Making Mindful Connections at Miraval


Good Things Happen When People Connect: Making Mindful Connections at Miraval
By Erica Keswin of The Spaghetti Project


In July, Red Flower and The Spaghetti Project were hosted by Miraval Arizona for The Red Flower Self-Care Beauty Makers Retreat. This was an opportunity to rethink the importance of self-care in your daily life and learn the traditional processes that create life enhancing beauty products in an engaging series of talks and hands-on activity programming. Erica Keswin, of The Spaghetti Project, led a conversation about honoring relationships with yourself and others. How to create Mindful Connections and the importance of digital detox was discussed. Erica shares with us her experiences.

Technology is an ever-increasing presence in our lives pressing our already-full schedules into total information overload. And while we women are particularly skilled at the multi-tasking that our devices makes possible, taking care of our family’s business in between everything else—work, kids—taking care of ourselves and our nourishing relationships falls further and further down the list.

I have seen this in my travels first hand, studying the impact of technology on relationships. And I have learned that for women, these connections are especially important because we are uniquely wired to relate; our hormones depend on it! But here’s the thing. What I have also found is that (excuse the pun) left to our own devices we—men and women—just aren’t connecting. And that if we are going to make a change and invest time in ourselves and our relationships, we have to be intentional.

So when Yael Alkalay, the founder and CEO of Red Flower, an incredibly luxurious beauty and aromatherapy brand invited me to join her in hosting a retreat at Miraval Resort in Arizona of course I gratefully accepted. I have long been a fan of Red Flower’s mission to “promote a long-term quest for wellness,” and Miraval is all about “nourishing ourselves with mindful choices,” so I couldn’t wait to get in on the action and talk about the power of making mindful connections.

Connecting with Ourselves

The retreat began on Friday afternoon, with Yael leading us on a walk through Miraval’s organic garden. It was a wonderful way to open up to ourselves and our senses, preparing us for the day ahead. Yael helped us notice the different scents we were breathing in, and helped us think about what we would want to put on our skin, not only as a beauty regimen (which she would describe to us later), but as a form of deep self-care. She told us a little bit about the ingredients, such as mint, sage, basil, rosemary and the process that Red Flower uses, and by the end all of the guests and I felt more awake.

The following day over lunch, Yael shared ways to incorporate mindfulness into our daily routines. And since most people (not counting my 12 year old son Daniel, that is) shower or bathe every day, that is the perfect time to introduce some rituals. This is where, in addition to sharing her amazing products, Yael also exposed us to the contrast bathing process that anyone can follow. Contrast bathing is the process of heating and cooling the body to detox.  After our morning session, we all went our separate ways, but later in the day, Yael and I saw guests fresh from their showers, and boy were they glowing (physically and mentally) about the experience.

Finally, in the afternoon, Yael brought all of this together and had guests actually make a beauty balm with coconut oil, Miraval homegrown honey, and fresh herbs of sage, lavender, and chamomile. The art of smelling the ingredients and working with our hands was a meditation in and of itself. As I looked around the room and saw 20 people deeply engaged, smiling, and laughing, I couldn’t help but notice there was not a phone in sight. Except at the end of our making session when guests gathered for photos with each other and to text each other their contacts.

Connecting with Others

In the evening, I hosted a Spaghetti Project dinner for guests to come together and talk about their challenges in honoring relationships and managing technology in their lives. The Spaghetti Project’s name (a question I get asked frequently) comes from a study out of Cornell University that found that firefighters who eat together save more lives.  So, we need to look up from our computers and invest in our relationships.

I have hosted a lot of these dinners. But boy, was this ever a power-connect!

We met in the Coyote dining room, an intimate setting where we also got to see right into the kitchen. I started the dinner by going around the table and asking each participant to introduce him or herself and share a challenge they were dealing with in managing the role of technology in their lives. The participants ranged in age from late twenties to seventies, they came from all over the country, and they all had very different challenges. But what everyone shared was how emotional the topic was.

  • A woman with young children shared how upset she was when one of her young children recently said, “When I grow up, I want an Ipad just like you.”
  • A woman who works two jobs, shared that she falls into the trap of responding to email for large parts of the day and doesn’t ever get to the more important/strategic parts of her business.
  • A newlywed talked about how she wants to connect with her husband when he comes home from work in the few hours they have together. She can’t seem to get him on the same page.
  • A woman shared her struggle with alcohol and how AA has become a tribe where she knows she is never alone. Those connections (even with strangers) give her strength.
  • A woman in her 70s shared how isolated she feels with the technology all around her. She feels sad when she sees how her own children and grandchildren are so wrapped up in their devices. She yearns for the day when this technology didn’t exist.

These challenges are very real, but the good news is that they are absolutely do-able with discipline. To that end, I shared a process with the group that I often use to help others manage technology and invest in relationships in both their personal or professional lives.

Connecting the Dots

We all want to feel more connected. But how? We don’t have to look far. Our lives are completely ready to support our desires for stronger relationships. We just have to connect some dots and make it happen. Here are three places to start:

1)   Prioritize Relationships. Begin by asking yourself, Does my calendar reflect my values? At Miraval the staff wears name tags that say “Unplug. Be Present.”  What kind of name tag are you wearing? What kind do you want to wear?

2)   Position Technology to Strengthen Relationships.  We need to take advantage of all that is great about technology, but also put it “in its place.” In other words, we need to find the “Sweet Spot.” At Miraval, there are technology free zones where guests are expected to put their technology away in order to focus on other things, like self-care. Of course, guests can catch up on their emails in the privacy of their own rooms.

3)   Develop Protocols. We think our technology has been around forever, but it hasn’t been! We need rules of the road to help us navigate what I call “The Wild West.” For instance, I love that Miraval provides guests with a cell phone sleeping bag. Cell phones impact our sleep and our ability to “turn off” at the end of the day. These bags, while so simple, give us a process, a ritual that is so important in making any kind of change. And guests get to take them home.

What a gift.

On the final morning, Yael and I hosted a breakfast to answer any questions so that guests could walk away from the retreat with some clarity and confidence about making connections in their lives. But something interesting happened. As guests came to breakfast, I could see a shift had already taken place.

We had a lovely conversation, but they didn’t need us to guide them. We had invested important time over the weekend to learn about how to take better care of ourselves and to take the time to connect with others. While they were sad to leave Miraval (who wouldn’t be!) they had a newfound confidence in their ability to connect with themselves and others in their lives.

And once again I saw with my own eyes just how true it is that good things happen when people connect.


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