After finding its ideal place in the world, Gentle Healing Wellness Spa is helping its clients do the same.

Who says you can’t always have what you want? In 2009, after establishing her spa two years earlier in a rented space, longtime spa and wellness professional Donda Sternberg had fallen in love with another Cranbury, New Jersey, property. This 1853 Queen Anne Victorian, single-family farmhouse was privately owned, yet situated on a major highway that Sternberg knew would be good for business. So she knocked on the door of the home and asked the owners to sell it to her. To her delight, they did, and Gentle Healing Wellness Spa found its permanent home.

There, Sternberg created a unique haven, lovingly restoring the home’s original floors, doors and ceiling medallions, and outfitting her outdoor space with a gazebo, wrap-around porch and hammock so guests could indulge in some old-fashioned relaxation before and after their treatments. A 900-square-foot “suite retreat” affords the ultimate getaway for couples, complete with a fireplace and side-by-side Jacuzzis.

But Sternberg wasn’t done. In 2009, after guests expressed an interest in learning how to perform massage, she built a Victorian-style building to house a massage school, which has since become fully accredited and now serves as a continuing education resource for Sternberg’s own staff.

A cosmetologist, certified massage therapist and reiki master with a degree in spiritual counseling and a background in gestalt and Jungian theory, Sternberg puts wellness at the core of her spa’s offerings. “Energy work,” she notes happily, “is really catching on.” Guests can also choose ancient practices such as ear candling and ayurvedic healing, or be rejuvenated with extra touches such as a detoxifying clay add-on treatment for the hands and feet.

“We want to awaken people to who they are in this lifetime,” Sternberg says of her spa’s quest. To that end, she guides guests toward wellness via healing services on her spa menu, and free monthly screenings of spiritually oriented films such as Finding Joe, a documentary about acclaimed mythologist Joseph Campbell. She also posts inspirational sayings at the spa to encourage self-discovery. “We emphasize positive thinking,” she says. “We want people to look inward, to see what their life is about.”

Gentle Healing Wellness Spa

Opened: November 2009 (current location)
Donda Sternberg
Size: 4,400-square-foot main building, 900-square-foot suite retreat, 5,500-square-foot school
Facility: 9 treatment rooms; mani/pedi room; waiting/retail area; fireplace relaxation room; 4 bathrooms; 2 steam rooms; sauna; outdoor space
Staff: 7 therapists; 2 estheticians; 3 nail techs; 3 guest services
Products used/retailed: Biotone; SkinCeuticals; gifts, lotions and spiritual books
Mission: To blend individual guests’ needs with experienced, talented and educated technicians, superior products and kind guest service staff

Treatment Closeup

Spiritual Journey Massage
(60 min./$95; 85 min./$135, discounted with membership)
To help guests journey inward and discover their own truths, this massage sets a clear intention. Prior to the massage, clients select a stone from the “Words of Wisdom,” “Totem Spirit” or “Heart Stones” collection, either by choosing a stone featuring words that resonate with them or by letting intuition guide their choice. They are then instructed to ask themselves a reflective question before the customized massage begins. “By picking the stone and focusing on the question,” says Sternberg, “guests are able to quiet their minds and reach a meditative state more easily.” Other stones are used to line the seven chakra points, further encouraging a transformative experience. The stone that clients choose becomes theirs to keep as a reminder of the spa’s wish for them to “fully participate in their lives.”

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