Miraval’s mission extends beyond individual guests, to the world

Thousands of bees encircled me. Their frenzy suggested excitement, confusion, perhaps anger? My usual instinct at the sight of even a single bee is to run for cover, yet I was not afraid. This was because Noel Patterson, resident beekeeper at Miraval Resort, had allayed my fears through education and understanding—and yes, the bee suit helped a bit, too.

Miraval Grounds

Miraval Resort & Spa

Miraval is not your typical resort. Unpretentious—guests sport workout clothes and robes—relaxing, and energizing at the same time, it’s all about self-improvement here. Each service and class supports Miraval’s mission of a life in balance. Meditation, exercise, nutrition, food harvesting, and preparation are just a few concentrations that complement Miraval’s mantra. The surroundings help, too—the resort’s grounds are a veritable oasis that make the most of Tucson’s lush desert landscape, including towering palms and native vegetation thriving beside a cascading stream. It all comes together to create a transformative spa experience that extends from each guest to the world, and environment, they live in.

So, why was I surrounding myself with a swarm of bees? I was on a personal mission to achieve my own life balance, seeking a sort of freedom by pushing my boundaries. I wanted to find ways to live in the present, and not let fear be my guide. Hanging out with bees was just one of the ways Miraval helped me work toward that goal.

Challenging my limits

Cheered on by fellow thrill seekers at the Desert Tightrope, I climbed 35 feet up a wooden telephone pole shortly after check-in to do just as the name suggests. (Miraval wastes no time when it comes to achieving a better self.) Heart racing, I stretched to grasp the dangling ropes that would keep me upright on the 60-foot length of tight wire. I worried, “would I fall before I even got started?” My helmet, harness, and belay brought comfort, but my self-trust was still tested. I took deep breaths and sidestepped to the end of the line. Pulse steadied, I was feeling confident having trusted myself to make it that far. I released the rope holds, balanced momentarily, then struck an elegant pose and stepped gracefully off the wire. I did it!  

Miraval Giant Ladder

That was just the beginning of my work toward achieving my goal. The next activity had me at the climbing wall tethered to another climber—someone with zero experience. This exercise challenged me to look outside my insecurities and support another person, a stressful endeavor at times. But Miraval is about life in balance, so with challenge comes reward. A Swedish massage, a tai chi class, and a yummy protein shake from their complimentary smoothie bar—try the Nutty Banana—ensued for relaxation and self-reflection. Rewards I would definitely need to shore-up my courage for my next challenge—the biggest yet.

Bees support nature

Safely seated in a charming enclave outside the bee zone, Noel Patterson began Miraval’s “All the Buzz” program with a chat about bee behavior, life cycle, communal structure, and how bees are vital to our food chain. Without bees, we have no fruit, no vegetables, no coffee! Noel demystified the fear of bees by revealing the majesty of their work. It was fascinating, and I found myself falling in love with bees.

With this new appreciation, we suited up. Noel checked that we were completely covered, yet he strolled out gloveless and hoodless as we entered the bee zone. Sure, Noel has been stung plenty, but he has become a trusted keeper. Formerly a sommelier, Noel happened into bee wrangling after being gifted a hive. Though he initially wasn’t a big fan of honey, he found a local mentor to teach him the basics; when he tasted the raw honey, his perceptions changed. Noel loved his career in wine, but when Miraval approached him with a proposal to create the bee program, like his taste for honey, Noel’s devotions changed.

Miraval Bees

As he deconstructed the bee box made of pallets filled with honeycomb, we saw worker bees building the comb and depositing nectar. We found the queen dutifully laying eggs, but where were the pupae? Noel gave the pallet a good shake, and they were soon revealed once the bees took flight from the pallet, buzzing around us. No problem, I knew we were safe because I understood them now. Before our group left the bees to their work, Noel graciously snapped a photo for each of us as we held a pallet full of bees. Proof positive that I pushed my boundaries and achieved a freedom of mind—of fear. My reward for this achievement would obviously be sweet.

During the “Honey: A Sensual Journey” class, I tasted the honey produced at Miraval (used both in their kitchen and spa) along with other local samples and single-source varieties from around the world. I learned that honey, like wine, has many different flavor profiles derived directly from its environment. Noel said, “Wine is the representation of place, while honey is the material essence of place.”

Before departing, I visited the gift shop to purchase their honey. Unfortunately, they were sold out, but disappointment turned to appreciation when I recalled Miraval only takes what the bees don’t need—another example of their mission. Miraval truly does honor nature’s rules of give and take, maintaining the cycle of nature, the balance of life. That’s the essence of this place.

 

Mindfulness

Now I’m home, pruning a tree. A bee hovers nearby. No worries, we’re both just doing our thing, concentrating on our roles. I watch her collect pollen and nectar. Then I smile, appreciating the work she’s doing to maintain the delicate balance of beauty and bounty in this place. When I go back inside my house, I realize how much freedom I have gained from my experiences at Miraval. Instead of fear, I embrace the present and my surroundings with an open mind.