Michael Tompkins is the visionary CEO of Miraval, recognized as one of the nation’s finest health resorts and creator of the new “Mindful Living” experience. He is a fifteen year veteran of the luxury hospitality industry. He began his career at Miraval in 2007. He has been instrumental in Miraval’s Life in Balance Spa with Clarins. It’s the creation of the Andrew Weil, M.D. Integrated Wellness Center. Completing the development of the villas at Miraval, one of the fastest growing and selling luxury lifestyle real estate projects in the country. Today Michael joined us to discuss his new project with Miraval’s latest book – “Mindful Living.”
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: The motto at Miraval is “Life in Balance.” Can you explain a little bit about what that means and how it becomes a lifestyle?
Michael Tompkins: Yes. There are so many things that happen in our everyday lives, some many stressors that are demanding of our time. It’s learning how to find the balance and maintain that balance that is essential to living a present, mindful life. It’s a way of coming up with a balance of the elements like intensity and relaxation, action and stillness, exploring the world around us while at the same time exploring our inner selves.
At Miraval we provide tools that help people to do that. Whether it is focusing on the breath, getting out in nature, or finding ways that help people to, as you say, live fearlessly and be their authentic selves in a way that opens up a lot of freedom and at the same time a knowledge that can be very empowering.
Dr. Relly Nadler: So with that, Michael, say a little bit more about the mindfulness practices. What does that mean to Miraval? Is it incorporated in all the programs? Are their special programs that zero in? This can help give our audience the full spectrum of what Miraval offers.
Michael Tompkins: Back about 18 years ago when Miraval was started, it was founded on the principles of mindfulness from the books of Jon Kabat Zinn. We have maintained that throughout our 18-year history. We have a committee here at Miraval who evaluates and demos every single class, lecture and service that we offer to our guests. What we want is to make sure that the educational information or the activities that are being done always find a way to bring a person back to themselves in a way that is thought provoking and meaningful. Nothing goes on our board that doesn’t have the principles of mindfulness in it. It is that thread of consistency among our programming that is really made us a leader in the industry. For us, it is looking at what the elements are in a program that make it mindful, or how can we enhance it to make it even more impactful for teaching people how to live in present-moment time.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Isn’t that such a key because I know, certainly those of us who have been practicing mindfulness through our lives, it’s so easy to either be thinking about the future or unfortunately living in the past due to either our mistakes or memories that we can’t let go of, whether is nostalgia or something that is less than positive. It’s so hard. Tell me how you use this mindfulness in the Miraval philosophy and what inspired this. Where did this come from?
Michael Tompkins: Well, in the beginning it came from what was originally our parent company, called Sierra Tucson, which is a drug and alcohol treatment center across the street. The original owners of that property had decided that the programs that they were using for the addicts there could be geared toward the general population that might help them learn some coping skills around conquering fear and self-doubt, letting go, empowerment; all of those things that good leaders need. So, they created Miraval.
We do that through a variety of different ways. Sometimes, I have found, our Miraval equine experience for example; you learn about yourself through the actions and reactions with a horse. It takes away the ego of somebody telling you that you are not doing this right, or you are doing that right — where you might really be doubting yourself or others because the reactions from a horse remove all of the ego that supports those things. It’s intuitively interesting to see the way people come back from our Miraval equine experience — a very deep thought about how they react to situations that happen in their every day lives and how they can change it, because we all have a choice.
Dr. Relly Nadler: In my twenties I used to work for these Outward Bound programs where they popularized the ropes course that you are doing. But getting people into the moment; same thing you were talking about with the equine, where you see right away success, fear, failure — in the moment, everything happens. It doesn’t mean that you have to be an expert climber or great with horses, but it really is a metaphor for your life and everything jumps up at you in that moment so then you can talk about it.
One of the things, Michael, that we wanted to talk about is your recently published book, Mindful Living. We want to hear first what the book is about and then also about this term of “mindfulness” of which there has been such a buzz in the last 18 months and there has been so much more written about it. Did you know this was going to be so important in today’s business climate?
Michael Tompkins: We had an idea, certainly, and we have been trying to push that for year. One of the things is that we are constantly working with the Fortune 500 companies, actually the Top 50, Fortune 50 companies here at Miraval on leadership programs with their team. Whether that be on conflict resolution, thinking outside-of-the-box, or team building or whatever it might be, we knew and still know the principles of mindfulness are extremely powerful in assisting people to not only lead a better life but also be a better leader.
It is because of those that we put together Mindful Living, which has been a great month-to-month guide on how to live life, the Miraval way as told through our experts, whether it be our chefs that do a recipe each month or our therapists in the spa who can tell you some tools for relaxation that you can do both in the spa setting or at home. Each month also features a lesson from one of our wellness counselors and experts. The compilation of that book really brings home how many different individual components there are to mindfulness and how to incorporate them into your life.
Dr. Cathy Greenberg: One of the things that I have gotten out of this book are seasonal things. When you go through the book, month by month and you look at those recipes, you look at the exercises and you look at the mindfulness approach, you also start to reconnect back with what many business leaders are really resonating with, which is self-awareness. It’s very powerful in providing and steering an individual who could get into the routine of doing the same thing every day, but that doesn’t necessarily help you in your business life or in your personal life because you get into a rut and you don’t realize that you are not growing anymore or you are not capable of expanding your box and being the best performer you can be and having the best life you can have.
Michael Tompkins: I agree. You know mindful living for me started after being given a gift at Christmas time which was a cartoon book that was written by Eckhart Tolle, called Guardians of Being. It was the simple task of walking your dog every morning and how dogs live in the present moment always. So, I took that experience and made it a resolution for me that year to walk my dog every day. I realized that every single day of walking the dog and that habit, that I got out of my head and really got into just being able to breathe and relax before I get ready to get in the car to go to work. It was a very simple task. I thought, if a cartoon book essentially could do this for me, what could Miraval do that could be instrumental in helping people live a more mindful life.
It was at that point that I consulted our experts and we came up with a month-to-month guide that is very similar to what people do every day but just gentle reminders because we forget due to the stressors that are placed upon us. For example:
January is Beginnings instead of resolutions because we want the beginning to be the start of a lifestyle change where people make very small increments. For this book it’s increments month-by-month that essentially give 3 exercises that you can do at the end of each month. Then you continue you on throughout the year and at the end of the year you have essentially 36 things that you have in your toolbox that can help you get back to mindfulness.
February we call it “heart”, but of course it’s about love; we all need love.
March is meditation, for me, walking my dog is meditating.
Each month is a little bit different but it brings you back to your own self and helps you take a look at the things you are doing and how you can move through them and improve how you are seen and perceived and how you feel inside.
Please join us as we talk with Michael about Mindfulness, as he gives us simple exercises we can use right now that can actually help us focus on being in the present moment. You can listen to the complete recording, without commercials, above.