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Mii amo at Enchantment, Sedona Arizona

Sumptuous Spa amid Scenic Splendors

Enchantment Resort
Credit: Vivian K. Fancher

The October mornings in high-country Arizona break amid ethereal mists. The sun pierces the sky over the craggy rim of Boynton Canyon and singes the Ponderosa pines and red-rock pinnacles as it sweeps the cliff walls with the fire of autumn. The golden light floods into the lodgings and public areas of Enchantment, a magnificent resort, and Mii amo, its world-class destination spa and a hideaway within a hideaway. No other setting in the area provides a more uplifting vantage point from which to view the dramatic landscape. Every window on the premises frames the vast sculpture garden that blazes like a hungry hearth at sunset and glows like smoldering coals at dawn.

It has been said that God created the Grand Canyon, but he lived in Sedona. Boynton Canyon, perhaps? A 15-minute drive north and west of town, the 70 acres that surround Enchantment and Mii amo are tucked into the folds of this semi-isolated gorge and hug the magnificent curve of the canyon.

Enchantment and Mii amo are separate facilities under one umbrella. I know of no other resort in the United States that is structured the same way. Each entity has its own accommodations, restaurants, and activities. Reserve at either one and enjoy the privileges of the other. Thus Enchantment guests partake of spa therapies on an a la carte basis and join in the classes and lectures. Book a stay as quickly as you can. When you phone the reservationists help you decide whether you ought to select the spa or the resort. Mii amo programs are offered in blocks of three, four, and seven days.

Mi iamo Lobby
Credit: Vivian K. Fancher

An out-of-body experience awaits you. Bring an open mind and when you arrive, check your skepticism at the door.

Look forward to a wonderful realm of pleasure at this red rock country sanctuary. This is heaven—eye watering landscapes, a world class spa, food that makes you drool, spacious and tastefully appointed rooms and suites. If you want to relax you can spend time by the pool or indulge in spa treatments. Read over the Texas-sized list of beauty therapies that Mii amo offers. Pampering is first-rate. If you are up for a bit of fitness you can participate in exercise classes.

Translated from the Native American Yuman dialect, Mii amo means passage or to move forward, a phrase that reflects the spa experience. Describing Mii amo as an experience as well as a destination, one could say that a vacation here is a journey.

"We felt ‘voyage" was the appropriate concept for what we wanted to represent,” says George Lidicker, President of the complex. He explains that Mii amo can mean indulgence, self-love or massage and all could apply to the spa.

Maggie Rex from Southampton, England was on her fourth visit. She slept at Enchantment, but spent her days at Mii amo. She said that she appreciated the attention that she got from instructors like Achmed who taught aqua-aerobics and focused on a workout for the upper body in one of his sessions.

I confess I did not initially check my skepticism at the door. Having previously been in Sedona and despite the prodding of a guide, I did not feel any mystical stirrings at the vortices sites. However, I signed up for a Connect with the Spirit treatment, Reiki Energy Healing, which is said to work on the mind, body, heart, and soul. Through the cubicle"s window one could see the sandstone Bellrock formation and a white streak from a passing plane cross the sky. This ancient treatment whose exact origins are unknown was picked up by the Japanese and reappeared in the Hawaiian Islands. The practitioner explained that her ministrations—laying on of the hands, waving burning sage and a feather, and speaking of the earth and air-- helps clients to release negative energy and absorb positive spirits. She explained that my dizziness as I arose from the table was caused by the exchange of energy. The healing process allowed me to look inside myself and feel deeply grateful for the presence in my life of family members whom I love. I had been converted and acknowledged that an uncanny vortex whose energy you can feel seems to exist in Boynton Canyon.

Reiki Energy Healing
Credit: Vivian K. Fancher

A 90-minute custom massage took place in a wickiup, an outdoor Native American square structure giving shelter where there was none before. Located behind the spa building, the wickiups are open on one side and draped with curtains on three sides to maintain privacy. Soft music, which usually plays during treatments, was absent and the only sounds came from the wind. My masseuse, Cyndi, explained that she "adapts” her techniques after "assessing” a patron"s body. During the one- and one-half hours session she used several techniques: aschaitsu in which she worked with her arms; neuromuscular, sports, and deep-tissue massage; myofacial release; and stretching.

Like the beauty services, some classes and activities are inspired by the Southwestern environment. Alternate mornings begin at dawn with stretch express, which opens up the body, and abs, hips, and thighs followed by guided hikes or power walks. Guests gathering for morning ritual, the blessing of the oils, sit on a circular bench in a "sacred space,” the Crystal Grotto. Built like a kiva, the Native American ceremonial temple, the round room has a sand floor and is dark despite an opening in the ceiling to connect the sky with the earth. A quartz crystal perches on a petrified tree base in the center of the room. Towards evening the Grotto becomes a place for meditation. A basket filled with notes from guests stating their hopes for the day is brought into the Grotto.

