We travel to all corners of the earth seeking answers to the meaning of life. In the process, we are often pushed beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone, but if truly committed, the experience is usually positive and often transformational.
More and more people are travelling to places of power and sacred sites to extend horizons both internal and external, reviving ancient ceremonies that involve nature, healing and prayer. It is widely believed that just being in the energy of sacred places can create changes to consciousness. To quote Humbatz Men, a respected ceremonial leader and Mayan elder, “We live in an environment surrounded by echoes and images of the past, which can be materialised by our mental force. To recall the past is to awaken.”
A popular destination for transformational travel is Sedona, in Arizona, a town that nestles at the foot of red rock canyons, home to powerful vortices within its crimson moonscape desert.
A vortex is a power spot where energy is emitted from the earth. The Great Pyramid, Stonehenge, Uluru and the Bermuda Triangle are classic examples, to name but a few. Speaking globally, these power spots could be compared with the acupressure points on the human body.
Sedona is the gateway to Monument Valley, home to the Navajo Nation and known as the eighth wonder of the world with its towering natural spires, massive buttes and the Grand Canyon. Here, for over 11,000 years, the only inhabitants were Indians.
Nearby is Hopiland, home to the Hopi Indians. One of my most exciting memories of this particular part of the world was that of attending a Hopi Indian Katchina Ceremony atop a mesa in 1990
The narrow mesa rose thousands of feet above ground level. Once we had reached the top, to peer over the side was like viewing the desert from an aeroplane. Intoxicated by drums and chanting, I ventured away from the group to explore on my own.
Sections of the ceremony were taboo for us westerners. These were conducted underground in large, dugout caves called kivas, where Hopi women and children huddled together while the men, the katchina dancers, performed ancient legends, their heads hidden inside grotesque masks.
As I shivered in the darkness of the night, absorbing the pulse from the dance below, three young Indians approached and attempted conversation. It was impossible to understand each other so we contented ourselves with smiles and head-nodding. One offered me his blanket, placing it around my shoulders.
Eventually, after managing to communicate a little via charades, my new friend invited me to accompany him underground to join his tribal family. He ushered me to a wooden ladder poking from a gaping hole in the ground.
Throwing caution to the wind, I scrambled down into the kiva where the atmosphere was like pea soup, thick with burning sage and dust from pounding feet. Women and children squatted on the floor. I felt very much the intruder as I squashed in amongst them. But reassured by my friend’s smiles and head-nodding, I began to relax, absorbing the magic of times past, when humankind lived interdependently with nature and in affinity with Great Spirit; a time when humans knew we were not separate from the trees, plants, rocks and waterways; a time when humankind used only dead wood for fire, avoiding the termination of a tree’s life force.
When the ritual came to a close, I reluctantly climbed the rickety old ladder back into the 20th century.
One can always rely on the unexpected to happen when traversing faraway places. On one occasion in Egypt, our group emerged from the Holy of Holies inside the Temple of Isis and headed towards an isolated area near the river. As we formed a circle in the long grass, an armed military policeman appeared out of the bushes, swarthy, grim-faced, machine gun hanging loosely in his right hand. His left hand concealed something behind his back and as he drew closer, we noticed he had a second gun tucked into his belt. Then, leaning towards us, he held out the hand from behind his back. Lying in its brown sinewy palm were sixteen pink oleander blossoms, one for each of us. It was surreal. A moment of ‘guns and roses’.
Another unexpected moment was experienced by one member of our group. For over 70 years this lady had suffered claustrophobia and related anxiety attacks. Consequently, we arranged for her to remain outside the Great Pyramid while we ascended the narrow tunnel inside the massive stone monument. But at the last minute she changed her mind, making it all the way up to the King’s Chamber, an incredible achievement hitherto believed impossible. For our septuagenarian, it was a miracle.
We travel to all corners of the earth seeking answers to the meaning of life but at the end of the day, it all seems to boil down to one thing. Travel will get the physical body to its destination but once there, true change can only come from within.
I believe travel does transform lives, but in the words of the television commercial urging Australians to visit Uluru, ‘You will never ever know, if you never ever go”.
Jo Buchanan is a PSH therapist, hypnotherapist and counsellor, workshop presenter, tour leader and writer.
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