Sacred Rocks Sedona: An Exercise in Balancing Reason and Faith

In my last blog, I wrote about my first night at Sacred Rocks Sedona, a  "Metaphysical B&B" owned by an Ojibwa Indian healer named Meaghan and her husband, Rick.  The first night had featured a crystal bowl healing ceremony, conducted by Meaghan. Although I was unfamiliar with the nature of such a ceremony, I accepted the invitation to take part. Given the circumstances surrounding my arrival at Sacred Rocks, I found myself fairly open to any and every thing that might happen there. Hence, I did not speak much during my stay, but rather, watched, listened, and breathed.


On my first morning at Sacred Rocks, I woke to the sound of a cat meowing outside the door of the trailer in which I was staying. It was Yin, a black cat whom Rick had introduced me to upon my arrival. Yin was a friendly cat, but not too friendly. He remained largely out of site during the day, but made a point of stopping by in the mornings, as well as spending some time with me before lights out. As a guy who shares his home with two blacks cats, the arrangement suited me just fine. 

I'd awoken to a bright and sunny desert day, as one might expect in Sedona. The beautiful weather prompted me to go for a hike at Cathedral Rock, one of Sedona’s four “vortex” locations. I had hoped to hike to all four vortexes during my stay, vaguely sensing at some level that it might be helpful, or needed in some way, but ultimately, my trip would take a different course. 

After arriving at the Cathedral Rock trailhead, I threw on a daypack and started down a well worn trail. Eventually, the trail gave way to a series of cairns which led a winding path up the side of the large, red-rock formation. When I reached the end of the Cathedral Rock trail, I found a solitary spot and spent some time meditating before returning to my vehicle, and ultimately the trailer I'd rented. I was beginning to notice that my mind was not very still ... something felt off.

During the return hike, I became aware of a growing fatigue, so I thought it best to return to home base and rest. As it turns out, this would be the onset of a deep weakness that would last throughout my time in Sedona. Following the hike, I barely left the bed and breakfast, save to eat a couple meals in town. Generally speaking, I found that my appetite - as well as my strength - left me during my stay in the desert.

I rested as that first day passed, lounging in various hammocks, reading, and wondering what the next day’s pranic healing session would be like. Before long the sun set, day faded into night, and I decided to turn-in after having spent the requisite amount of time petting Yin. My energy was gone, but my spirits were in a good place. At that point, I had every confidence that there was no role for me to play beyond remaining present and open to what may come. 

Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.
— Rainer Maria Rilke

When morning arrived, I once again woke to the persistent meowing of Yin, sitting in the red-dirt outside my window. My energy low, I relaxed through the morning, then did an hour of yoga in the trailer before heading over to the main house for my scheduled "healing" session. Arriving in the "great room", I rendezvoused with Meaghan. She led me to a small, octagonal, room with tall windows, located at the back of the house. In the center of the room, there was a single chair in which Meaghan instructed me to sit.

Once seated, Meaghan handed me a medical form with a drawing of the human body on it, instructing me to mark the areas where I was experiencing pain, as well as write-out descriptions of my symptoms. I found this a bit surprising. Things seemed more official than I’d anticipated; akin to receiving that ubiquitous clipboard during a visit to the doctor.

In filling out the form, I detailed my right hip and shoulder as places that needed help. I had wondered about including the hip, as I had already made so much progress with it in the past nine months, as opposed to my shoulder, which continued to vex me. In the end, I figured full disclosure would serve me best. 

Examining the form, Meaghan took some time to look me over, then told me she thought the hip was under control, and that the shoulder should be her area of focus. I found it interesting that her assessment matched my own, although I hadn’t specified anything about the work I’d been doing or my own feelings on the matter. She hadn’t conducted any range of motion tests, but our conclusions seemed to be in agreement, so I sat quietly, breathing deeply, and reminding myself to be open. 

I suppose I knew at some level that it was coming - this was Sedona after all - still, I wasn’t sure how to feel as Meaghan revealed two clear-quartz crystals to me, explaining that she would be using them in her work.


In crystal we have a pure evidence of the existence of a formative life principle, and although in spite of everything we cannot understand the life of crystals - it is still a living being.
— Nikola Tesla, 1900

There is so much angst and opposition in the scientific world regarding the new age use of crystals in healing that, admittedly, I have found it hard to keep an open mind in regards to them. For the most part, I have steered clear from speculating on the subject, but even so, there are certain aspects of crystals that I find fascinating.   

