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My Transformational Experience With Body & Brain Wellness in Sedona, Arizona

Dami Kim (left), director of Body & Brain Wellness, performing an aura reading on Taylor Smith (right)

The Sunday before I flew to Sedona, Arizona, for a Body & Brain Wellness experience at Sedona Mago Center for Well-being and Retreat, I had an emotional breakdown.

Ever since I was little, I’ve been a go-getter and a people-pleaser, which—to my own demise—made me a “yes” person. I’m afraid of failure, and of letting people down, and I’ve convinced myself that saying “no” to any opportunity to advance personally and professionally will be a huge mistake I’ll regret forever.

So, I say “yes” to everything, and lately, I’ve been regretting that more than the possibilities of what will happen if I don’t.

Sound healing experience at Sedona Mago Center for Well-being and Retreat
Sound healing experience at Sedona Mago Center for Well-being and Retreat

It’s like I’ve been given all-you-can-eat privileges at a buffet lined with every one of my favorite foods, but instead of taking only what sounds good in the moment, I try to take a little bit of everything because I’m afraid of something running out or offending the chef.

Halfway down the line, my plate is full and almost too heavy to carry, and I have no room left to try what I really wanted to try…(dessert, of course).  

That Sunday morning, I decided I was going to try it anyways, but my plate shattered beneath the weight of it all.

All it took was to open my Outlook inbox and suddenly, it was hard to breathe.  

I spent the rest of the day talking to my family about dealing with the overwhelm of life and work between fits of crying and hyperventilating, then slept 13 hours that night.

Two days later, I boarded a plane to Phoenix, shuttled 2.5 hours to Sedona and drove 11 miles down a dirt road to Sedona Mago Center for a taste of Caesars Entertainment’s new wellness menu, featuring offerings from Body & Brain Wellness.

When I stepped out of the van and onto the red rocks beneath my feet, I could feel something start to glue the pieces of my broken plate back together.  

[Related: Caesars' New Meetings Wellness Menu Prescribes a Healthy Dose of Program Options]

Sedona Mago Center for Well-being and Retreat
Sedona Mago Center for Well-being and Retreat

Experiencing Sedona Mago Center for Well-being and Retreat

Maybe the something I felt when I arrived at the 173-acre Sedona Mago Center was the same something founder Ilchi Lee felt on his first visit nearly 30 years ago.

Lee, a Korean author, educator and Tao master, discovered the spiritual and sacred powers of Sedona’s red rocks and energy vortexes after one meditation inspired him to visit the abandoned high-desert retreat in 1997.

Outdoor guided meditation at Sedona Mago Center for Well-being and Retreat
Outdoor guided meditation at Sedona Mago Center for Well-being and Retreat

The healing and rejuvenating powers of the area motivated Lee to reimagine what was left of the former retreat center into the wellness destination that stands today, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization owned and operated by Lee’s Tao Fellowship that guides visitors down the path toward holistic healing and self-realization.

Sedona Mago Center for Well-being and Retreat offers 120 casita-style guest rooms and suites and 10 meeting rooms with space for up to 200 attendees. What makes the center so special, though, is what guests and groups learn inside those meeting rooms and put into practice in the natural surroundings of the red rocks (like at one of the 13 outdoor teambuilding structures that were recently added to the property).

In Korean, “Mago” means unconditional love and spirit of Mother Earth—two things I hadn’t been feeling prior to my time in Sedona. Participating in a handful of Body & Brain Wellness offerings made me feel like I was experiencing “Mago” for the very first time, and the peace I felt helped me realize that finding my “Mago” again may be the glue I need to put my plate back together.

[Related: Caesars Entertainment Culinary Exec Don Ross on the Brand's New Focus on Wellness]

Body & Brain Wellness Corporate Experiences

Body & Brain Wellness is the corporate-focused branch of Body & Brain, an organization and pioneer in Eastern holistic energy healing and mind-body practices founded by Lee. Body & Brain Wellness offers tailored wellness experiences for conventions, conferences, workplaces and employee incentives through speakers, workshops and classes, teambuilding opportunities and more.

