SEDONA, Ariz. Youre a teacher, a guider. You transmit energy. You also have a deep connection to the spirit world, to spirits, says spiritual adviser Leon Pelletier, as he analyzes a Polaroid of my aura.
Thats right, a Polaroid of my aura. I had just undergone an otherworldly photo shoot. Id stepped right up to a deep purple chair, placed my palms on an outline of hands and poof, moments later, there was a blurry vision of my face enveloped by hues of blue and white with a dollop of light pink.
Now, Im no New Age devotee heck, I barely downward dog. But I am curious about spiritual pursuits. So on a trip to Arizona, I decided to stop in Sedona to have my aura photographed before hiking the areas famed energy vortexes. A post-hike photo would determine if my soul had been reconfigured. If I didnt come out healed, revitalized and with a pink-hued aura considered the color of unconditional love and harmony in spiritual circles at least Id have seen some stunning scenery.
Im slightly perplexed by Pelletiers analysis of my connection to the spirit world because the only spirits I seem to know well are gin and vodka. But as I sit in his dimly lit office, adorned with butterfly cutouts, transcendental music providing a solemn soundtrack to his assessment and sandalwood incense wafting through the air, Im pretty sure hes not talking cocktails.
I cant exactly suspend my suspension of disbelief now, though, so I head off with Pelletier to hike Cathedral Rock. A landmark of Sedonas skyline and one of the most photographed sights in Arizona, Cathedral Rock is located in the Coconino National Forest, a little more than a two-hour drive from Phoenix.
Cathedral is considered one of the four main energy vortexes in Sedona. (Note to the grammar police: They are referred to as vortexes, not vortices.) A vortex, according to believers, is an area of invisible, swirling energy emanating from the earth that produces an uplifting, healing, rejuvenating sensation. The source is unknown and not scientifically proven, but that hasnt stopped Sedona from building a culture and tourism industry around it.
The city, with a population of just more than 10,000, is a place where crystal merchants, aging hippies and the unapologetically wacky converge. It seems like every other person is a healer or a psychic; many say they were drawn here by the citys mystical powers.
And whether you believe in auras or not, Cathedral Rock stuns the senses. A gleaming sun beams over mustard-red buttes, spires and mesas that surround the city like the ruins of fortress walls. The air is warm but crisp. The silence of the vast desert landscape is interrupted only by calls from wildlife, the rustling of birds through trees and the occasional human passer-by. Everywhere you turn, a cartoon-like pinnacle stands higher than the next.
As we begin our ascent upon the rusty red rocks, I expect to see Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote scoot by with a trail of meep, meep as they scuffle up dust from the rocks, which get their trademark coloring from iron ore.
Pelletier says Cathedral Rock is a feminine energy source, which can help build qualities such as kindness, compassion, patience and the ability to let others need you and depend on you. I could stand to refine my so-called ladylike attributes, so I say bring it! Of course, Im skeptical but open to the possibilities nonetheless.
And I have to admit Im surprised to feel an odd tingling sensation in my fingers as we begin our walk. Pelletier says were close to an energy spring. He attributes a juniper trees twisted trunks and branches to the vortex energy and asks if Id like to sit near the tree and undergo integrated energy therapy. Huh? You mean hiking these rocks doesnt provide enough purported healing?
But when in Sedona ... So I nestle into a spot on a rock. Pelletier asks me to come up with something Id like to see manifest in my life. Ryan Gosling, the dreamy actor, I mutter. He starts what sounds like a prayer minus references to God and says hes tapping into nine cellular memory areas guilt, shame, shoulds, distrust, threat, heartache, anger, stress and fear while asking for the reverse of each feeling.
No desert lizard appears as Prince Charming, but we continue our ascent. There is no distinct path, so we create our own, hopping from rock to rock and latching onto rock faces to pull ourselves higher and higher. We finally reach a summit of sorts, nestled between two massive pinnacles. All I can see for miles are the orange-red rocks interspersed with lush greenery.
I cant say I felt the vortexes, but its hard not to be affected by the beauty of this landscape. I sit for a while and take it all in as a vulture loops through the sky in the distance. After a while, we begin our descent, and were back on solid ground 90 minutes later.
As I posed for my posthike aura picture in Pelletiers office, my muscles ached, my skin glistened with sweat and my voice was hoarse from dehydration. But my photo emanated magenta with streaks of orangey-pink. Apparently, I had done it.
You now have the energy of unconditional love. Youve built a deeper connection to spirituality. Orange is the energy of creation. Youve wiped the slate clean and come out a new person, Pelletier said.
I cant say I felt like an entirely new being, but I definitely felt a renewed appreciation for Mother Earth in all her glory, and amid my fatigue from the hike, I also felt renewed and content.
Im not holding out hope for Ryan Gosling to manifest in my life. But I do have some pretty spectacular photos to make him jealous if we ever do meet.