This spring, I arrived in the Arizona desert on a particularly hot afternoon. I had come to wave off Wyatt Webb, who for 25 years, ran the equine program at the venerable Miraval Arizona. In fact, Webb, had been there as long as the resort itself—a place where wellness seekers have long gathered to unplug and reset. On a personal note, it also felt like an ideal time to venture back in the world as a fully vaccinated citizen.
Nestled in the Santa Catalina mountains, the 400-acre property was already a special spot for me. A few years back, I had come to see Webb for his popular offering, It’s Not About the Horse. I’d heard in only two short hours, participants got to know something of themselves, and Webb, known for his blunt and salty charismatic cowboy ways, was also a bit of a legend.
Skeptical at first, Webb’s surly class lived up to the hype. Here’s how it worked: an intimate group of ten gathered in a small arena tasked with lifting and cleaning a horse’s hoof with a pick. And while that might sound easy, I can assure you, approaching a two-ton animal is no small feat (the horse will either lift his hoof instantly, or it may take a few passes). Before nearing the horse, participants shared personal stories—of heartbreak and redemption—both an intimate and vulnerable way to meet my fellow guests. To wit, horses are 55 million years evolved and highly intuitive creatures. They are also, in effect, mirrors to our state of mind. Webb told me, when working with horses, “we’re looking at what you’ve learned over your lifetime that either works for or against you in your relationships.”
While equine therapy is hardly new, it’s safe to say Webb helped put the curriculum on the resort map. Having worked with business leaders, athletes, and celebrities, he’s also worked with regular folks like me. Still, his message remains universal: “You’ve been taught to believe that something is wrong with you. We have a shame-based, fear-based culture, and to connect with anyone, you’re going to have to acknowledge that in you and begin working on it.”
If you find yourself at Miraval, it’s for a reason. Even if you’re just dipping your toes into the spiritual offerings, or are simply looking to unplug and meditate, there is something for everyone.
Although Miraval has retired Webb’s class, luckily, the new equine facilitator Lucinda Vette has created Unbound, giving guests a chance to tap into their creative impulses in an open paddock. There are also six other horse offerings including the Equine Experience (looking at your personal patterns by performing a range of equestrian tasks), Journey to Self (walking horses through a series of obstacles), and Purple Sage Meditation (using mindfulness techniques). The only prerequisites? Be curious and present.
Outside the horse arena, I loved the resort’s unique eastern and spiritual experiences. A few of my favorites included Ayurvedic specialist Clinton Horner, who taught me my dosha type (the nature that makes up our strengths and challenges) and coming up with ways to eat and perform. The healer Tejpal’s intensive 50-minute Soul Guidance helped me see where I was clinging to old dramas. She also taught me how to breathe with intention, and from the belly (it turns out, I had a very shallow breath). A psychic reading from the bubbly Alexandra Nicol, afforded me future career insights; and hinted at who I might meet romantically in the next two years (I remain cautiously optimistic). I also visited the kind-hearted, intuitive Madre Emilia for a hands-on reiki session. My favorite treatment, the Qi Journey, a mashup of Nuad Bo Rarn (ancient Thai massage), acupuncture, and craniosacral therapy provided the perfect combination of stretching and balance.
Of course, Miraval offers oodles of facials and massages. Because this was the desert, I opted for the Cara Vida facial using the sweetly-scented, organic Maya Chia line packed with vitamin C-rich chia seeds to exfoliate and afterwards, a nourishing honey moisturizer. Later, an invigorating Deep Desert massage with arnica and rosemary helped relieve my achy limbs, while a full body Prickly Pear scrub sloughed off dryness (expect scaly skin in the arid climate) with extracts of cactus and calendula flower.
Healthy “mindful” meals—included in your stay—are a Miraval mainstay. In between tasty smoothies and ginger shots, dinners at the Cactus Flower were my favorite time to linger and watch the sun fade behind the mountains. At night, my casita provided a warm, amber glow compliments of the kiva fireplace, and I rocked myself into restorative slumber thanks to in-room meditation channels and fluffy custom featherbeds. Come mornings, I either participated in the outback hike (a lovely primer to the cacti-studded terrain) or a gentle stretching class. The resort also offers yoga, pilates, a ropes challenge course, and a plethora of other indoor-outdoor activities from beekeeping to organic cocktail making.
If you find yourself at Miraval, it’s for a reason. Even if you’re just dipping your toes into the spiritual offerings, or are simply looking for an opportunity to unplug and meditate, there is something for everyone. Of course, the real work begins after you’ve left the place. The idea is to take Miraval’s “life in balance” motto and apply it to your day-to-day routine. Back home, I recounted my Sonoran desert experiences to a good friend. It sounded corny but all I could muster about the here-and-now-ethos was: “You get this feeling; they genuinely want to help you there.”
As I talked to Webb after his farewell ceremony, I asked him about how he’d spend his free time. He just smiled and shrugged. Then I asked if life was about being present. Webb smiled again, “We’re here on this planet to help each other heal. Not everyone believes it, but for God sake’s is true.” I simply nodded and said, “okay, so it’s not all about the horse after all.”