Contemplating Life in Sedona, Arizona

Michelle Stimpson & Bill Stimpson & Cousins_Sedona

Have you ever been to Sedona, Arizona? After my first visit there, I vote that it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. Bill and I recently returned from a long weekend there with my cousins, our dear friends.

Before the trip, the four of us shared our intentions for vacation with each other. They mostly included exploring and adventuring, hanging together, laughing (which is always a given with us), freedom from schedules, and just “being.”

In-N-Out BurgerSedona is known as one of the world’s spiritual centers—complete with healing retreats, alternative therapies, and metaphysical influences. Even knowing all that, the four of us still unanimously voted that our first stop after we landed in Phoenix would be—not a mud bath or a massage—but lunch at In-N-Out Burger! If you’ve had one of their burgers, you know what I’m talkin’ about! Bill mapped it all out ahead of time and found the perfect spot for our lunch that was between the airport and Sedona. We don’t have the luxury of In-N-Out in Minnesota; it’s all about priorities!

One of the things about Sedona that intrigued us was the four main vortex sites. Their Chamber of Commerce website describes these vortex areas as “enhanced energy locations that facilitate prayer, meditation, mind/body healing, and exploring your relationship with your Soul and the divine.” The website goes on to say that each person will experience a vortex differently, and possible reactions include: new insights, intense feelings of joy or release, sense of well-being, a physical healing, and new or heightened spiritual awareness. Pretty cool!

So we had to check it out.

A vortex experience

The most powerful experience for me was the morning we visited the Cathedral Rock vortex, which ran alongside the magnificent red rocks and the Oak Creek River. We drove to the area, and the four of us hiked in the morning sun to make our way to the powerful spiritual spot highlighted in our brochure.

As with each vortex we had experienced before, the closer you get, you begin to see a myriad of hand-made miniature rock towers built by tourists who had traveled the path before.

Rock Tower_Sedona

Building these structures is a way to focus on the present and calmly breathe in the now. I was struck by how the farther and farther we hiked, the more of these towers were along our path.

Cathedral Rock Vortex Site_Sedona

So each of us in the group quietly built our own unique tower.

Then, the coolest thing happened. The four of us—who love spending every moment together and love to laugh at our million-and-one inside jokes–magically went our own way…without saying a word. We each split up as though we were called to a certain individual spot to just “be” by ourselves.

As I walked toward the spot meant for me, I stopped in my tracks—in awe—at the sheer volume of hand-made structures which confidently stood in front of me, behind me, and all around me. There were hundreds, then thousands, of miniature shrines made out of rocks, each reflecting the individuality of their builder. Here, each person could made their presence known; leaving their mark on the earth saying: “I was here.”

It left me speechless. A calm and peaceful joy came over me.

Cathedral Rock Vortex Site_Sedona

How on earth did all these fragile towers stay standing, I wondered? Surely, I thought—rain or wind or even a kid running through might knock them all down.

But that didn’t happen here.

The scene reminded me of a visiting a vast military cemetery—where as far as your eyes can see, there are rows and rows of tombstones. Each tombstone represents a life. A life of stories, experiences, challenges, dreams, loves, valor, and humility. And similar to the rock temples, each tombstone whispers: “I was here.”

Poignant reflection

This moment amongst the statues was particularly poignant for me. Less than an hour prior, I had received an urgent phone call in our room from my mom. She told me the terribly sad news that a young woman back home who used to be a part of our family…had shot and killed herself.

Alone with my thoughts in this spot, all kinds of feelings and images ran through my head as I stood there. Shock. Tragedy. Violence. Sadness. Grief. Pain. Confusion.

There are no coincidences that I learned of this tragedy just as we were leaving for a spiritual hike…and then on our way to the granddaddy of them all: The Grand Canyon.

So these moments to myself became priceless. I stood on the edge of the river and listened to the sounds of “life” in the clear water, roaring through the river.

Oak Creek River_Sedona

On the river’s edge, I noticed how each rock sculpture was individual and unique…yet part of a whole. None of us could exist without each other, without our community.

I thought about how my friend who was no longer here on earth with us had previously separated herself from her larger community. I said a prayer for her.

