Musings of gratitude from one very thankful Spa Girl.
Like many of you, the holidays are a time of reflection for me. Every year around this time, I’m struck by an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the people, experiences and amazing gifts I’ve been open to receiving in my life. I’m even grateful for those darn potholes and bumps that crop up along the way. They make life more interesting, right?
So, because I can’t sing and my feelings might not be best expressed by reciting a monologue from a made-for-TV movie à la Mary Katherine Gallagher, I’d like to share my tale of gratitude in good ol’ prose format. I hope you’ll find some value in it that you can relate to your own life and if nothing else, that it inspires you to add a spa day to your holiday to-do list.
My story starts a little more than 10 years ago, when my college roommate and her sister came to visit me here in Arizona. I had only recently relocated to the land of the giant cacti from Florida and wasn’t exactly sure what to do with visitors. On the advice of a girlfriend, I decided to book a day at one of the phoo-phoo resort spas that had piqued my interest but I never dared step foot in alone. I invited along my friend and the four of us embarked on a journey that for me, was forever life-changing.
We booked our spa day at the Centre for Well-Being at the Phoenician. We were all giddy to be doing something so completely “indulgent” and out of character for most of us. At the time, I was technical writer and trainer; in other words, I wrote intricate policy and procedure manuals that no one ever read. Essentially, I would spend months figuring out and detailing other people’s highly technical jobs and then train them how to do it. My career was demanding, frustrating and left me chronically grumpy and with a gnawing sense of unfulfillment. On top of that, I blamed my stressful career for a seemingly endless battle with 30-something volcanic acne. My skin definitely reflected that something wasn’t right. Needless to say, I was looking forward to a day laced with nothing but girl talk, noshing and lounging by a pool.
Our spa day was everything I had hoped for — laughter, a delicious meal enjoyed by the multi-tiered resort pool, a deep pore cleansing facial and new skincare products that were sure to clear up my breakouts. But it was just a few significant minutes out of that day that shaped the next decade for me.
Every day at noon since 1994, the Centre for Well-Being holds a guided group meditation class in the spa’s atrium. Back then, I was novice at anything introspective and I considered it selfish to be so focused on oneself. Having lost my mom a few years before, I walked around with a huge chip on my shoulder that I was entitled to be miserable and cranky. I deserved to wallow in my self-pity and there was no amount of navel-gazing that would take that away from me. (I know, lame, right? But it’s painfully true.)
During the meditation session, our guide led us on a journey deep inside our psyche to discover our inner selves. After about 30 minutes, we were gently awakened from our internal trips and encouraged to share what we saw. I was floored by what my friends had encountered — yellow-bricked trails dancing with golden orbs and stately animals. My journey led me down a dusty road to a hunched-over, diminutive old man with a dirty, crooked cane.
Hello red flag.
My visit to the Phoenician that day was a defining moment and long story short, I’ve spent the last 10 years on a mission of demystifying the spa experience and doing everything in my power to make it more accessible through education, advocacy, special offers and events. I have made many missteps along the way and I probably have a few more in my future but at the end of the day, I am so completely grateful to that little old man for showing up and leading me down this path of service and community.
But here’s the part that gives me goosebumps and reminds me that the universe gives you exactly what you need when you need it.
Just yesterday, I went back to the Centre for Well-Being as a guest for the first time in 10 years. I had a facial with the same wonderful, gracious, gifted, beautiful woman who gave me very first facial a decade before, Maggie (who hasn’t changed one bit). And of course, promptly at noon, my tooshie was well-entrenched in a zero-gravity chair in the spa atrium for the guided meditation. This time, although I did feel myself letting go into the almost unconscious trancelike state of meditation, I was the pilot of my journey. As I traveled deep into my mind, the first being I encountered was my inner little old man. His eyes were gentle and loving and he was glad to see me. And then he waved me along, wishing me well as I continued on my journey. Here’s what I’ll say about the next 20 minutes or so: beautiful, vibrant, life-affirming; I’m in the right place, right here, right now.
It’s funny. The dictionary defines “thankful” as simply being pleased and relieved. I thought somehow it would have a more reverent slant. It makes sense though that at any given moment, being thankful could mean you were relieved that your home survived a hurricane or that you were pleased to receive an award for a personal achievement. Or, it could simply mean being pleased and relieved to be in the right place, at the right time and here, right now.
Thank you for following Arizona Spa Girls along our journey and supporting my mission to spread the good spa word. I wish you all a holiday season filled with peace, gratitude, laughter and love (times 10!)!