Monday, May 29, 2006

Memories of Arizona

Last July, I was on a road trip with family and friends through the southwest deserts. I drove out alone from Dallas to Las Vegas, and then everyone else flew from Toronto to there to meet up with me and then drive back to Dallas across the desert. It was a great, fun trip.
We spent a couple of days in Las Vegas, saw the Hoover Dam, we went to the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, the meteor crater, we saw the painted desert, the Petrified Forest, we went to Santa Fe, and we went touring in northwest area of New Mexico looking for an ancient pueblo used for magic ceremonies over a thousand years ago. But one of the most interesting and amazing places we visited was Sedona, Arizona.
Winding down through the trees and vistas of Oak Creek Canyon on the way down from the highland plateau at 8,000 ft down to Sedona at about 2,000 ft, is a beautiful trip. I just happened to be playing some great music all the way down, and it made for a very memorable experience. The steep decline combined with the tight, blind curves, combined with the fact that it was dark in the crevice of the valley where the road is by the time we started our descent made an interesting experience. The cars behind me were obviously very familiar with the twists and turns and so they were pushing me to go faster, but I was already going down at a rate that possibly a little nerve racking for the other 6 people in the van with me. Nevertheless, the scenery was awe-inspiring. As the last of the sunlight struck the mountain tops across the valley and canyon walls high above us, it almost makes you gasp with the beauty of it.

But then we levelled out and entered into the first streets of artsy little shops in Sedona. It is a desert valley of red rocks. It looks like you could be on Mars. If Las Vegas is the capital city of gambling for the US, then Sedona is the capital city of mystical and spiritual awareness. There are all kinds of signs, maps and tours of the so-called "vortexes" of spiritual energy. So, we found a decent hotel, and after a good night’s rest, the next morning we went vortex hunting.

There was one showing on the map, called Bell Rock. This was at a classic mountain site just south of town, just off the side of the highway. So we went there, and we climbed that small mountain. There is a picture of it here, taken from a camera on a car as it drove past. I climbed up very near the top, but I didn’t feel anything. I climbed all over the side of the Bell Rock shown in this picture. I was by myself, because I had stayed with the car for a while and let the others go on ahead, so when I climbed the rocks, I would have a solitary experience. I opened my sensitivities to the space around me, but still felt nothing. I didn’t know what to think. Could it all be an elaborate hoax? But there are maps, and stories, and experiences…..Could the others be hallucinating or imagining their experiences? Could it simply be dormant at the moment? Could I be too inundated with the stresses of the material world that I was completely de-sensitized to any sort of spiritual energy?

Well at least the climb and the exercise felt good. My legs had been cramped up for two days driving the van, so it felt good to be out, walking around, climbing up a rock like that.

As we were driving back up into town, we saw an amazing looking church sticking out of the side of a mountain, so I decided it was worth going to investigate. This is one of the many landmarks of Sedona. It’s called “Chapel of the Rock Church”. As I wound my way up the steep road leading around and up behind the little church, I could see it from all angles. It is small, but beautiful. I parked the van, and we walked the rest of the way up to the church. Before going in, I walked around the patio they have, to view the valley from there and it is stunningly beautiful. There is a huge mansion being built on a mountaintop at a lower level that this church looks down upon. It’s probably over 10,000 square feet, with indoor pool, etc. It looks incredible. I turned and went inside.

Inside this tiny church, it was silent and peaceful. There were candles lit, and soft gentle chanting that sounded like monks. I went up to the front and put in some money and lit a candle, and then went to sit on the bench. I sat quietly and experienced a peace, that I could not remember feeling ever before. Well, that’s not exactly true. Actually the sense of peace did feel familiar, but I couldn’t remember when I felt it before. It was as if this is what it feels like in the afterlife. Peaceful. Relaxed. Silent and still, but aware and awake. I sat there for the longest time, just thinking. Thinking about this beautiful place within a beautiful place. Thinking about my life. Taking a big picture perspective of where I was, where I had been, and where I was going in life.

I could literally have sat there for many more hours without getting tired or bored. It just seemed to open up my inner world so easily. I normally have a very active mind, so my inner world is an interesting place all the time anyway. I can just sit and watch it sometimes – almost like watching TV. Just watching to see what ideas come up, what music is playing, memories being played, and future conversations being played out, engineering solutions to problems, etc. etc..

Later, when we got to a tour office, we checked a map and found that that little church was built upon one of the famous vortexes of spiritual energy that Sedona is well known for. Aha! So THAT’S what a spiritual energy vortex feels like!

After that, we got our bathing suits on and went to Slide Rock in Oak Creek Canyon. It’s about halfway-up the road between the lowlands of Sedona and the upper plateau where Flagstaff is. That was a lot of fun. Think of a natural waterpark. It’s a stream/creek of running water shallow over smooth rocks. It gathers in pools in places and there are hundreds of people there swimming, and sunning themselves on the rocks. It’s clean, beautiful, and completely natural. It’s what central Arizona has instead of a beach.

Of all the states I’ve visited, I must say that I think Arizona and New Mexico may be the most beautiful. And of these, Sedona is a wonderful place to visit for a few days. I most heartily recommend it.


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