Sedona, Arizona is a very special, singularly beautiful place, with its spectacular red rock canyons and hills literally leaving you speechless. Over millions of years, layers of sandstone and limestone were left in the area by a receding ocean. Iron oxide eventually covered the grains of sandstone and, in a natural process, rust formed. The stunningly beautiful red rocks of Sedona are the result of this process.
Humans first arrived in the Sedona area about 4000 BC, when hunter-gatherers roamed and settled in the Verde Valley. Between 900 and 1350 AD, a more advanced civilization began building pueblos and cliff houses. Known as the Sinagua (without water), their cliff dwellings are still evident today. One of the most beautiful is Montezuma’s Castle [photo at right], not far from Sedona. If you hike the red rocks, you can find petroglyphs and pictographs they left behind.
The awe inspiring vistas, along with the magnificent views of the crystal blue sky, have acted as a spiritual lure for centuries, and Sedona has become associated with spiritual power that matches its physical beauty. That metaphysical power is said to manifest itself most strongly at specific locations called vortexes. No, it’s not vortices. In Sedona, the plural of vortex is vortexes. You may be unfamiliar with the term, vortex, but you’ve almost certainly seen them in everyday life. If you have ever seen a whirlpool in a river, or observed water spiraling down the drain in the bath tub, or watched a dust devil kick up in the desert, you’ve witnessed a vortex.
The common dictionary definition of vortex is: “A spiral motion of fluid within a limited area, especially a whirling mass of water or air that sucks everything near it toward its center.” Here, we are more interested in its less common definition: “A place or situation regarded as drawing into its center all that surrounds it.” Since Sedona as a whole is said to be a spiritual power spot, a vortex site in Sedona is a place where Sedona’s spiritual energy is most strongly concentrated. Page Bryant, a medium, came up with the term in the 1980s while investigating supposedly sacred locations in the area.
According to Bryant, the Sedona vortexes are created from spiraling spiritual energy. The vortexes of Sedona are believed to be spiritual locations where the energy is right to facilitate prayer, mediation and healing, with energy flow that exists on multiple dimensions. The energy flow of the vortexes supposedly interacts with a person’s inner self. Pete Sanders, Jr., an M.I.T grad and the founder of Free Soul, an non-profit organization located in Sedona, believes that scientific string theory can help explain what happens at vortexes in dimensions beyond ordinary perception. In his book, Scientific Vortex Information, Sanders writes,
“Even though we cannot measure those dimensions yet, you can still experience them because you exist in them. …and so do the vortex sites. What is happening at the vortex sites is energy flow in those deeper dimensions. You have the inner ability to measure, feel, find and tap that energy.”
The vortex phenomenon isn’t easily explained; obviously it must be experienced. The first step is, of course, locating the vortex. No “X” that marks the spot; the entire area is considered to be a vortex, which makes it much more accessible. So, on a recent trip to Sedona, my wife and I visited all four of the commonly identified Sedona vortexes, searching for whatever sense of physical or spiritual well-being we might be able to find.
Bell Rock [photo at left], adjoining the Village of Oak Creek, has an easily identifiable bell-shape formation, and was our first vortex stop. The rock formation itself is fascinating, but neither of us felt any special forces at work, other than the spectacular beauty of the site.
We next went to Airport Mesa at sundown, joining with perhaps eighty other visitors. We enjoyed the panoramic views of the red rocks to the north of uptown Sedona [photo at right], but felt no special surge of energy from the vortex. Maybe the windy, cold, late day weather interfered with the metaphysical forces of the vortex.
On another day, Boynton Canyon, located off Dry Creek Road in West Sedona, required a six mile drive over dusty dirt and gravel roads to a spectacular box canyon [photo at left] with some well-preserved Sinaguan ruins. Beautiful, yes. Fascinating, yes. But again, no physical or mental tingle from the vortex.
Cathedral Rock was the last of the four vortexes we visited. Located on Lower Red Rock Loop Road, it is the most photographed site in Sedona, and I added myself to the long list of photographers by taking the photo shown to the right. The cathedral-like red rock structure rises above Oak Creek, and couples often choose the site to exchange their wedding vows. We chanced upon a small wedding taking place during our visit to Cathedral Rock, but beyond the excitement of being wedding crashers, we felt no buzz of any kind.
We checked out two other special places in our attempt to connect with the sacred energy of Sedona, The Chapel of the Holy Cross [photo at left] and Oak Canyon Lookout [photo at right]. Slightly disappointed, we left both of those beautiful spots still wondering what a vortex experience is supposed to feel like. When we talked to Sedona couple that we met later in our trip, the woman told us that she had clearly felt the power of the vortexes, but that each person experiences a vortex differently with possibilities including new insights, intense feelings of joy or release, a heightened sense of well-being, a physical healing, or a new or heightened spiritual awareness. Her husband pooh-poohed the whole thing, saying he’d never felt a thing at a vortex.
So why doesn’t everyone feel the same effect? Is the experience real or illusory? According to the believers, everyone is different, and so are their experiences. While one person might see colors or energetic swirls, another might simply feel more supported and uplifted. Moreover, people will try in different ways to interact with a vortex. Sitting quietly and experiencing what the site has to offer is the simplest and most direct way to interact with a vortex. Some people try meditations, breathing exercises, ceremonies and visualizations to enhance their experience at Sedona’s vortexes.
I should be more than a bit skeptical about the existence of the Sedona vortexes. There’s probably no way to prove definitively that they exist, or that they don’t exist. But I’d rather believe that there are places on this planet that are truly special, that have the power to uplift us, and connect us in some special way to the whole of existence. Sedona’s natural beauty provides an extraordinary backdrop for that kind of metaphysical connection, and that’s enough for me.