Each woman chosen to travel to the Miraval Spa went into the experience with personal goals in mind. Some of the woman share what they hoped to gain from the life-changing week—as well as how the trip impacted their lives when they returned home.

Laura, San Antonio

To rediscover my true self, to learn and share with others tools that can help me, to eat mindfully, to meditate.

What I learned about myself at Miraval is that I can allow myself to take time off to rediscover my true self. The best and most important take-home piece is that I can use the tools I learned even when I am at home. I can meditate, work out, breathe and smell the flowers.

My advice to others is to take time to reflect on what is important, such as family, friendships and yourself. The spirit of Miraval is to use all of our knowledge to improve our well-being. By learning, we can share with others how to be healthy and mindful.

Erin, Seabrook, New Hampshire

At Miraval, I will rest my mind and body. This is the intention of self-revitalization and renewal to expand my work with poor women in Kenya.

The best advice I have ever received was at Miraval. The advice is, "You can only give what you have." This message came across loud and clear in various forms from every class and lecture we attended. If we do not take care of ourselves first, there will be nothing left over to give to others.

Giving to others is what I do best, so I really needed time to be still, rejuvenate and refocus my thoughts. ... My life is very full, and before Miraval I had been getting run-down and sick frequently. Being still through meditation taught me how to discover what I need for myself. Only once I am whole can I be there fully for everyone.

The friendships made at Miraval will be lifelong. Most of us were in the same place in our lives and spent the entire time together, learning the Miraval jewels of life as a group. As a result, the connections we made with one another were on a deeper level. Our time in Tucson was the beginning of our new journey as individuals, but also as a group.

Patricia, Las Vegas

I hope to clear my mind (and body) of "junk thought" (and junk food!). Physically, I need to get my body moving again—to get motivated to exercise on a daily basis. I hope to meet others, share perspectives and just have some fun!

During my stay at Miraval, I noted:
  • Women are the stronger sex. I've known this for a long time, but it was just so overwhelmingly obvious at Miraval.
  • 35 grams of fiber a day is impossible (for me).
  • Finding my North Star requires a better compass than I currently own. (My needle appears to be stuck on south; never mind that technically this is impossible!).
  • Everybody has problems. Some we create for ourselves, some others create for us. How we react to those problems is up to the individual. Eleanor Roosevelt stated, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." We must control our reaction to our problems or perceptions. Otherwise, they will own you.
  • A very dark room and a very comfortable bed are critical to a good night's sleep.
  • Don't let Dr. Oz measure your waistline.
  • Five days at Miraval, with facials and scrubs, helped me forget the contractors' flubs.
  • Bob Greene is cute!
  • I can go a couple of days without chocolate.

Amanda, West Hollywood, California

Today is the first day of the rest of my life! I challenge my spirit to touch itself, to dig deep into sacred intimacy and pay forward to unique gifts, talent, compassion, passion, peace, joy, light and love. Laugh, listen, love and play with 50 dynamic women and soar!

From the first wink of winning the Miraval Contest, the experience has exceeded my expectations. After arriving home and getting back into the daily groove, I had no idea what an impact this life-altering trip would have on my existence. I was so disconnected from my inner life, therefore, unable to truthfully be the woman I thought I was. Having five days to turn my attention on me at every moment, being completely present was such an amazing gift for myself and everyone else that influences my being and vice-versa. ...

There was such discovery for me while at Miraval that I will probably continue to emotionally process the knowledge for a lifetime. Metaphorically, letting go of fear, control and trusting became very apparent during Swing and A Prayer and The Quantum Leap that I experienced with Oprah, Gayle and several other brave women. ... I will not let fear stop me from anything and I will pay that forward to anyone willing to listen. Next time, maybe I'll keep my eyes open. ... Each woman I had the honor to meet, brought a sense of extraordinary courage and strength. The energy of these women sent me off like a rocket and I am still soaring. ... The most important legacy for me was I left "my story" at Miraval, started a new chapter that began the first day of the rest of my life.

Rebecca, Montgomery, Alabama

"Retreat is the food of renewal." I hope to learn how to find balance in my life and come back with a renewed passion and inspiration for working with children and helping them heal (I am a counselor with abused kids). I also hope to find the sense of adventure in my life that I so desperately need and take some amazing photographs (I'm also a photographer). I'm so grateful for this opportunity!

It's hard to put into words what the Miraval experience meant to me. I went to Miraval with a negative attitude about life and about people, and I came away with a feeling of passion for life. I met 59 of the most inspiring women and felt in awe that I was a part of such an extraordinary adventure. I made some friendships that will last a lifetime, and I was able to gain a much-needed sense of adventure in my life. I learned that I have to take care of myself in order to take care of the people and the world around me.

One of the most important things I learned is that in order to really live, I need to be mindful of each present moment. I realized that by living in the future and the past, I wasn't really living. ... I am now feeling much less stress in my job working with kids and I am learning to help them live in the present rather than the past as well. Lastly, I got to be in a gorgeous area and take some beautiful photographs that I will always cherish. Retreat truly is the food of renewal, and I am so grateful to have been a part of this experience!

