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A unique and ancient place where science and spirituality merge

At Le Monastère des Augustines in Quebec, science and spirituality come together in the service of healing, explains Isabelle Houde, the assistant executive director. Le Monastère stands as a monument to Canada’s medical system, its history dating back to 1692 when Augustinian nuns opened it as the first hospital north of Mexico, but it is even more than that, Houde says. “Since then, they’ve always taken care of the sick and the poor,” she explains, “and it wasn’t just the body, but it was the body and soul and the whole person.”

Today it is a non-denominational, non-profit holistic centre where clients come from all walks of life and abilities to recover physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally – spending one day or several in its pristine guest rooms and facilities, where programs for yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong complement mindfulness, massage and meditation.

At Le Monastère, the onus is on the individuals to seek self-improvement as something they can take with them when they leave – from healthful and mindful eating in the centre’s restaurant, where the emphasis is on wholesome farm-to-fork fare, to improved deep breathing exercises in an environment that’s fused with the aroma of essential botanical oils, created and modified from age-old herbal formulas found in the monastery’s 400-year-old archives.

The spa includes five treatment rooms featuring therapeutic and healing modalities. “We offer 12 different services and massages, use of essential oils and aromatherapy, holistic health consultations and private sessions. Our cuisine features healthy, organic and locally sourced food,” explains Houde.

A variety of mindfulness activities are offered daily, while the spa also hosts spiritual retreats, botanical medicine workshops, art therapy and soothing events such as classical music and Tibetan bowl performances. “Many activities are held in the mysterious and beautiful vaults, dating back to 1695. The treatments and consultations are accessible to people with mobility issues or health conditions, and most activities can be adapted,” Houde adds.

The comfort of the guest room, combined with the silence and the spirit of Le Monastère, offers a contemplative experience that allows guests to spark a transformational change in their life. “With a legacy dating back to the 1600s, we offer our guests a unique experience in holistic health, along with a rare opportunity to connect directly with the Augustinian Sisters’ remarkable heritage. Guests can immerse themselves in a location dedicated to healing, compassion and serenity for nearly four centuries.”

In 2019, the centre welcomed more than 21,000 guests. Houde notes that the facility is able to accommodate people with different therapeutic needs, like those with cancer, disabilities and even burnt-out caregivers; staff try to adapt to each client. For example, she says that in the case of someone in a wheelchair, therapists can modify the program by teaching them how to do auto-massage, breath work or meditation. It depends on the client’s preference.

In the coming years, Le Monastère will focus on attracting visitors from across Canada and parts of the northeastern United States. As Houde puts it: “To allow Canadians to discover their history in a culture of care.”

Jana Manolakos
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