Beauty

woman with nice skin

Photo courtesy of James Baigrie

Godfrey’s Guide

My Miraval Berkshires Scrapbook
(and What I Packed)

In partnership with our friends at Miraval

Jean

Jean Godfrey-June is our beauty director, but her enthusiasms are many.

The original, much-loved Miraval spa in Tucson reflects the gorgeous, otherworldly landscape around it, as does its spectacular outpost in Austin. Now, a new, much larger Miraval in the Berkshire Mountains does the same—and in doing so, represent a third dramatically different experience. I expected craggy mountains, quaint New England architecture, and beyond-spectacular leaves (I went, by chance, at the height of the fall foliage), but I didn’t expect to feel as fully immersed in them as I did. At the same time, although I knew I was going to a world-famous spa, I didn’t expect the instructors and practitioners to be as flat-out incredible as they were. But the biggest, best surprise turned out to be a fluffy little barred owl called Oracle.

Going to a spa overnight during a pandemic involves a great deal of mask wearing (which can feel funny for a minute during a treatment but quickly gets easier), handwashing, social distancing, and outside classes whenever possible. In many cases, these measures deepened the experience: My 8 a.m. Qigong classes with a Qigong and Tai Chi master were conducted beneath a stand of tall, yellow-orange-and-red maples under a brilliant clear blue sky, for instance. As we felt energy moving through our bodies, we watched it move through the landscape: wind, swirling leaves, shifting sunshine. When we ordered room service, it came packed in adorable picnic baskets. And we chose activities best conducted outside anyway—hikes, working with horses, and of course, the aforementioned owl experience.

picnic basket and Jean in nature

Being myself, I brought a lot of skin care: glow-boosting, skin-smoothing, ultramoisturizing treatments. I wanted to frontload the results, so the first night, I deployed my 15% overnight peel—the most packable skin treatment of all time, and there is nothing in this world like it for glow. After a late-afternoon stretching class, a stroll through the Japanese rock garden with a few stops for raking, and a healthyish dinner (the menu is more nice-restaurant than full-on cleanse, but you can customize) complete with several glasses of wine, all I had to do before falling into the fluffy down pillows and comforter was swipe my skin with the pad—about all I had the bandwidth to do at that point, truth be told.

I woke up the next morning in time for the glorious Qigong class; the glow, even before an hour spent shifting my energy out in the crisp air, was noticeable.

A SPA WEEKEND FOR YOUR SKIN–AT HOME

You can bring this arsenal with you on a trip, as I did, or you can stay home and get the same glowy fabulousness.

Step 1: Overnight peel

This is the linchpin of the whole thing. Swipe it on over clean skin and hop into bed. Wake up, wash your face (I brought the ultramoisturizing face wipes from RMS, which are amazing, saturated with pure coconut oil for next-level moisturizing), and look in the mirror: That’s a noticeable difference.

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Step 2: Moisturize

After the intensity of the peel, your skin needs coddling. This face cream is packed with clinically proven clean active ingredients, and it’s rich and thick and cushy and delightful, too. Extra credit: Eye cream (this one was shown in studies to reduce the appearance of crow’s-feet). Smooth it all into your skin and step back and assess again: more glow.

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Step 3: Oil

Whenever you feel like it—and if you’re using this oil, you will feel like it often, because it smells and feels so good—pat on face oil. The skin-spa weekend is about just feeding your skin every last bit of goodness.

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Step 4: Vitamin C

Every day except the morning after the peel, smooth vitamin C onto your skin before putting anything else on your face (the morning after a peel it’s too much, as vitamin C has a mildly exfoliating effect). I like to wait a few minutes before putting on moisturizer, oil, or both.

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Step 5: Sunscreen

Unless you’re absolutely not going outside at all, mineral sunscreen is key, particularly after doing a peel, when your skin is a little more sensitive to the sun. I put it on over the top right before going out.

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Spa treatments are conducted—socially distanced and masked, of course—inside a gorgeous building inventively designed by Clodagh with woven branches, stunning art pieces, the sounds and visuals of trickling water, and lots of space, along with cushy robes, slippers, and blankets at every turn. The pedicure chairs are made with a built-in massage option, and everything from the haircuts to the Reiki sessions is conducted by super experienced, kind, assured masters in their fields.

