In the Arizona Desert, a 100-Minute Vision Quest for the Soul

by Kate Donnelly
Spirit Photo courtesy of Miraval.

At Tucson's famous Miraval Spa, a shamanic transformational healing ceremony means a deep cleansing of the physical and metaphysical realms.

TUCSON, Arizona – I’m in the Sonoran Desert glancing at a description for Spirit Flight on . It reads like a classified: 

Transformational healing ceremony with Dr. Tim Frank combines a full-body therapeutic massage with the healing practices of Spiritual Shamanism and drumming, acupuncture, Craniosacral therapy, and spinal alignment to renew your energy and balance. This is a specialty service with limited availability.

I’m intrigued enough to book. The night before my treatment, I receive a two-page set of flight instructions. I realize this won’t be a typical “spa treatment.” In the morning, Dr. Tim Frank, the charismatic, handsome godson of an intuitive Cherokee healer (his mother was also a healer and his aunt performed the same ceremony with bee stingers instead of acupuncture needles), runs down the curriculum. He also happens to be naturopathic physician and acupuncturist. His “office” is situated inside a warm adobe hut, and the ceremony promises to be an immersive culmination of bodywork and shamanic practices. 

This isn’t for the faint of heart. Simply put: People sitting in front of this man are ready to make changes in their life.

Before we begin, Dr. Frank gives me an intuitive mind-body-spirit reading, and we set a healing intention. Then there’s a sweetgrass sage smudge — or what Dr. Tim refers to as “the sacred herb of the indigenous people” — along with some whisking of the air with feathers and fire to clear the room of bad juju. After that, I head to the table for a full-body massage — a bit of deep tissue and what Dr. Tim likens to the lomilomi technique (the ancient Hawaiian practice of long, flowing strokes from the shoulders to the feet), which is believed to expand personal power. He then sets hot towels on my body to draw out negative energies. We move into acupuncture on the Samadi points (ear, hands, feet, third eye). At this point, Dr. Tim, as taught by his elders, is in a deep trance with drumming, flutes, rattles, and chanting. With a ceremony such as this, you must embrace the unknown, suspend disbelief, and be open to experience. The scene is highly elemental, an exhilarating assault on all the senses culminating with dry heat, Native American chanting, and the energetic vortex of southern Arizona mountains. It’s all-encompassing, and there’s nothing quite like it.

Dr. Tim says every 27 to 29 years we need to be prepared to clear out the old energy and start over. Of course, he's right. One hundred minutes later, I emerge on another plane of consciousness — rejuvenated, excited, and exhausted. I float back to my room for slumber.

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