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Mii amo’s Serene Sanders finds Gratitude in Everyday Life


Amidst the spectacularly picturesque red Sedona rocks can be found a completely nurturing experience of total mind, body, and spirit wellness. Serene Sanders is the Spa Director of Mii amo, an award winning destination spa in Sedona, Arizona.  For an overview of Mii amo, imagine an idyllic Sedona retreat with a focus on leading guests on sacred journeys of transformation and exploration. Repeatedly ranked by Travel + Leisure readers as one of the world’s best destination spas, Mii amo offers personalized all-inclusive spa retreat journeys of three-, four- and seven- nights, complete with meals, accommodations and spa treatments. The uniqueness of Mii amo, the breath taking location combined with the rich culture and Native American influence creates a one of a kind experience.

As the Spa Director, Sanders is responsible for overseeing the daily operations ranging from program and menu development to team training and operating procedures for this destination boutique spa. Prior to joining the leadership team at Mii amo, Sanders most recently provided spa consulting services at Round Hill Hotel & Villas in Montego Bay, Jamaica and previously, Sanders worked as spa sales and marketing manager at the well-known Joya Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona. With more than two decades in the holistic health industry, she brings a wealth of experience to her new position.

Listen in on the interview Under a Tree conducted with Serene, and learn how she implements these values into her work at the spa and into her daily life:

UaT: What is your passion? What wakes you up in the morning and gets you going?

SS: My passion and what I’ve always wanted to do is to build a space for guests to be transformed. I facilitate the process by helping guests to look within their own lives, helping them to see the choice for gratitude and appreciation in all that they have. I assist guests to have transformational experiences while also helping them to have gratitude for every moment, every experience. Even in the throes of grief or despair, there is something beautiful that can be appreciated in each moment.  Perhaps someone smiles at you at the grocery store, or you see a beautiful bird. There is always something to appreciate, even within the intricacy and depth of one’s emotions or the currency of one’s thoughts. When we are full of this gratitude, we have so much more to offer the people around us. This is what drives me, helping people appreciate everything in their lives.

UaT: Can you tell us an experience of how gratitude has shifted your life?

SS: Interestingly, you sometimes see people with so much less than what we have here in the United States really enjoying and appreciating their lives. I once spent three weeks in Africa and saw people struggling to get by, to find something to eat, who were happy and smiling. In contrast, here at home we have so much more to be grateful for every day. The fact that you are alive and breathing is something to be appreciative of. It is all about carrying this energy forward. I am honored by the massage therapists who work here on the property; they too bring that understanding of gratitude for the moment and all the gifts forward to the guests in each treatment.

UaT: Can you tell me about the New Moon Treatment you created?

SS: “Spirit of the New Moon” is a treatment that I created with the intention of offering a session based on the “old ways.” As a professional astrologer and massage therapist, I have deep respect for the ancient traditions and wanted to bring some of this wisdom forward. This treatment is based on the idea of the New Moon, which is a time of manifesting, of bringing forth the new and giving birth to new forms.

The treatment begins with a foot bath filled with warm water, gemstones, salts and essential oils, including angelica, spruce and pine, a very grounding combination. As the feet soak, the therapist provides a gentle foot and leg massage, during which time the guest is asked to consider what it is they want to manifest in their lives. The guest then writes their wish on parchment paper. As the treatment progresses, the guest receives a scalp massage as a way to support them in integrating their inner wisdom into the manifesting process.

UaT: What is the most authentic aspect of your work at Mii amo?

SS: It’s about the people– we impact the guest, but the guests impact us just as much. You see people’s true colors here at the spa, from the business person to the homemaker. While you see the outer persona, you also see deeper levels of guests, with all of their varied traits. This is awe inspiring to me and truly drives my work here.

UaT: What would you tell spa goers that is essential for finding and creating a truly authentic spa experience?

SS: I would tell spa goers to look for authenticity on all levels of the spa and from everyone you contact- -from the management, to the therapist and the front desk agents. You want to see authenticity shining through from every person you are engaged with. When you find genuineness in these myriad interactions, then you will know you have found a place of true authenticity. It helps you feel safe enough to go deep, contemplate your truth, and then make the decisions you need to make to move in the direction of your heart and reaching your full potential.

UaT: How do you find balance in your life?

SS: I find balance through managing the areas of my life that are most important, and then letting the little things go. I try and remember what is important… be kind, listen, have a grace towards others, and most importantly – don’t lie, cheat, or steal for any reason. When I am stressed, I go for a walk (always by myself) and listen to music that reminds me of all the beauty in this life. Lastly, I remind myself “I am alive and that is good enough for me!”

UaT: Is there a practice you would recommend for guests that they can take home with them, to perpetuate the Mii amo experience and create more flow and balance in their lives?

Living a balanced life will take a bit of effort at first; we need to make a commitment to ourselves to practice the wonderful techniques we have learned at Mii amo, whether its conscious effort to breathe deeply and fully, meditate, or simply to be gentle with ourselves. Showing this grace and compassion for oneself will pay tenfold. In addition, I like remind the guests, when they don’t feel love, give love. If you’re not feeling generous, give to another. By following this simple act, you will be taken back to a place of love, gratitude and joy.  Most importantly, I remind them to recall their Journey and experience when need be. The old adage, “we don’t remember the days, we remember the moments,” will bring guests back to a special memory and remind them of the many blessings in their lives.

Under a Tree is an international consultancy of hospitality, health, wellness and adult care specialists with innovative programming, design and development, finance and operational expertise. We work with spas to optimize their operations to create more nurturing experiences. Over the years, we have found that spa goers are looking for destinations where they can unwind and recover a sense of their own majesty, and then return to their own lives not only refreshed but also eager to implement new tools into their daily wellness regime. We are glad to share some insights that we have gained in how to locate authentic spa experiences, and then how to implement these effective tools into your own life.

Alisa Spirit of the Wind, a senior associate with Under a Tree, is passionate about issues of sustainability and authenticity within organizations and cultures. For more information about Under a Tree and the work that we do to increase the health, vibrancy and profitability of your spas, integrated medical clinics and wellness facilities, contact us at [email protected]

About Douglas Corbett

Doug Corbett is the Publisher of LA Yoga and Find Bliss Los Angeles Magazines.

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