I step into the ring and face the group. When Wyatt Webb asks you a question, you answer, truthfully. Webb has an uncanny ability to quickly cut through the superficial. After a primer on the power of fear and self-doubt, within five minutes my vulnerability is laid bare and I’m asked to walk toward Crackers—a gorgeous, 1,500-pound Welsh-Arabian horse. All I have to do, as Webb has deftly demonstrated, is stand next to the horse’s shoulder, bend down, squeeze its leg right above the knee, and the horse should lift its leg so I can clean its hoof. If only.
During my three days at Miraval on a girls’ getaway, this illuminating moment with Webb and Crackers is pivotal. As are several other moments of connection—with my two accompanying girlfriends, several Miraval guests, psychic Maggie Garbarini, beekeeper Noel Patterson, and perhaps most notably, with myself. Connection is Miraval’s currency, and when it’s exchanged with authenticity and intention—skillfully demonstrated by Webb and his horse—the resort’s transformative power is quickly realized. And of top note, the essence of Miraval is to quickly, and repeatedly, blink back to the present moment. “I will live in the now” is Miraval’s collective mantra. As such, our three-day itinerary—a powerful health punch infused with seminars, spa, therapeutic classes, desert sunsets, and organic meals—is a mind-body recipe for what I consider soul food. Herewith, a wellness journal to unplug, recharge, and reconnect.
What To Do
5:30 a.m. | There's something about rising with the Tucson sun which becomes my daily norm. Desert bunnies hop around our two-bedroom Exclusive Resorts villa while I sip coffee on the outdoor terrace. The sun winks over the Santa Catalina Mountains. Though hard-pressed to leave our luxurious private enclave, I'm anxious to walk the grounds.
6:30 a.m. | Miraval's Outdoor Adventure & Challenge program is staged near the resort's hiking and jogging trails. Last night, the Exclusive Resorts Concierge recommended a short three-mile loop, so I lace up my running shoes and hit the trail. As I circle the resort's backyard, I spy mountain bikers, more bunnies, and by 7 a.m. two Miraval guests are already tackling their fear of heights at the "Quantum Leap." As I work up a sweat, I pass the resort's most visual market—the Sacred Labyrinth. A guest walks the circle and places a note in the middle cairn. I make a mental note to return and do the same.
8 a.m. | I refuel with a nutty banana smoothie and visit with my dedicated Exclusive Resorts Concierge. He goes over the resort map and our itinerary, while also explaining the day's seminars, visiting speakers, and restaurant hours. I sign up for the new PiYo Live fitness class— "a must," he says.
10 a.m. | Time to learn "6 Tips to Master Your Metabolism" with Miraval's Registered Dietician Angela Onsgard. The Cliff Notes? Exercise, with high intensity interval training. Love breakfast, and include fat, fiber, and protein. Sleep! 7-9 hours, with no electronics an hour before bed. Neutralize stress. Cortisol causes inflammation if not regulated, and inflammation is not our friend. Eat real, whole foods. Plant-rich foods are your friends (as is apple cider vinegar, diluted in water to improve gut health.)
11 a.m. | "Feel the burn!" says our instructor. Barefoot on yoga mats, my friend Karrie and I have been in a lunge for what feels like forever. With these words of encouragement we move into a long plank, and feel the burn indeed. A high-intensity, low-impact workout, we're joined by 10 other guests of varying age and fitness levels. Our mission: moving to fun, loud music and building our muscle mass. The new PiYo Live gets our strength, sweat, and stretch on.
1 p.m. | After a tough workout, the Bountiful Earth Body Ritual, staged in the outdoor New Life Treatment rooms at the Life in Balance Spa, is a highlight of my trips. The outdoor retreats are like M.AS.H. tents on steroids, with air conditioning and high-end finishes. The wellness treatment takes me around the globe. We begin in North Africa with a loofah cleanse and Moroccan Rose Body Wash. Next, we're off to Asia with an exfoliation of bamboo, ginger grass, and mineral-rich salt. Then it's to the Pacific, with a Yucatan coco-mole clay wrap that smells good enough to eat. As the wrap works its wonders, my therapist delivers a face and scalp massage. I remove the mud with a cedar wood and juniper body wash in my private outdoor shower. The finale? A full body massage infused with lime silk oil and cedarwood-juniper body butter.