In reading about the history of Mayan culture, I was interested to learn of the legend of the crystal skulls (not the antics of the latest Indiana Jones film or the tall tales told on late night radio, mind you). From what I’ve read, Mayans would occasionally identify “special” people at birth, separating them from the rest of the children. Once selected, the individual would spend their life mastering a certain aspect of Mayan culture. Upon reaching the appropriate age, the person would become the focus of a ceremony - involving a “concoction of special herbs, psychedelic plants and mushrooms” - where a crystal skull was placed on their chest. Somehow, this ceremony facilitated a knowledge transfer between the person and the crystal, allowing their consciousness - and the learned aspects of Mayan culture - to be preserved. 

I found these Mayan stories of crystal usage intriguing, especially given that microchips are made from silicon crystal. The modern trans-humanist movement considers it a primary goal to “upload” human consciousness into this crystal-based memory, so as to achieve immortality. In comparing the trans-humanists with the Mayans, I find it telling that in their own way, each landed on crystals as a means of preserving/extending consciousness. I'm not sure what that means, maybe nothing. Yet, similar patterns have always interested me.

For my own part, I had chosen to include crystals in my yogic practice. In my mind, however, this was done for very different reasons than a traditional new age belief in the power of crystals. It may seem a subtle difference, but it is one worth detailing, if only to better frame the approach I used in cultivating my meditation practice. My inclusion of crystals had less to do with the power of crystals, and more to do with the placebo effect.

placebo effect: a beneficial effect, produced by a placebo drug or treatment, that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient’s belief in that treatment.
— Dictionary

In observing western culture, one aspect I find particularly bizarre is the way we allow our minds to interfere with the gifts life is attempting to give to us. It is as if we prefer living miserably in rationality, as opposed to living blissfully in ignorance. Nowhere is this mindset more clearly illustrated than in western medicine’s stance on the placebo effect. 

In looking at the placebo effect, we find that our bodies contain within them the innate ability to heal themselves based solely on the state of our beliefs -- our state of consciousness. This kind of healing comes at no cost and has no side-effects. What’s more, the efficacy of the placebo effect is increasing, although no one can explain why.

Instead of seeing the underlying power of belief, and how it influenced our health, the medical profession saw the glass as half empty: the placebo effect was an obstacle to the demonstration of a treatment.
— Eben Alexander, Neuroscientist

Contrary to western medicine's shunning of the placebo effect, I've long been interested in courting it. When it came to my time on the yoga mat, I recognized the entire venture as a mind-body affair. Essentially, I was conducting an evolving experiment in leveraging my own body's ability to heal itself. Because of this, I choose to “ritualize” the practice, taking steps to place candles in a certain way, burn incense of a certain type, etc. I didn’t do these things because I believed they would exert a magical, external influence, I did so believing that these steps, when repeated, would positively shape my own beliefs about the practice itself. It was a way of putting my mind into a healing space, one cultivated carefully over time. In choosing what to leave in and what to leave out, I had simply followed my feelings, picking things that I found cheerful or pleasantly mysterious. 

At a certain point, I chose to include crystals in my practice. I did so not because I believed them to be independently powerful, but because I find them beautiful and enjoyable in a tactile sense, and in the end, because I believe things have exactly the power we assign to them -- a belief the placebo effect demonstrates pretty clearly. In creating a sacred meditation practice for myself, I wanted to involve light-hearted, colorful things, and crystals fit the bill perfectly.

Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I thought of my own meditation practice as I sat in that chair, watching Meaghan wave two crystals around my shoulder, one short and stubby, the other long and pointed. I wondered if she believed these crystals held real power: an innate ability to heal beyond the placebo effect. If she did, I wasn’t sure I agreed with her, but then again, what can a person say for certain about anything in this life? As the above quote illustrates, Nikola Tesla seemed to think crystals were of particular interest. However, they have become such a lightning-rod for controversy in recent times, that one hardly knows where to begin with them. In many ways, crystals exist as the modern, geological equivalent of fake-news. For my part, the singular truth I cling to is that absolute truth cannot be accessed within this reality. This being the case, I once again chose to shut my mouth, breathe deeply, and attempt to keep a clear, if not open, mind.

