It is almost midnight when we arrive at Mii Amo, the eight-year-old spa in Sedona, Arizona, that all these years later still defines—thanks to Richard Gluckmanr8217;s architecture and startling interiors—the wooey, out-there, ultimate new age resort. Slanted sheets of rain are falling hard, and three staff members with immense black umbrellas appear in the gloom like welcoming angels, ready to ferry us to our rooms. I duck into my suite, my friend Jesse* to hers. Our other pal, Camille, is getting in at 3 a.m. This is our much-needed getaway weekend, a break from our nonstop lives. Almost as soon as I slip under the Fili D’oro sheets, I crash into profound sleep. In the morning I lie awake and read my program for the next three days. I’ll admit it: I’m more than a little nervous. I am, I raise my hand, a spa neophyte.
In the preceding weeks, Tonyia Gosik, an assistant at the spa, wrote me a dozen times asking what kind of treatments I’d like, what my goals were, physical, spiritual, dietary. Together we compiled a tentative package for a first-timer. But I’m not even sure this is for me. This never-ending attention to self. A whole empire devoted to my well-being. And all that talk about the vortex and crystals. I hear someone in a meditation class say, “Close your eyes, concentrate on your inner journey, and it will bring you great gifts,” and I think, pearls?
But I am determined: I’m going in a cynic and coming out a convert.
I decide to keep a diary and ask my friends to do the same. Jesse is a successful New York photographer, whom we like to refer to as the Contented Eater. Camille, a talented California businesswoman, never seems to slow down between looking after clients, husband, and kids. As it turns out, the two of them take marvelous notes.
I linger in my suite, its decor part Southwest with a touch of Swedish: indoor and outdoor fireplaces, a huge soaking tub, even an outdoor shower. I then head for the spa building just beyond the suites. Everything is adobe style, and wildflowers bloom in the gardens. The spa is long, low, spacious, with indoor and outdoor pools, a library, dressing rooms, and a café. Everyone is relaxing, some reading by the pool, some in bathrobes. Mii Amo has only 16 guest rooms, and there are never more than 30 people here at a time. The staff—at the front desk, at the café, in the treatment areas—all know your name.
I join Jesse and Camille at the café. Outside the window are the soaring red rocks of Sedona. My friends are drinking coffee, dressed in various combinations of sweats, yoga pants, baggy tops, floppy shoes. No makeup. No laptops. No BlackBerrys.
For breakfast we have fresh watermelon juice, blue corn waffles, egg-white omelets with fresh asparagus. I leave them to second helpings and head to my first private 90-minute Pilates session. I’ve done Pilates only twice in my life.
Jeannie, my teacher, has not an ounce of fat on her. She’s enthusiastic, attentive, observant. After that first session, I schedule a lesson with her every day. By the end of my stay I feel better, taller. I take home a template, a system for maintaining the program in real life.
Next, my first massage. Into the dressing room. Nobody—not the smooth young girls nor the older wrinkled ones—cares what anyone else is wearing or not wearing. Nobody’s here to show off. I go up to the second floor to the treatment rooms, all light, airy, comfortable, private.
My personalized 90-minute massage is meant to help my struggling writer’s back and neck muscles, my computer-cricked arms. Joanne works on my back; she has magic hands. She’s from New York. She speaks my language. Nothing spiritual here.
Wait a second…she’s up on my back, all of her? How does she do that? After 90 minutes I leave, a reconditioned scribe, like a typewriter that’s been to the repair shop and come out good as new.
Now on to the Hot Cinnamon facial. Sounds delicious.
“Can we open a window?” I ask Reid, my aesthetician.
“You don’t like heat, is that right?”she replies.
“How did you know?”
“You asked for the window open,” she says. “The Hot Cinnamon facial is very hot, meant to draw up all the blood and lymph to the surface. You might find it uncomfortable. Maybe we should do something else.” Without hesitation, she changes the treatment and gives me a facial customized for my skin. Everybody at Mii Amo is seriously well-trained.
Camille gets a 60-minute Vibrational treatment with Donna. The massage involves the seven major chakras that control us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Sevencolors of oil are applied to the respective body parts, like blue for the throat, orange for the naval, etc. Therapist and client connect as Donna tells Camille about real-life concerns she’s actually facing. Camille thinks Donna’s a bit out there at first, but the therapist does speak to the core of her worries. During the massage Camille actually has a whoosh—a release of breath. All stress, muscle lumps of tightness, dissipate. She thinks, “Donna’s a white witch caring for my well-being. We’ve met in a former life…maybe.”
