A view of Sedona from atop the Airport Mesa // © 2016 Carson Vaughan
Feature image (above): Sedona’s Red Rock Country // © 2016 Carson Vaughan
“Everywhere you go has good restaurants. Everywhere you go has great hotels. Many places have wonderful scenery — but no place has vortexes,” said Pete A. Sanders, author of “Scientific Vortex Information.”
Sanders is Sedona’s foremost vortex expert. According to him, no place in America — and possibly the world — has such a great concentration of meditation sites and guides, either.
I’ll admit: I’m a skeptic. I arrived in central Arizona just days prior, and until that point, I had never heard the word “vortex” used outside the context of space or weather systems. But here in Sedona’s Red Rock Country, where the sun paints new murals by the half-hour on the surrounding sandstone buttes, the term has a more colloquial definition sponsored by the area’s thriving New Age movement.
“Vortexes are enhanced energy sites that facilitate prayer, meditation, mind-body healing and creative thinking,” Sanders said.
Compared to other metaphysical practitioners in the area — aura readers, healers, psychics, seers, spiritualists and more — Sanders considers himself a realist. Despite the mystical hype, these vortex sites are not electric or magnetic in any measurable sense, he says. He prefers the terms “upflow” and “inflow” to describe the sites.
According to Sanders, upflow sites, such as the Bell Rock and Airport Mesa formations, “help you with reflections where soaring to a higher perspective is what you want.” Conversely, inflow sites “help you go inward for introspective prayer and meditation.”
Most locals can direct you to the area’s four main vortexes: Airport Mesa, Bell Rock, Boynton Canyon and Cathedral Rock. It’s hard to look at the red rock canyons around Sedona and not feel some wonder. But I’m still not sold on the power of the vortex sites.
“Where’s the proof for all this?” I asked. “Where’s the science here?”
“Human pioneering always precedes technology,” Sanders said.
I plan to visit the Airport Mesa vortex before leaving town. But first I have an appointment with Anahata Ananda, a self-proclaimed “shamangelic healer.” She greets me at the door of her home practice, where incense is burning and something atmospheric is streaming on her stereo. After a long hug, she bows her head and closes her eyes.
“I’m just setting our joint intention — that our time be insightful, nourishing and expansive for both of us,” Ananda said.
Ananda offers a range of services, from “shamanic breath work” to vortex journeys. Truthfully, all of her services sound like the mystical mumbo-jumbo that taints my belief in most things metaphysical. But, since I promised myself I would keep an open mind, I ask her how these spiritual sessions tend to work.
“In a two-hour healing journey, the first hour here is finding where there is distortion or energy leaking,” she said. “And then we go into the healing room and allow a guided journey, completely tailored by your belief. I have to trust that if we need to take a journey to a peaceful meadow as a deer, then that’s what we need. If we need to bring in a guide, an ascended master or a medicine woman in a cave, I’m a vessel for whatever will be the most nourishing and healing.”
In the last few years, she tells me, the masses have been “waking up from an uncomfortable slumber.” Whereas her clients were once primarily middle-aged women, today it’s a full spectrum, from teenagers to Olympic gold medalists to retired CEOs.
“In one day I had two retired executives from one of the biggest international banks,” she said. “They were out on the land with me, asking me questions like, ‘What is the spirit wisdom of the hummingbird?’ I get so excited about that, because if retired bankers can wake up ... ”
Behind the spiritual vernacular and what to me feels like a comically artificial apparatus — essential oils and a case of metal tuning forks lie on the floor beside her — there’s a caring individual willing to listen without rushing you out the door.
On my way out of town, I pull off Highway 89A to hike the Airport Mesa, the only vortex that offers a 360-degree panorama of Sedona, a tip offered by Sanders. The clouds sprinkle as I make my way up the path. At least 10 others are standing atop the mesa when I summit, taking selfies and quizzing one another about “the energy.” It’s not clear to me that anyone here has a higher perspective, but they seem happy. Maybe that’s all that matters.