By Araxe Hajian
We use the word mindfulness a lot at Miraval Resorts, a place whose whole mission revolves around creating a life in balance through its lens.
Mindfulness is a practice—we call it that because it’s not a one-off thing; it’s a way of life and a mindset that helps us identify our feelings and respond to them in healthy, compassionate ways. It’s how we purposely focus our attention on the present moment—the here and now—and accept it without judgment.
The concept of mindfulness rests on seven pillars. They help us anchor experiences and connect to the intention behind every activity, structure, meal, or moment. Sometimes, that intention is to be still and do nothing at all. Sometimes it sends us soaring on zip lines through treetops.
Remove the labels and see things without judgment.
We get super caught up in a world that compulsively and relentlessly marks our experiences as either good or bad, happy or sad, triumphant or tragic. Imagine how liberating it is to pay attention to a moment without judging it; to experience it for what it is without trying to turn it into anything else.
When I go to Miraval, one of the first things I sign up for is Floating Meditation. It lets me off the judgment hook and hoists me into a hanging silk that only has room for tranquility, calm, and peace.
Whether in Arizona, Austin, or Berkshires, I slip into those smooth silks and feel snugly swaddled into a space where judgment, along with gravity, is suspended for a good long stretch.
Understand that things will unfold in their own time.
I’m a fidgeter, and I like to move, so it’s no surprise that I get impatient when I try some forms of meditation. I love walking the Labyrinth at any of the three properties because it lets me move while slowing down. It helps me pause by giving me a different way to pace.
If you focus on putting one foot in front of the other, you might—like me—stop worrying about the fact that it’s a rocky road: indirect and roundabout. Before you know it, you suddenly stop hurrying. You instantly get out of fix-it mode and stop trying to finagle a faster route.
The labyrinth is a deliberate, ancient path, a sacred inward journey with one winding way to the center and one way back. It reminds me to ask myself when I get back home: What’s the rush?
See things as if for the first time.
Few things make me see through a child’s eye as much as peering into a real, functioning honeybee hive. Miraval’s apiaries and beekeepers take you into a wild and whimsical world buzzing with a life that’s nothing like ours.
Hanging out with the bees taught me that I can view the world without projecting myself onto it. When we were kids, we accepted that most things that were magical and fabulous didn’t make much sense. We cared less about bending mysteries to logic or warping wonder into familiar structures and more about being dazzled, amazed, and awed.
In a lifestyle that’s all about proving what masters we are at our jobs and roles, it’s a sweet revelation and relief to step into a child’s shoes again, taste hive-fresh honey, and think with a beginner’s mind.
Develop a belief in yourself while valuing feelings and intuition.
Miraval Resorts’ challenge courses are a master class in figuring out how to trust—your team, your belayer, the ropes—the universe itself. I have done it solo and with girlfriends; I’ve been out on a limb and supple as a flying squirrel, and I have landed in an ungraceful (though unharmed) heap on the ground.
Each time was different, but the constant conceptual net that held me every time was the belief that I could climb up that pole, jump off that platform, or just take in the view (and not jump), depending on where I was mentally, physically, and spiritually on that day. And that was ok.
It made me feel like I could trust my intuition to tell me when it felt ok to say yes or no to the activity at hand. I learned to trust that my feelings would be honored, no matter what I chose to do or not do. Miraval challenge courses have taught me that instead of hiding my vulnerability in a dark corner, I can hold it like a torch.
Be present with intention while letting go of attachment to future results.
The first time I went on a Miraval Hike, I was determined to get to the summit and get the perfect photo. We never made it to the top; it rained, my battery died, and I took no pictures. And guess what? It was the best hike I’d ever taken.
I made new friends, I learned how to forage for mushrooms, and I got soaking wet in an old-growth forest, and it felt good! I was so caught up in finishing the trek at the beginning of the hike, but after I let go of the idea of having to come back with results (summit reached, photo snapped, steps recorded on exercise monitor), I let myself find new things, new people, and new feelings.
Sometimes the best discoveries come when we stop striving so much and embrace what we find along the way.
See things as they are and acknowledge the present moment’s reality.
When bad things happen, sometimes it feels like this growing and flowing life of fusion suddenly fractures and will never come together again. Miraval’s Beauty of Imperfection workshop made me rethink my ideas of being broken or whole.
Plus, sometimes it feels weirdly good to take a hammer and whack a delicate, perfect piece of pottery. It’s not one of those smashing rooms where you just go break things—there’s an idea behind it: you reassemble the shattered shards and highlight the glued-together seams with gold.
If non-judging taught me to let go of labels, then acceptance helped me embrace a non-binary way of seeing things as they are: not the perfect spheres of the past or a pined-for magically reassembled future, but a patched-together, imperfect thing, held together with hard-earned authenticity and a golden glow.
LETTING GO/LETTING BE
Observe your thoughts and feelings calmly and let them be.
I can observe that there has been sadness in my life, and I can let that sit next to the joy I feel when the chocolate taco appears on the Cactus Flower dessert menu.
I can notice my muscles’ tightness from typing onto a screen all day, and I can let them relax under skilled hands at the Life in Balance Spa.
Treatments like Abhyanga taught me how to get rid of old skin and let go of old ideas. Why hang onto things that make us feel scaly, thirsty, or rough when we can dry-brush our limbs and clear our minds?
While mindfulness is something we all can access, it serves us best when we practice it daily. Sometimes our days get the better of us, and we need a refresh, a reminder, and a reorientation for how we access our higher selves and adapt mindfully when our situations shift.
Toddlers turn into teenagers; our jobs morph locations from office to screen to office again; our parents will age and need us as much as our children do.
Am I always consistently mindful in everything I do? Nope.
But am I always consistently aware that I have the choice to be so? One hundred percent.
I’m a single mom of two teenage boys. I would love to tell you that my response to a melted carton of ice cream left on the kitchen counter overnight is “Namaste.” It’s not.
Sometimes, knowing that there is another option besides a knee-jerk reaction helps me slow down and consider the alternative to reacting impulsively—responding mindfully. I may not have ascended yet to the level of feeling gratitude for a sticky counter, but I have moved beyond uttering an automatic battle cry.
At Miraval Resorts, we get a few precious days to reset and recall who we are at our core; we remember how mindfulness can propel us out of our stuck spots and open our hearts and minds to acceptance, peace—and even a sense of bliss.
Just like us, our intentions change with each Miraval visit, but what remains constant is the philosophy and guiding principles that beckon like a beam of light from each property, keeping our paths clear and well-lit, even in uncertain times.
Araxe Hajian is a senior writer who covers wellness stories and specialist offerings at Miraval Resorts & Spas. She was associate editor and writer at Life in Balance Magazine, storyteller at the social platform MindMeet, and author of numerous articles and Miraval Resorts’ coffee-table book Miraval Mindful by Design.