She moves on to a stone massage with Dana, who uses hot river stones and oils for a deep release of tension. Camille officially no longer cares about the office.
For Jesse—remember, she’s the Contented Eater—the food at Mii Amo is incredible from the first breakfast. There are great dishes, like an egg-white omelet with spinach and tomato and a side order of turkey sausage. Carrot juice comes with a few drops of ginger.
The staff wants to take care of us; in Jesse’s case this means feeding her until she’s completely satisfied. There’s no scary minimalist diet in the café where we eat all our meals, though calorie counts are listed for each item on the menu. We can have wine, cocktails, sushi, duck, coq au vin, cherry strudel, and panna cotta with cherry sorbet.
Jesse’s treatment sessions start with an instant rejuvenating facial by a therapist who has triple-jointed fingers. Jesse sleeps her way to youth.
Jesse and I book a Harmony session with Bhakta, who is trained in color therapy and rebalancing as well as Pulsation Breath therapy, which is based on Wilhelm Reich’s teachings. Jesse thinks it’s going to be just a meditation massage, but Bhakta speaks to her about her aura. Aura? I think to myself, eyes rolling backward. “Be nice!” says the stern look on Jesse’s face. “Aura?” I ask. It happens to be turquoise, which reflects Jesse’s love of the color deep blue. She also talks about Jesse’s male side, which Jesse thinks has led to her powerful ability to let go of things and not hold on to negative thoughts, focusing the brain in positive ways, breathing, and staying calm. “The past does not belong to us,” Bhakta tells her, “and we cannot control the future; we can only be in the present.”
All right, I say, breathing deeply. How did I put it? I will go in a cynic and come out a convert; I will go in a cynic and come out a convert.
Later I lie down for the treatment. Bhakta puts a flower aura around me, a golden one, and I try to be in the present. My color, she tells me, is magenta, the highest, most intelligent color (with the most energy). I’m a very busy bee, strong yet fragile. She says people can stand on me the way they might stand on a coral reef, and those in my life often think they can break a piece off as a souvenir.
“Don’t be so cynical,” Jesse says when I tell her all this. Moi? A cynic?
The sun comes out. (A cynic wouldn’t have even noticed, right?) We go for a walk, all three of us feeling relaxed. We meet for meals, coffee, and drinks at the little bar. We take naps. We sit by the pool, read, and gossip. Camille says she’s feeling better after yoga and Pilates. “I’m feeling taller—and smarter. Is it true that tall people have space for more brain cells?” she asks. Off we go to our various treatments and therapies.
The Soul Seeker is real new age. My therapist, Colette, has studied with shamans in Peru. We chat. I seek to find the compassion in my soul that careers often strip in our search for economic and status survival.
I do some yoga, then a cooking demo. It’s a one-hour gazpacho lesson with one of the top chefs at Mii Amo. We make other wonderful soups: chowder with soy, lentil with curry.
Meanwhile, Jesse also gets the Vibrational massage. There’s a moment when you expel all this energy from your mouth, and for someone like Jesse who does not know how to burp, gushing it out is pretty amazing and, to her surprise, not embarrassing.
In front of the fire Sunday night, I’m feeling good. The daily customized Pilates, the massage, the facial, the reflexology, the body scrubs. Unimportant things seem to fall away. Is this me speaking? Is my tough, hard-boiled cynicism morphing into a milky skepticism?
Jesse gets the Many Hands massage, during which two therapists—Bhakta on the left, the female side, and Bhadra on the male side—move their hands over her body, gliding in perfect harmony like skaters on ice. They use grape-seed oil, and it feels silky and luxurious. Who knew the oil you cook a burger in can be used for the most memorable massage?
For Camille, today is the day her mind is in total peace: She does a session of personalized aromatherapy, balancing the brain and body. Then there’s Table Thai—90 minutes of pure stretching—with Ben, who was trained in Hawaii. No worries left.
After lunch we get ready to leave, Camille to California, Jesse and I back to New York. The sun is out, the enormous Arizona sky blue, the red rocks alight. There are farewells at Mii Amo—some of the staff feel like friends.
How did I put it in the beginning, on that first night, with the slanting rain? I will come a cynic and leave a convert…hmm.
An average stay at Mii Amo is three, four, or seven nights. It can cost from $2,180 to $13,665 per person, depending on the season and the room—from a spa casita to the Mii Amo Suite. Prices include three meals a day, access to facilities, scheduled classes, and 6 to 14 spa services.When you book, you’ll be sent a package of all possible treatments and approaches, among them healthy lifestyle, de-stressing the mind and body, and spiritual exploration (888-749-2137; www.miiamo.com).
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.