You don’t have to go to Asia or South America to get spiritualized. In fact, you don’t even need to leave your own home. But if you’re looking for a destination with some spiritual sizzle to kickstart you on the path or a nudge to disentangle you from a dark night of the soul, check out the American Southwest.
New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah are called the four corner states because their borders perfectly align at one heavily photographed tourist hoopla. From naturally occurring energy centres to sublime landscapes and spiritual retreat centres, the southwest is a magnet for all things divine.
Taos, New Mexico
For a small town of 5,000, Taos packs in a whole lot of things to see and do. The 1000-year old Taos Pueblo UNESCO World Heritage site is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. The Taos Art Colony spawned a thriving arts scene that dates back to the turn of the 19th century, which later attracted the hippies and spiritual seekers of the ‘60s who started a bunch of communes around town including the Hog Farm, led by Wavy Gravy of the Merry Pranksters, and New Buffalo, which was featured in the counterculture road movie Easy Rider.
Though most of the original communes have since faded away, Taos is still home to the established Lama Foundation, a spiritual community and educational centre for people of all spiritual paths. Lama is the resting place of Murshid Samuel Lewis, the American Sufi who founded the Dances of Universal Peace. With its place in Sufi history, the community holds Sufi Zikr retreats as well as silent meditation retreats and a host of other programs in their May to September open season.
Just as a tornado is a vortex of air and a whirlpool is a vortex of water, Sedona is a vortex of spirituality known for its subtle energy that spirals from the surface of the Earth. When in the presence of such energy, some people find they can more easily connect to their spiritual and psychic powers while others feel upliftment that lasts for days. Though the energy is most palpable right at the vortexes (the proper term is “vortices,” but in Sedona it’s actually called “vortexes”), it can be felt up to a half-mile away, giving the whole town a high. Some of the prominent vortexes include Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Chapel of the Holy Cross and Boynton Canyon.
Sedona is not just about stoking the shakti. The vortexes have drawn seekers, healers, mystics, psychics and artists of all stripes who have settled in Sedona to practice their work, which means the town offers all kinds of spiritual practices and healing modalities to check out. Sedona has become one of the world’s greatest spiritual centres for the variety of communities to join and number of spiritual programs to take part in.
Like Sedona, Boulder is a spiritual magnet. It’s home to the American base of operations for the Buddhist organization Shambhala International. The large Boulder centre offers a range of meditation, Buddhist and contemplative arts programs. Shambhala also founded Naropa, a Buddhist-inspired contemplative university located in Boulder. The school hosts drop-in events such as nonviolent communication training and somatic arts concerts that offer a taste of what this unique school has to offer. Posters advertising group meditations, kirtans and Dances of Universal Peace are common sights in Boulder, so it’s easy to get oriented to the spiritual landscape.
And Boulder’s not just about what’s going on in town. Impressive rock formations called the Flatirons stand over the city as highly visible icons that call people back to nature. Locals and tourists alike heed that call and regularly head to the fringe of town to play in the mountains.
Zion National Park, Utah
The Holy City of Jerusalem, the kingdom of heaven, the land of future promise. These are all dictionary definitions for Zion. Expectations are sure to mount with a name like that, but the park’s namers did get it right. With unique geography that features statuesque monoliths, gravity-defying natural arches and resplendent red canyons, Zion does not disappoint.
And if the natural features aren’t enough, a number of spiritual retreats and personal intensives are hosted in the park by various groups keen to tap into Zion’s power for personal and planetary transformation.