‘Nirvana’ among Nugget’s job benefits

Apr 11, 2005 2:42 AM

The Silver Nugget Hotel and Casino has struck gold. The mother lode is its Wellness Center, and to employees it’s actually more valuable than silver and gold combined.

Juanita Curiel is a wellness coach at the center, and plays a hefty part in this innovative approach to maintaining an employee’s well-being.

Entering Curiel’s private paradise, I can instantly feel that this is a supreme and serene space where many find comfort. Pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, angelic melodies, luxuriant colorful plants, the aroma of lavender, all serve as reminders that achieving peace is not impossible.

As Curiel greets me with a sincere embrace, warmth and tranquility radiate from this Nevada native. She started preparing for her remarkable task at the Serenus Clinic in Las Vegas, and has been a licensed hypno-therapist since 1970. She’s also a member of the National Society of Hypnotherapists.

So why move from clinic to casino? "While I was working at the clinic, Gary Mahoney, owner of the Silver Nugget came in for a session and he got results," she said. "His vision is what brought me here."

Curiel said Mahoney wanted to create a place where employees could experience peace. "Instead of sending employees to a spa, we bring it here," she said. "This is the best thing Gary Mahoney has done. He’s lifted the spirit of employees and improved their well-being."

Incidentally, this unbelievable serenity comes without a price tag for employees at The Silver Nugget.

Services at the Wellness Center include one-on-one private sessions to help quit smoking, weight reduction, stress release and exercise/yoga classes.

A unique service is the 21-day intention program, where an employee sets an intention for their well-being.

"According to studies, it takes 21 days to reverse a thought in the subconscious," she said. "Thoughts are very powerful, thoughts create”¦ and the problem is that they are the same thoughts day to day”¦ we want to change that to new thoughts."

As a wellness coach, Curiel also wears the hat of "hynotherapist." Curiel says hypnotherapy is a natural phenomenon of the mind. "It’s a natural state of being that we go through every night before we fall asleep, and it’s called Alpha," she said. "You can hear things like a faucet dripping, the dog barking, things that you weren’t tuned into before."

However, most are not receptive to being hypnotized. "Freud introduced hypnosis to the medical profession, but people still have it connected to cults and controlling minds, however you always have control and choice."

She said the goal of hypnotherapy is relaxation. "If you don’t release stress, you take it into sleep time, which means less sleep, more stress — it’s a vicious cycle, you can’t heal when stressed," she said.

So what exactly does being "well" mean?

"Being well has four parts — physical, mental, emotional and spiritual," she said. "We address all four components of well-being through our various programs."

Apparently those programs are working. "We see people smiling more, increased enthusiasm, less people calling in sick — people are happier and are passing it on, they want to come to work," she said.

The good vibes don’t stop with the employees. The Silver Nugget is remodeling as a result of The Wellness Center. Juanita connects the dots stating, "Think about it, management is smiling more as well, and are thinking we want to make things more beautiful." Juanita adds, "The environment reflects who you are, it can influence who you are and it can change you." If anyone knows this it’s Juanita, who happens to be the Casino Decorator.

I couldn’t leave The Wellness Center without a sample of what it has to offer. The end of my visit comes with a little stress repair, along with a few Silver Nugget employees. We all start by stating our personal and professional intentions. Curiel then guides us through relaxation and hypnotherapy to a place where we can focus on those good intentions and exchange stress for peace.

For me, that place is the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, where all roads lead to peace, sunshine and eternal blue skies. I’ve transported myself to a healthier place, if only momentarily, forgetting daily struggles and frustrations. My body is energized at the prospect of emancipation from worry and stress.

Just half an hour later, I’m back in Las Vegas refreshed, with batteries recharged. The employees at The Silver Nugget have hit the jackpot. Being well is being wealthy.