Mimi Pockross of Denver, CO
Whenever I have needed a correction, I have come to Canyon Ranch.
It started in the late eighties. I was a forty-something wife and the mother of two boys and had recently moved to Denver from Chicago. I was overwhelmed with my dual responsibilities as owner of a Southwestern arts and crafts gallery that I had started in 1984. I felt very isolated in my new city and I was totally traumatized and stressed out with my 24/7 responsibilities. I needed some help.
I had learned about Canyon Ranch from the New York Times travel section and from other travel magazine articles that were constantly touting this new and unique experiment in “life enhancement.” Out of desperation one day when I was down in the dumps, I rang up the Spa Connection, a local organization which had not long before started to book spa trips – mostly to Canyon Ranch, since there were only one or two other spas at the time. I can still recall the conversation with Nona Feiner, the CEO and founder. “Do you want to go for the three day package or the five day?” I knew I’d take the three. It was all I could do to muster up the courage to spend the fee at the time and to justify going. “Well,” she went on. “A scheduler from the Ranch will call you shortly and help you plan your spa treatments.” I was already hooked.
Though I have returned to Canyon Ranch many more times since then, the most vivid of my memories remains the first. There was the van trip to the main entrance, the approach on dry dusty roads sporadically populated with saguaro cacti, the cool and calm Mexican tiled foyer, the living room filled with all the same Southwestern artifacts I was selling in my gallery, the grand piano, the fireplace, the inviting and beautifully upholstered chairs, the library.
At the time the rules for spa life were pretty rigid. All of us were relegated to meals that, though delicious, were under 1,500 calories, with few choices. Each night we would all look forward to the one “mocktail,” tomato juice with a bushy stalk of celery. There were no salad bars, no pasta bars, no choices other than the three meals a day. Of course, no alcohol was served. I recall that some people would try the regimen for a couple of days and then go AWOL into Tucson for some Mexican burritos.
Religiously each morning I would attend the two-mile walk led by the most enthusiastic leaders one could imagine. They were all so happy and positive. Their attitude was contagious, even though it was 6:30 a.m.
I was fascinated by the Ranch’s approach to time management, an area that had never been a strong point of mine. I can recall going to the program consultant and having her help me figure out how to plan my day. It was a tool that I have come to regard as an essential part of my life. Though a computer printout has replaced the original tiny notebooks in which we recorded our programs, the organizational principles remain the same. Adhering to schedules and rules was hard for me but it was even harder for some of Canyon Ranch’s high profile guests. I particularly remember a big developer from my hometown who was trying to recuperate from the savings and loan scandals of the late eighties. He had signed up for a bike ride in Sabino Canyon but we were all in the bus when he finally showed up. In keeping with the policies of the Ranch, he was just too late to take the trip and he was none too happy when he received the news. How ironic to see someone who was always in the papers for breaking the rules being required to follow them like everyone else.
On that bike ride, my first of course, I had trouble making it up the last incline. Walking next to me was a woman of almost exactly the same age as myself. She admired my silver inlaid ring by a Santa Domingo Native American. It turned out that she owned a Southwest art gallery exactly like mine only hers was in Rhode Island. This incident was the first of many coincidences that have occurred when I have visited Canyon Ranch. Though I am basically reserved, it is amazing to me how many interesting people I have met during my times at the Ranch.
But it was the choice of exercise classes that impressed me most and every teacher was more attractive than another. I particularly remember a tall, blonde woman who taught a stretch class. I don’t think I’d stretched since I had been in ballet class when I was eight. The aerobics classes were all done to the latest music of the era. For the first time I was introduced to Fiona Apple and heard “The Wind Beneath My Wings” sung by Bette Midler. It was on this trip that I went to my first yoga class in the beautiful yoga dome with its open windows and expansive views of the cactus-dotted terrain. I wasn’t very good at relaxing then. I could hear others snoring while I was moving around and planning my next activity.
I couldn’t resist trying all of the spa treatments. I loved drinking tea before my herbal wrap and even a massage was new to me. I can remember the masseur tapping me on the back and telling me to relax and saying to me, “I’ve never seen anyone this tight.” I guess I was in the right place.