3 p.m. | Karrie and I float lazily on rafts post-treatment while sipping Spicy Sonoran cocktails and comparing spa experiences. Her all-organic "farm-to-treatment-table" Abundance Body Ritual included a grapefruit Kombucha body wash, Hawaiian lime sugar scrub, Spirulina body clay, argan avocado oil, and grapeseed butter.
4:30 p.m. | Visiting specialist and renowned psychic Maggie Garbarini leads "The Journey of a Psychic." She speaks about numerology and her storied life to a packed and curious room, and at the close of the session, I decide if she has a cancellation for a private session (she typically books out in advance), I'm snagging one.
7:30 p.m. | I return to the Sacred Labyrinth for sunset mediation. As the sun delivers a brilliant curtsy over the Catalinas, I silently walk the maze and reflect on tomorrow's appointment with Wyatt Webb. After just one memorable day here, Miraval's minimal cell-phone policy, slow food philosophy, and mindful clientele are all constant reminders to be in the moment.
8 p.m. | We dine under a desert full moon on the patio of Miraval's Cactus Flower restaurant. Multiple courses are suggested, as the key to healthy Miraval eating is small portions. I opt for local greens with blue cheese, apple, and walnuts; and a guilt-free lemon chevre poppy seed cheesecake. We return to the villa under a bright evening sky, and I sleep better than I have in weeks.
6 a.m. | Miraval is used to early risers (East Coasters are up especially early), and coffee is served in the lobby by 5:30 a.m. I ease into the day with a morning swim in the outdoor lap pool.
8 a.m. | Today, we paint a horse. "An Unforgettable Canvas" equine experience begins with a short ride to the stables. Our group gathers near four gorgeous horses, and our instructor, Melissa, explains the Native American tradition of painting horses pre-battle as a symbol of strength. "This is an opportunity to express yourself, then clear the canvas—clean the horse—to let go of your stories," Melissa explains. "Just because it's your story today, doesn't mean it's your story moving forward."
- The gist: let go of self-judgment about what or how you paint. Then free-flow paint for an hour. Afterward, each participant explains his or her visual "story" to the group. So while Karrie and I each paint one side of Oliver, she channels the film Braveheart and paints big, bold strokes all along his body. Shedding my fear for painting (stick figures are a challenge for me) I manage a sun, a spiral akin to the Miraval Labyrinth, and an owl in honor of my late Mom. One guest explains her homage to a dying friend—a moving story in which she urges us to "cherish and celebrate" our girlfriends—a perfect message for our weekend. As I wash off Oliver, and, in turn, my "story," I think about what's later on the itinerary—meeting the famous Wyatt Webb.
9:30 a.m. | Executive Chef Brandon Cathey invites us to walk Miraval's organic garden. While pulling edible pea, cucumber, and onion flowers (dee-lish), Cathey explains, "The soil is the star. If you have healthy soil you'll have healthy plants." He's recently planted zucchini blossoms, cucumber, squash, collard greens, and kale. "We're more than organic. We're biodynamic," he adds. He sources proteins from a 300-mile radius, and the 20 chickens living on the ranch hatch tasty organic eggs. And the peaches? "Tucson's peaches rival any in the world," Cathey adds.
10:30 a.m. | "It's not about the horse," says Wyatt Webb. That's no surprise, given it's the name of his acclaimed program. We're returned to the stables with a new group of eight guests -- all women, though plenty of men travel to Miraval for Webb's no-nonsense perspective. As previously mentioned, I have some knowledge of what to expect: We're supposed to pick up the horse's hoof. Simple, right? Not quite. When I stand in the ring, facing these eight women, my stomach is in knots. Within just minutes, if the participant is willing, Webb quickly taps into childhood trauma, relationship challenges, health issues, or substance abuse. Bottom line, we're all carrying something around, and the horse is simply a vehicle to illuminate fear and self doubt.