spa image
spa chairs

Photos courtesy of James Baigrie

The soothing, luxurious nest of a spa stands in stark contrast to the rough, dusty horse barn, but real magic happens in both places. The Arizona Miraval is famous for its horse program, and it’s not replicated here as much as built upon. The practitioners are different, but the goals are similar: By working with a horse—cleaning it, leading it, feeding it—you can experience real personal growth, psychological breakthroughs, and deeper personal understanding. An extraordinary woman named Jen Leahey runs the program. She guides the group (you can also do it individually, but I have to say, hearing other people’s perceptions about what was happening deepened the experience for me considerably) in tuning in to both the horses’ energies and their own. “Horses are very sensitive—they pick up on your intention,” she said as we each stood with our horse, attempting to brush dust from its coat. At the end of the session, you sit in a circle and verbalize what came up for you: Some people had realizations about their families or their relationships; I had a lot about work. Throughout the session, I’d been in an amazing groove with my horse; he was just great. I brushed him to gleaming perfection, which he seemed to appreciate. When I led him around—you walk with the horses, rather than yanking them around—we felt like a team. But when I tried to get him to lift his foot so I could polish his hooves, I couldn’t do it. You were supposed to squeeze what seems like the horse’s Achilles heel (not painful, she assured us) with firmness and intention. Leahey had us try working with one another’s horses to understand how distinct each horse’s personality is; I tried them all, and not one foot lifted for me. It was frustrating, but in trying and trying again, I realized something about the way I operate at work: When I feel someone going in a very strong direction, I tend to let them do their thing, even if it impedes my progress. Something about experiencing the inability to influence someone—my horse—made me understand a little more about how to maintain a gentle but strong intention, and continue pushing for what I want. All that from cleaning up a horse! I did go back to my horse a final time, by the way, and he lifted up his foot for about two seconds, as if to smilingly say, “You can do it, but you’ve got work to do.”

horses

Photos courtesy of James Baigrie

inside barn

Photos courtesy of James Baigrie

Jean with black horse

There are many exercise classes and workout machines, but you’d be crazy not to hike though the spectacular mountains in this section of the Berkshires. We went on short woodland paths, and we hiked up rocky peaks; you can’t go wrong if you’re outside. You can go on your own or on guided hikes—and these vary, again, from semidifficult climbs to Tai Chi walks.

There are cooking courses, tarot readings, yoga, stretching, all manner of classes—all with outstanding instructors—going all day long. You walk from class to lunch to your room through long, glass-enclosed corridors that bring you closer to the outdoors (but keep you warm when it’s snowy outside); cozy fireplaces are dotted throughout, along with loungy sofas and chairs for impromptu relaxation, reading, and general musing.

yoga outside mortar
fireplace

Photos courtesy of James Baigrie

Extra Credit:
Hair-Spa Weekend at Home

Step 1

Nourish your ends with a mask that miraculously leaves your hair noticeably shinier and softer through several shampoos; for maximum shine and nourishment, smooth it onto your ends (wet or dry) and heat it up for five to ten minutes with a blow-dryer.

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Step 2

Detoxify and revive with a nourishing scalp-scrub shampoo. The chunks of Himalayan sea salt feel next-level amazing as you massage the fluffy, super moisturizing, foaming cream in. Afterward, your hair is soft, cleansed, and shiny.

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But if you do nothing else, do the Avian Adaptations: A Lesson in Resilience course, also taught by Leahey. You get to meet both hawks and owls, all of them rescues that are either recovering from injuries and later to be released back into the wild or have injuries that preclude their ever returning to the wild. None of the animals are trained; they are just their own individual selves, as Leahey explains it, and getting to spend time in their presence is transformative. “They are special beings,” she said. Oracle, a fluffy barred owl about the size of a small teakettle, sat happily on Leahey’s forearm as he was introduced to us and seemed to greatly enjoy our smoothing of his feathers. Most of the birds, Leahey explained, are hit by cars. “Roads serve as highways for animals, too,” she says. “They’re the quickest, easiest route to get places.” They’re also very easy to see prey walking along, so both hawks and owls hunt for food along them, and that’s how they end up in harm’s way. Oracle had broken his wing irreparably, so he was a permanent resident; another rescue, Odin, a hawk who’d lost an eye (hawks can’t hunt without both eyes) greeted us expectantly by walking right toward us to pick up his breakfast (dead mice). In contrast, a second barred owl, Homer, more the size of a samovar, was totally not into people: He sat in a large, apartment-size cage and watched us socialize with Oracle. Leahey explained that Homer had also lost an eye, which is a less serious injury for owls; they can still hunt. All during his recovery, he’d avoided people, including Leahey. One day, he’d been well enough to release. “I opened the barn door and was surprised at how reluctant he was to leave,” Leahey told us. Several weeks later, Leahey was in the process of moving to a new house. Her husband went to check on the house and called her, in the middle of the rainstorm. “There’s an owl here on the porch steps, and he doesn’t want to leave,” he said. It was Homer, and he’d been injured again, this time with a bad infection. “He still doesn’t like people,” laughed Leahey, “except from afar.” Homer looked out at us, and blinked slowly.

woman holding owl

Photo courtesy of James Baigrie

owl

Just as forest bathing or energy work might open your perceptions and make the world seem a little richer, a little more spacious, spending an hour observing the natural idiosyncrasies of individual animals—not trained to entertain you, just being either accepting or not so accepting of your presence—is a powerful thing.

Hanging with rescued owls might not be what you think of when you think “spa,” but if you’re ever anywhere near the Berkshire Mountains, get to Miraval and pencil it in among the amazing yoga classes and glow-inducing facials—I, for one, will never forget it.


Bonus: There’s a special goop & Miraval wellness package happening! Learn about it here.

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