Visit Miraval Austin for a Healing & Outdoor Resort Escape

After I got my vaccine, instead of feeling the relief I was looking for, I put all this pressure on myself that I needed to ultimately be up and running the same way I used to be. My thoughts were that I needed to be making plans for every second of the day, saying yes to every invitation, nightly dinners out, meeting new people, and confirming travel for the summer, so that I had plans to look forward to. My mind got a little too far ahead of my body and the expectations caused me to feel like all I wanted to do was actually rest and stay home. So, I listened to myself, but felt awful laying in bed on a Saturday afternoon when I could be meeting new people or having fun with friends. Then I told my friend that I hadn’t been my social, perky self lately, and she sent me The New York Times article on Languishing. It was the exact blah and empty feeling I was describing that millions of people were also feeling. Luckily, I had already planned a fun, getaway to Miraval, a resort known for wellness and balance, with my best friend who flew down from NYC at the end of April! We hadn’t seen each other for a year, and they had their inaugural special “Bluebonnet Festival” all month long to match their plethora of gorgeous flowers on their Hill Country property– just a 30 minute drive from downtown. The resort is all about connecting with nature to heal and encourages you to unplug. They put together “a series of programs that immerse guests in the beauty of Texas’ Bluebonnets and like the state flower, discover beauty in their own imperfections and find renewal after a difficult year.” This included a walking Wildflower Meditation, Bluebonnet Photography, Kintsugi, a traditional Japanese art in the Garden, and more that they will offer again next year.

Driving into the resort felt like an immediate escape with the hills and lush greenery willowing over both sides of the narrow, windy roads. We were basically headed straight into the jungle, but in Texas. Upon check-in we got a cute one shoulder backpack, water bottle, quick tour, and magazine that described all of the daily activities, yoga, meditation, discussions, spa treatments, culinary, farm and garden, equine, water sports, nutrition, etc. which are endless yet exciting not overwhelming. Then, we, of course, jumped into the dining area to check out the afternoon snacks and awesome lunch salad bar! The culinary team is all about the healthy lifestyle with nutritious foods, hot teas, an all-day smoothie bar, fruits, etc. (all meals are included in the hotel stay). The dining deck overlooks Lake Travis and you immediately feel a sense of calming surrounded by healing foods that make you feel good! With phones turned off, we sat down with a little rain sprinkling over us while we enjoyed a bowl of greens, pesto tofu, beets, edamame, cabbage, and this amazing fajita flavored stir-fried mushroom topping. Being surrounded my nature, trees, flowers, and all of these natural properties where you have nowhere else to be but in front of your best friend hashing out life and laughing at stories is an automatic dose of medicine and joy. We then scurried off to our first scheduled discussion (after stuffing our backpacks with the avocado cocoa cookies that blew our mind: whole ingredients, low cal, and thankfully available everyday in the grab-and-go section!

We walked into the intimate discussion scheduled for that day called Life, Loss, and Letting Go which included their resident therapist and wellness counselor Lori Mulady Burdick. I didn’t have a specific reason to go into this, but Tracy and I wanted to experience everything the resort had to offer and this was the available activity at the moment. I was already feeling vulnerable due to stress before I arrived, so when she asked what we were hoping to get out of the class, I said Letting Go of feeling the need to do everything and show up for everyone. Being the youngest in the room of less than 10, other people discussed their spouse dying, husband having Alzheimer’s, PTSD, and then I just felt wow…

Lori went on to simplify the stages of grief in the order of Shock, Disorganization, Reorganization. It’s manifested in many ways and recovery takes a different amount of time for each person, so whether you are experiencing a breakup, loss, death, there is never a certain amount of time in which YOU should be free from it. You must listen to your body and feel your feelings, and yes, you can have a moment where you think you are out of the disorganization period and get too excited to move on and have to step back again. She taught us that like swelling, grief takes time to go down including the effects that come with it such as brain fog, worsening eye sight, digestion, cortisol. If there are any words that helped me the most it was that this is NOT your new normal and you will get back to yourself once you go through all three stages. Let your body do what it needs to do and hold space for the period of disorganization without pushing yourself through. She described it like a caterpillar being in a cocoon needing to take care of itself and repair, and once you have made it and are ready, you will escape out like a butterfly. Well this thoroughly helped me not only for my future understanding as I get older and deal with major grief and loss, but it made me realize that all of these symptoms described is exactly what I was experiencing—even my eye sight as someone who has 20/20! Therefore, a lightbulb went off for me— I was grieving covid being “over” after I got my shots, yet my body wasn’t ready to fully immerse myself back into “normal” activity. Her gentle words of encouragement to understand that this is not totally you and you will fly again like that butterfly, instantly gave me the comfort and warmth I needed. Being immersed at the Miraval in nature and quiet really helped move me along in my disorganization phase— just understanding what I was really going through instead of thinking I was burned out or just not as social as I used to be anymore.

