JEZE — January 2012
Change Language:
In The Moment

JEZ rebalances at Miraval—the harmonious, high-desert center of attention in Tucson.

Life is a marathon. But unlike a punishing 26-miler, it’s the journey that matters most. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-in, day-out business of a busy life. If taking time to recharge seems impossible, hear this: Serenity is as easy as a quick trip to Tucson—home to a luxurious wellness outpost in the high northern desert of Arizona.

Now let me start by writing that Miraval Resort & Spa—which, not surprisingly, sounds a lot like “miracle”—is not your typical destination spa. In fact, it’s not standard, period. Situated on more than 400 acres at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains, this flagship oasis peddles tranquility for the mind, body and soul. Throngs of spa-goers flock to this all-inclusive, top-rated destination spa resort, in large part urged on by its biggest and most enthusiastic endorser, Oprah, who for years has raved about its transformative powers.

A self-professed spa junkie, I had heard of Miraval and, eager to experience its uniqueness firsthand, made plans for a quick weekend getaway. (Note: Those with a full week available should book a longer stay. You’ll thank me. More time is needed to experience everything this all-encompassing destination offers.) Among the many exclusive programs Miraval touts are Clue-In self-discovery activities and classes, as well as Chill-Out spa services—all right in my wheelhouse. Indulgence, a live-life-in-the-moment core philosophy? Check me in!

Come Thursday afternoon, I’ve had weeks of back-to-back deadlines, and I’m dying for a balance adjustment—one focused on workouts, spa treatments and almighty downtime (to reflect, reboot and revitalize). Included in my all-inclusive package are accommodations, classes, spa treatments and round-trip airport transfers. Wheels down produces a kind welcome from a Miraval driver, and from this point forward, all stress is behind me.

I quickly fall prey to the desert. While gazing out at the beautiful landscape surrounding the spa resort, a bunny crosses my path—welcome to Miraval. I’m warmly greeted and escorted to my Catalina suite (the resort spa’s array of accommodations include multiple guest rooms and suites, straight up to villa ownership), where both the space and décor have an immediate impact. Inspired by nature, its warmly modern interiors boast earthy hues, and a unique glass wall overlooking a mountainside filters in spectacular views. Contemporary amenities—a flatscreen TV, Wi-Fi, an iPod docking station, a soaking tub, an outdoor shower and a large living space—impress, but obsession is reserved for the amazingly fragrant products from Miraval’s signature Cactus Cream Bath collection. At the center of this mod, 900-square-foot sanctuary is the heart of Miraval’s signature sleep experience—a well-dressed king bed, which beckons after a day of fitness.

Frequent visitors with means, and those calling Miraval home, reside in the villas. Each luxurious, LEED Silver-certified spa residence is not only large (measurements begin at 2,500 square feet), but also fully outfitted with two master suites (each boasting private courtyards, one with an outdoor shower and the other with a private hot tub); a well-appointed gourmet kitchen and indoor gas fireplaces; glass patio doors that allow for panoramic views; and a welcoming outdoor fire pit. While all existing villas are spoken for, guests may opt to rent one for their stay.

Perfectly content with my suite, a quick unpack and I eagerly head to Cactus Flower, the resort’s main restaurant, specializing in healthy cuisine. Leisurely strolling the lit pathway to dinner, I take in Miraval’s merging of art and the natural world, giving attention to the sculptures I pass. At Cactus Flower, I get my first taste of Miraval’s phenomenal cuisine. Dinner here includes a starter (the tuna tower is a standout); an entrée (grass-fed grilled beef tenderloin topped with a salad of vine-ripened Willcox tomatoes, fresh basil, shallot and aged balsamic reduction tops the list); and is polished off by a perfectly sized dessert.

Once pleasantly full, and a few levels closer toward relaxed, I reach a true Zen state at the spa. While Miraval prepares to debut a brand-new, state-of-the-art spa facility early this year, I indulge in the current incarnation on offer. Here, indoor/outdoor treatment rooms sit amid beautifully landscaped and aromatic grounds. (Better than this?I honestly can’t imagine.) Opting for the Nurture six-part treatment ritual proves the perfect end to my first day away. Using warm loofah mitts, my spa therapist gently brushes my skin before exfoliating it utilizing bioactive white peat enzymes, sea minerals and antioxidant berries, and, finally, applying a soothing mushroom and phytonutrient masque said to stimulate my lymphatic system. After the mask settles, I shower and hoist myself back onto the table, where my skin is replenished with an omega- and antioxidant-rich, fresh berry-oil serum, then rubbed down with a full body massage using Arctic berry milk cream to promote skin regeneration and hydration to restore elasticity. A new woman, I cozy up with a warm neck wrap and a cup of tea in the spa lounge before calling it a night.

