Wynnewood North resident ELAINE DODSON is trying to rebalance the divine feminine energy on the planet, one woman at a time. Her annual Sacred Journey Retreats, also known as goddess retreats, immerse women in an ancient Mayan village for a week steeped in beauty — both inner and outer. But that’s just one of the ventures this Dallas pioneer has on her plate.
Beauty is obviously a big part of your career.
My claim to fame in Dallas is I had seven salons at one time. I pioneered holistic beauty in the Southwest in the ’70s. No one had heard of aromatherapy and using organic products. I’ve always been a pioneer. I’ve always been interested in healthy foods and been a vegetarian for 40 years. All of that I did through my day spas.
How did the retreats begin?
In 1993 my husband got this fabulous job in Mexico, so I sold all my businesses. I had done it for 35 years, and I thought I was going to retire, but are you kidding? It jump-started a new career. We were in Mexico City for a year and a half, then we moved to Cuernavaca. It’s 60 miles down the hill, but it’s like a gigantic Highland Park — very wealthy and lots of Americans live there. Forty-five minutes up the hill is this ancient village, Tepoztlán, known as the village of healers. I didn’t even know it was there. Here I had been in Mexico two years, and everything I was about was in that village, but all these wealthy people in Cuernavaca would never go to Tepoztlán. It’s hippie, artsy. But one day I saw a flier for sacred circle dance, and I went, and I almost never left. It’s like a little artisan community. I didn’t even speak Spanish, and I opened a natural food co-op, like a little health food store, because they didn’t have health food stores. The main reason I wanted to move back from Mexico to Dallas was because of Whole Foods, so a friend and I created this little health food store where you could get organic food.
And Tepoztlán became the home of the goddess retreats.
Mainly in the beginning it was friends and family. Now all these years later it’s women from all over the world. It used to be men and women, and men just wouldn’t sign up, so we just started making it women’s rejuvenation retreats. What I do is try to get women out of their everyday life. That’s the only way you can heal because we’re all so multi-tasking these days. We do all kinds of experiential body, mind and spirit things — yoga, dance, I teach make-up, a chef that cooks only organic vegetarian, go to eco-villages up in the mountains and learn about self-sustainable living — so everything is very holistic. We climb pyramids to ancient ruins blindfolded, straight up the mountain, and let go of all our fears. That’s why we call these life-changing transformations.
Have you always been a vegetarian?
When I was in my early 20s and I was a hairdresser, I saw one of the magazines SMU put out about continuing education classes and saw something called ‘Developing a Higher Consciousness’. I thought it was something about the mind or whatever, and when I left that class I became a total vegetarian and freaked everybody out and ended up just making this huge life change. [The class] showed all the films about chemicals they put in meat, and my whole thing, being in the beauty career, was I wanted to stay young.
So your impetus was health.
I was born Baptist like everyone else in Texas. When I got into health and became a vegetarian, I went from a Baptist to a Hare Krishna. We opened Kalachandji’s in 1978 because I thought, how am I ever going to ever get all these Baptists to come down here and understand this? And the restaurant is still there, and still doing great. I actually started teaching cooking classes from the restaurant; now I do them in people’s homes because we found out that people learn better hands-on.
Ayurvedic cooking classes, right? What does that mean?
Ayurveda is the oldest art and science of health documented — over 5,000 years old. Aveda salons? They are ayurvedic. The cooking is all freshly prepared food with healing spices. Ayurvedic is closer to Indian food because they use a lot of the same spices. Everything is organic, comes directly from nature. I was just fortunate that I grew up on a 300-acre farm in Texarkana. We ate everything fresh, and most people today just don’t know what that means, so it became my mission to help educate. My parents were teachers, so I ended up as a teacher. —KERI MITCHELL
READ ABOUT Dodson’s latest venture with her husband, Michael Roth, on Back Talk Oak Cliff, advocatemag.com/oak-cliff/blog.