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Barry Pollack's "Going Places"

Sedona, Arizona

Man has always chosen grand settings to commune with his creator. Today, for ceremony, ritual, and worship, we gather in great cathedrals, temples, or mosques. The ancients built pyramids and stone temples, and some, like Native American Indians, sought out places whose natural beauty was so regal that it seemingly brought them closer to god.
Sedona, Arizona, with its majestic red rock cliffs and evergreen forests, was such a place. "Believers" describe the area as having a unique "energy," a power eminating from "Mother Earth," or a "vortex" of electomagnetic energy that enhances and clarifies one's inner spirit. These "New Agers" believe that there are certain sites on earth filled with special "energy." These sites include Stonehenge in England, Ayers Rock in Australia, Nazca in Peru, the Great Pyramid at Giza, and Sedona in Arizona. To them, Sedona is a spiritual mecca, a place for inspiration, soul-searching, and soul-nourishing. To others, it's simply a getaway, a vacation, a place to relax and rejuvenate. For a hedonist like myself - well, the place just felt good.
After flying to Phoenix, renting a car there and driving the two hours (110 miles) to Sedona, we arrived late at our destination and awoke to discover ourselves indeed in an appropriately named magical place - the Enchantment Resort.
The Enchantment (800-826-4180), with rates from $295-2,005/night, is just ten minutes from the center of Sedona and is nestled in the midst of the majestic red-rock cliffs of Boynton Canyon. With its world-class Mii amo Spa, Yavapai fine dining restaurant, tennis courts, pools, hiking trails, and 220 guest rooms in 71 comfortable, well appointed adobe style casitas, each with dramatic views of the surrounding scenery, it is clearly deserving of its ranking as one of the great "Luxury Hotels of the World" and a "Destination Resort." The resort also has its Camp Coyote, a section just for children with an emphasis on Indian culture and Southwest nature lore.
Each day at the Enchantment features an assortment of mind-and-body organized activities - Flow Yoga, Zen Tennis, Crystal Grotto Meditation; and entertainments - Native American dance, Stargazing, Apache Guitar. Our first morning there began with a hike called the Vortex Walk, accompanied by a spiritual guide. Boynton Canyon, she explained, was one of Sedona's four main vortices, and one of the unique "power spots" on the planet. A vortex is a giant conductor of energy, like a huge magnet. Iron, crystal, and silica in the rocks make them very magnetic. During storms they are often subject to serial lightning strikes, making them even more mystical. The Indians knew this area had unusual energy and referred to that energy as a "sacred spiral," similar to what scientists call a vortex because the energy within it moves like a tornado.
The canyon is also a sacred place for many Native American tribes and has been referred to as the Apache Garden of Eden. According to legend, when Yavapai-Apache prophets foretold of a great flood, a wise father set his daughter adrift in a hollowed log boat. She was the only one of her tribe to survive when the boat came to rest on the sacred grounds of Boynton Canyon. Not unlike biblical stories, the Apache legend describes how the tribe was renewed when this last Indian woman immaculately conceived with the help of the sun god. Although the U.S. Army exiled Indians from their homes here in 1875, descendants of the Yavapai-Apache still return each year to perform ceremonies to honor their First Mother and their creation.
"Raise your palms to the sky," our guide requested. "Open up your senses." I gazed up at the mist shrouded red rock cliffs. It was easy to anthropromorphize the mountain, to imagine faces in the rocks - a screaming face, a pensive face, an Egyptian sphinx, reptiles, dogs, lovers, whole families. Walt Disney, we were told, lived in Sedona from 1958-69 and brought the artists of "Fantasia" here to be inspired. I was inspired to catch the rays of Arizona's loyal sun.
"Vortex energy," our guide said, "is neither good nor bad. It just amplifies the space you are in." She explained further that if you come to Sedona feeling in love, then you'll feel more deeply in love. If it's anger you're feeling, then you'll become angrier. If it's a creative seed you carry, it will sprout.
While I am not convinced that a manicure and pedicure or an assortment of exotic spa treatments qualifies as enlightenment, I can praise the pleasures offered by the Enchantment's Mii amo Spa. The spa's natural color and simple adobe design let it melt into its setting at the base of one of Boynton Canyons spectacular cliffs. Inside brick, tile, woodbeam ceilings, and Native American art create a harmonious setting for pampering. As you enter Mii amo, you'll view a decorative Medicine Wheel representing "the journey we each must take to find our own path." Across from the spa's sign-in desk is the serene Crystal Grotto, a circular domed meditation room with an earthen floor and a skylight that focuses the suns rays on a central quartz crystal. You can seek tranquility in the Grotto. You can muse on the images in the surrounding cliffs from the spa's outdoor pools or from its restaurant windows. Or you can allow Enchantment's specialists to work their magic on your body. I suppose that's what they mean when they say you have to "find your own path."
Downtown Sedona is littered with quaint restaurants and galleries. You can take in the town's best offerings by exploring Tlaquapaque Village or the Uptown Area. And while you can camp, park, fish, four-wheel drive, horseback ride, bike and hike all on your own, I found the local jeep tours the best way to experience the surrounding national forest. The journey was a cross between an educational nature walk and an adventure ride. There are several companies that offer the popular tours. Pink Jeep Tours (800-873-3662) is the largest. Specially adapted open-air four-wheel drive jeeps carry you through the most rugged terrain to show off the splendor of Sedona's glorious natural surroundings.
Our driver guide had the cool of a Disneyland ride showman and aplomb of a park ranger. He showed off the most dramatic look-alike natural settings - Submarine Rock, Chicken Point, Chimney Rock, Cathedral Rock. He talked history, geology, flora and fauna. He described the Verde Valley that we were driving over and through as the most diverse ecosystem in North America. And, he made valiant efforts at Southwestern humor.
"We get about 15 inches of snow a year," he said, "little half inch dustings that melt off by nine in the morning. We call it 'Indian snow,' - an 'apache here, an apache there.'"
He went on to explain that while much of Arizona can become blistering hot in summer months, Sedona's weather is moderated by its 4600 foot altitude, giving it a relatively pleasant climate year-round.
I didn't see a UFO in Sedona. I didn't have an epiphany at the Enchantment. But I did leave far more relaxed and knowledgeable than when I arrived. If you're a New Ager looking for alternative healing, life coaching, human design, the vortex, sacred grids, ley lines, the power - well, Sedona is the place. Or, if you simply want to relax, be indulged and enchanted - the Enchantment is the place too.