Lydia Fenet: Living a Balanced Life

By Araxe Hajian

I recently spoke with Lydia Fenet, whose Instagram post caught my eye when a colleague sent it to me with a wow-you-must-read-this message attached. I was intrigued and reached out to chat with her. Her response was so warm and compelling that I had to share our conversation with you, Miraval Family. These are the stories that make us feel so grateful for our guests every day.

Four months ago my entire body was broken, battered and bruised in every shade of purple and yellow imaginable. Since the accident, I have been in a constant conversation with my body about when I can push and when it needs grace. If everything goes as planned, in the next two weeks I will be able to bend over for the first time in four months. It’s been a remarkable journey of self discovery. Healing isn’t linear and every day feels like a new beginning – sometimes good and sometimes not as good. But today. What a day. This open blue sky and the ability to stretch my healing body makes me believe there are so many more good days ahead ☀️🙏🏻 🌵 @miravalresorts #miravalmoments

AH: Was this your first visit?

LF: No, my first visit was with my girlfriends from college. I was pregnant with my third child and couldn’t sleep. I got to Miraval and slept for the first time in my pregnancy. I remember falling into that cushiony, wonderful bed and just crashing, then waking up the next morning feeling like I was climbing out of a dream. I remember going on hikes, but taking a lot of naps, too.

AH: What brought you this time?

LF: I had been invited to be part of a coaching session for a visiting group. It seemed perfectly timed with where I was in my life: I hadn’t been traveling a lot because my entire family was in a car accident last year on Halloween.

Someone coming from the other direction flipped over the guardrail and hit us head-on; it was the equivalent of hitting a brick wall going 100 mph. Because of where I was seated in the car, the full impact hit me. I was snapped in half by the seatbelt. The top of the seatbelt broke all of my ribs, and the airbag cut my face open. I had to have surgery because they thought I was bleeding to death internally.

AH: What a terrible thing to go through—emotionally and physically.

LF: I have always been in shape. A lifelong athlete, I ran and exercised all the time. So, it was like going from a fully functioning body to one that did nothing overnight. I was broken in half. It has been an ongoing march back from that point and a lesson in humility. Everything in me wants to run 10 miles with no problem or play any sport I want, and I can’t do that at the rate I could before.

AH: How was it to be back at Miraval Arizona?

LF: It was a very different trip this time, but also amazing. I love that you can set out on your own. In the mornings, I had this incredible time—for the first time in a long time—that was just mine. I would wake up early and write before it got light, which was such a gift because I’m usually frantically writing before my kids get out of bed. I would take long walks and jog on the trails in the early, early morning, and it was so restorative.

I love that you put your phone to sleep. On the first day, you find yourself reaching for it, and it’s almost like a second skin you need to shed. Then you realize that there’s beauty in just looking at a sunrise. The longer you are there, the easier it gets to leave the phone in its little bed—not just during the night but all day.

AH: Were there any services or offerings that were particularly impactful?

LF: I had an amazing neuromuscular massage at the Life in Balance Spa. You think you go into a massage to relax, but it’s really scary to get a massage when you’ve had a spinal fusion. Half my spine was opened up, and I have a titanium rod in my back. So even having anyone touch the scar is very weird because it’s a place where everything hurt for so long.

My therapist said at the beginning, “This is an 80-minute massage, but it is going to be a massage of trust. I need you to trust that I can give you a massage and that it won’t hurt.” A lot of it is psychological when it comes to recovery, especially from intense trauma like mine. We talked the whole time, and he would say, “How about this?” or “Do you see what I’m doing here?” And it was very helpful in getting my mind to a place of being able to say, “You’re right, this doesn’t hurt. It’s not pain.” It’s just uncomfortable, and that’s different.

AH: When movement is replaced with fear, it takes a lot to return to a place of trust and vulnerability, to be able to sit with discomfort.

LF: Yes, it does, but it’s so worth it on the other side.

AH: We don’t always ask who helps the helpers. How was it to be giving and receiving since you were there as a coach?

LF: It fills you up. It fills your cup to the brim, and then you feel like you can give. A lot of times, when you are putting a lot out there, you feel very depleted. So, the opportunity to receive that comfort and general balance is helpful. 

I had missed my connecting flight from Phoenix to Tucson and took a magical ride across the desert to get to Miraval, which helped me transition. My phone didn’t work, and I thought I’d just sit and look out the window. When do you get to do that?

