CIVANA, Carefree

It does not have to be a monumental birthday or the calendar flip of a new year to motivate me to take personal inventory. I jump into a life makeover on any given Tuesday divine inspiration happens to strike. However, as “Happy New Year!” wishes and vaccine required/mask mandated party invitations started to blow up my phone, I was forced to do the obligatory refection back and projection forward of what I want to do in 2022. With another time warped pandemic year, only barely delineated from the last one by names of viral strains, the new normal was growing old. I was not feeling up for making another well intended resolution checklist: Drink more water. Move more often. Lose the same 3 pounds… again. I had no desire to make plans for the next bolder, better version of me.  I just wanted to be. Be comfortable in my skin while the chaotic COVID coated planet continued to spin. Be kinder to myself and more compassionate to others as I cleaned up the latest mess on my side of the street. Was it possible to stop creating expectations that made me anxious and left me disappointed when they were not met? Could I worry less and trust life more? Is there even really such a thing as happiness? What better time to check out of the Auld Lang Syne and check-in to a transformation vacation.

CIVANA’s mission, if you choose to accept it, is to inspire wellness. 2021 gave them much to celebrate. Nestled in a little town a half hour outside of Phoenix, appropriately called Carefree, CIVANA was recognized by Conde Nast’s Reader’s Choice and Travel and Leisure as a Top Destination Spa alongside some of the most exclusive in the world. In 2022, they look forward to continuing to meet this standard of excellence as they roll out new programming, with current Covid-19 protocols, and delight guests with existing classes and culinary options, all curated to create soulful experiences for your total wellbeing. Their motto: Happiness first. Healthiness always. Wellness is often considered the balance between healthiness and happiness. However, more often than not, wellness becomes solely defined by healthiness leaving it feeling beneficial but sometimes joyless. That’s why CIVANA’s wellness philosophy has an intentional tilt toward happiness. Like many other destination wellness resorts, they have the healthy aspects covered – nutrition, fitness, rest, healing. The CIVANA difference is that the wellness journey is as personal as one’s own joy.

CIVANA’s 20+ acre succulent studded, newly refurbished, eco chic meets kitschy-cool oasis offers an extensive selection of wellness experiences to meet your individual needs and goals. Your CIVANA journey begins far before you arrive and lasts long after you leave. A quick but effective questionnaire helps them to make everything about your stay unique to you. You can opt for a more structured Chopra Health Retreat inspired by Deepak’s bestselling book Perfect Health. The 5-night retreat at Civana Wellness Resort & Spa teaches the centuries-old healing method of Ayurveda. Through personalized massages, meditation and yoga, educational sessions and workshops, and a multi-step detoxification process to aid in the release of toxins, you’ll learn how to take a well-rounded approach to wellbeing. Or you can do your own thing and pick from a wide array of included classes and activities and order à la carte from the restaurant and spa menus as you wish. I opted for the DIY version as it is more my jam at the moment.

After a swift Delta flight into Phoenix from LAX I settled into my casual elegant King Room with a patio over-looking the cacti sprinkled grounds. I then wandered around the hip-Zen campus in search of some high vibe nibbles. I found a fresh and zingy salad at Seed, CIVANA’s café and specialty market, before the Gentle Yoga class and Sound Healing for Joy journey I signed up for pre-arrival. When choosing your own adventure, especially in COVID or peak season times, it’s important to sign up for classes in advance to make sure you get a spot as spaces may be limited. I capped off my travel and leisure day with a night swim. The new moon welcomed me with a barely there sliver of a smile as I floated in the vast refreshing pool counting stars.

CIVANA’s four pillars Movement, Spa, Nourishment, and Discovery are the foundation of your wellness experience.

Movement:  CIVANA believes an active body is a happy body. Everyday, each guest is invited to participate in more than a dozen complimentary movement and fitness classes from exploratory hikes and aerial yoga to myofascial release and TRX. Upon arrival guests are given complimentary CIVANA bottles to refill at their many water stations throughout the resort and are encouraged to stay hydrated during all of their desert activities. If not moving is your idea of wellness they also have three pools on property all within reach of a snack or cocktail. There really is something for everyone.

Spa: CIVANA’s state-of-the-art spa offers a wide range of therapeutic experiences with many focused on H2O healing. The SPA captures the time-honored art of healing through water in their hydrotherapy thermal circuit of hot and cold pools, waterfall shower and spacious humidity adjustable sauna. There are both physical and energetic benefits to “taking the waters” an ancient tradition of cleansing and rejuvenation. The salt-water spa pool became my favorite hangout and hydrate spot. Who knew visiting the desert would be all about water?

