Miraval. It’s Not About the Spa. It’s About You.

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You’ve come to Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa for a reason beyond vacation. You want to find meaning, awareness, peace. You want to push yourself. You want connection with your true self, others, nature. You want what we all want—a better life.

Miraval desert flower

Miraval desert flower

The mountains at this resort in Tucson, Arizona cut triangles into an expanse of baby blue sky painted with tufts of white clouds. Unseen insects buzz like electric poles while birds of all sorts gab like a group of mothers at preschool pick-up. A yellow butterfly weaves drunkenly through the air from a honey-scented carpet of yellow blooms, up to purple blossoms on a desert tree branch. Quails scoot past with their fancy hats of dark plumage bobbing atop their heads. Shy lizards sneak along corners and up stucco walls. Occasionally you hear the tootles of diminutive brown doves. Bright orange and fuchsia flowers burst from the clawed grasp of a potbellied barrel cactus. A mama rabbit and her adolescent bunny hippity hop, pausing and pretending invisibility when they sense your presence.

In spite of the all-encompassing heat, or maybe because of it, everything seems startlingly alive. The animals, the splintering cacti, the feathery trees seem to shout, “I am here! Notice me! I am alive!”

And you want to shout back, “Me too! I am alive, too!”

Miraval desert in Tucson, Arizona

Desert landscape at Miraval

You stare at the daily Miraval schedule and course descriptions and think, “How do I cram in all that I want to do?” Should you get your heart pumping with Zumba, or stretch your stressed muscles with yoga? You could hurry over to the meditation class that starts in 10 minutes or just go take a dip in the bi-level pools. The irony of your desire to maximize this opportunity to relax and live in the present moment is not lost on you.

You are nervous that the Reflect & Transcend class may be too new-age for you, but you go anyway. Per Coach Leigh’s instruction (Miraval’s therapist/tennis instructor), you close your eyes for 30 seconds and visualize laying on your death bed. She quotes Bob Dylan’s It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), “That he not busy being born is busy dying.” She tells us no one is getting out of this life alive.

We are told to picture saying goodbye one by one to the most important people in our lives. She asks, “What would you want those people to say about you once you are gone?”

You picture your children sitting at your bedside. The thought of them growing up without a mom brings a lump to your throat. You open your eyes for a moment and look at the other participants, all with eyes shut picturing what none of us wants to believe we will face. You vow not to cry. What kind of mother would your children remember you as? How would they describe you in the years following your passing? “She was kind,” is your hope. Tears push through your sealed eyes because you are not certain that is what they would say.

Miraval pool

Miraval pool

The food is not doused with butter, salt and sugar and it takes your taste buds a day to adjust to what healthy food is supposed to taste like. In the morning you grab a freshly made Green Juice from the smoothie bar before your desert hike. Afterwards, you sit in the resort’s solitary restaurant, Cactus Flower, and order a fresh-made omelet from the menu. Then you fill up a bowl with lime-mint yogurt and heaping spoonfuls of berries, walnuts, ground flax seed and brown sugar.

You begin to develop a taste for kale. For lunch you fill your platter-sized plate with salads of quinoa, fresh greens and brightly colored vegetables. An iced lemon berry cookie beckons to you and, having learned from the Mindful Eating session to stop stressing about food, you delight in savoring its sweetly tart flavor and pillowy texture.

Spa cuisine at Miraval

Healthful but delicious spa cuisine

At the spa you change into your fluffy robe and let someone else take care of you. Hot stones massage away the aches from yesterday’s morning horseback trail ride through the desert or that cardio kickboxing class. The heat of the stones makes beads of sweat gather on your forehead after a too hot desert day. You focus on the cool breeze trickling in from the air conditioning vent above. You relax into a state of Zen as your muscles are kneaded free of knots.

You make friends with other guests during happy hour in the bar over refreshing berry mojitos and stories of breakthroughs and recommended seminars. There is a warmth and camaraderie amongst guests that makes you feel comfortable during dinner, whether you choose to dine with your new gal pals, or you choose to eat alone, savoring bites of steak served with mushroom risotto while devouring that book you never could find time to read.

Miraval mojito

Miraval berry mojito

Coach Leigh warns that it is impossible to live 100 percent like you do at Miraval after you go home, where there is no horse refusing to lift its foot so that you can learn what is blocking you from achieving your goals, as in the Equine Experience. There is no adventure course in your backyard with a tightrope to help you face your fears. Instead there are bills and laundry and dishes and phone calls and arguments and emails. But you can change five percent, she says.

Whether you have come for two nights or seven, it seems too few when you climb aboard the shuttle from Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa to the airport. You are excited to live your life to the fullest, but scared it is impossible to do in real life. You stare out the window at the desert landscape and wonder, “Which five percent do I choose?”

What small things could you do to improve your life in a small but significant way? Do you think a visit to Miraval could help you live a better life? Let us know in the comments!

A Note from The Travel Mama: Thank you, Miraval, for helping me to find me at your resort and spa!

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. What a beautifully written, heartfelt piece. Miraval seems like a life altering place that all mothers (fathers too) should experience. Thank you for sharing.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Thank you, Allison! Although it was mostly women at the resort, I definitely think men could benefit from a visit to Miraval too. I hope I can send my husband (either with or without me) someday.

  2. Oh, I love your descriptions! It truly is a beautiful place! Your writing gets me lost in a peaceful world and takes me back! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I love your take on the visit!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Joy – Thank you for your kind words. It means a lot to me. It was so lovely to meet you at Miraval!

  3. This is my favorite post of yours (and I have read so many!). The descriptions were so vibrant and the story truly made me want to head to Miraval. Not that I ever had a moment when I didn’t want to head to Miraval. Good enough for Oprah, good enough for me! 🙂

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Awww…thanks, Sharlene! I’m such an Oprah nut, I have to admit I did feel kinda giddy about being at one of her favorite places. If we ever want to plan a blogger retreat, Miraval is the place!

  4. Mary @ The World Is A Book says

    Beautifully written, Colleen! I can see why Oprah or any woman would love Miraval. What a great place to relax, learn and come out a better person. I loved the visualization of lying on the death bed and how you want to be remembered. I need to do that once in awhile to put things into perspective. I am suggesting this as an option for my next girlfriends’ getaway.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Mary – I hope you will get a chance to experience Miraval with your friends! I would love to do a girlfriend getaway there someday!

  5. I felt like I could really picture being at Miraval through your descriptions. Wonderful.

  6. I NEED OT GO HERE! Have you ever had one of those moments when someone said something or something happened that was just meant to be. Well….this post was it…you do not even know! Thank you and I will be following through. 🙂

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Kim – I so hope you can go to Miraval sometime! It really did make a big difference in my life and I hope it can help your life too!

  7. Beth Blair says

    Lovely, Colleen!

    Did you know I lived only a few miles from Miraval? The desert is fascinating and the perfect location for a spa getaway.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Beth – I knew you used to live in Tucson but I didn’t know you were so close to Miraval. I used to live in Scottsdale and did not appreciate the desert landscape until I moved away.

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