Miraval Arizona Is a Place to Build a Better You — and a Better Connection With Your Loved Ones

It's been a long year and a half on planet earth. But now that things are looking up, I jumped at the chance to travel with my mom to Miraval, the famed Arizona desert wellness resort. Located on the outskirts of Tucson, the 440-acre destination is favored by those looking to work on or heal some aspect of themselves. And so in these extraordinary times, it seemed we had come to the right place. 

My mom already had some history at the resort. A few years ago, after her first bout with uterine cancer, she and her sister came to work with the legendary Wyatt Webb, a no-nonsense cowboy and resident horse (and people) whisperer. For decades, Webb's two therapeutic offerings, the Equine Experience and It's not About the Horse, where guests are tasked with a simple tool to clean and raise a horses hoof — helped folks examine their own roadblocks from fear to self-doubt. And because my mom had loved her experience so much, we vowed to meet there one day.

Our timing was just right: after twenty five years at Miraval, Webb was finally hanging up his boots. At his "retirement" ceremony, I asked him to reflect how he helped people. "We always look at your experiences, what you've learned over the course of your lifetime, that either works for or against you in your relationships." Simply put: it's not about the horse, it's about you. Webb smiled: "Remember, you're 100 percent responsible for 50 percent of any relationship."

the courtyard at Miraval Arizona the courtyard at Miraval Arizona Credit: Courtesy of Miraval Arizona

Of course, Webb's curriculum wasn't the only draw. We combined early morning hikes, meditation, and stretching with luscious spa treatments: organic facials using brands like Laurel Skincare and Maya Chai alongside hot stone massages and desert body sugar scrubs. A word to the wise: when you come to a place like Miraval, break outside of the standard fare. I opted for some Eastern and energy work. I tried Chi Nei Tsang, a niche Taoist Chinese abdominal massage to help aid digestion and the neuromuscular massage which works on alignment and balance. A 90-minute Rasayana Renewal ritual — facilitated by longtime healer Clinton Horner — schooled me on my Ayurvedic doshas (including some diet suggestions), followed by a ghee foot massage and warm poultice massage.

As for those horses, while filling Webb's shoes is no small feat, the new equine facilitator, Lucinda Vette, is already up to task. Her Unbound class gave me the chance to observe some of my personal (and in some instances, unsavory) patterns working with horses. I also learned about nonverbal communication (it's true, your eyes and body language speak in volumes).

The spa deck at Miraval Arizona The spa deck at Miraval Arizona Credit: Courtesy of Miraval Arizona

I also loved the healing hands of intuitive minister and Reiki practitioner Madre Emilia, whose popular "Mother's Blessing" used gentle spiritual prayer work to clear emotional blocks. Lastly, don't miss the Qi Journey, a blend of ancient Thai massage, acupuncture, and Craniosacral therapy, known to relieve everything from achy joints to stagnant energy.

In the early evenings, the Santa Catalina mountaintops came alive: a mix of dusty sunkissed pinks, greens, and blues. Fittingly, it was also eclipse season — my Mom and I admired the late May full Super Flower Blood Moon. The desert sky always puts on a show, so eat your healthy suppers (and sip your margaritas) outside. Then there was nature. We spotted a small family of owls, copious amounts of bunnies, droves of hummingbirds and a few king snakes. And in the morning, from our casita porch, we caught a slow-moving pack of javelinas (they look like wild boars) on the property.

Setting aside, Miraval has a magical staff. One afternoon, my mom was taking pictures of stacked stones outside, lost her balance, and fell down.  John Quinn, a motivational speaker and fitness director, quickly arrived on site to help her. In fact, when I got to her, much of the staff had gathered to make sure she was okay. Luckily, she just needed a few stitches, but I was amazed at how genuinely caring the employees were. This also reminded of the kindness of strangers and, although we can't control what happens to us in life, we can control how we respond.

Interior of a suite at Miraval Arizona Interior of a suite at Miraval Arizona Credit: Courtesy of Miraval Arizona

In the wee hours of morning, I liked to sneak out of my casita (careful not to wake up my mom) and walk the stone labyrinth in quiet reflection. Waiting for the sun to rise over the majestic mountains, I realized life is about the generous present moment (it also helps that the resort is largely cell phone free) and being with people you love. As the sun rose, bright and brilliant, I perched on a large boulder and, for a fleeting moment, time seemed to stand still. En route back to my room, I grabbed two coffees: it's was time to wake up my mom for our last day. My only plan was to ask her to meet back at Miraval again.