Nourishment: CIVANA’s culinary philosophy is born from the belief that health is grounded in nature. Their offerings are plant rich but not exclusive to plants. The food is seasonal and comes from the best local artisan growers. Herbs and greens are grown on site in their garden. CIVANA guests can enjoy two inventive restaurants led by Executive Chef Scott Winegard and his culinary team. I liked Seed for on the go coffee, teas, smoothies, snacks and salads. Terras, the resort’s signature dinner destination, offers a modern take on regionally inspired cuisine highlighting colorful, veggie-forward meals and a wide range of menu options. Think delicious farm-to-table produce, grass-fed meats, sustainable seafood, and decadent desserts. No matter if you’re gluten-free, grain-free, vegetarian, vegan, detoxing or enjoying wine with dinner, their chefs make your dining experience memorable and instagramable.

Discovery: At the core of how CIVANA facilitates wellness is their commitment to providing paths of change, growth, and discovery. Whether it is a fresh appreciation for the desert’s natural beauty, new experiences or a deeper understanding of one’s true self, they are committed to providing the possibility to leave with more than when you arrived. They offer 70+ complimentary-with-your-stay fitness, personal growth and spiritual classes each week that draw on varied disciplines and techniques. If you are looking to tap into mindfulness by learning meditation or simply strengthen your six-pack there is a class that is right for you. They also have private instruction in a more intimate setting. It’s all part of their holistic approach to total wellbeing.

Needless to say after full days of hiking, yoga, well-fed belly, sound baths, cool swims and a hot steam showers I slept pretty darn peacefully. Upon awakening each morning I set my simple intention:  to enjoy the day. I threw on some layers and double fisted a coffee (Seed makes a mean oat milk Honey Lavender Latte) and smoothie (the Golden Lassi was my favorite) and joined the hiking group in the lobby. My first venture out into the local desert was a slow smell-the-sage Desert Bathing hike. It is amazing how fast your mind can slow down in less than a mile of silent walking. No phone. No soundtrack but what’s floating on the breeze. I have learned in my yoga practice about santosha, or contentment, and I get in theory that it is the key to happiness. However, sometimes I need a nudge from nature to remind me to appreciate the little things, not to push so hard and just go with the flow. At this point in my life I have begun to crave this slower pace. I’m not as ambitious as I once was. There is no need. I have already achieved much of what I set out to accomplish. Now for a new challenge:  learning to enjoy the fruits of my labors moment by moment.

After running around the Holiday party circuit in a frenzy of glittery celebrations, putting on a glamorous show for the outside world to look at me, me, me, it was refreshing to just walk and breathe high heels and make up free.  The morning hikes didn’t get much more challenging as the week progressed.  All were in the 2-hour 3-mile range.  That was just my pace at this point.  If you’re looking for more aggressive action you can always seek out a local expert like Arizona Adventure Guides.

I am grateful to my CIVANA hiking guide Michael who didn’t mind holding my phone and playing photographer for me so I wouldn’t be glued to an app. I did not want to be tempted to create content the whole time over actually connecting to the earth.

I followed my CIVANA itinerary to my next bit of bliss:  a Calm appointment at the Spa. Magnesium is known as the great relaxer promoting a calming effect for the mind and body. Many people have magnesium deficiency due to prolonged stress and/or unhealthy diet and lifestyle. Post festive food season I chose to wind-down and ease inflammation with this botanical infused magnesium salt scrub massage. It was a perfect accompaniment to the detoxifying meals and de-stressing activities I was doing during this re-group week.

Sunny days of poolside chillin’, aqua therapy, yoga, morning hikes, meditation nights, and of course more massages and tasty clean eating, all ran into each other. To mix it up I signed up for a seminar Habit of Happiness with Amanda. So far founders Adam and Marc had their personal touch fingerprints all over my experiences. I trusted their curated sit down classes would be as fulfilling as the movement ones I’d been enjoying. Thank goodness I did because I finally got a definition of happy that resonated with me after searching for it most of my life:

Happiness is peace in the present moment.

It was enough to just be here, now, unbothered. I didn’t have to over think it, have this, that or reach a future goal to be happy. I did not need the universe to pour some kind of magical light into my soul. I could just be.  Content. That is all. I was presently peaceful and therefore happy. As easy as it sounded something seeped in deep. I was happy. I will remember this feeling when the storms of life outside the gates of CIVANA start swirling.

Staring out my window over the fire pits as the sun set on my final day’s stay, I jotted down some notes in the little pocket journal the resort provides for each guest. I was suddenly inspired, as a symbol of starting the New Year officially happy, to write down my greatest fears and latest character defects and burn them into the night sky. I tore the paper into little slips and wrote down some serious things as well as silly stuff. I earnestly asked God to remove each shortcoming as I watched them disintegrate into nothingness.

So, where do I go from here? Forward. Today. That is enough. I have a feeling my stay at CIVANA will help me be fearless in the pursuit of what sets my soul on fire and also give me some tools to be at peace in the present moment.  I can make every day a Happy New Day. I can decide, “Today I will do this . . . Today I won’t do that” and measure my progress not only in major milestones but by just doing a little better.

Whether you need nourishment and healing or connection and reflection you can find it at CIVANA, Carefree. I wish you health, continued progress and most importantly happiness … in 2022 and beyond.