There is a place where heaven meets earth, and it's called Miraval. Nestled in the Catalina Mountains just outside Tucson, Arizona, Miraval is one of the top six spa resorts in the world.

I visited Miraval because I heard it was a spa experience unlike any other. It not only had awesome spa treatments but each activity taught their guests how to achieve a life in balance. With two teenage children, a husband, and a high powered executive position, I desperately needed to find ways to unstress and bring my chaotic life back into some semblance of balance and order.

Riding in the cab to the resort, I was curious about the name, Miraval. The cab driver told me that Miraval was Spanish for "a place within mountains and valleys." But as he glanced at me in his rear view mirror, he lowered his voice and let me in on a secret. "Most of our guests believe it means a 'mirror into your soul'." I wondered what this mirror would reveal about my soul.




The Miraval Lobby exemplifies
luxury and comfort.

As we arrived at the unassuming entrance to the resort, a quiet ambiance enveloped me. The Southwestern desert was in full bloom. I found out later that the natural habitat of the resort was enhanced with the multitude of flowering plants chosen for their unique beauty and their ability to attract more that 500 species of desert butterflies. Miraval was serious about a metamorphosis taking place.

On the way to my room, the cascading waterfalls and meandering river that runs through the property gave me a feeling of landing in the middle of a desert oasis. The water designs were created by the same landscape architect that built the volcano and water works at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas.

The flowing water amidst the desert foliage was my first experience in bringing balance into my life through opposite forces. I watched the sun beginning to set while the quietness of the desert colors soothed my spirit. The elegant and inviting surroundings of the resort living areas convinced me that something extraordinary was about to occur.

I quickly changed my clothes and dressed for dinner, excited to discover what lied beyond the serenity and casual elegance of my new found retreat. As I glanced up at the night sky and saw what seemed like billions of stars winking at me, an overwhelming sense of wonder and contentment embraced me.

I entered the Desert Rose dining room and was greeted with a simple décor. The quiet elegance promised a relaxing dining experience. I realized I was unusually exhilarated by the ambiance of this new adventure. I was handed a simple menu and I found myself shocked when I began to read the entrées. I thought the only foods spas featured were fruits, vegetables, and low fat non-caloric meals. But this menu rivaled the finest gourmet restaurants. There was even an unbelievable array of desserts. It was evident the chef paid great attention to the finer details in creating a culinary experience that enriched your tastes and refused to deprive you.

Sensing my surprise at the menu, my waiter explained, "Miraval is about choices. Every activity provides our guests with the opportunity to bring their lives more fully into balance by affording them new ways to choose. Miraval was designed to provide their guests a door into self-awareness and self-acceptance. You can enjoy the amenities of a first-class resort and spa, while you open yourself to a new way to discover and allow pleasure and well being back into your life."

This was an unusual response from a waiter. (What I later found out was that each employee of Miraval is highly schooled in creating and teaching their guests about living a life in balance.) But at that moment, my curiosity got the best of me. "How does one achieve balance and a healthy lifestyle and still experience pleasure," I questioned?




Aqua aerobics and physical regimens abound at Miraval.

'What happened to 'no pain, no gain?'" I playfully teased with him.

He was undaunted. His willingness to share the personal magic of Miraval lit up his face as he responded. "Miraval provides experiences that will allow you to begin to practice listening to your life with a receptive heart so that you might see and correct imbalances as they occur. This is what has traditionally been referred to as 'mindfulness'. Miraval's mission is to demonstrate the benefits in being mindful. Mindfulness means living and concentrating in the present moment. When you focus on living in the past or thinking too far into the future, it obscures your enjoyment of what is occurring in your present. This imbalance causes stress, fear, anxiety and worry. It destroys the joy that fills our present moments. Living mindfully in the now is a powerful way to approach your life. It will bring your life balance, enhance your health while you begin to find new enjoyment and pleasure in your every day experiences. The benefits of learning how to live your life in balance are designed to last well beyond your stay here with us." The waiter smiled warmly with pride.

I took some time to digest his words, while I choose succulent swordfish for my dinner entrée. The fish was moist and glazed with a sauce that tantalized my taste buds. The meal left me satiated without feeling stuffed. I even indulged in a flowerless chocolate decadent cake for dessert. I tried to be mindful of each bite I tasted. It was a fulfilling and surprisingly pleasant way to dine.




