Day 36: Being

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been highly in-tune with other people’s feelings.  A manager once told me “I think you feel the emotions of other people in the room before they’re even aware they’re having them.”  Yep.  That’s probably the most acute and succinct outside assessment I’ve ever heard of my experience with empathy.

It’s only in the past couple of years I’ve come to learn more about what it means to be a so-called “empath” (before, I just experienced it; I didn’t understand it or even have words for it, and it was often completely overwhelming).  Last year, I started working with a Reiki practitioner, learning about energy and chakras, and it’s been an incredibly enlightening experience from the outset.  The first time I experienced Reiki (or energy work), I was in the deepest, darkest place I’ve ever been.  I was so consumed with depression and anxiety, I could hardly function.  I showed up to the practitioner’s office sobbing, almost unable to tell her about my situation and circumstances.  Honestly, I thought perhaps the whole “energy alignment” thing was a hoax (and I told her this upfront), but I was desperate for anything that might help me overcome my unspeakable sadness.  She put her hands on me, and I immediately felt a sense of calm and peace like nothing I’d experienced in months.  She told me in all her years of practicing energy work (she’s a Harvard PhD, by the way), she’d never seen Reiki impact someone so immediately and so drastically.  My continued work with her in the months that followed changed my life.  She not only helped me to come out of the depths of my depression, but she also helped me to come to terms with and better understand my experience in the social world, being someone who is extremely sensitive to other people’s moods and energies.

People say that Sedona is a magical place, filled with “spiritual votexes” (they insist on calling them vortexes instead of vortices, which is the grammatically-accurate plural form of “vortex”).  These spaces are said to have distinct and powerful magnetic energies that can amplify feelings and even shift emotions in significant ways.  I mostly thought this was pretty hoax-y, though I do believe my Reiki practitioner has spoken of visiting Sedona and experiencing the energy fields herself… I wanted to visit the place not because of its renowned energy fields but because of the sheer beauty and natural magic of its red rock cliffs.  But I also figured that as sensitive as I am to the energies of people, I’d be a likely candidate for feeling the supposed energy fields of Sedona.  I only visited one of the vortices…and I felt nothing significant at all.  Still I left the area feeling a sense of calm I haven’t yet experienced fully on my journey.

When I’ve fretted about what I’m supposed to be getting out of my trip, girlfriends have encouraged me to let go of worry (easier said than done) and just be present in my experiences and the beauty of my surroundings.  I’ve tried so hard to do that, often just working myself into more of a tizzy with the effort.  But something…shifted for me in Sedona.  I returned to Mindy’s calmer than I was before…and I can’t help but hope this sense of just being okay sticks with me.

I’m not sure if it was a true spiritual shift or something simpler (like just having a good experience with a new friend and finding a good camping space close to town and relatively easily), but if this is what it’s like to tune into the energy of a space the way I’ve always tuned into the energies of people (inadvertently), then it’s time for me to start paying more attention and seeking out the most fulfilling and positively-energized spaces possible.  Intentionally.



Days 34 & 35: Sedona

I’d been looking forward to Sedona and its red rocks, though I wasn’t sure what to expect of the place in general.  There’s so much hype about its new age religious mysticism and energy centers…and I wondered if the place might be teeming with tourists (it kinda was).  But I do love exploring a new town.  It reminds me of when I first moved to Portland and everything was new and waiting to be discovered.

It’s almost unbelievable how beautiful the views are in every direction from anywhere and everywhere you go in Sedona.  I felt overwhelmed with trying to capture pictures of the landscape and ultimately kind of gave up on trying to get a single shot to encompass it all – or enough shots to splice together for a grander view of it.

My first day in town, I did a driving tour, beginning at the visitor center (I love visitor centers!) and hitting the local hot spots, including viewpoints and the renowned Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Catholic church built into the red rock.  Just like I did at the Old Santa Barbara Mission, I felt a sense of peace just sitting in that space…and then I went outside and nearly told a woman about herself for being aggressive and demanding and ungrateful as I graciously took pictures of her and her friend… Ugh.  So much for my zen moments.

I did just a bit of hiking that first day then headed to camp early to catch the sunset from my camp chair.  It was a hot night in my tent without much of a breeze.  It wasn’t 116°, like back in Phoenix, but it certainly wasn’t a pleasant night for sleeping outdoors…!

I woke early the next day to what sounded like a fire-breathing dragon outside my tent, which rather surprised me because I’d only read warnings about rattlesnakes… Turns out there was a hot air balloon flying just above my site!  You can understand, perhaps, how that might have sounded like a dragon.  Anyway, it got me up and going at sunrise and off early to hit the “quintessential” Sedona hike – the West Fork Trail.  Lucky for me, not a quarter mile into the route, I met Carlos from West Texas, and we hiked together the rest of the way.

The trail was nothing extraordinary…until we neared the “end,” when the red rock cliffs “closed in” on either side of us, with the creek filling in between and getting progressively deeper the further along we went.  Carlos and I hiked and hiked, almost to the point of needing to swim in deep waters to continue.  Wading in the cool water with the hot air and red rock all around us, outlasting most of the other hikers on the trail…it was truly incredible – and, yet again, something I wouldn’t have ventured solo.  I slipped and fell just once on a mossy rock, and I’m certain Carlos was more upset about it than me.  It’s funny with company how even spills are easier to take.

We took two more hikes together – one to the top of a mesa for sunset and another the next morning, our last in town, as our farewell to Sedona (for now).  We’ll probably never see each other again, and we may never even talk, but having a companion certainly made my time in town that much more enjoyable.  And that hike…it was unforgettable!