By Anya Kaats.
“The vision was to call forth our students’ very best,’’ explained Dan Retuta, founder and co-steward of the Crestone Healing Arts Center. For the past 27 years, Crestone Healing Arts Center hosted a 12-Week, 630-hour Massage Certification Program, offering a unique in-residence intensive training in massage therapy and restorative arts, which included Kundalini yoga and qigong.
In Dan’s words, Crestone Healing Arts was an “immersion pressure cooker,” or what his students might call “spiritual boot camp.” Admittedly, starting a traditional massage school was never what Dan had in mind. “I take my primary directives from Spirit, and those directives don’t always make sense in conventional ways.”
In the early ’90s, Dan and his family arrived in Crestone. Having studied massage in California since 1982, Dan’s original plan was to open a massage school in Nevada City, CA, where he had been a guest teacher at Philips School of Massage. “Ultimately it didn’t feel right. I had become a close friend of Judy Philips, and I didn’t want to compete with her school.” In Crestone, Dan and his family got involved with one of the early iterations of the Charter School, but after a year, the project came to an end.
“Every night, while the kids were still sleeping, I asked for guidance, and the idea of opening a massage school came zooming back in.” In 1993, Dan’s mother helped him purchase the land around Columbine Overlook, off Camino Real, and construction began shortly thereafter. In January 1995, Crestone Healing Arts began accepting its first students. In 1998, Dan’s wife Sue Beck joined the team as Crestone Healing Arts’ resident director.
“We decided to add a yoga and meditation component to the curriculum, as it felt important to help the students increase the innate healing power in their bodies so that they could get the most out of the program,” Sue explained. In addition to Kundalini yoga, Sue also brought her expertise in aromatherapy and hot stone massage to the school. “It became so much more than a massage program. We wanted to help our students surrender to the process, and learn about their deep nature, so that Spirit could do its work to help them serve out in the world,” Dan added.
In addition to their combined 40 years of experience in professional healing arts, Dan and Sue also brought in local guest teachers such as Lillian McCracken to teach herbology, and Tibetan, African, Hopi, Lakota, and Santa Clara Pueblo elders to offer their wisdom to the students as well as to the community.
One of Crestone Healing Arts’ main interfaces with the local community was through their Community Massage Practicum, where students provided by-donation massages to residents of Crestone and the Valley four nights a week, including on-site chair massage to schools, banks, homeless shelters, fundraising benefits, and alternative schools for teen moms.
Dan and Sue were always eager to serve, and worked hard to give back. “So many people who participated in our practicum still call us to tell us how grateful they are, and how much they miss us.”
Last November, during Dan’s daily early morning qigong practice, he received an unexpected message from Spirit. “I’m done,” he announced to Sue. After 27 years, Crestone Healing Arts celebrated its last graduating class. “We’re not retired,” Sue clarified, “We just want to see what other venues are open to serve.” This past September, Dan and Sue hosted a party to celebrate the end of an era. “People thought the party was for us, but really, we wanted the opportunity to honor everyone who helped make Crestone Healing Arts possible.”
Dan and Sue have been spending more time at their home in northern New Mexico along the Chama River, and for now, their property in Crestone is being advertised as a venue available for rent. “We’ll see what happens, but it hasn’t felt right to put it on the market. I think we’ll end up turning the property over to someone special, but we haven’t met them yet,” Sue said. “The building is a living structure, and our prayer is for it to go through an honorable and intentional transition.”
Dan and Sue explained that for them, Crestone is a sacred place, and that they plan to stay connected to the land and their friends in town. “Crestone is a place of prophecy,” Dan insisted. “Whoever comes here with humility, softness, and respect will see their spiritual growth accelerate far beyond what they thought possible.”
Dan also warned that places with a lot of light can often attract an equal amount of darkness, referencing the Tibetan Buddhist quote, “The black demon appears in a place of the greatest dharma.” People who don’t arrive with humility, and who prioritize their own personal agendas over the guidance of Spirit will have a difficult time, Dan explained. “Humility is one of the most underrated paths to power.
My elders used to say, ‘If you’re going to pray, pray for love, wisdom, and purity, and let that trinity be the cradle for whatever power is gifted to you.’”
To learn more about Crestone Healing Arts, visit www.crestonehac.com.