“Everyone has a ‘worst part of their life,’ this is just yours.” My fiancé said this to me once, when I was overwhelmed by what felt like a stream of unending tragedy in my life. It was his way of providing perspective: hardship is inevitable, but not infinite. I would someday look back on the tragedies, from a brighter future. This sentiment has sustained me the last three years.
My mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. For 16 months, I flew back and forth from my home in California, to hers, in Texas. First, I visited and help care for her. Finally, I traveled back to arrange and attend her funeral. Less than a month later, I was in the hospital myself. My chronic digestive disorder unleashed terrifying symptoms. After three weeks in the hospital, my doctor informed me I’d developed abnormal cells: I was a prime candidate for cancer, myself. This led to a drastic, multi-stage surgery, spanning six months.
What does one do after the worst period of your life? For me I hoped it was traveling again. But I needed an experience that would be healing, for both to body and mind. I wanted an experience that I could physically bear and, most importantly—after choosing funeral homes, surgeons, hospitals, and medical supplies—one where I wouldn’t have to make any decisions at all.
With all this in mind, I justified a one-week retreat at Mii Amo Spa. Located in Sedona, Arizona, Mii Amo is an all-inclusive resort known for its “journey” approach to treatment. Spiritual concepts and methods, from a variety of cultures and practices, infuse most every aspect of their facility. Guests can select “ideal experience” packages—like Soulful Essence or Transformational Wisdom—which come with 14 treatments, spanning one week (about one 60-minute, and one 90-minute, treatment per day). I’ll admit: While I consider myself a spiritual person, I’m resistant to certain elements of New Age culture. It wasn’t without some trepidation I’d go to this spa experience. But when I considered all my requirements, Mii Amo’s capacity for wholistic, nurturing pampering made it my final choice. I’d decided: I’d find my peace again on this trip. Tarot readings? Past life regression? I signed myself up for these, and other spiritually-focused treatments, along with their many options of massages, body-work, and luxury-spa services. The sheer volume of caring, creative options was remarkable. They requested information of my relevant medical issues, plus food preferences. By the time I finished filling out their forms, I felt confident they were empowered to see to my every need. I started relaxing—and I hadn’t even arrived.
That came after a two hour car-ride from Phoenix, through the gorgeous Arizona desert. I was greeted by staff, bearing Native American beads (a theme that would continue throughout my stay). I was given a blue bathrobe, which functions as a kind of uniform for guests, who wear it to treatments, to indoor and outdoor pools, exercise classes (even dinner in the restaurant). Mii Amo shares Boynton Canyon with its sister property, The Enchantment Resort, whose day-guests also use the facilities. But they get beige robes, which creates a kind of camaraderie in the Spa: when you see a fellow “blue rober,” you know you’re both on a serious mission to relax and heal. With only 16 rooms in the Spa, every employee knows your name, needs, and preferences—which may sound creepy, but was just the feeling I was looking for: Take perfect care of everythingfor me.
Wanting to get off on a good, spiritual foot, I made sure to attend the first night’s guided meditation, held at Mii Amo’s labyrinth: a walk ble maze composed of small rocks and crystals that are embedded in the lawn. Our instructor shared information about the use of labyrinths in ritual. Having been instructed to choose a personal “intention,” myself, and a middle-aged man from New Jersey, began circling each other in a silent walk. Of course, I felt a bit odd, as we silently crisscrossed each other in a mushroom pattern, but I surrendered to the fact that this was the kind of thing I’d come here to do. (Other guided meditations were often held in the Mii Amo’s Crystal Grotto—a cylindrical room at the heart of the Spa, filled with beautiful crystals catching, and refracting, sunbeams from carefully arranged skylights.)
Each morning, I’d enjoy a huge breakfast in my room. Then, I’d go to the pool with the vista views of the red rocks. I’d read there most of the day, as attentive staff brought me fresh fruit smoothies and delicious, healthy entrees (my favorite: miso-glazed salmon). Some days, I’d hike the red rocks surrounding the property. Echoes of wood-flute music seemed to always play from the highest peak. Mid-afternoon, I’d get a spa treatment: body-wraps, infused baths, or massage. With 14 treatments to fill, you end up picking things you might not even understand. “Sure, sign me up for the Turquoise Dreaming body-wrap.” I think I tried every type of wrap Mii Amo offered. I’d get scrubbed down with sugar, salt, or some other substance, then coated in local clay, or juniper—even semi-precious minerals like turquoise, then wrapped in cloth, laid to rest in heat, and received relaxing head rubs. It was like I was an Egyptian pharaoh being mummified, except I was alive to enjoy the process.
Not all treatments were hits. The Milk & Honey Bath had me soaking in a tub filled with tepid water and goat’s milk. An attendant sat behind me, to make sure I didn’t pass out. It felt more awkwardly boring than sensually nourishing. My experience of their "Past Life Regression" course made me feel pressured to imagine something. Was that King Henry I just saw? But many treatments were truly life changing. Which brings me to Watsu.
For the Watsu treatment, I emerged into a large, outdoor pool, its water warmed to 98.6 degrees exactly; floaties were put on my ankles. A tall, muscular man with a soothing voice, asked me to completely let go, as he held me in his arms, keeping me afloat; gently moving, stretching, and massaging me in the water.
“Think about being 5 years old, and falling asleep in your grandfather’s arms,” he instructed. A control-freak by nature, “letting go” isn’t really in my arsenal. Also, my brother drowned in a pool when I was 3, so giving up control of myself, while in water, was an experience I found profound, healing, and transformative.
Early in my stay, I realized I was beating myself up for not being “spiritual enough” in my healing retreat. I was reading pop-culture magazines, thinking about work; taking post-surgery narcotics, mourning my mother, and my own body. I was not the Buddha, sitting still, neglecting all else, until enlightenment came. I finally thought, “Hey, I’m in a five-star spa in Sedona—not a monastery! Relax, and let this be what it is.”
What it is, is spirituality in a context of luxury. Taken without esoteric zeal, Mii Amo still offers many, rewarding moments of nirvana, and you can enjoy an afternoon cocktail by the pool. It’s the best of both worlds: natural and supernatural. If you let it, Mii Amo will help you find yourself, with Ayurvedic facials, vision boards, lectures about vortexes, or the (supposed) effects of words on the molecular structure of water. In addition, you can lose yourself, in savoring delicious food at their restaurant, or indulging in your private, 800-square foot room, filling your massive, soaking tub with high-end beauty products, and crash-out on your cushy bed, watching Netflix.
Whether you sit under a tree and meditate all day, or pamper yourself like a Roman god—someone at Mii Amo will still always fetch you some lemon water.