A year ago, I met Belen Stoneman, a Native American from the Akimel O’otham of the Hohokum tribe. She was a spa therapist and resident “healer.” at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa in Chandler, Arizona, and happened to be at a spa event in New York. As I walked by, she stared at my beaded moccasin boots, which look as though they were made on a reservation, but are actually from New York. “I like your boots,” she smiled.
“And I like your necklace,” I answered, admiring the chunky turquoise strands almost hidden by black hair cascading priestess-like down her shoulders. She was in her late forties, olive skin, dark eyes, about 5/4’, and wore a long flowered skirt. I’d been told she was a clairvoyant. “Would you like a reading?” Belen asked
One of my college professors had told me I was psychic, a gift, he said, I should develop in a positive way. I hadn’t been aware of such a talent nor did I know to tap into it. Years later, a cigar-smoking Shaman on the Amazon River told me I had special powers. I almost believed him, until he told the next person in line exactly the same thing.
Belen indicated I should sit on a stool. How would she do the reading? Animal cards? Feathers? She picked up a pen and sheet of paper, closed her eyes, and moved the pen around the paper as if in a trance, drawing squiggly circles, star shapes, and curlicues. She opened her eyes, studied the design, and said, “I have a spiritual guide named White Cloud. He directs me and sends me messages. White Cloud says you can see things other people can’t. White Cloud says we played together as children.”
I felt a small tingle. Did that mean that in a former life – if there was such a thing – I was Native American? Is that why I always rooted for the Indians and not the cowboys?
“White Cloud says you are very comfortable in the mountains,” she continued.
“I love mountains,” I said.
“My people lived in the mountains, and the spirits of my ancestors still live there.”
Were her ancestors Apache? Sioux? Almost as though she could read my mind, she said, “My people are the Akimel O'otham of the Hohokum. We live in the Gila River Community.” She looked back to the paper. “White Cloud says you’ll soon be going to a place with huge chunks of ice. And that something glittering and purple will come into your life.” I didn’t know about that, but I took her card and thanked her for the reading.
A year later, I bought a magnificent purple tanzanite ring in India. Then I went to Patagonia, saw whale-sized icebergs, and remembered what White Cloud had said about huge ice chunks and something shining and purple. Coincidence? I had to find out. I emailed Belen. I had to be in Arizona for business. Could I meet with her? She wrote back and she’d try and get the Elders’ permission to take me to sacred Aji Mountain.
“Aji means sanctuary,” Belen explained as we drove the unmarked dirt roads of the Reservation and pulled up to the base of the mountain. “The men used to come here to pray, and they put their women here for refuge if there was trouble.” We started up the hill. “I usually find arrowheads and pieces of pottery,” she said.
I wasn’t looking for arrowheads. I was hoping to hear someone like White Cloud send me a message.
“I come up here to be with nature,” Belen said softly. “I am totally centered here.”
“We walked back to her truck. “We have a two priestly centers here, both guarded by spirits. On is on the ‘rez, Snaketown, where I go to the river and gather stones. Do you want to go?”
There was no way she could know I collect stones from wherever I go. “Stones are almost spiritual to me,” I said.
She smiled. “Stones are our DNA.
The road to Snaketown was closed. ”It must have flooded out,” she said. I hid my disappointment. “We’ll go to Casa Grande. It’s a National Monument and there’s a 700-year old ancient Hohokum big house.” Big was an understatement.
Casa Grande was 60 feet long, four stories high. We entered, and I was sure I’d feel something spiritual, but all I could feel was the heat. Belen pointed up to the rafters. “Look! An owl. Owls are the gatekeepers to the other side. And look! There’s a second one!” Surely, this was a good omen.
We walked around the grounds. Belen told me her aunts had taught her to meditate, pray, and talk to spirits. “When you’re brought up like that, it gives you protection and faith,” she said.
I was still hoping I could tap into my powers. “What do you feel when you get a vision?”
“I get a real strong ringing in my ears or I get heat in the middle of my forehead. If I’m undecided, White Cloud comes and tells me what to do.”
“How did you find White Cloud?”
“Every human being has guides and relatives. The spiritual and physical work together, but most people pay no attention to the spiritual. I think our mission is to evolve spiritually and to take care of those things we had in our contract but didn’t follow. People are too far away from the spirit of who they really are. As an O'otham woman, my voice is my power.”
I wasn’t an O'otham woman, I couldn’t spot owls in rafters, and there was no White Cloud in my life. But I, too, had a voice. Maybe it wasn’t the same as Belen’s, but if I asked myself questions and dug down deep inside, the answers would always come. And that was enough for me -- psychic powers or not.
NYC-based Margie Goldsmith is a contributing writer to Elite Traveler, blogger for Huffington Post, and columnist for Women’s Running, healinglifestyles.com and Families in Business. She writes lifestyle, adventure, luxury and profiles, and so far has hiked, biked, searched for her spiritual powers, and written about 116 countries.