- Webb hands me a simple tool to clean the horse's hoof. "Alrighty then," he says softly. "Go." I walk to the horse hesitantly, and Crackers can instantly read my energy, which is clouded with fear. I try my best to emulate Webb's example in picking up the horse's hoof. I pinch above his knee with all of my strength. Nothing, I battle my anxiety, and finally ask Webb for help. "Come back over to me," he says. "What are you thinking and what are you feeling?" he asks me again. I answer honestly. "I'm feeling vulnerable," I answer. "You are 100 percent responsible for 50 percent of the relationship," Webb reinforces. "Walk right back over there as if you are leading a parade. Go." I do exactly as I'm told. I walk with confidence, stand shoulder to shoulder with the horse, and squeeze, hard, on his knee. This time my mind is empty. I'm simply focusing on the task at hand—no self judgement or worry that others are watching. Crackers quickly picks up his hoof. My sense of relief and peace is overwhelming. I could fill this entire piece with what happens next with each guest, but in a nutshell, if you're willing to be broken open, the resulting perspective and revelation are game-changers. Intention, it turns out, is key.
2 p.m. | It's time to move. We booked a private yoga class in the comfort of our villa—perfect timing considering the emotionally charged morning. Our instructor guides us through a mellow flow, adjusting our poses as we practice our Warrior II with the incredible Catalinas as our backdrop.
4:30 p.m. | Back to the wellness spa. I've booked the new Desert Rose Radiance Facial, and after meeting my esthetician, it's quickly apparent Miraval culls from Tucson's most talented practitioners. The age-defying treatment is anchored in cool rose quartz crystals, which help tone and lift, while advanced ESPA products brighten, firm, boost collagen, and combat hyperpigmentation. Afterward, my skin reflects the Miraval "glow."
7 p.m. | As we walk to dinner, we spy a family of not-so-pretty and stubborn javelinas, which sets a festive tone for the eve. We dine under the stars, and serendipitously meet a group of 10 Exclusive Resorts Members—another girls’ getaway group from San Francisco. The full moon and Basil in Balance cocktails fuel conversations of family, travel, food, and not-to-miss Miraval highlights.
8 a.m. | Noel Patterson’s “All the Buzz” hands-on bee experience is a welcome surprise. After getting outfitted in a head-to-toe beekeeper suit (think gloves, gaiters, hood), we follow Patterson—Miraval’s resident beekeeper and Rob Lowe’s doppelganger—to the site of a colony. Amidst the nearby swarm of thousands of bees, Patterson’s knowledge is mind-boggling. We learn if a baby bee is fed “royal jelly” it becomes a queen. Queens seek each other out, fight to the death, and the strongest one survives. And this rouses a chuckle: The queen goes on a “bender” of mating with six to 30 bees in two hours, and mates only once in her life. Patterson explains that the average life of a honeybee is 6-8 weeks and the colony doubles every two weeks. Ultimately, the messaging in his class celebrates connection and community. “Honey is like fine wine. It has a sense of place,” adds Patterson, a former sommelier. We finish the class by tasting the bees’ nectar—local honey that makes our taste buds dance.
10 a.m. | Cardio Drumming is a guest favorite at Miraval. By now we've sunk into the rhythm of the resort. But during this group fitness class, the beat is amplified via a high-energy cardio workout fusing traditional aerobics with the rhythm of drums. It's fun, and once again, connects you to everyone in the room.
12 p.m. | During Cocktails in the Kitchen we're treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of Miraval’s culinary operations. While sampling chef-made appetizers and handcrafted cocktails, we receive healthy cooking tips and tricks.
2 p.m. | Psychic Maggie Garbarini has an opening! My hour-long private session with her is a rollercoaster of powerful information. Garbarini’s talent is delivered via numerology, tarot cards, and practical advice. She touches on career, health, relationships, and family. I leave with my session saved on my iPhone and wonder if I’ll play it for my seven-year-old son some day.
8 p.m. | As our extraordinary visit comes to a close, we celebrate three perfect days in the comfort of our gorgeous villa with a private chef dinner. We splurge on a nice bottle of wine, toast one last desert sunset, and dine on decadent salads and fresh fish. Our only regret is that we don’t have more time.
Departure. I awake the following dawn for our 5 a.m. shuttle. We’re whisked away in a van that softly plays Miraval’s spa music. At the airport, when the van door shuts and the music stops, real world re-entry sets in. But I think about Webb’s words. I know they’ll stay with me. I envision the handwritten intention I’ve left in the labyrinth—and I know I’ll return.