One look at the bulletin board outside the Eye of the Vortex Book Shop tells you they’re unlikely to hold the next GOP Convention in this desert burg - unless Republicans suddenly get an urge for meditation, colon hydrotherapy, ear coning, internal organ rejuvenation and galactic healing.
Sedona, perched in the mountains of north central Arizona, aside from being one of the most beautiful towns on the planet, is also the capital of all things rejuvenating. Locals say that the Earth’s “power lines” form a “vortex” here, whatever that means.
Trying to get into the spirit of the place, I thought I’d take a stab at some serious contemplation.
Jackie, owner of the Eye of the Vortex, advised me to try some meditation on my own, then seek the guidance of a “facilitator.” She mapped out a route to Rachel’s Knoll, a popular meditation spot.
Meditation is “like the reverse of praying,” Jackie explained. “Instead of sending messages out, open yourself to receive them. If you need to touch a rock or tree to get in touch with nature, then do it. And if you want to lie down and fall asleep, that’s OK, too.”
“It’s OK to doze off?” I asked, amazed.
“Sure, but it’s better to stay awake. You may have a sighting.”
“See a UFO,” Jackie said, realizing she was dealing with a moron.
The sun was setting and neither Signe, my girlfriend, nor I had eaten since breakfast. I stuck a granola bar in my pocket and we started hiking up the designated knoll. The first thing I saw was a bull charging at me. I started running away, wondering if this was a sign and how I should interpret it. A charging bull reminded me of the Running of the Bulls in Spain, which reminded me of drinking too much red wine. Then, when Signe pointed out it my attacker was actually just a cow, I thought maybe this could symbolize Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Why not?
A few minutes later, we saw a giggly woman coming down the hill in tight shorts and a jogging bra, holding a glass of champagne.
“Is this the way to the meditation hill?” I asked. She paused reflectively for several awkward moments, then replied, “Yes, I am,” and walked off. I had no idea what to make of this, although it vaguely reminded me of the kind of answers I regularly receive from my parents.
The knoll featured a medicine wheel, a collection of small stones placed in a circle the size of a plastic, kiddy swimming pool, with another circle of stones the size of a large pizza placed in the center. There were four lines of stones connecting the smaller circle to the larger one. Signe, a fourth-year med student, had no idea how to work it. So we just sat there and stared at the thing.
The entire valley was lit up under the full moon. The canyon’s silhouette was stunning - dark turrets, spires and crevasses surrounded me.
I took off my shoes and socks, as Jackie instructed, and put my feet on the ground. The only thing I could think of was that my feet really stunk and I hoped I wasn’t disrupting the vortex.
My concentration wasn’t very good, because I kept thinking about the granola bar in my pocket. None of the trees or stones called out to me to touch them. I felt kind of bad about this because I was really trying to make myself open to this sort of thing. I spotted a bush that looked, in the darkness, vaguely like a bush in my mother’s front yard, and I decided to initiate contact. I went over and touched the shrub, but nothing much happened. So I gave it a hug - really. And it didn’t feel all that bad.
Signe fought back laughter and - “just for fun” - joined me. Just then, as we were hugging this bush on the top of a hill under a full moon, a couple came walking up the trail. Of course, we didn’t hear them until they were right next to us, which was quite embarrassing.
So we left.
I returned the next morning with a meditation “facilitator.” Rahelio, a 30-something descendent of Mexico’s Aztecs, had me lie down in the shade of a tree on a beach towel placed over a large, flat rock. Sitting near my head, he instructed me to close my eyes. Then he lit a small sprig from a juniper tree for incense purposes. It sounded like he was setting my hair on fire.
Then he took a rattle made from goat’s toenails (what else!) and rattled it for quite some time, which helped distract me from the helicopter flying overhead giving scenic tours of the area.
Rahelio proceeded to play a cedar flute above my head and followed this by beating a Native American drum. I could feel the drum’s vibration as he hovered over me with it. Then he began chanting until I suppose I passed out.
When I came to an hour later, I didn’t see any auras or spirits, but I felt very relaxed and refreshed - about how I imagine I’d feel after a massage, if I could ever convince Signe to give me one.