I’ve engaged in various alternative healing modalities in my time: forest bathing in Montana, sound therapy in Mexico, breath work in London, past-life regression in Thailand, remote Reiki Tummo in my own bed. But somehow I’d never made it to Sedona, Arizona, a famously New Agey mecca for healers and spiritual seekers, not to mention more terra-firma types like birdwatchers and hikers. But as the locals like to say, you don’t go to Sedona until she calls you.
My visit to Mii Amo, a 19-year-old wellness retreat cradled by Boynton Canyon—a sacred spot for Native American tribes including the Hopi, Yavapai, Navajo, and Western Apache— couldn’t have come at a better time. Still reeling from a devastating loss that occurred exactly one year before, I needed more than a detox or gut overhaul. I needed a salve for my soul.
When it comes to healing in Sedona, geology and geography play an outsized role: The view alone is enough to make you feel better. The craggy landscape is mind-bogglingly beautiful, punctuated by ancient rust-red, orange, and white sandstone formations that preside over valleys of lush greenery. The area’s storied “energy vortexes” are a magnet for people seeking transformation and guidance. They also attract those who hunt for UFOs and extraterrestrials. While I waited at the airport in Phoenix, I chatted with Justin, a twenty-something from San Francisco. He had planned to attend a full-moon meditation at Sedona Performing Arts Center with Darryl Anka, a medium who channels an “enlightened” extraterrestrial named Bashar, but decided it was too expensive. So instead he was joining a group of friends at an after-Bashar bash at Bell Rock. “We’re going to do our own CE-5 contact meditation,” he said, explaining that they hoped to channel other ETs by chanting, singing, ecstatic dancing, drumming, and burying crystals in the sand. “Depending how it goes, I may host one back in Oakland.” I wasn’t sure if he meant another meditation event or an actual extraterrestrial.
I arrived at Mii Amo late in the day, and nothing I’d seen in photos prepared me for the coral and crimson glow of that first red-rocks sunset. I don’t know if it was the vortexes or the sparkling wine at the welcome reception, but I started to feel simultaneously relaxed and revved up. It was a feeling that would build over the course of my three-day stay.
I woke up early on my first morning, ordered a protein smoothie at the juice bar, and cozied up to the massive fireplace in the relaxation room. Staff members laid a fire at dawn each day using fragrant juniper (Proust’s madeleine had he been from the Southwest). When it was time for Morning Ritual, a short, guided meditation in which you set your intention for the day, I ambled over to the Crystal Grotto, a circular room with an oculus to the sky and a giant hunk of petrified wood “signifying strength and permanence” in its center. Built directly on the canyon floor, it’s best experienced barefoot so you can wiggle your toes in the powder-soft (and presumably supercharged) dirt.
Mii Amo’s spa program is designed so you can go as deep (soul journeying, hypnosis) or stay as surface-oriented (body wraps, oxygen facials) as you like. Since I was seeking solace, my “journey guide” created a schedule that emphasized highly charged energy healing balanced with feel-good bodywork.
On Day 1, I went Canyon Bathing with Kim, floated dreamily around the Watsu pool with Linders, and was kneaded into a mush by Dhanya and Priscilla during a four-handed Abhyanga Shirodhara, an Ayurvedic massage. When it was time for Energy Clearing, Lynette performed Reiki over my solar plexus and stomach, two areas that often bear the brunt of grief and trauma. Worn out by so many ministrations, I fell asleep during my last session— an hour of blissful craniosacral therapy with Bhadra.
In an age when everyone seems to have some kind of personal shaman, coach, or healer, I approach the more esoteric forms of self-care with a bit of a gimlet eye. For me, it’s all about the practitioner, and the ones at Mii Amo showed compassion and razor-sharp intuition—even if the treatment descriptions sounded slightly out there. For example, Soul Seeker aims to “support a heightened awareness, a new perspective, or reconnection with your inner self” through guided imagery and breath work, but in my case suddenly turned into an intense medium experience. I sobbed uncontrollably as the therapist, Kamala, relayed messages that were too personal to dismiss as hocus-pocus.
In Harmony, Andrea had me do some exercises like writing down the qualities I want to bring into my life (strength, love) and the ones I want to be rid of (fear, doubt). Then it was on to “intuitive” massage (where the therapist senses what type of energy work you need), which opened yet another floodgate of tears. I left feeling profoundly supported and, well, more harmonized.
The modality I thought sounded the most gimmicky— Aura-Soma—turned out to be one of my favorites. Developed in the 1980s by a blind English clairvoyant named Vicky Wall, the Aura-Soma Color System utilizes a wall of more than a hundred glass bottles filled with colored liquids, such as essential oils and extracts from plants, and precious and semiprecious stones. You select the four you are subconsciously drawn to, which are said to equate to your deepest needs and gifts. Turns out I’m drawn to magenta, the highest vibration in the spectrum. Without my sharing anything, Bhakta, the spa’s Aura-Soma expert, told me that events over the past year had caused my cortisol levels to spike and that I was dangerously exhausted, and advised me to take better care of myself. I liked the session so much that I headed straight to the hotel’s dangerously well-stocked shop to buy Wall’s biography and all four of my $85 “equilibrium” oils. Who says retail therapy isn’t a thing?
By Day 3, I was practically ready to move in to Mii Amo, but I still hadn’t had that magical mystery vortex moment everyone kept talking about. Even my climbs up to Kachina Woman, a sacred sandstone spire overlooking the property, yielded little more than the kind of crazy-gorgeous vistas I’d come to expect. It took an extracurricular outing with Crystal StarrWeaver to bring it home. StarrWeaver, who heads a company called Sedona Spirit Journeys, led me on a three-hour vortex tour in Silver Angel, her trusty minivan. We talked about a lot of things, and at times of nothing at all. At Rachel’s Knoll, a plateau that practically touches heaven, she taught me to listen for messages in the wind. And when we got to Bell Rock, like countless others before us, we lay down on a big, sunbaked stone flecked with quartzite and closed our eyes to meditate. It took a few minutes, but then I felt it: a sense of incredible peace and serenity. I was firmly connected to the land, the moment, and, for once, myself. And if that’s not magical, I don’t know what is.
From $1,100 per night, three-night minimum; miiamo.com.