To nourish my body and soul, I embarked on a three-day journey to MIRAVAL SPA in Tucson, Arizona for the annual Beverly Hills Literary Escape event. Three award-winning authors and facilitator extraordinaire, Julie Robinson, gently guided the 25 participants through a series of experiences aimed at insight into living a more meaningful life through literature and spirituality. Over dinner parties and scheduled lectures, the authors discussed their novels and writing anecdotes, their research, and their future plans. Everyone was able to participate in numerous spa, nature-oriented, and spiritual activities throughout the weekend, culminating in a large celebratory bonfire on the last evening.
After my one-hour flight from Los Angeles, I arrived to check in and was given a lengthy “rules” packet to sign. The resort bans cell phones except in one area near the front desk. This area reminded me of a dessert landscaped version of a “smoking lounge” except it was for phone use instead of cigarettes. I had the feeling Miraval viewed cell phones as equally toxic. I learned that electronic books were also a “no no.” If I were planning to read in the spa, I would need a paper book. Accordingly, I proceeded to the lobby gift store to purchase a new novel. Finding only spiritually inspiring books available, I selected “Letting Go Of The Person You Used To Be,” by Lama Surya Das. On my way to becoming a new me, I was now ready to comply with all rules and regulations.
My Sante Fe style room was comfortable and clean, but not ultra luxurious. My view was of the Arizona desert, tumbleweeds and all. Being allergic to dust, this was somewhat concerning for me, however, with my allergy meds in tow, I was ready to begin my literary adventure.
The first activity was a group meditation in the late afternoon sun, which my body and mind settled into with a nourishing rhythm. Then we had a group dinner and began our acquaintance with our authors. I met Paula McClain, the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Love and Ruin, Circling the Sun, The Paris Wife, and A Ticket to Ride, the memoir Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses, and two collections of poetry. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, O: The Oprah Magazine, Town & Country, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and elsewhere. At the table next to me, I recognized Meg Wolitzer, the New York Times bestselling author of The Female Persuasion, The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, The Wife, and Sleepwalking. The Wife was recently made into an award-winning motion picture starring Glenn Close. I got seated right next to Lauren Groff, the New York Times bestselling author of three novels, The Monsters of Templeton, Arcadia, Fates and Furies, and the short story collection Delicate Edible Birds and Florida. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Kirkus Prize, and the LA Times Book Prize. Her work has been featured in The New Yorker, along with five Best American Short Stories anthologies, and she was named one of Granta’s 2017 Best Young American Novelists. As consecutive dinners rolled on, I got a chance to dine with each author. What a supreme treat! I thoroughly delighted in speaking with Lauren about her life in Florida and raising her young sons. Paula and I discussed the spiritual aspects of our spa treatments (read on for more on that), and Meg and I talked about life in New York.
As my weekend progressed, I learned how to walk a labyrinth, do a spiritual stretch class, run a top-notch book club, and analyze a short story. I met an 80-year-old man at the pool who was on vacation alone since his wife had passed away after having booked their spa trip together. He happened to mention that he had composed a list of ideas to “feel like you are walking on water every day like I feel” and that he would mail it to me when he got home. He said he regularly speaks with his wife through his spiritual guides “on the other side.” I loved his story.
At the suggestion of both Julie Robinson and Lauren Groff, I made a spa appointment with “Madre Amelia,” for the “Mother’s Blessings.” The Madre is a type of local shaman, and she was in high demand amongst the literary escape ladies. She looked at me and was able to tell me what was of most concern emotionally, bring tears to my eyes, and give me hope. It was beyond comprehension. And….everyone else seemed to have the same (yet completely unique) noteworthy experience with her.
All meals and beverages at Miraval are inclusive, except for alcohol. It was a delight to stop by the juice bar for a smoothie or cappuccino at a moments whim. Breakfast and lunch included buffets and menu service. Afternoon tea/happy hour featured a healthy and delicious appetizer spread. No readers went hungry that weekend.
The list of exercise and activity classes was so extensive that it would take a month to try them all! Hikes, mountain biking, tight rope walking, yoga, Zumba, bee-keeping, stress mastery, wall climbing, zip lining, gratitude dancing, water yoga, anti-inflammatory cooking, equine therapy, and drumming… Or, if you are like me, you do one stretch class and sit by the pool to read. Ah……..
Literary Affairs offers this trip once a year, and I will definitely return. Now all I need is for Miraval to loosen up on that electronic reader regulation…..