I stood there, taken aback, for a long time. I don’t know how long, but I know it was long enough for the morning sun to scorch my face and give me a give me a great farmer’s tan with my short-sleeved t-shirt.

Then coming out of my meditation and back to our surroundings, I took several deep breaths and cleared the tears from behind my sunglasses. I stretched to bring myself back into my body and then slowly turned my head to scan the area.

I smiled when I saw my cousin upstream from me, alone, staring at the river.

Oak Creek River_Sedona

I knew that he, too, was in his own space, and seeing him reminded me of the rock towers all around us—whatever he was experiencing or thinking about might have been light years away from what I was experiencing, but we were a part of a ‘whole’ there in that spiritual area together.

I became ready and eager to leave my little place and connect with my beloved travel partners.

“We were here”

Magically, the four of us convened in the middle of the area at about the same time, ready to move on. First, without saying anything again, each couple took a little side trip off the path. From there, Bill and I knelt down and built our own rock tower together, taking turns stacking the rocks, one by one. Even though we had previously assembled our own individual towers, we wanted to build one together which said: “We were here.”

Michelle Stimpson & Bill Stimpson_Rock Tower

And simultaneously, my cousin left his mark of his love for his wife in one of the big red rocks as his way of saying “We were here.”

Love Note_Sedona

Pretty cool. We were then all ready to finish the hike back along the river to our car. Next up: The Grand Canyon. In the long car ride taking us north, I was very quiet as I processed life, death, community, the present, and the significant mark we each make in our own little world.

And right there in the back of our van, I quietly gave thanks for my life and all its beauty, full of people I love and a universe that fully supports every move I make. What a true gift.

Author’s Note: Vacations and retreats can be a great way to take a break from responsibility and connect with the present and what’s important to you, reflecting on the bigger picture of life. Here’s another article you might like: Vacation: The Perfect Prescription.

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15 Responses to “Contemplating Life in Sedona, Arizona”

  • Lucia P says:

    Wow! I have never been to Sedona but have been to Miraval several times and felt that really cool energy hiking there.

    Those rock towers, and as you point out, the fact that none of them fall over (!!!)-amazing.

    Thanks for sharing.


  • Bill says:

    I love the connection you made between the rock piles and the tombstones – these are both great reminders of the uniqueness and importance of each individual life, but also demonstrate how we’re all connected.

    What an awesome experience that was in Sedona…I can’t wait to go back again!!

  • Melanie says:

    thank you for the lovely tour of your experience. I’m sorry to read about your friend taking her life. What a shock to your system that must be. So much richness in your writing.

  • Sharon says:

    Hey Michelle….first, I am so sorry for your loss of the family friend ….how tragic….wow, what synchronicity huh? I loved this post…It is one of my favorites…after the Neil one! I am almost crying and have the chills. I can “feel” being there. I so want to go there now! What an awesome place. I thought the same thing when I saw all of the rocks in unison…like a cemetery…but in a good way….”representing”…………….and I love what your cousin left as a reminder of himself and his wife… wonderful is that??!! awesome! I could just almost hear the waters flowing with your pics…I need to go there……actually, hubby and I need to go there….I need a place to “leave my mark” and legacy. You realize you just left your legacy there??!! “Building relationships”…etc..You go girl! I love you! Sharon xoxo ps you are so cute and petite, girl! I love the pics! :))

  • Sharon says:

    ps somehow the many little statues reminded me of “911” too…I don’t know why…but it does….so much thought into those statues….

  • @ Lucia: I’ve heard Miraval is another fantastic place! Thanks for being here and for sharing in the story.

    @ Billy: Hi! I can’t wait for our next trip out there…more time to peacefully reflect together, in a beautiful and spiritual setting. :)

    @ Melanie: Wonderful to see you here and thank you for taking that “tour” with me! Yes, it was quite a time…to be immersed in such beauty and also think about a violent death. And then I was reminded, that all of this is simply “life.”

