Sedona: The transformative powers of place

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By Diana Ballon

Seeing red generally denotes a bad temper. But in Sedona, in northern Arizona, when you see red it’s in the stunning red rock layers or “hermit formations” in the mountains all around you. The red colouration was produced through iron oxidation of the sandstone layers—laid down some 300 million years ago by receding of a tropical sea.

“This was once beachfront property,” laughs John Meyers, an Enchantment Resort hiking guide on a hike we did through Carol Canyon.

I first fell in love with Sedona through a photo. After carrying around images of these red rocks in my purse for a couple of months, I decided that I needed to explore these newfound feelings in person. I wanted to climb those mountains, surround myself in a landscape of red. I wanted to have red dust on my hiking shoes, and never wash it off.

So I booked flights to Phoenix for my family of four. Three weeks later, we were driving from the Phoenix airport in our grey Nissan cube, the windows rolled down, Marianne Faithfull blaring on the radio, a warm wind in our faces. A roadrunner sped by in front of the car. (It was like a live show of the cartoon I used to watch as a child, but with no Wile E. Coyote in sight). About 90 minutes into our drive from Phoenix, through the Sonoran Desert and its famous saguaro cacti, we finally began to see red—with the white Coconino cliff above.

Sedona is located at the mouth of the spectacular Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona’s high desert, at an elevation of about 4500 feet, which affords mild temperatures year-round. It is surrounded by what medium Page Bryant coined in 1980 as spiritual vortices or points of concentrated energy, or what others refer to as “acupressure points” and “the eye of a volcano.” Sedona has long been a destination for new agers, shamans, visionaries and—dare I fit myself into this cluster—bohemian bourgeoisie. Some come to heal, others to pray, meditate, do yoga or simply embrace the beauty of this stunning landscape.

Some are sold on the idea that vortices exist in particular locations—such as Airport Mesa, Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock and Boynton Canyon—where you can experience overwhelming feelings—moments of great joy, of silent reflection and introspection, or times of uneasiness depending on whether the vortex is “masculine” or “feminine,” “upflow” or “inflow.” Others think that the place is so profoundly beautiful, that the sandstone is mixed with so much crystal, that the air is so clear and the stars at night are so bright, that you can’t possibly not feel something overpowering.

I am both a seeker by nature, and a skeptic. So I dutifully went to these various locations awaiting “some kind of feeling” but not sure what that feeling would be. And I did so while staying at Enchantment Resort, a stunning property, located on 70 acres in the Boynton Canyon, which is considered a vortex onto itself. The reason for my moments of stillness and happiness and occasional anxiety would be hard to tease out from the effects of vortices to simply the transformative effects of mountain air, stunning vistas, aerobic hikes, natural beauty, immutable silence and delectable food and fine margaritas in the coolness of evening.

The resort is about a 15-minute drive outside the town of Sedona, with a spa, Mii amo, that was voted world’s best destination spa by Travel & Leisure in both 2007 and 2009. Accommodation is in red adobe casitas that blend into the landscape, all with private terraces overlooking the mountains—and some with their own private pools and southwestern beehive-style fireplaces. Enchantment offers fabulous dining at three separate restaurants: its AAA, four diamond-rated Yavapai restaurant, with its panoramic view of the mountains, is billed as the top dining destination in Sedona. The resort has six tennis courts: the property used to be a tennis ranch, before becoming “Enchantment” in 1987. It has several outdoor pools, two outdoor hot tubs and an indoor pool, all with the same stunning view of the mountains.

And the resort has a great year-round kids’ program through its Camp Coyote, where—rather than watching movies or playing Xbox—kids actually learn about the plants and animals that surround them, and do activities based on local Native American traditions, in keeping with the indigenous Yavapai and Hapachi tribes. In the few days our kids were there, they went on short hikes in the morning, played games, made dream catchers and decorated rain sticks, and swam each afternoon.

While they were at the kids’ camp, my husband and I could enjoy adult activities. (For a nominal additional fee, you can choose any of the 10 to 15 activities scheduled daily—everything from guided hikes to yoga, evening lectures, twilight stargazing, Native American drum and flute performances, and cooking demonstrations.) And of course there is also the spa…. We spent a better part of a day at Mii amo, which means journey in Yuman or “to continue one’s path.” People staying at the spa pre-register for three, four or seven-day stays following one of five “journeys”—Health Body in Balance and De-stress Mind, Body & Spirit being two of the most popular ones. Guests wander around in white robes, enjoy two spa treatments a day, and follow carefully designed programs they set up with the spa co-ordinator.

On the day I was there, I enjoyed an aromatherapy massage, which began with me choosing one of several affirmations from cards the therapist set before me. Mine was “My spirit is balanced. My body is healthy.”; she used an organic massage oil that combined lavender, spearmint and lemon peel.

Feeling relaxed and peaceful, I then went to their Crystal Grotto for the 5 p.m, meditation. Before I entered the grotto, I wrote down my “worries and fears” on little pieces of paper that I then deposited into a box, and which then get taken off property each day and burned.

The grotto is a round, wooden room, with a red earth floor, seats around its perimeter, and petrified wood with a quartz crystal mandala in the middle that becomes illuminated and projects light across the entire grotto at summer solstice when the sun shines directly on it through the skylight above.

The meditation starts with a smudging ceremony, in which the leader burns sage and wafts its smoke around each one of us. We are then led in a meditation that focuses on peace, love, joy and wisdom, and encourages us to focus on the present.

In this round room, with the smell of burning sage still around me, and the stillness and calm of meditation in a red landscape with my family nearby, NOW seems like a good place to be.

To learn more about Enchantment Resort, call 1 800 826-4180 or check out To find out about Mii amo, call 1 888 749-2137 or check out

If you want the thrill on an off-road adventure in a pink jeep while you are in Sedona, contact Pink Jeep Tours at 1 800 873-3662.

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