During my career as a spiritual teacher I have written many books. One of my books that resonated particularly well with readers was The Call of Sedona: Journey of the Heart. Its success was unexpected because it is a simple, personal book. It’s a memoir really, with some spiritual guidance offered as well. In its pages, I tell the story of how I came to Sedona, AZ, and built a retreat center there. Although my other books tend to be more spiritual in their content, people could relate to this book and my story about developing a deep connection to a place and to the land.
The book is about Sedona, AZ, a place that became so special to me. Before I had even heard the name Sedona, I had been looking for a special place, somewhere that people could grow themselves, a place where human consciousness could blossom. Eventually, I heard about a place that was famous for its energy vortexes and spirituality—Sedona.
My First Sight of Sedona
The first time I went there, I arrived in the dark of night. The streets were dark with few cars or people around, and I could see nothing. I wondered why people loved it so much. But then the next morning, I could see why. Breathtaking beauty could be seen in every direction. Majestic red sandstone buttes shot up from the ground, carved by the wind and rain into dazzling shapes. A bright blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds created a contrasting backdrop behind the sandstone formations. At the base of the rocks lay a thick, dark green carpet of juniper trees.
I believe that we are all looking for a special place like Sedona, a sacred place that we can call our spiritual home. Yes, Sedona is unique with its vortex energy and stunning red rock formations, and I’d like you to experience the power of this special land by yourself, if possible. But you don’t have to go to Sedona to discover your own special place. In fact, a nearby location can be the best sacred place for you because it means you can return to it easily and often.
Finding Your Own Special Place
Your special place can be anywhere, even inside, but I believe that outside in nature is usually the best. Nature can remind us of our True Selves because it is pure, beautiful, and always in alignment with universal laws. Manmade environments, on the other hand, seem to keep us focused on our mundane lives and all the stressors that come with that. In nature, we naturally relax and feel gratitude for the world, which puts all of our trivial worries into perspective.
When looking for your spot, realize this first—earth is sacred. Human life, and all other forms of life, are nurtured and sustained by her, so we must have utmost respect. Everything in nature is part of the grand web of life on this planet and part of the totality of a grand and complex universe, so everything deserves appreciation and gratitude. For that reason, you can’t go wrong in your choice of sacred places. Everything, when viewed truthfully, is sacred.
Finding the Beauty Beyond the BeautyTo find your sacred space, think of more than just physical beauty. Look instead for the effect that the space has inside of you. You will know this when you feel this; you don’t have to wait to be told by some guru or expert. If in that place you feel connected to your highest self, then it is a special spot, even if you are the only one who thinks so. Return regularly to this place to reflect upon your spiritual progress, and eventually the place will become increasingly sacred to you.
Personally, I now feel constantly connected to my true self, even while standing in a busy airport, driving on the freeway, or at the top of a skyscraper. Yet, I still cherish taking long hikes in nature, especially on the trails around Sedona or Kerikeri in New Zealand where I lead meditation tours and retreats now. As I walk, I see the perfection of my soul exactly reflected in nature. I see this in the twisting trunk of an old juniper tree, in a monsoon storm gathering on the horizon, in the powdery red sand that moves beneath my feet. Silently but clearly, these things speak to me of the beauty and perfection of all that is.
Nature as Teacher
At Sedona Mago Retreat, workshop participants practice something called “sunrise meditations.” In the early hours of the morning, while the sky is still dark and the high desert air still chilly, they sit outside on the sandstone ground and watch the sun slowly rise up above the desert lands. They put all their focus on the slow process of the sun peaking up above the mountains in the distance.
The training value of this meditation has nothing to do with waking up early or sitting in proper meditation posture. Rather, the transformation comes just by sitting there and observing the sun slowly making its way up into the sky. Often, they cry tears of joy while watching this simple occurrence, something that has been repeating day after day since the first moments of planet earth. Just by being there, and by watching, they realize that they are part of it all, part of the mystery and wonder that is this cosmos.
The Sacred Space Inside
Realize this, though—the physical world is not the true sacred space. Rather, your soul is the sacred space, the eternal and unchanging part of you. If some beautiful, sacred place touches your heart, it is because your perfect, immutable soul has been touched. Whether your sacred space is a spot in a lush forest or a pew in a magnificent cathedral, remember that it is only a reflection of that which already lies inside of you. The objective of your spiritual quest, regardless of what form it takes, is to uncover that part of yourself and to let it shine in the world.