Thursday, March 28, 2013

24 Hours In Sedona, AZ

Many people have been asking me about my recent trip to Sedona, AZ. If you’re not familiar with the fame of Sedona, then I’ll catch you up a little. It’s one of the most photographed spots in the West, giant red rock mesas that are famous for having spiritual “vortexes”, little pockets of energy on top of mountains where people pilgrimage to meditate and have spiritual experiences. That’s a lot of pressure for a person to commit to going somewhere to have a religious experience…but 1000’s do it every year, just like me.
 Also, I’ve never even been to AZ before. So this was a great opportunity to see the landscape, by myself, and just see what happens…for 24 hours.
  I flew into Phoenix, grabbed my rental car, and set off for the 2 hour drive to Sedona. All along the way I was seeing tons of cacti, and wishing I could take pictures. I also saw a very monochrome landscape with no mountains in sight. And as I approached Sedona, I thought, ‘this is crazy, what, I’m going to round a corner and suddenly, Pow, there will be Sedona Red Rocks?” And then I laughed out loud because that’s exactly what happened, no more than 30 seconds later. I stopped at the first rest stop to take pictures.
 After stopping for lunch, I went right to my first planned hike: Airport Loop. This is a 3.5 mile loop that has vistas of many famous sites, plus some of the famous vortexes. Although, the vortexes are not marked. And so there were MANY people aimlessly wandering and asking each other, “Do you know where the vortexes are?” I thought it was so silly, but we definitely needed a big sign with an arrow saying, “MEDITATE HERE!”  I had notes on where things were, and when I started my hike, I had, what I THINK is one of the vortex spots to myself. So I plunked down on a rock and meditated, just trying to be completely mindful of all 5 senses. And I have to say, I did feel like I was on a ship, with an under current of movement around me, and a breeze that seemed to answer me, and a peacefulness that I don’t normally have. It was a brief moment, but what more could I have wanted?
 So I started my walk around the loop. Now, here’s my venting portion of the story. At no time in my research or questioning period, did anyone tell me that the first half of the Airport Loop is along the side of a mountain, with a VERY steep edge all along the path. We’re talking a one foot wide “path” that is on slippery rocks/dirt with nothing to hold on to. I was beyond terrified. I don’t like heights. I love planes…encased in a box. I don’t love thinking I’m going to free fall down the side of a mountain and no one knows exactly where I am right now (check to make sure the GPS on my phone is on and working). I can barely stop to take photos, because when I do, I get dizzy looking out and start to fall backwards. I’m PISSED!
 At this point, I’ve walked about 30 minutes into a 2 hour walk. I know I have several choices, and I’ve had these same choices in life before:
1)     Quit. Turn around. Give up. Go back. Be mad. Still have the edge on one side of me, possible death.
2)     Keep going. Know that if people died a lot on this hike, they PROBABLY wouldn’t keep the trail open.
3)     Decide that THIS is part of the spiritual experience.

So, I keep going. At this point, I’m passed by 2 older gentlemen, one with a walking stick. He says to me, “The second part of this path is harder.” “HARDER?!” I say. “Well, it has a lot more rocks, so it’s harder to walk.” (pause for reflection on my part). I say, “Is it steeper, or the path is just more challenging?” He says only the path is harder, but that it’s not as steep. So I figure, I maybe have another 30 minutes to cheat death, and then I can probably survive OK. 10 minutes later, 3 younger guys on mountain bikes pass me. WHAT?! They’re on BIKES and I can barely walk. They’re not scared. They have to get off and walk the bike occasionally because the path is all rocks, but nothing stops them. I bet they’ve done this before. No one from New York City is biking across this trail. So again, I figure…if they think they’ll live, than I probably should too. So I keep going.
 It is beautiful there. Quite majestic and unique. The silence is beyond anything I’ve experienced. I’m from New York City. When you go through your apartment door from outside, you realized that your ears are ringing very loudly. And there’s always a hum of electronics and street noise, even in my Los Angeles apartment. So this is pretty amazing. I can hear my own thoughts…not something I tend to enjoy. So, I alternate between trying to convince myself that I will survive, being mad at the websites and guides for not warning me, being mad at myself for getting myself into this position, being completely terrified and crying, and somehow, trying to enjoy and learn from this experience. Interesting things happen. As I think of people…they start texting me. Or I text them and they’re having similar experiences where they are. Pretty cool. I make it all the way around and back to my car. I sit in my meditation spot again for a moment, no magical moment again, but that’s OK.
  At this point, I check into my stunning Bed & Breakfast, The Lodge at Sedona. I have picked a room they call, “Whispering Wind” and I realize, I really hope it doesn’t whisper to me at night. It has a Jacuzzi tub, which I use twice. It has its own patio area, where I sit to watch the stars at night, it has lovely staff, which make me an allergy friendly breakfast, it has a gorgeous Labyrinth in the backyard, and it evidently has ghosts…which I will now explain. Again, is this all part of the Sedona experience?
 By some amazing coincidence, there’s a restaurant in Sedona (and Flagstaff, where I’m about to go for 5 days) called, Picazzos. They are primarily a gluten free restaurant. This restaurant is walking distance from my B and B. I am happy. I turn off all the lights in my room, and walk to a nice dinner. When I return to my room, all the lights are back on. Nothing else seems touched. That’s weird. I remember the Inn Keeper saying she’d be gone by 7, and I didn’t leave for dinner til 8. I keep looking around my room to see if anything’s been moved, but no. I sleep very well, but wake up about 6am because I thought I heard distant music, almost like wind chimes near my room. It only plays for a moment, and then I hear a knock at my door? A nearby door? No one knocks again, but I figure these 2 things are a sign for me to get up and go on a second hike while I have time.
 First, I go to the main room of the B & B to say that I might miss breakfast, because I’m leaving now, but also to ask about the lights. The Inn Keeper and the Cook go white. The Cook says, “You know, the Lodge has been known for ghosts?” I did not know that. The Inn Keeper insists that no one could have gone in my room to put lights on, because no one who works here was still around. When I mention the music and the knock, they both are absolutely sure that I have the ghost. But they try to make me feel better, “Don’t worry, the ghost only goes to the people they like, nice people. They’re friendly.” Great. I go back to my room and enter with an accusatory index finger, “LISTEN! I don’t want any funny business. (pause to change tactics) I’m sorry. This is your house, I’m a visitor. Please don’t scare me. But if there’s anything you need from me…somehow let me know. We good?!” No answer. I guess so. And there was no more funny business.
 I go to Cathedral Rock, and on a recommendation, abort my effort to climb straight up after about 20 minutes, and instead, take the Templeton Trail, a flat trail, both ways for about 20 minutes each. Very different views from yesterday, but perfect spots for meditation and yoga. Done. Checked my TO DO list off. And took over 100 pictures along the way.
 I check out of my hotel and start the leisurely drive up to Flagstaff. It’s only 20 miles away, but I hear I’m going through Oak Creek and passing some nice spots and shopping, so I should continually stop and take photos…which I do. I also see snow along the way. It’s 70 degrees, people are in shorts. But there’s snow on the ground. I will never understand the West.
 Flagstaff is another story. I’m there for a film shoot. Staying in a “castle” on a man made lake with a bunch of college students to make a fake James Bond short film. Great film. Talented kids. Crazy castle. Also took a ton of photos. And, as with most film shoots, I have a LOT of free time to just relax, read, whatever.
 So that’s my AZ trip. Check Sedona off my bucket list. I hope to go back, with friends, alone, do different walks, eat at Picazzos, and maybe stay at the Lodge again. But this time, not the room with ghosts…unless they follow me. Sigh. 
 More photos on my facebook page. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Play time?