After some time had passed, Meaghan pulled back from me and exclaimed, “You have a sword in your shoulder!” As you might expect, this gave me pause. Not know exactly what to say, I mustered my best, off-hand, wry response.

“Well, that would explain why it has been hurting so much.”

She laughed momentarily, then asked, “... but it’s a sharp pain, right?”

“Yes”, I  responded.

“A stabbing pain, right?”

“Well, yes”, I admitted.

“Yes, you’ve got a sword in your shoulder and I’m going to try and take it out.”

I did not know what to make of the exchange we’d just shared, so I continued, “… when you say I’ve got a sword in my shoulder, what do you mean exactly? That’s not making a lot of sense to me.”

Meaghan responded without missing a beat, “Oh, in a past life you were stabbed through the shoulder with a sword, and it was a mortal wound. You’re still carrying it with you.”

Well, I did ask.

Once again, I decided it best to just shut my mouth and let Meaghan work. As time passed, I used the opportunity to meditate, attempting to be open to what was happening. Afterall, I had felt drawn westward partially due to my shoulder issues and, whether or not there was anything to her narrative, it was ultimately my choice to leverage my own beliefs towards a healing result, just as in my own practice. 

Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.
— Tony Schwartz

Soon enough, Meaghan declared the session completed, asking me how my shoulder felt. Throughout the process, I had remained very cognizant of any sensations happening within my body, specifically in my shoulder, and had honestly felt nothing. Now, with the process completed, I could still feel the intense swelling and pain throughout my shoulder, back and neck -- not much had changed. Once again, she prodded me as to how the shoulder felt. I told her that it felt generally good, which was likely a stretching of the truth, but then again, I couldn’t help but think that if there had been a literal sword in my shoulder, simply removing it would not result in the immediate cessation of swelling and pain in the area. Therefore, the expectation of instantaneous results would be silly on my part -- better to hold my tongue. I was optimistically reserving judgement, or at least that’s how I justified my answer. 

Meaghan recommended that I rest for the remainder of my stay at the B&B, and I was open to her suggestion, given how lethargic I’d been feeling. I purchased a book from the tiny shop they ran out of their home, and found my way to chairs that sat beneath the awning of the trailer, reading as I let the remainder of the day pass away. I would be leaving the next morning, a return eastward: winding my way through red rocks and Indian reservations, looking for interesting places to spend a little time as I journeyed homeward. 

Before leaving, however, I would participate in one more ceremony.

Arriving at Sacred Rocks, I had decided to keep an open mind, and signed up for a single healing session. As circumstances unfolded, I was invited to participate in a crystal bowl ceremony on the first night, and during the time Meaghan and I spent talking following my pranic healing session, she’d asked if I would take part in a traditional medicine wheel ceremony on the final morning of my stay. So it was that I would take part in not one, but three ceremonies/sessions during my stay at Sacred Rocks -- one for each night I spent there. 

I passed my final evening at relaxing in a hammock behind the bed & breakfast. My time in Sedona was coming to a close, and the trip had taken on a much different form than I’d expected. I had not hiked to the various vortexes - save Cathedral Rock - but rather, convalesced within the healing confines of Sacred Rocks. Instead of four vortexes, I would experience three healing ceremonies. I didn’t mind a bit. 

As the sun lay low on the horizon, I relaxed in deep contentment. Before too long, I once again noticed the dark-haired, Australian, medical intuitive walking my way, just as she had the first night. Approaching my hammock, she reached out her hand, offering me a Starbucks bottle. Although the bottle had originally contained a pre-fab cocktail of espresso and sugar, it now held a dark, rust colored liquid. On the label, she had written a few things, including a name: Sedona Four-Vortex Tincture.

As I listened, the dark-haired woman told me how she and her travelling partner had hiked to all four vortexes in a single day to make the liquid, spending roughly ninety minutes at each spot. The label contained instructions for diluting the bottles raw contents into a tincture, as well as dosage instructions. “Keep this stored in a dark place, and it will last you the rest of your life”, she said. Before walking away, she issued one final instruction regarding the strange liquid, “take it at times in your life when you feel you are ready for a shift.”

More to come!

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Americana Singer Songwriter Ed Dupas’ lived-in melodies unwind with reflective lyrics that speak to the current state of the human condition. Soothing where possible, agitating where necessary, and calling for change where appropriate. Ed Dupas creates and shares well worn wide awake music.

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