I talked to my driver for two hours as the sun set on the desert—it felt like magic. By the time I got there, I felt so calm and had dinner in the lounge alone (I never do anything by myself because in New York, I have kids, and nothing is ever done alone). I wrote in my journal. It was such a peaceful way to arrive, and it was needed. But I didn’t know that I needed it. I wonder if that’s something a lot of people say about Miraval.

AH: People do say that Miraval calls to them but that they don’t realize they’re responding to a call until they arrive and answer it.

LF: Yes, I can absolutely agree with that. And certainly, when you’ve had an injury like mine. My body wasn’t even connected anymore; the whole thing was broken. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything. So, to be in a place where I felt like I didn’t need to sprint but could move and take a long walk and lose myself and find my way back—it was wonderful to have so many opportunities to move at my own pace.

AH: Did you connect with the attendees?

LF: I was teaching a sales & networking class as part of a corporate retreat to help people unlock their potential and give them key steps in terms of how to be great at selling authentically and making that connection. It’s so easy to do this sort of thing at Miraval because everyone is so relaxed, in their version of athletic chic, and there’s no pressure, urgency, or hectic pace.

It was so lovely to just be with these people—I had dinner with them afterward (I usually don’t linger after a presentation) and ate breakfast with them the next morning. The beauty of Miraval is how there’s such a sense of community. Some people are alone, and some are not. If you want to be alone, you can be; if you don’t, there’s always someone willing to go on a hike with you in the morning. So, even if you come by yourself, you’re not ever truly alone at Miraval. It has an excellent way of drawing you out without pressuring you.

AH: What a treat to be in a place that has already prepped your audience and put them in a mindset of presence.

LF: Everyone was so open to hearing what I had to say. These last few years have depleted all of us, and any activity that makes you go hard or out late is so unappealing for so many right now. It’s more about filling yourself back up and giving yourself the tools to live a more balanced life. Miraval has hit the nail on the head, no question.

AH: What would you want to explore on your next visit?

LF: I would do more classes. I arrived there in such a state of exhaustion and recovery that I took it easy. And that’s ok because Miraval really does meet you wherever you are. I would love to take a few more classes, and I wouldn’t miss out on the massages. They’re my favorite part.

AH: Could you share what was going through your mind when you wrote that Instagram post?

LF: I was inside on the Peloton and thought, why don’t I go outside and just stretch? Especially before that time, I had not done any stretching because I wasn’t even allowed to bend or lift anything as part of my recovery restrictions. So to even feel like I could squat in warrior pose felt so empowering and wonderful. I attribute a lot of that to being in such a calm, beautiful, empowering environment.

The light is so different out there among the desert and mountains. At night, too, those pinks stay on the horizon for so long. It lends itself to so much introspection and a quieting of everything. As a New Yorker going a million miles a minute with three children, it’s nice to have that time to yourself to just think about what has happened in life and what you want from it. It was wonderful.

AH: I love that it was a yoga pose rooted in a Hindu story of grief transformed into compassion. I can imagine how empowering it was to hold that stance.

LF: I was really being conscious of what my body had overcome to get to the point that it could even do that pose. Because the week I left the hospital, I wasn’t allowed to bend over, so they had to teach me to lunge. I remember my whole body shaking with the effort of doing one lunge. The morning of the accident, I had played in two back-to-back tennis clinics. Imagine going from that to being unable to put my knee to the ground without feeling like I was going to die. So, to be able to lunge into warrior pose felt amazing, not painful, and really happy.

You can push yourself in life to more and more, which is fine. But there are also times that you need to step back and realize that success will not always be the same. Success on the morning of the accident looked really different from how it looks now. It’s the small things, right? Success for me now is taking a run outside—a year ago, that might have seemed trivial, but now it’s a big thing.

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.

Lydia Fenet is a global thought leader and Christie’s Ambassador who has led auctions for more than six hundred organizations raising over half a billion dollars for nonprofits globally. Lydia is represented by CAA and travels internationally as a keynote speaker helping people unlock their sales potential and empowering women in the workplace. She was named one of New York’s most influential women by Gotham magazine and has been featured in the New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalForbes and Crain’s, and has appeared in Vogue, Harper’s BazaarVanity Fair and Town & Country. Her widely acclaimed book, ‘The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You’ was published by Simon & Schuster and optioned for TV by Netflix. Lydia’s second book Claim Your Confidence will be published in March 2023.

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