    @ Sharon: You are so good at “feeling” life, and I love that you could feel as though you were there with us! Yes, this would be a perfect spot for you and the hubby to go there and “be.” You would love it! You are so sweet…thank you for all the kind and loving thoughts. :)

  • Hi Michelle,
    We moved from MI to AZ 3 years ago. Sedona is 2 1/2 hrs from our home and we spent Sunday with friends hiking in Oak Creek Canyon on the West Fork Trail.

    It is a magical place and we take our friends and relatives there when they visit.

    My friend Megan and I are currently planning a trip. She’s coming from New York.

    I’m going to check this out because when I was at this vortex the rocks weren’t there.

    Enjoy the Grand Canyon!

  • Robin says:

    This blog most certainly touched my heart. Being there and loving every minute of the time we shared in that magical place… I love to hear from you how you experienced the same place in a similar but different way.

  • Jane says:

    Wow! What touched me most was the deep friendship you four bask in together traveling.

    When backpacking we see those little rock towers once in a while (we call “ducks”) to help us navigate a path. Building your own sculptures was like you and Bill symbolically centered in your twoness and then did one in your coupleness. I like that! Marriage needs both for sure. :)

    Hugging you in loss and in life!!!

  • @ Tess: I didn’t realize you live in AZ! This was my first trip to the state and it was a joy to see the cool landscape throughout. Nice to have Sedona so close for you, and especially to take visitors to!

    @ Robin: I was proud to share this story and recount a small piece of the magic we experienced together. Just one of the many, many precious pieces of life we four share. Can’t wait to go through all the pics together this weekend!

    @ Jane: Right-on about marriage needing both facets: The individual aspect and the couplehood piece. And yes, it was cool to feel that symbolically played out at the vortex. Thank you for the hug…it’s felt. :)

  • Robyn says:

    I really loved this blog (well I love them all), especially how the flow of the Divine happens, when we need to be alone, when we are ready to come back together, we just need to stay out of the way and trust in the flow.

  • Connie says:

    Loved it too Michelle…another great blog that’s sweet, touching & inspiring. I have added Sedona to my long list of places I’d love to visit someday!

  • Renee says:

    Sedona is definitely one of the most spiritual places I’ve been to. I witnessed the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen when driving back from Sedona to Phoenix. We had to pull the car over and fully experience the beauty and glory of it. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  • Tunie says:

    Lovely post, Michelle. Yes, the presence of cairns in sacred places are always evidence of me of how many kindred spirits are walking through this world, even a world in chaos, and, of course, that many wise ones have preceded me on the path.

  • @ Robyn: Love how you said “we just need to stay out of the way and trust in the flow.” I couldn’t have said it better! And yep, it is the flow of the Divine, like you said. Perfect. Thank you!

    @ Connie: Thanks so much for the love! And happy to know that Sedona is on your “list” now. :)

    @ Renee: Fun to connect with someone who has experienced the beauty of what I’m talking about! And glad we can share our experiences with each other. Thank you!

    @ Tunie: You hit on exactly what I was trying to say! That even in a world of chaos, there are kindred spirits walking with all of us…as well as those who have come before us, and will also travel the path after us. Such beauty and wonder in that thought!

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Michelle Stimpson: Editor/Writer

Michelle Stimpson Hi and thanks for visiting - so glad you're here! This blog is especially for cool people who want to experience joy and live a life of purpose. Welcome!

Here you'll find great stories that will inspire you and remind you that life is good, and there's an abundance of joy all around us. Simply put: When you follow the things in life that make you come alive and bring you joy...the magic begins to unfold.

Start by checking out the "Best Of" page and be sure to consider subscribing above. Thank you and cheers to joy!

Michelle Joy Stimpson
Executive Editor & Writer
Life Coach, LifeShine

Bill Stimpson: Partner-In-Crime

Bill Stimpson Hi! Not only will you see me “show up” in many of Michelle’s stories and posts here, but I also serve as Michelle’s editor, helping her clarify intentions and make her posts shine.

One of the great joys in my life is being involved with this blog! It’s a constant reminder for me to focus on the things that bring me joy. It also feels great to be sharing so many of these joys with you - in hopes that you, too, will find ways to focus on your own joyful experiences.

Here's to an abundance of joy in your life!

Bill Stimpson
Hubby & Associate Editor

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