Each afternoon I would take my book and head toward the T-pool, one of the three pools that were spread throughout the Ranch, and then until dusk, I would immerse myself in The Prince of Tides. Then I would walk very slowly down one of the winding paths, occasionally losing my way, and head toward my casita to change for dinner. Many times my dinner companion was my book, but a few times I sat at the Captain’s table just to talk to some other people. Though it was somewhat intimidating to be seated next to the Vice President of a national cosmetics company, it was also fascinating and stimulating to be in the company of successful individuals there to relax just like me. At the time (in the late eighties) there was no Canyon Ranch in Lenox, and the Tucson ranch was flooded with people from across the country and in particular Easterners and Canadians from Toronto.
Mel and Enid were always around to supervise. Oftentimes you would see them sitting at “Booth One” entertaining the famous people of the day who were visiting. We’d all go around whispering, “That’s so and so from some music group or some movie star” or whatever.
The first time I visited, my goal was to lose weight and to get rid of the blues. Through exercise and watching my diet, I lost four pounds. But it was visiting a counselor that helped me to begin to learn how to manage my life. I entered the room at the Behavioral Health Building and almost broke down immediately. “I’m in prison,” I recall moaning to a very sympathetic professional. I was referring to my situation at the moment. I was almost solely taking care of two adolescent children, trying to keep our family moving with a workaholic husband and struggling to keep my gallery open. Though it was only a one-hour session, the counselor sliced through the lifestyle issues that were interfering with my ability to have a happy day-to-day existence. The ideas were a start, not a cure. To change my life was really up to me. And it took many years of refining before I achieved my goals. Canyon Ranch was the engine to begin that journey.
Through the years I have returned to Canyon Ranch for many more corrections. Sometimes they had to do with workout routines, sometimes with evaluating my metabolism or with nutrition or with body alignment.
When my husband saw my continuing transformation, he decided he needed to visit Canyon Ranch as well, and he has accompanied me on several trips since then. He actually took me there for my 60th birthday – I think because he wanted to go. My husband added many new dimensions to my Canyon Ranch experiences. It was very funny to watch him, a driven real estate attorney, participate in healthy cooking classes, meditation and line dancing. He was also a welcome partner when it came to hiking, biking, running and walking.
Some moments still make me laugh. Together we ventured into new areas of experimentation that I would probably not have delved into by myself. Once we were introduced to flax seed. I put it into my salad at lunch. I was scheduled for a massage right after lunch and was late for the appointment after going to the wrong place. The anxiety plus the flax seed seemed to create an imbalance in my digestive system, certainly not the right condition for my poor masseur. To this day I avoid putting flax seed on my salad! Another time when my husband and I went on a meditation walk, we were instructed to use a telescope and focus on something along the path. My husband has a great eye and found a cactus flower immediately. I found the weeds, but with his help he led me to find a flower too. He’s always been more focused than I. The last time we went, my husband was getting ready to retire, and he spent an hour with a counselor who mapped out possible paths for him to take in his retirement. He told her his hobby was wine and his desires to travel were limited. He now plans to travel to vineyards around the world and we have begun our journey by visiting many vineyards in California. Plans to visit Oregon, Italy, Australia are also under consideration.
Of all the visits, the most critical for me was the week after 9/11. I had debated whether to follow through with my trip since the management was being very liberal about canceling, but in the end I elected to go anyway. I had recently sold my store and was having a difficult time adjusting to my new, less intensive life. The plane from Denver to Tucson was almost empty and so was the Ranch. There was a pall about the resort as we went through our daily routine, but as always it was therapeutic to be there. Particularly I remember sitting by one of the pools with a few other visitors and speaking to a counselor about the catastrophe. I was treating the situation somewhat flippantly, a cover-up for how I really felt and one that she was savvy enough to point out. Her warning turned out to be prescient. Soon after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I knew from that moment at the pool that my mind needed another correction as well, and so while I was receiving treatment, I again returned to professionals to address the demons that continued to haunt me. Were it not for the counselor’s warning, I doubt I would have addressed the problem.
Not too long ago a cousin of mine who has never been to a spa asked me what did I get from visiting one and I spewed out some of those pivotal times both my husband and I have gone through and the influence Canyon Ranch has had on both of us. As I look back at the stages of my life when I have visited Canyon Ranch, I realize how going there the first time was the beginning of the transformation of the person I am today. I look forward to returning many times in the future for more guidance and continuous renewal – hopefully with our children and our grandchild.