Laura, Middlefield, Connecticut

I hope to find my lost "courage." Turning 50 this past year caused me to reflect on my life. I realize that as the years progress, I have been gaining in the fear department. I plan on utilizing this trip to face some fears (traveling alone, taking risks, heights, pole climbing), gain inner strength and reinforce the gratitude I feel.

I was always a young woman with little fear. I would travel Europe, hitchhiking through Ireland and Holland, never knowing where I would sleep. I felt strong and beautiful. I married, divorced, then remarried my current husband. Eight months after we were married, my only sister/best friend was murdered. ... I began to live a live of doubt, fear and an underlying anger that only the people who loved me would see. Outwardly I appeared well-adjusted, smart and positive. Internally I felt like a fraud.

Now I know that Miraval was not a magic antidote, but it did make me look at myself in a realistic way. I finally realized just how damaged I am due to my sister's murder, and how it left me so frightened. I went to Miraval hoping to gain some of my fearlessness back, to gain some strength and to show my family, especially my children, that I haven't always been so tightly wrapped.

The first week back was wonderful. I felt alive again! My family was ecstatic. The honeymoon is somewhat over, but I am working hard to remember the things at Miraval that helped me to shed some of my fear.

Shonna, Compton, California

I hope to achieve "inner peace." I want to do things that I would have never thought I would be doing. I hope to find myself. I hope to find my purpose in life. I want to experience my happiness that I had so long ago. I want to lay all my burdens and hardships to the side and let it all be about me.

I would love to share with you a brief testimonial about my time at Miraval. It was heaven on earth. I have never experienced any thing like it. When I first got there the sight was breathtaking. Everyone there was so nice and helpful. It was wonderful. This vacation was life-changing for me. It's hard for me to explain the way I felt then and still feel now. I learned a lot about myself in those four days. I learned that I am special and worthy to be loved. I learned from Martha Beck that being strong doesn't mean you can't cry. "Crying is okay." I learned that I am blessed and that I should never doubt myself or my blessings.

The other women that were there were so phenomenal. It was so amazing how on the first day no one knew each other, but throughout those four days, lifelong friends were made. We touched each other lives in so many ways. We were no longer strangers. We had become sisters, friends, soul survivors bonded together. Beautiful women inside and out.

Joyce, Fairfax Station, Virginia

I hope to have a "mind and body intervention!" As a breast cancer survivor, I'd like to take better care of myself. I would also like to spend more time with the "spiritual" me, learn to meditate and perhaps dig up the artist in me.

Quite strangely, sometime in mid-December, I had a few minutes to sit down and thumb through my new [O, The Oprah Magazine]. I saw the invitation to enter a contest to win a week at Miraval Resort with Oprah and Gayle. But, since I never enter contests, I read on. A little voice (no,honestly!) said, "Enter that contest, Joyce!" And without hesitation, I jotted down my 50 words on a postcard and then waited to hear from them in February. Indeed, the call came and off I went.

What did I win? A week at a glorious resort with Oprah Winfrey, of course! But what did I really get? I got back parts of myself that had been lost for years. I got affirmation as a woman, a phenomenal woman (Oprah said so!), and the gift of connection with 59 other phenomenal women from all over the country, who were perfect strangers only the day before, and now reside in my heart. Was I blessed to win, as my friends thought? No, I believe I won to be blessed.

And the most important thing I took home, what I believe now for sure, is something Oprah told us the first night: Take time to be still and listen for the "whispers" that we all get, that will guide us to everything we want and can be.

Catherine, New Orleans


All my expectations at Mirval were met. It was the best. I had time away from my hectic schedule. There were no cell phones, no traffic jams and no meetings. I had a chance to remember who I was. I had an opportunity to reconnect with nature and my thoughts. Best take-home piece of advice I can add is—no matter how busy you are, take out time for yourself, take a walk, take a long bubble bath or just sit in a quiet room and rest and reconnect.

Tracey, Bethesda, Maryland

Tracey created the collage pictured above to represent her goals for the trip.

You are important. Listen to the whisper. If you miss the whisper, recognize the brick—don't wait for the 2x4.Trust your instinct. If you have to ask someone whether this shirt looks good on you, you already know the answer. Stop questioning yourself. Did I say, "You are important?"

Your social self and your emotional self should be in sync. You know you're in sync when you feel good, comfortable, and able to be yourself. Do not go through life on autopilot, it may be easier, but it is not healthier. Did I say, "Be true to yourself?"

Practice. Practice breathing. Practice mindfulness. Practice reflecting. Practice looking at yourself and loving at least one thing that you see. Did I say, "You are a phenomenal woman?"

The universe is fair. You get what you give. This does not always happen in ways we may understand. Like, did I ask the universe to give me breast cancer? Think, maybe I needed to go through the cancer to start really living. Maybe not.

Carry only your backpack through life. Others may ask you to carry theirs. You may want to carry someone else's. But carry your own. Let others carry their own. Did I say, "Breathe?" ...

Be a caterpillar. Melt in your cocoon from time to time so you can emerge a beautiful butterfly. Take care of yourself; the world has only one you.