Miraval Austin Offers Balance, Bluebonnets & Reprieve from Languishing
Alex Reichek visits the Hill Country resort with a friend for healthy food, fitness and flowers
Story and photographs by Alex Reichek
Instead of feeling relief after getting vaccinated, I put pressure on myself to be up and running in the same way I lived before the pandemic. I thought I needed to make plans for every second of the day, accept every invitation, enjoy nightly dinners out, meet new people and confirm travel for the summer. My mind got ahead of my body. My expectations were too high. I really just wanted to stay home and rest, which I did, but I felt awful for being in bed on a Saturday afternoon when I could be out meeting new people or having fun with friends.
When I told a friend about not feeling like my social, perky self, she sent me The New York Times article on languishing. It describes the same empty feeling I was experiencing, and it turns out that many others were in the same boat.
Without knowing it, I’d already made plans that would help my case of languishing – a getaway to Miraval, a resort that focuses on wellness and balance. After not seeing her for more than a year, my best friend flew down from NYC at the end of April and we headed to Miraval’s inaugural Bluebonnet Festival. Their Hill Country property, just a 30-minute drive from downtown Austin, is an ideal place to connect with nature, to heal and to unplug. For the festival, the folks at Miraval 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.”
Driving into the resort felt like an escape with hills and lush greenery on both sides of the narrow, winding roads. Upon check-in, we received a backpack, water bottle, a quick tour and magazine that described daily activities like yoga, meditation, spa treatments, water sports and more. But we started by jumping into the dining area for afternoon snacks and to enjoy the awesome 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. With phones turned off, we sat down as a light rain sprinkled over us and enjoyed bowls of greens, pesto tofu, beets, edamame, cabbage and an amazing fajita-flavored, stir-fried mushroom topping.
Surrounded by nature and with nowhere else to be but with my best friend, I felt like I’d been given an extra dose of medicine and joy. With our backpacks stuffed with mind-blowing avocado and cocoa cookies, we decided to catch a discussion that just happened to be starting called “Life, Loss, and Letting Go,” led by the resident therapist and wellness counselor Lori Mulady Burdick.
When asked what we hoped to get out of the class, I said I wanted to let go of the need to do everything and show up for everyone. Others discussed the death of a spouse, experiencing PTSD or a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Lori simplified the stages of grief in the order of shock, disorganization and reorganization. Manifested in many ways, recovery takes a different amount of time for each person, so whether you are experiencing a breakup or the death of someone you care about, there is no certain amount of time in which you should be free from grief.
She encouraged us to listen to our bodies and experience feelings and to understand that advancing through the stages may not always be linear. Like swelling, grief takes time to go down, but it may go back up. It may include symptoms such as brain fog, worsening eyesight and digestion problems. The most helpful words she spoke were about rejecting the idea of a new normal. You will get back to your old self if you let your body do what it needs to do and hold space for the period of disorganization without pushing yourself. She described it like a caterpillar being in a cocoon. Once you have made it through, you will emerge like a butterfly.
I found this so useful because even though I’d received my shots, my body wasn’t ready for me to fully immerse back into “normal” activity. A few gentle words of encouragement helped me understand that I will fly again like a butterfly. Being immersed in nature at Miraval really helped move me along in my disorganization phase – just by understanding what I was going through instead of thinking I was burned out or not as social as I used to be.
To keep the day blooming, I headed to my River Flower Wrap at the spa. This treatment included a dry-brush exfoliation and “phyto-nutrient masque that restores moisture … a layer of botanical butter for deep hydration and repair and … a therapeutic scalp and foot massage.” While this was super relaxing, I also loved the waiting area with its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking green brush and smooth lake water. I enjoyed the quiet time and let it all sink in—literally and figuratively – on the spa’s fluffy daybed couches.
The next day my friend and I joined a morning stretch class and then a bluebonnet photography class with resident photographer, Jess. I learned so much from him! This was one of my favorite experiences. He taught me so much about composition – and to turn the phone upside down in portrait mode to get the best right side up shot! Who knew?
Next was cardio drumming which was hilarious and freeing! Each participant had an exercise ball and two drumsticks. Our teacher played music by Robyn, Queen and Missy Elliott while we danced around, drummed the ball with our sticks, did lunges and leapt for joy. I laughed yet still got a great cardio workout.
That afternoon, we took a short quick nap, dove into the pool and soaked in the hot tub. We also jogged the Blue Trail, a narrow path with wooden steps that reminded me of River Place Nature Trail but not as tough.
For dinner, we opted for “Just Cook For Me,” which is a private five-course meal with wine pairings prepared by Chef Lexie. This was an incredible experience – partly because of the human connection, which has been missing from much of Austin’s restaurant industry.
Our surprise menu included a butternut squash risotto; a light green salad with cheese-stuffed dates; perfectly cooked salmon with turmeric; broccoli rabe with pistachios and capers; gnocchi and chimichurri steak; and a decadent avocado mousse.
The ethos of the dining program at Miraval is about making choices easier and healthier in a balanced way. The “Just Cook For Me” experience lets the chef be creative and do what she pleases while sticking to these guidelines.
On our last day, we ate a breakfast of overnight oats made with chia seeds, raisins, cinnamon, goji berries, maple syrup and oat milk. We hung upside down in the yoga barn and then carefully crawled into a silk hammock to rock back and forth while listening to our floating meditation teacher’s soft words and the sound bath.
My two days at Miraval were invigorating and balancing. The experience 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 helped 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.