An Enchanted Experience

Finding Peace Among the Pull of Sedona’s Red Rocks
Written by Heather KW Brown

Some come for the views or the adventure. Others come for the healing and spiritual guidance for which the area is known. I had come to the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Ariz. for all of the above. Why not venture in the vicinity of vortexes?IMG_141212_11430115_Z1PWREager to feel “magnetic forces,” I assessed the dusty trail I’d chosen to hike in the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness and debated my options: I could peer over the precipice in front of me (not likely), attempt to scale the crimson monolith beside me (even less likely) or head back to the resort.

Flanked by a canvas of canyons and paralyzed with possibilities, I stared into the horizon in search of an answer … or at least an invisible push. It didn’t happen. I did, however, sense something was definitely different in Sedona, as if the rocks knew something I didn’t. I would have to wait to find out.

Moving Forward
Said to possess a captivating past, Boynton Canyon is home to Enchantment Resort, an all-inclusive, boutique spa resort perched approximately 114 miles south of the Grand Canyon. Blending into its iconic Southwest backdrop, the 70-acre resort coordinates culture commensurate with its rugged splendor. A similar description is apt for the resort’s casitas, which guests call home while visiting.

IMG_141212_11352031_SRPB1As fate would have it, my casita sat a mere 3-minute walk from the world-renowned Mii amo spa. Opened in 2001 as one of the first destination spas within a resort, it is an achievement in architecture as much as a luxurious experience. The spa, situated in the slope of a canyon wall, is decorated in Native American colors and design elements that nod respectfully to its indigenous roots.

Mii amo is a Yuman word meaning “to continue one’s path, moving forward, or journey,” so it’s no surprise that much like its natural surroundings, the spa embraces a holistic approach to rejuvenation. The level of expertise for therapists in Sedona, revered as it is for therapeutic qualities, is just as sublime as the resort’s five-star amenities.

Utilizing the anti-aging properties of the prickly pear and pomegranate seed extracts, my 60-minute Prickly Pear Butter experience also included a refreshing sea salt and jojoba body polish followed by a wrap in warm massage sheets. While the spa has its fair share of treatments typically available, Mii amo offers speciality options as well such as the Aura-Soma color reading (a color system said to reveal who we really are, our talents, our gifts and life lessons) and Inner Quest, which uses the four directions of the Medicine Wheel representing the four stages of life.

Tucked into the folds of its 24,000-square foot, bi-level building is also a fitness facility, juice bar, fabulous restaurant and an open kitchen, where I would return later for a cooking demonstration. Ahh … the food. Essentially the only competition the view has comes from the culinary creations found at each of Enchantment’s dining options — from cocktails and appetizers at View 180, to dinner at Chi-Ah-Chi, the resort’s signature restaurant and desert around the fire pit at Tii Gavo.

Appeasing my appetite came second to the tugging on my curiosity. Inside the spa awaited the Crystal Grotto — a  place of ceremony and transformation based on a Native American kiva — and the Mii amo cairn garden in the central atrium of the spa.Mark Boisclair Photography, Inc.

Setting an Intention
Sitting still is not one of my strengths, so walking into the meditation grotto was an exercise far outside my comfort zone. Thankfully, a sign stands sentry at the entrance reminding regulars and educating the inexperienced like myself on how to properly participate.

I was to enter to the left and walk clockwise around the circle to the last available seat. Next, it read: Stand on the earth, feel the power of mother earth supporting you. Take three deep breaths into your abdomen. Relax your shoulders and let your worries fall like water off of a duck’s back. Take a seat. Take a moment to focus on the crystal and set your intention for the day. Your intention may be to relax, to breathe deeply, be joyful, or whatever your heart desires.

What it didn’t explain was how to silence the noises in my head. Any intention of being relaxed had already been accomplished by the massage … which enabled me to breathe deeply … and that made me joyful. So far, I was on a good path and it had little to do with the crystals or the burning sage wafting throughout the grotto.

Eventually, I tuned into the guided meditation in hopes that it might work. My visit to Enchantment Resort came shortly after Father’s Day weekend during which we always also celebrated my dad’s birthday. I had stumbled my way through the first round of dad-day holidays without him and was looking forward to a healthy escape away from everyday life.

Turns out, you can’t always dodge life’s punches and fi nding a way to “continue on one’s path” becomes key. Perhaps this explains why the spa also has a labyrinth and a cairn garden. The ritual of stacking stones into a pile, called a cairn, is a centuries-old practice used to memorialize people, locations and events. Ranging in size and shape, the stones are usually indigenous and while Native Americans assembled cairns for ceremonial purposes, the process is also associated with prayer or meditation as the task of selecting each stone has proven restorative.

I found where I wanted to place my cairn and took my sweet time deciding which rocks worked best. I topped it with a wishing stone, said to infuse a sense of peacefulness, and let out a long sigh.  Whether I was acknowledging the end or the beginning of something bigger would have to be settled later — after the pull of Enchantment’s adventurous activities had been answered.

Getting into a Groove
Rising before Sedona’s wildlife the next morning, my friend and I donned our mountain bike gear and headed to meet our guide. Having never been on a mountain bike, my friend was rightfully nervous and despite any invincibility I had in my 20s, I too was concerned.

Created for daring dames eager to tackle the toughest trails as well as for those of us simply looking for a fun day on the bike, the Diamonds in the Rough program has become a popular outing for female guests. Though the resort offers plenty of opportunity for adults, families and youngsters to receive instruction with a guide both privately and in a group, the need still existed for a women’s only option — taught by women, to women. Our instructor spent two hours leading us along the area’s best single track, stopping at important places to demonstrate the best technique for that particular part of the terrain.

It was the perfect start to a day that was bookended with exercise. The same afternoon, I moseyed down to the tennis court for a much-needed lesson. Enchantment has been a hub for avid tennis players since 1987, when John Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch first opened. As tennis enthusiasts came to understand and appreciate the allure of the locale, “Enchantment Resort” seemed a more appropriate moniker.

IMG_141216_15030409_W19CSA bit of enchanting was required by my tennis instructor Claudette Laliberte, the USPTA certified Elite Professional voted USTA Northern Arizona Teaching Pro of the Year in 2014. Besides being “slightly” rusty, I also happened to forget that while the altitude hadn’t affected my breathing, it certainly was a factor when hitting the ball. A few of my first shots “might” have sailed over the court and into the bocce ball area before the ever-patient Laliberte managed to settle my swing.

Friendly reminder: the lower density of the air means the ball will travel farther so power is not as essential as control. Being able to rally and having a professional fix my bad habits left me eager to play again, but Enchantment Resort offers more than 100 activities each week — from yoga classes, mountain bike/hiking excursions, vortex walks and tennis lessons to rituals in the Crystal Grotto, cooking demonstrations, Native American Flute, wine tastings and stargazing — all of which are free to registered guests.

Once the sun had set and twilight had settled in, I returned to the tennis court for stargazing in Sedona’s night sky. I imagined everyone on their backs staring toward the heavens; instead, local experts had strategically arranged high-powered telescopes around the court for optimal viewing. When it was my turn, I peered through the lens, paused, lifted my head above the telescope and then dove back for another peek. There were Saturn’s rings as close and clear as if someone was holding a picture on the other side.

Finding an Answer
Maybe I’d realized it already, but that night, it finally hit me. Destinations can be beautiful, but the memorable ones become experiences we don’t forget. Yes, Sedona’s rocks, lined in lighter whites and tans at the top with burnt orange and canyon reds between layers, are breathtaking. Yes, Enchantment Resort encourages guests to nourish body, mind and soul with the incredible amenities available. Ultimately though, like the crevices and indentations in the rocks, where promise and character reveal a sense of survival, the magnetic forces are found within. On the walk back to my casita, I thought about the trail I’d hiked only days earlier. I couldn’t see it in the dark, but I no longer needed to — I knew it was out there. That it would always be there.

Clearly, I had come to remember.