The next morning my alarm sounds at 5:30am—group hike! A variety of desert and mountain hikes (all through the Santa Catalina Mountains) cater to four categories of hiking abilities. Although reasonably fit, having not hiked in some time compels me to join a less intense trek: the Level A Miraval Outback hike, a daily traverse across rolling hills and the occasional steeper section. The Level B hike is a longer version of its Level A counterpart (the terrain is similar, with additional incline and trail variety). Level C and Level D are reserved for the physically fit and hiking enthusiasts. In other words, prepare for steep, rocky trails, deep canyons, high ridgeline and mountain slopes.

Helping me get through the hike is the idea of the tasty breakfast awaiting me at its end. Offered buffet-style (yes, some semblance of self-control is required), delectable breakfast offerings run the gamut. Steel-cut oatmeal, seasonal fruits and berries; organic Kamut pancakes with blueberries; multigrain scones, muffins and bread; and poached eggs Florentine with orange sauce all tempt the taste buds.While eating, I contemplate sitting in for the Mindful Stress Mastery class—a tutorial that teaches stress management using mindfulness techniques that include breathing and living in the moment.

Warning: When you are in the moment, time flies, and before I know it, I’m at lunch. Midday replenishment, with an à la carte option (selections include the pan-seared Pacific mahimahi with jalapeño-kiwi purée and whole-wheat-pasta turkey Bolognese with shaved Parmesan-Reggiano), is also served buffet-style. Miraval’s salad bar features a variety of gourmet toppings—specialties such as house-cured wild salmon with Yukon gold and Peruvian purple potato salad and petite green beans—as well as perfectly proportioned sweet bites. So savory is the spa cuisine that I would choose it over many restaurants. So good in fact, that I bought Miraval’s cookbook from its well-curated spa boutique (along with some of the softest tees I’ve ever worn).

After lunch, an even sweeter treat: Qi Journey, a 100-minute spa treatment that fuses ancient Thai massage, acupuncture and craniosacral therapy. The end result is a far more balanced body and relaxed mind. Chi now in check, I saunter around the property, admiring the well-groomed grounds and taking a dip in the pool—amazing views, fresh scents and an inspiring sense of calm. After a quick shower, I’m off to Palm Court for pre-dinner cocktails with some fellow guests.If, like me, you frequent a bevy of destination spas, you know that many do not serve alcohol (or do so only for special occasions). Not at Miraval! Here, you sip freely, and the option is, well, refreshing.Dinner that evening served up a private Cooking with the Chef experience— think dining in front of a demo mini kitchen where the chef prepares a five-course seasonal dinner and provides healthy cooking tips, while staff pours perfectly paired wine.

The following morning finds me at the juice bar, which offers a variety of made-to-order fruit and veggie juices. The possibilities are eye-opening. Next, I head off the property for the Miraval Equine Experience—an excursion that lets guests go one-on-one with welltrained horses to perform basic equestrian ground skills (brushing, leading, etc.). Not quite sure what to expect, I keep the philosophy of living in the moment in mind, and through this interaction I reflect on personal patterns and life in general. Back at Miraval, my education continues with Eastern Approaches to Health.

With time quickly dwindling, I spend the afternoon in a group class called On the Ball, where therapy balls are used to assist in improving strength and balance. Had I more time to spare, I would have so loved to experience many more of the spa’s group classes and full array of Clue-In self-discovery recreational programs, including the popular Challenge Course with 15 low- and high-ropes activities that include a 1,400 Desert Sky zip line, a climbing wall, Giant’s Ladder, and (Oprah’s favorite) the Swing and a Prayer. Many activities extend far beyond fitness to include creative pursuits, such as photography, painting, art and emotional wellness programs.

I spend my last evening at the spa, where I’m escorted to an outdoor treatment area under the stars. Here, I’m pampered with the Outdoor Sweet Slumber treatment. Already well on my way to nirvana, the therapy begins with a custom blend of organic lavender oils and a natural minerals exfoliation. A rinse is followed by a body spray to promote relaxation. As I lay wrapped up in a kind of cocoon, my scalp is massaged, also with organic lavender oil, and I enjoy a pressure-point face massage. A rejuvenating foot treatment tops things off. Mission accomplished—my final night at Miraval ends with a deep and sound slumber.

Morning stretch, juice and breakfast begin my final morning at Miraval—an actual desert oasis that proffers serenity and, if needed, a luxurious return to sanity, but all very much in balance. You know what they say: If it’s good enough for Oprah… –Beth Weitzman

The Doctor Is In

Dr. Andrew Weil, one of the biggest names in the field of integrative medicine, will host a small, interactive lecture series, “Spontaneous Happiness: A Talk With Dr. Weil”—an offshoot of his new book Spontaneous Happiness—on Jan. 24, March 6 and March 20. Topics include mindfulness training, lifestyle and emotional wellness, as well as Ayurveda, Buddhism and acupuncture techniques.
The series is available to Miraval guests who book a threenight stay or longer over the lecture dates. An additional fee of $225 is required. (Based on availability; other restrictions apply.)