagnosis, Professor Bodeker highlighted preventative mental health strategies are often misunderstood in mental wellness. Moving away from the problem-focused nature of psychological work, which usually places patients in diagnostic categories, Bodeker is instead concerned with the study of cultural perceptions of health and wellness.
“Mental wellness is about recognising the brain’s enormous capacity to grow throughout the human lifespan and make new connections,” explained Bodeker. He further expanded that mental wellness can be understood beyond the scope of preventative strategies. “The key to mental wellness is perception. It’s the knowledge that we are capable of so much more than we currently understand and that the brain does grow and does expand, given the right condition.” Looking at the different therapeutic pathways to unfolding the brain’s potential to expand its capacity, Professor Bodeker pointed to new technologies and wellness habits which he elaborates on in the White Paper.
Healing Spaces and Awareness
Chief Innovation Officer of Fivelements Lahra Tatriele detailed how her personal health journey developed into a professional one, which would eventually lead to the idea of a healing space for wellness in the city. “When I had children, everything changed for me,” Lahra recalled. Formerly in the communications and brand equity development space, Lahra wanted to dedicate her skills to something her children could aspire towards. Finding this in a vision to create a holistic healing centre, Tatriele made the move from corporate to holistic wellness.
On their choice to open Fivelements Habitats in the centre of Hong Kong, Lahra pointed to the city’s rich culture of traditional healing modalities and spiritual practices. Lush rural landscape in Hong Kong provides space for immersive and meditative experiences in nature such as Forest Bathing which have been shown to increase cancer-fighting cells, boost the function of the immune system, normalise blood pressure as well as reduce the risk of stress-related disorders.
Managing Director of Fivelements (a venture with its roots in Bali), Chicco Tatriele saw a different vantage point in Hong Kong’s convenience and accessibility for a city-alternative to the signature Fivelements wellness experience. “Guests from Hong Kong, Singapore and New York coming to Fivelements in Bali have a transformational experience there in such short time,” Chicco said, wanting to replicate this for guests retreating closer to home.
Holistic wellness as we currently understand the term has moved beyond the fundamental idea of mind, body and spirit into large-scale matters such as financial and environmental wellness. “Looking at the path of mental illness, I think we have to examine the macro issues and link them to what we can do to start with ourselves,” Chicco told the audience.
With the opening of Fivelements Habitat, Lahra and Chicco hope to change the way wellness can be received in a city known for its competitive nature and high pressure. While it’s unlikely Hong Kong’s hectic work lifestyle will subside anytime soon, they believe bringing attention to its risk and creating spaces such as Fivelements Habitat to access various wellness pathways can be one way to integrate wellness into our modern schedules.
Global Wellness Summit and the Second Wave of Wellness
Speaking to audience members on how important it is to have a space like Fivelements Habitat in the city, Fivelements Habitat Wellness Curator and Founder of the Garden Gathering, a women’s only spiritual retreat May Nogoy said building a community and place where individuals on similar wellness journeys could find each other was integral to the concept of a holistic wellness centre. As Hong Kong’s wellness scene evolves, May sees the city as a rising spiritual centre. “We need each other to network and house the next step.”
Likewise, Compare Retreats’ Founder Dervla Louli noted how Western medical groups have increasingly taken note of Eastern wellness and medicinal practices. “The NHS in the UK have adopted Ayurvedic yoga and meditation, and the World Health Organization is recognising traditional Chinese medicine as a modality in 2022,” she said, noting that it’s no surprise then as we come closer to the second wave of wellness that the Global Wellness Summit 2019 is being held in Hong Kong.
Meditation has been a mainstay modality in wellness, with findings in the White Paper highlighting its benefits. “When I was a graduate student at Harvard, it was received wisdom with a lot of evidence that our brains stop developing at the age of 19 and it’s all downhill after that,” Professor Bodeker said. Yet Bodeker’s personal practice (mediating twice daily since 1974), as well as research in the White Study, has found that practising meditation challenges this belief. “I could feel it when I meditated,” Bodeker explained. “There were small changes that translated into a far better performance as a graduate student in a challenging environment like Harvard than when I was an undergraduate.”
Since then, research has disputed that the idea of a statue of limitation in the brains development with neuron research, in particular, showing an increase in white and grey matter in the brains of those practising both transcendental and mindful meditation. “Wellness modalities like meditation create coherent patterns of activity in the brain,” explained Bodeker. Changes in parts of the brain central to information processing have also been documented: “Not only do we not stop developing at 19, but there are technologies that can activate the capacity of the brain to connect in ways that it hasn’t before.”
Opening in July, Fivelements Habitat will be a new wellness space in the heart of the city. The centre in Causeway Bay aims to be an access point to wellness pathways such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness. “It’s a space that will hold anyone at any point as an access point into wellness being,” Lahra said. This, she continued might mean taking a class, having a massage or a healthy meal, all things Fivelements Habitat will offer retreaters, all with a focus on mental wellbeing. “We’re inspired by the Mental Health Initiative White Paper. The Sacred Arts is a programme which encompasses yoga, mindfulness and meditation, sound healing, tea ceremonies and movements,” Lahra explained.
Whether you travel regularly for wellness and are looking for the same experience in a city setting or simply want to take up a yoga class after work, the Fivelements Habitat centre will host a diverse offering of integrated holistic wellness. Dervla highlighted that, “86% of the wellness tourism industry is secondary wellness.” Pointing to the increasing desires to find wellness experiences outside of travel. Fivelements Habitats makes this easier with their Hong Kong centre, providing a sanctuary-like setting for city-dwellers to access wellness pathways without the added anxiety of flight and accommodation arrangements. “We’re creating a home for the urban wellness community,” Lahra ended the evening with, “It’s a place that’s inclusive in a city that is surrounded by exclusivity everywhere you look.”
Learn more about Fivelements Habitat at habitat.fivelements.com
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