The organization’s comprehensive practices combine traditional Korean healing philosophies and Qi energy training with contemporary insights from neuroscience and education to help participants find personal well-being and transformation. (Qi, pronounced “chee,” is an ancient Chinese word for the energetic life force that flows through your body and the universe.)

Dami Kim, director of Body & Brain Wellness
Dami Kim, director of Body & Brain Wellness

For three days, Dami Kim, director of Body & Brain Wellness, guided me and six others through multiple Body & Brain Wellness practices, all of which are offered by the organization as group experiences.  

We started our retreat using the center’s biofeedback imaging system to read our auras. With my hands on the machine, the system analyzed the flow of energy through my body and generated a visual display of my energy condition, stress levels and body-mind-spirit balance.

In front of me, my aura radiated hues of bright yellow and green. Kim explained the colors mean I am full of compassion, adventure and almost too much of a desire to make others happy. In the background, hints of red and orange reflect the anxious energy I bury inside and hide from others, skyrocketing my stress levels.

Bottling up that energy, Kim said, is why my mind-body-spirit balance fell so heavily on the body side. Instead of acknowledging my anxious energy, I push it away until it becomes too much for me to ignore and my plate starts to overflow.

Kim’s reading of my aura was so accurate that I felt exposed, but I also felt relieved. When I got back to my room that evening, I called my mom on the phone in tears, overwhelmed by the feeling of being understood and having my emotions validated. Another piece of my shattered plate was back in its place.

Throughout our three days together thanks to Caesars Entertainment, each of the six women I was with found another piece of my broken plate, picked it up and offered to help me put it back together again.

I flew home from Sedona all in one piece.  

[Related: Be You Disco Brings Teams Together Through Dance, Music and Mindfulness]

A labyrinth at Sedona Mago Center for Well-being and Retreat
A labyrinth at Sedona Mago Center for Well-being and Retreat

Why Meeting Planners Should Prioritize Well-being

“Meeting planners are very busy. They’re always too much in the race, so their minds move too fast, their bodies follow, and then they’re being dragged by their minds’ emotional stress,” Kim said. “They try so hard to carry on, but how long would you last?”

During a conversation Kim had with Christine Cleaver, associate professor and program director for event and entertainment management at Philadelphia’s Temple University, Cleaver shared that many of her students who graduate to become meeting planners quit within three months.  

“If you’re a meeting planner who’s already maxed out your capacity to handle high stress, who’s not taking care of your own well-being, how do you have the space in your mind to take care of your clients?” Kim said. “Meeting planners are expected to perform at their best all the time while trying to achieve some impossible things, and we know it’s not working. So, why aren’t we changing?

“Somebody needs to pioneer in that area,” Kim added. “Somebody needs to show others that there’s a way to make things better.”

Taylor Smith participating in teambuilding activities at Sedona Mago Center
Taylor Smith participating in teambuilding activities at Sedona Mago Center

For me, that somebody was Kim.  

I started my Body & Brain Wellness retreat experience in Sedona completely burnt out, looking for the end of a tunnel I was convinced I’d never find. The people-pleaser in me who has so much love for her job that the word “no” isn’t even in her vocabulary had reached her limit of yes’s.

That Sunday morning, I learned that even the hardest of hard workers can work too hard. That’s the reality of being passionate about your career in the meetings and events industry.

Kim and what she taught me through Body & Brain Wellness experiences helped me admit that I love my job more than I love myself—and how that could be a problem.

I can’t give my all to the job I love so much if there’s no more me left to give. Unless I start to prioritize my physical and mental well-being as much as I prioritize my to-do list at work, I will never be able to perform at my full potential, and I will inevitably run myself dry.  

Two years at the all-you-can-eat buffet taught me a lesson. Now, before I fill my plate, I make sure to leave a little room for dessert, and I no longer feel guilty about it. 

Read more wellness content from Meetings Today.

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About the author
Taylor Smith | Content Developer, Destinations and Features

Taylor Smith joined Stamats in May 2022 as a content developer, destinations and features for Meetings Today. Smith has experience covering everything from travel to breaking news and graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor’s degree in news and magazine journalism. Previously, she’s written for St. Louis Magazine and worked as an editorial assistant and apprentice for Aubree Nichols, who has been published in premier publications such as The New York TimesELLE and The Los Angeles Times.