Monday, December 10, 2012

And Now for Something Completely Different...

I’ve just had a unique experience that I doubt science is equipped to explain. If you’re comfortable with spiritual ideas, it might sit better. Or maybe not...we'll see.

I went to Sedona, Arizona over Thanksgiving week. Heard of Sedona? It’s about a two hour drive south of the Grand Canyon, and nearly as awesome to look at. There are huge, shapely, gorgeous sedimentary rock bluffs that rise everywhere over the landscape, in a rich eye catching red color due to their high iron oxide content. Among New Agers and other spiritual seekers, Sedona is considered mystically significant. This is partly due to the energy anomalies that exist there, each one known as a “Vortex” (for some reason, maybe to distinguish them, they use the plural ‘Vortexes,’ not vortices). People pay sometimes hefty fees for vortex tours, or healing and meditative pilgrimages to them.

The first two times we went to Sedona, I thought this was a very woo-woo idea and did not bother going. But I have opened my mind to all kinds of things since my marriage seven years ago, and this time I gave them a try. I didn’t know if there was anything to the hype - or whether I would feel it, even if there were.

So here’s what happened. We got a vortex map from a local spiritual center. Then we hiked up the side of Bell Rock, the vortex closest to where we were staying. We looked for juniper trees with especially twisted branches, which the vortex energy is said to cause. My husband and I went about halfway up the rock, sat down in the scanty shade of one of these short trees, and sat quietly, taking in the spectacular view.

Did anything happen? Oh, yeah.

All the discord drained out of my head, all the noise, all the inner criticism and second guessing - really everything that makes it uncomfortable in there. I fell utterly silent inside, peaceful and positive and sure. I was not mentally ill. It went away, completely. It was an amazing sensation. But - just a peak moment, right? Nice vacation, great view, my love at my side, who wouldn’t feel good?

Here’s the kicker: it lasted for two weeks.

No inner voices, no symptoms, no negative thoughts, no nothing. Absolute remission for half a month. Even on the marathon drive back to California, in a big awkward van that usually frightens me to death, I was calm and happy and relaxed. I drove for hours longer than I am usually able to and felt no strain. The interesting thing is that this state of consciousness involved no effort and no thought. In fact, I did remarkably little thinking. I was perfectly aware and alert, I played with concepts, I had conversations. But I did not often have words in my head. Eckhart Tolle claims that thinking is not usually necessary. You know what? He may be right. I didn’t need thought very often, and I still got plenty of things done. Life was so frigging easy!

My peace and sanity lasted until the first time I listened to someone complain at length about a bad Thanksgiving experience. It was as if their unhappy, uneasy voice had waked up my own. It started to mutter. And after that, despite everything I could do, that voice grew and grew. A week later I realized my beautiful peace was all gone, and I sobbed. I was unstable again, and life was hard. Just like always.

So is that the end of that? Not exactly. It’s a little like the first time I took medications that cleared my thinking. Now I know what it FEELS like to be sane. If you know what you’re shooting for, you have some chance of getting there. Until you have a target, you can’t even aim. And now I know I am capable of absolute inner peace.

What else can I do that I don’t even think is possible?

I don’t know what’s going on at those spots in Sedona. I don’t have to know. All I need to know is that sanity is possible. Even for me. For now, that’s enough to go on with.

Deborah is a public speaker and the author of Is There Room for Me, Too? 12 Steps & 12 Strategies for Coping with Mental Illness, available at, Kindle Editions, iBookstore, and other major vendors. Visit her web page at, or see her catalog at She has also narrated a guided meditation CD with her husband, musician Robert Hamaker. Check out sound samples at