 Do you find that things that were said to you in classes, or by bullies, or boyfriends, or parents, stay with you forever? Not the happy things. Not the, “you’re pretty, you’re smart, you’re talented.” But the, “That’s wrong. You’re weird. You’re dumb. Etc?” Yup. I have a whole lot of words floating around my head about myself. Holding me back. Taking up space in my brain that could be better used for….really anything else.
  This weekend I’m taking an intensive class. 3, 8 hour days of Improvisation at Second City here in Los Angeles (shout out to Kate Duffy, world’s best and most encouraging teacher). And I’ve learned a lot about improvisation. But more than anything, I’m learning a lot about myself. How harshly I judge myself. How much I still think there is a “right and wrong” way, a “perfect” way, a “realistic” way. Oi. How much time I waste in my head worrying about stuff that doesn’t matter…and simply holds me back?!
  I have one day left. And I’m learning how to play. Something I should have learned as a kid, but didn’t. I didn’t play. I competed in sports. I studied dance and instruments and languages. I read books. I learned to sew and strategize in board games. But I did not learn how to play house, or doctor, or make believe, or fabricate stories. I most certainly did not. So. I have 8 more hours to embrace that elusive inner child I’ve heard about, but not believed in. It might be 40 years late to appear. But I’m going to learn how to play, even if it tortures me.
  Who knows what I might learn in my 50’s.   

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Forgive Me

 I was listening to Oprah’s interview of David Letterman. He spoke about being in therapy, thinking he was a good guy, but living a life that was inconsistent with someone who is a, “good” guy. It occurred to me that, as he has trouble forgiving himself, I have not forgiven myself for any of the things I’ve done in my life of which I’m not proud. And conversely, I never thought I was a good person. It’s the opposite in fact. I always thought I was an evil person because of my thoughts, and because of things I’ve said or weaknesses I’ve had. There are many things I’ve done that I’m certainly not proud of. Most of them, if I had to do it again, I’d probably do it again anyway, because I wanted to, or because I didn’t know a better way. Or because I was attempting to be funny…and wasn’t. But as I realize that I’m 43 years old. I can kinda count on 2 hands the number of big mistakes. I realize that, other than proving I’m human, I’ve not at all proven that I’m a bad person. I’ve probably done the reverse. I’ll tell you why. 1) I realize they were weaknesses, or mistakes in judgment. 2) I feel badly about them. And 3) If I only have about 10 things I can think of in 43 years of living…those are pretty slim odds. Having negative or judgmental thoughts doesn’t make me a bad person. It makes me a little more “normal” than I care to admit. I can generally, not 100% of the time, but mostly, curb my actions before I say something I’ll regret, or do something that I’ll look back on and think…”hmm, maybe not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.” But, as the saying goes, “let those among us without sin, cast the first stone.” And, as I’m always saying, many “rights and wrongs” are purely subjective, or decided upon by a society that I don’t always agree with.
 Anyway. I’ve concluded that I should, perhaps, forgive myself for not being, “perfect”. And start, maybe, remembering all the good things I’ve done and said instead of the bad things.
 And PS. If I’ve ever said something to YOU that hurt or offended you, I sincerely apologize. Yes you. You know who you are. I haven’t forgotten. 
 If you've not read my entry on loving might appreciate that one too.