“Do you know where this vortex thingy is?” a man asks heading up the red dirt trail. “I think it’s up in that direction. You’ll see a bunch of people meditating.” I cough, then walk the other way. “Oh, goody,” he says clutching a Canon Rebel and smiling at his female companion.
Sedona, Arizona is a spiritual tourism mecca and one of those places that people say, “You must stop and see.” I have come in search of energy. More specifically, in search of the energy vortexes said to be scattered around the area. My visit comes at a time when I’m nursing a bad cold, complete with sneezing, fatigue, fever and cough. I have three days to see four sites. More than enough time if I can find the, uh, energy.
The problem in locating, precisely, these “vortexes of subtle energy” is that there are no x-marks-the-spot signs indicating “here is the vortex” or “this way to the energy.” Instead, one must read online accounts and feel their way to the right place. One website (John and Miki’s Metaphysical Site), the one I use to find the vortexes, says: “You’ll notice that the energy is strong as soon as you get out of your car” in certain areas. “Strong” is a relative term.
Red Rock Crossing/Cathedral Rock
The first vortex I assail is Red Rock Crossing/Cathedral Rock, located on Route 89A to the west of town. As instructed, I enter Crescent Moon Park, pay the $9.00 fee, and continue to the farthest point where I can park. From there, I walk a short distance along Oak Creek through beautiful maple, juniper, sycamore and oaks trees. Fall leaves are an intense golden yellow with splotches of orange and green. On the path are pillars, six-inches to two-feet high, of smooth river rocks stacked precariously one on top of the other that people have carefully erected. My cell phone abruptly stops functioning and turns off completely. I click it on several times to no avail.
The website says this center “strengthens the feminine side” that exists in all spiritual beings. I didn’t know that energy has gender, but I’m open to the idea. As I walk, my heart beat increases, though I am not certain if it’s the DayQuil, extra weight I carry around my midsection, or the vortex. The prominent emotion building in me is anger. I scream, in my head, at the other tourists who linger in several landscape photos I wish to take. My iPhone still will not click on.
I recenter myself – after all, this is a special place and I am trying to have a spiritual experience. Breathing in the fresh air and scenic location, I build a small rock tower. Not as nice or elaborate as some, but it adds to the multitude of altars. I pray and set an intention to welcome more feminine energy into my life. Then, I walk back the way I came. Before making it back to my car, I notice a man sitting on a log. He grumbles, then pushes over some of the rock pillars. Apparently I am not the only one who feels anger here.
The next center I pay homage to is Boynton Canyon, northeast of Cathedral Rock about 4 miles. In the parking lot, I notice “parking permit required” signs. Other cars display papers in their windshields, and after minor investigation I see an automatic pay box where for $5 a day I can get a permit – credit cards accepted. I hate being nickled and dimed, so grumble to myself while inserting my card. Total amount to see the two energy sites is now $14.
I follow the Boynton Canyon Trail to Vista Trail, just a short walk. Along the way, my cell phone, which I have clicked a few times, reboots itself. I overhear someone comment, “I don’t know where this what-ever-it-is is, but let’s go this way.” I go the opposite direction, not wanting my experience to be disturbed.
Juniper trees jut out of smooth red boulders. A couple in front of me points out a roadrunner off in the distance. On this trail, I notice a vibrational hum coming from the earth. I hear it in other places, but it sounds deeper here. The website, which I pull up on my iPhone, says this energy center helps “balance the masculine and feminine.” Again I feel my heart beat faster as I approach the supposed site.
I never find what I consider the exact location of the vortex, but decide my visit here is complete after saying a short prayer in an area where others are praying, meditating and even napping.
The third vortex is due east of Boynton Canyon on Route 89A at Airport Road. Up a short trail, the site overlooks the city of Sedona. I see the same “permits required” signage, which makes my masculine blood boil. Here I decide to use the same permit from the last location – and rush through the experience less I be caught. Not until later, do I realize that the permits are good for all locations, all day.
Before walking into the area, I center myself to see if I can really feel the energy. I’m expecting it to hit me like a tab of ecstasy or LSD. It does not. By now, I am exhausted from the short walks taken in the name of spiritual growth. I pause, breath deeply, then walk 200 feet up the path to the overlook. Other visitors surround me, meditating, talking, walking deep in thought. Images of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead play in my head as someone shuffles by expressionless.
This location actually has a pile of rocks enclosed in a metal cage that appears to mark the spot. Offerings – dollar bills, flowers, personal notes, pictures – are placed carefully in between the red stones and wire. I consider reclaiming the dollar bills, but decide karma might not look so kindly on such an action. I have nothing in my pockets but my phone and wallet. I thumb through it for something to leave, but find nothing. I offer another prayer and set another intention.
Once again I experience a light, rapid feeling in my chest – my heart center – sort of like a strong cup of Starbucks first thing in the morning. Being that this is the third time in as many locales, I determine the experience must be due to the vortexes. I meditate, finding a nice, smooth boulder on which to sit. The few moments I spend are filled with incessant chatter . . . from my own head.
The fourth and final vortex I visit is located south of town at a pull out just off Route 179. Pulling into the parking lot, I leave the permit from the previous day on my dashboard hoping to skirt the $5 fee (which I do). It means I have to rush through the vortex or risk a ticket should some meticulous cop cruise the lot.
Bell Rock is a short, beautiful hike to a very “Sedona” place. It overlooks a large bell-shaped geological formation covered in smooth red boulders and juniper trees. The website says of finding the specific location: “Notice the twisted Juniper trees.” I see branches twisting on themselves in a circular fashion as if growing in a slight whirlwind. People are abundant in this location. I notice tourists with cameras, maps, and a familiar look in their eyes – almost as if they have just spotted big game on safari.
This vortex supposedly strengthens all three of the previous areas: feminine, masculine, and the feminine/masculine balance. I don’t notice much in this place – maybe because I haven’t paid my fair share of parking or maybe because the DayQuil is just kicking in. Either way, I pause, then say a prayer for the land and breathe in the fresh air, red rocks, trees and land.
I come to the conclusion that feeling energy in each of the locations is nothing like drugs. In most cases it is not even as powerful as a cup of coffee. But, if I am willing to pause, listen and breathe, I might notice something just below the surface of perception.
Before I leave town, I catch up with my new friend, Malaika, the Australian/vegetarian/dance instructor I met in Oregon. She has spent a month in Sedona – full of adventure – and is about to head off to Florida in a van she bought for $4500. We review her and my adventures, misadventures, love, and loss on the road. It’s fun to compare notes. We agree to meet along the way, perhaps for lunch in Austin or a swamp tour in Louisiana.