To keep the day blooming, I was off to my River Flower Wrap Spa. It entailed a dry-brush exfoliation for a “phyto-nutrient masque that restores moisture. A layer of botanical butter for deep hydration and repair and ended with a therapeutic scalp and foot massage.” While this was super relaxing, I loved going into the waiting area after which overflowed with giant floor-to-ceiling windows looking over the green brush and smooth lake water. They had fluffy day bed couches to lounge on and I kept enjoying my quiet time, and let it all sink in—literally and figuratively. In addition, beds in the rooms are probably the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in at a hotel. Not sure if it’s the comforter or the bed itself, but for a mind and health-focused resort like Miraval, they did it!!

The next day began at 8 a.m. with our slow Morning Stretch class and then a Bluebonnet Photography Class with their resident photographer, Jess, who once had his own dark room on his property in Bastrop. I learned SO much from him! This was one of my favorite experiences as he taught me the rule of thirds when taking a photo and thoughtfully curating the composition into a grid—you can add grid in the settings of the camera. He taught me that what is out of focus in a photo still plays a big part of a story and to turn the phone upside down when in Portrait mode to get the best right side up shot—who knew? As you can see, we got real down and dirty with all the wild flowers. Next, was cardio drumming which was hilarious and freeing! Each participant had an exercise ball and two drum sticks. Our teacher played girl power and upbeat music from Robyn, Queen, Missy Elliott, while we danced around, drummed the ball with our sticks, did lunges, and leaped for joy. I was laughing yet still got a great cardio workout. This is definitely feel-good for the soul.

Then, we took a quick nap because who can resist those sheets, and then dove into the big pool by the spa. I jogged back and forth a bit while watching the trees sway (it was murky weather which made it all the more relaxing) and then we hot tubbed before we went for a 10 minute run on the blue trail. We figured we had to go through the leaves and marked off path before our late dinner. The narrow path with wooden steps reminded me a bit of River Place Nature Trail topography but not as tough. For dinner, we opted for the Just Cook For Me which is a private dinner with Chef Lexie in a separate room where you feel like you are on the Food Network watching her roam around her giant kitchen putting together a five-course meal before your eyes with wine pairings. This experience made me feel alive again as the restaurant industry experience has not been what it used to, and this human connection, taste, and feel was a real winner! Our surprise menu began with a butternut squash risotto and balsamic appetizer; a light green salad with cheese-stuffed dates; perfectly cooked salmon with turmeric, broccoli rabe with pistachios and capers; gnocchi and chimichurri steak (yes, there were two entrees), and finished off with a decadent avocado mousse. Waiting on these recipes don’t you worry! While the whole ethos of the dining program at the Miraval is making choices easier and healthier in a balanced way, the Just Cook For Me is a little extra where the chef can be creative and do what she pleases while also sticking to the guidelines lightly.

On our way out the last day, we snuck in one last breakfast. I LOVED the overnight oats made with chia seeds, raisins, cinnamon, goji berries, maple syrup, and oatmilk. We let our bodies hang upside down in the yoga barn that had a gorgeous platform for Floating Meditation. This is the most calming experience where you carefully crawl into a silk hammock and rock back and forth slowly listening to the teacher’s soft meditative words and sound bath bowls. You sway and kind of feel like you are in the ocean as you float weightlessly.

The two days here at Miraval were invigorating, balancing, and helped put my mind back into my own body. As an overly active person who is always running, swimming, and hiking, doing these soft activities was a way to help me rest yet still feel good physically. There is no better medicine than nature, supportive friends, healthy food you can’t get enough of, and two days of recharging where no one expects anything out of you. At Miraval you show up for yourself and so does the warm and helpful staff.