I was surprisingly at ease given the circumstances: laid out on a massage table in a guestroom-turned-spiritual-center while a seemingly sane person jumped, whooped, hollered and waved feathers over my prone body.

With my eyes closed, I could feel the movement around me as Dr. Tim Frank, a licensed general practitioner and hospice physician with a specialty in psychoneuroimmunology, uttered unrecognizable guttural sounds and banged on a drum. Occasionally, he’d call out my name, “Lisa!” while beseeching my ancestors to gather around me.

What’s wrong with this picture? Absolutely nothing.

A graduate of Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Ariz., Frank embraces his Cherokee heritage and its indigenous healing practices. The two — naturopathic medicine, drawing on science and nature, and age-old Native American philosophies — come together at Miraval, a destination spa resort near Tucson, Ariz., where Frank is noted for two unique wellness experiences.

I had arrived at Miraval a couple of days earlier, looking forward to morning hikes in the Sonoran Desert followed by afternoon massages in the expansive spa. I planned to work in a few yoga classes, practice my meditation skills and participate in a seminar or two; but Frank’s signature treatments caught my eye, and timing was on my side: Due to a last-minute cancellation, I was able to book a 45-minute Samadi Healing Ceremony on short notice.

The past couple of years have been challenging on a personal level. I’m proud I faced each challenge with courage and resolve, but my psyche took a bit of a beating. Instead of embracing each new day, I noticed myself worrying about what might go awry. Not in an overt way. It was just a nagging question mark always hovering at the back of my consciousness.

Aromatic herbs are used to cleanse the environment. © Miraval

Aromatic herbs are used to cleanse the environment. © Miraval

The Samadi Healing Ceremony, a blend of relaxation methods complemented by Native American drumming, acupuncture, Reiki and reflexology, promised transformational healing. To me, that meant opening the door to release counterproductive thoughts and energy. I was willing to give it a shot.

My session began with a meeting of the minds. Frank and I sat in facing chairs as he told me about his background and encouraged me to share my thoughts and feelings. I’m usually pretty good at sharing in a safe environment, but I found myself struggling for words. I couldn’t clearly identify what was going on inside me, but I knew I needed to find balance. Frustrated, I followed Frank’s direction to recline on the massage table while he cleansed the room of negative energy and placed an eye pillow over my eyes.

My first introduction to meditation was nearly 30 years ago — and I took to it like a fish to water. While others around me struggled to calm their minds, I easily followed the instructor’s advice to “watch my thoughts without judgment” and “push them away like fluffy clouds on a clear day.” While I don’t practice nearly as often as I’d like, I prefer to do yoga with my eyes closed, turning my consciousness inward.

I had no reason to believe the Samadi ceremony would be any different. I expected to meditate while Frank did his healing dances and chants. I’d walk away renewed.

Not so much.

I struggled to feel comfortable. I worried about sabotaging this rare opportunity. I judged myself. I judged Frank. “It’s all smoke and mirrors,” I thought. “This is ridiculous — even for me.” I berated myself for buying into the malarkey.

Then I felt an almost physical shift. It was just a nudge, like that just-before-you-fall-asleep moment. But I hadn’t moved, and I wasn’t asleep. In that instant, I felt walls fall away. Believe me: I know this sounds out there, but the walls dividing past, present and future fell away. Nana was there. Eileen was there. Ann was there.

I tried to stretch the circle, mentally inviting other loved ones who’ve passed before me to join, but it wasn’t authentic. I could feel Nana, Eileen and Ann. I could only imagine Bumpy, Gram, Jack, Clint and Uncle Dan. I was a bit disappointed, judging them now for not being with me in that moment.

It fell into place in a flash. Past, present and future are all the same. I saw two hands, fingers stretched open, passing up and down through one another. It’s all the same: Past, present and future are connected in ways we who live in the present will never understand. Worrying about what might go awry is futile.

I was surprisingly at ease given the circumstances.

Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa

5000 E. Via Estancia Miraval
Tucson, AZ 85739
tel 800 232 3969
miravalresorts.com