Miraval is a spiritual
pathway to your inner self.

When I left the dining room the desert night air was warm but not suffocating. I glanced up at the star-studded sky that looked a zillion miles away. But the stars loomed so close to me that I felt I could reach out and touch each one of them. I extended my arms upward to see if I might get lucky. A shooting star emblazoned across the sky like a single firework exploding, ablaze with a streaming white light. As surprised as I was with it's unexpected brilliance, another long forgotten but familiar feeling of well-being overwhelmed my heart. Something mysterious and magical was happening to me.

I wandered back to my room comforted by the sounds of the flowing water showing me my way back to my room and my long forgotten self. My room was cozy, causally lit and inviting. The bed was turned down for the night and a daily activity sheet awaited me on my pillow. I read over the lists of activities scheduled from 7a.m. to 9 p.m. Should I start with a morning guided meditation walk in the desert, sun salutation yoga, or learning about the principles of mindfulness? Maybe tomorrow was my day to be pampered at the spa?

My inner voice beckoned, "Listen with a receptive heart."

My heart led me to the spa. There I had to choose between hot stone massages, sports massages, craniosacral, acupuncture, Chi Nei Tsang, Oriental foot massage, body wraps, European facials and anti-aging marine facials. After four hours of being treated to their experienced professional masseuses, my body graciously responded to their healing and powerful touch.


Miraval Miracles: left, clockwise - seaweed scrubs; massages; meditations; hot river stones sooth.


That afternoon I attended self-enrichment classes. The stress-reduction workshops showed me how to become more self-accepting. I discovered that applying the principles of self-acceptance is what relieves unhealthy stress, and helps you to make better choices for greater happiness. I learned the benefits of meditation by walking a sacred labyrinth. This quiet ancient tradition showed me how to calm the unnecessary chatter in my mind. When I found my stillness, my intuition and imagination became enlivened.

With my yoga class, I learned that the different positions gave my nervous system and internal organs a deep, tension-releasing rest. Yoga is an active meditation that integrates your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual concerns. Yoga brings a sense of balance and well-being, while rejuvenating your entire circulatory system.

Miraval offers many other stress-reduction classes such as Tai Chi, Chi Kung, and a variety of fitness classes, from jazz dancing to hip hop. The beginner dance class I attended encouraged me to just go with the flow and to become one with the movement of my body. The instructor coached us, - "If you force it, you'll break it; if you hang on too tight, you'll lose it." The simple steps were easier to execute as we followed his instructions. It was a lot more fun to move with the music without a care about how we looked or what we had to do next.

Each class emphasized how life was to be lived and experienced in the NOW. It is how our present moments become meaningful and enriched. I began to experience a new rhythm in my life. Every cell of my body felt renewed and alive!

One of the more demanding events was a challenge course that tested my physical strength and endurance. Even this experience taught me about my willingness to share my leadership skills and trust in my abilities.


Beauty Secrets of Miraval - top left, clockwise: Pedicures and beauty treatments; facial masks and wraps; treatments for stressed-out executives - men and women!

Miraval offers something for everyone to nourish and revitalize their mind, body, and soul. From a walk in the Zen mediation garden, to horseback riding in the desert,to golf mindfulness lessons on how to lower your handicap. Tennis courts are available and the instructors teach you that proper breathing is all it takes to become a champion player.




Test your equestrian
skills at Miraval.

Each activity is geared to exemplify how to more create balance and pleasure in your life. I learned the importance of taking care of myself first - no matter what crisis is demanding my time. I found that asking for help was my personal key for relieving the stress in my life and turning chaos into balance. Within three days of my Miraval experience my body felt rejuvenated and my soul was renewed to face the challenges that I had left behind at home. When it was time to leave, I took with me not only beautiful memories filled with wonderful instructors and a refreshing spa experience, but I had new tools to better cope with the daily problems and struggles of every day life. Since Miraval, I've experienced more balance and enjoyment. My life was enriched with the knowledge that when I'm mindful, all of my moments can bring me happiness. But, as with all things, time can tarnish my memory.

I went to Miraval to relax and rejuvenate my body. I left with a mirror that enlightened my soul. When either start to weaken or become lackluster, I know I will return to Miraval, a place where heaven meets earth!

— By Janice Wilson, Las Vegas Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent.