A luxurious Texas Hill Country resort offers experiences ranging from adventurous to indulgent, with an emphasis on disconnecting from technology and embracing the world around you.
Before embarking on a trip to Miraval Austin, it helps if you know the answer to one simple question: What’s your purpose? Opened early last year in the heart of Texas Hill Country, on the site of the former Travaasa Austin resort, Miraval Austin is neighbored by 220 acres of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve overlooking Lake Travis. The setting is as beautiful as it is serene, and I immediately felt lighter the moment I set foot on the property — or, as the resort’s motto suggests, life started to feel a little more in balance. Like the flagship Miraval resort and spa situated outside Tucson, Arizona, the Austin offshoot is a Choose Your Own Adventure-style retreat, offering unique activities for nearly every type of traveler. Whether you’re in search of adventure, relaxation, or wellness of mind or body, Miraval’s experienced planners can help you create a personalized itinerary for whatever your soul desires.
When I visited the property last fall, my purpose was to get a taste of everything the resort had to offer. I had recently left my full-time job as a magazine editor to try out life as a freelancer, so I was a woman in transition and, therefore, a prime candidate for Miraval’s mindfulness-based programming. A little bit of adventure sounded good to me, but so did some rest and relaxation. And who doesn’t need to recommit to their mental and physical well-being every now and then? For my two-night stay in one of the resort’s Dreamcatcher rooms, which are outfitted with the plushest, coziest featherbeds I’ve ever experienced, I booked a spa treatment, some meditation classes, a tour of the property’s on-site farm, and a session with one of Miraval’s equine specialists.
Upon check-in, I was happy to discover that Miraval’s 20,000-square-foot Life in Balance Spa sat just a few steps from my room. I had a facial scheduled the day I arrived, a treatment my dull skin desperately needed, but I also had a new mystery novel I couldn’t wait to crack open, and there was a chaise in the spa’s relaxation room that was calling my name. The treatment I chose, the Vitamin C Facial, was billed as an intensive treatment that would brighten and stimulate skin — and, best of all, the facial promised instant results. When my 50-minute session was over, my skin really did glow, and I felt more relaxed than I had in ages. Still dressed in my robe and slippers, I grabbed my book and made a beeline to the spa lounge, where expansive windows let in spectacular Hill Country views. It was the best possible way to kick off my stay.
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Because Miraval encourages living in the moment — a foreign concept for so many of us these days — cell phones and digital devices are permitted in designated areas only. As someone who checks email and Instagram about a thousand times a day, I had a hard time sliding into “Miraval Mode” at first, but by day two, I was ready to embrace being untethered from technology. I popped out of bed early that day, turned off my iPhone, and headed to Morning Meditation. I’ve struggled with meditation in the past — my mind instantly turning to my to-do list or messages that need responses or even just some random thought about a Netflix series I recently streamed — so I was determined to master the art of meditation this time. As our guide led a small group of us through the various stages of meditation, encouraging us to breathe deeply, relax, and give thanks, I managed to stay focused most of the time. My mind wandered a few times, but as with any journey, it’s about progress, not perfection, so I still counted it as a win.
It wasn’t until my final day at the resort, however, that Miraval’s mission came fully into focus. During my one-on-one session with equine specialist Paula Basden, I participated in a course called Common Ground. In this experience, you move a horse around a pen without touching or speaking, all in an effort to help you identify your communication strengths and challenges. “This is about lifemanship and not about horsemanship,” Basden said. “It’s about gaining some insights into how you show up in the major relationships that you’re in and how you can change some of the behaviors and actions that you take and the way that you relate to the people you really care about.” As Basden explained it, horses are hard-wired for connection, and because of their natural instincts, they’re able to give us immediate feedback about what’s going on inside of us.
“I never know what’s going to happen when I put someone down in the arena with a horse,” she said. “Sometimes they get in the arena and they start crying.” I nodded as Basden spoke, even though I didn’t really understand how such a beautiful creature could make someone cry. But before I knew it, I was down in the arena myself, standing in front of a 1,200-pound horse named Pepper, who stared at me in silence as tears rolled down my face. I had spent the past few minutes frustrated because Pepper wasn’t moving in the direction I wanted her to. After a while, I gave up, which, admittedly, is something I tend to do when things get too difficult. As Basden and I discussed my frustrations, Pepper strolled over and looked at me with her big, blinking eyes, and I think I know what she was trying to tell me. She was giving me a second chance.
Miraval Austin, 13500 FM 2769, Austin, Texas, 855.234.1672
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Photography: Images courtesy Miraval Austin
From our May/June 2020 issue.