As spa vacations entered the travel mainstream, not only have more therapies been introduced, but unusual fitness classes have been incorporated, such as Chinese Rejuvenation. In this 55-minute session participants massage their bodies" meridian points. Other exercise programs that seemed to be unique to Mii amo are Bands on the Run; Training the Core; Sound and Movement; and Sitting in Silence, involving meditation in different poses along with breathing techniques and stretches. Among the more familiar activities were aerobics, cardio work-outs, tai chi, qigong, pilates, and tennis drills. The afternoon boce ball and croquet socials included instruction in these two low-key sports.

Navaho Flute & Story Telling
Credit: Vivian K. Fancher

The rich culture of the Navaho, Yavapai-Apache, and Havasupai peoples provided the inspiration for another group of lessons: basket weaving, gourd painting, American Indian culture, and Talking Circle, an old tradition led by the Native American program director. During Navaho Flute and Storytelling, John Kelvin "Mockingbird” Bizahaloni sat cross-legged in the tepee surrounded by flutes that he made using different woods. He burned resin to create a pleasant smell. His performance was like a Native American operetta. He recited a folktale and paused from time to time to play music.

Calling forth ancient and modern traditions, another uncommon event on the schedule is Journey of the Teas, a lesson in how to brew the leaves and a guided tasting of six to eight blends. Several of the infusions like Sedona Sun and Dessert Passion were created at Mii amo.

The resort has partnered with the United States Forest Service in a program of environmental preservation and maintenance. As part of the collaboration, Lorena Williams, a Forest Ranger, escorted a group on a nature walk around the property. She talked about the incredible nearby eco-systems, the flora and fauna, and identified the plants and their uses in the spread of land known as "Cactus Farm.”

Enchantment guest rooms range from studios to two-bedroom casitas. The larger accommodations feature log-beamed ceilings and beehived fireplaces. All are decorated with Southwestern furnishings, contemporary art, and sculptures. In the mornings a bottle of freshly-squeezed orange juice sitting in a tin pail filled with ice is left outside every door.

Forrest Ranger at the Cactus Farm
Credit: Vivian K. Fancher

Six Mii amo casitas house 14 rooms and two suites. The blond wood furniture was reminiscent of Scandinavian design and also of the décor one might find aboard a yacht. The feather beds topping the mattresses are a thoughtful touch. After a day of workouts, one needs a solid night of sleep in the most comfortable of beds. The courtyards around which the rooms are centered have a European feel.

Although the architecture of the gigantic main spa building copies Anasazi forms, it also seems modern. Along with the Grotto the spa includes two pools—an indoor one with a waterfall wall and an outdoor one in a trellised setting-- exercise and treatment rooms, a labyrinth, library, juice bar, indoor-outdoor café, open kitchen, grass fitness lawn, and Japanese-inspired lobby courtyard.

Three excellent dining rooms are headed up by the talented Steven Bernstein. There was nothing that I ate in any of the restaurants that was not completely satisfying and some of it was totally tantalizing. On Bernstein"s curriculum vitae is another five-star spa, where he learned to coax the most flavor out of calorie-light and fat-free food, no mean feat! At lunchtime Mii amo Café serves a rotating menu of hearty soups and imaginative pizzas. Dinner entrees might include scallops and corn cakes, duck breast with vegetable and potato tart, or turkey osso bucco

At Enchantment"s casual Tii Gavo, one can enjoy such regional specialties as black bean soup, fish tacos, and fajitas. And don"t forget the special cocktail, a glorious prickly pear margarita, the perfect prelude to Southwestern food.

Sunday jazz brunches are legendary at the signature Yavapai restaurant. The variety of choices on the buffet table is staggering. We recommend the carved-to-order olive-crusted rack of Colorado lamb.

Mi iamo Cafe
Credit: Vivian K. Fancher

At Yavapai a gloriously rich multi-course dinner paired with appropriate wines was brought to the table by a coterie of waiters. Mark Buzan, Cellar Master, speaking like a knowledgeable wine writer, explained why sauternes, a dessert wine, was served with foie gras Napoleon. His descriptions were simple, understandable and unlike some of the stilted language used to explain wine. Cold smoked grilled buffalo, a popular local entrée, was tender and robust. Crème brulee was a star among the desserts. We left feeling that the meal had been an event, not just an opportunity to dine.

From time to time themed retreats centering on such topics as healthy aging, love, and creativity take place at Mii amo, the perfect milieu in which to learn and practice the principles needed to maintain a balance of body, mind, and spirit. Manned by a staff of enthusiastic true believers, their spirits rub off on those who visit the spa.

Mii amo at Enchantment, 525 Boynton Canyon Road, Sedona, AZ 86336. Tel. 929-20308500, 888-749-2137.


Winter 2005-06