Preparing for a Vision Quest

Not everyone celebrates their 80th birthday alone in the wilderness for four days and four nights . But that's exactly what writer Nancy King elected to do when she signed up for a spiritual Vision Quest. Discover how she manages to tamp down fear and ready herself for the woods as she prepares for the big event. 

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The Trek to Little Potala Palace

by Chris Pady

While visiting the town of Derge (rhymes with reggae) in eastern Tibet, my partner, Michele, and I learn of Palpung, the area’s largest and most important Kagyupa (White) sect monastery, locally known as the “Little Potala Palace”. 

Yet despite Palpung’s reputation, we have no luck hiring a guide through any of the town’s hotel staff, shopkeepers, or restaurant owners. Finally, we bump into an English-speaking monk who promises to arrange everything for us. “Meet here at 7 o’clock tomorrow morning”, he instructs, pointing to a designated spot. Nothing about the arrangement spells certainty, yet we’ve got nothing to lose. 

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Fogous and Creeps in Cornwall

Pendeen Fogou wasn’t a very prepossessing site. To reach it, the three of us—my husband, Gary, our guide, Cheryl Straffon, and I—had to unfasten three rusty metal gates to venture ever deeper into a farmer’s cattle yard. The broken concrete beneath our feet was covered with several layers of dried (or drying) cow manure. Cattle were lowing and resting in their own muck in the nearby pens. 

Our goal was a six-foot-tall stone structure with tall grasses and weeds growing out of the top and a yawning opening in one wall. Before we could enter the site, we had one more obstruction: a detached farm gate, which the three of us hauled over to one side. 

Bending low, we followed Cheryl down a steep, stone-lined passage deep into the earth. I was grateful I had my hiking staffs to help keep me from slipping. At the bottom, the rocky passage leveled out. My flashlight illuminated moss-covered granite walls and ceiling, the large stones carefully placed to construct the fogou. Pronounced “foo-goo,” it’s a Cornish word that means “cave,” and it refers to a human-made underground cavern.

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My Journey to the Union of Heaven and Earth

by Elyn Aviva

Join me on a journey into the unknown, where what you think you know melts away and is replaced by something—something “bigger.”

For decades I have been drawn to sacred sites and powerful places, drawn to go on pilgrimage across France and Spain, drawn to place my feet in the footsteps of if not my ancestors then of the ancestors of spirit who have traveled these paths before me. Like iron pulled toward a magnet, I have sought out well- and little-known places of power—ancient stone circles, half-buried dolmens, ruined Romanesque chapels, spire-topped inspiring cathedrals, thick forests, hidden holy wells, dark sacred caves. Seeking I knew not what, going I knew not why, except that I was driven by a simple but all-consuming question: “What are these places?” I think I hoped that, by going to enough of them, I would find the answer.

The first time I knew I was in a very powerful place was when I saw the alignments at Carnac in Brittany, France. My husband, Gary, and I had driven through the flat Breton maritime pine forest toward the coast. The nearly straight road reached a crossroad—and there, behind green metal fencing, were rows of large, upright stones, some as tall as a person, stretching in rows as far as the eye can see. Brakes screeching, we pulled over. I jumped out and ran across the lane, twining my fingers through the barrier to get as close as I could. What were they? Who put them here? What purpose did they serve? 

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Communing With Oahu

by Atreyee Gupta


The first time my father took me to the island of Oahu, it was not to see the popular beaches. Instead we went straight to the interior of the Hawaiian isle where dense wilderness overtakes the landscape, creating a virescence that leaps out at the eye in full three-dimensional glory. It was a capital sight for me, an immediate opening up of my senses to the wonder of nature’s artwork. Ever since, immersing myself in Oahu’s jungle trails has been a necessity, an addiction I cannot deny.  

The Lost Cliffs of Oahu by Trey Ratcliff via Flickr CCL.

For my father, whose own parents had taken him as a child to the depths of the Wai’anae Mountains, Oahu’s wild heart was the key that unlocked his soul, bringing him back to himself. Our hikes exploring Waimea Valley or the Hau’ula trails were times, he explained, for us to look into our hearts and see the best of ourselves reflected in the natural world. “Know yourself,” was a phrase he often quoted to me on our jaunts.

Silently crossing burbling streams or making our way deeper into the Ko’olau Range, we kept our senses alert for the sounds of bark and nuts crunching beneath our feet, the quick flash of a red-crested cardinal as it dove into the branches, the whiff of delicate perfume from rose apple blossoms. Our speechless rambles were only broken with peremptory whispers as my father identified the cheerful yellow amakihi swaying on a limb, the fiery red stamens of a flowering myrtle as it quivered in the breeze, or the discovered tributary of a tiny silver runnel. My time with him was spent not on discussions about my future or his past, but on total absorption of Oahu’s natural paradise. Everything else, he claimed, was secondary.

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Genuine or Hoax? Visiting a Crop Circle Formation at Avebury, England

by Elyn Aviva

The news rippled through our group like a breeze through a wheat field: a crop circle had just been spotted! According to a crop circle blog, it had appeared only two days earlier, on the side of Windmill Hill, close to Avebury, in southern England. We were told it was still fresh and relatively untrammeled. Even better news was that we were nearby, since our group was visiting sacred sites in the area—including Stonehenge, Glastonbury, and Avebury, site of the largest stone circle in the UK. 

Crop formations usually occur in fields of ripe cereal grains. They appear all over the world but are most prevalent during July and August in the Wiltshire district of southern England. The complex patterns range in size from just a few feet across to over 900 feet, although the average is about 200-300 feet in diameter, and they vary in elements from a few to over 400. The designs may be circular (hence “crop circle”) or based on other geometrical forms (hence “crop formation”). 

They are controversial. Some researchers believe they are encoded messages from either Gaia/Earth or ET/the Cosmos; others believe they are hoaxes perpetrated by tricksters. They may be a relatively recent occurrence, first documented in 1976 in the UK, or they may be much, much older. I’d been reading about them for years, but I’d never seen one—and never walked inside of one. I was excited at the prospect.

Before setting out, our guide, Jude Currivan, showed us a tantalizing diagram of the crop formation. It looked like a huge, blunt-ended sword, pale gold cut into the middle of a field of dark ripe grain. Jude promptly christened it “Excalibur” and called it “the sword of truth.”

The sword blade was composed of 16 overlapping circles. Each overlap formed a geometrical figure called a vesica piscis or mandorla, which is often found in sacred art. Extending through the center of the circular handle and out the top were 10 circles in increasing and decreasing sizes. The handle incorporated both a disk (representing the sun?) and a crescent (representing the moon?).

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Spiritual GPS: Discovering holiness in every moment

by Richard Rossner

Where can we find holiness?

Sometimes I feel like I am in a grand hide-and-seek game with the Creator.  Just when I think I’ve found the deepest of the deep, He escapes me.  Just when I’ve found the perfect light, the right sound, the special spot for a spiritual experience, a hiccup or sneeze ruins the instant.

Then again, moments in life occasionally arrange themselves to create spontaneous experiences that become life-long memories with deep teachings that touch the soul.  They sneak up on you like the first warm smell of Spring that subtly tickles your nose.  You have to stop to make sure they really happened.  To miss these moments would be to miss the juiciest slices of life.

In 1994, I had just moved from Los Angeles to Scottsdale, Arizona.  The Northridge earthquake shook up more than the foundations of my West L.A. town home.  I was shaken to my very core.  I wanted out.  I had been blinded by too much show biz (I had been a writer on a hit show), too much disappointment (I was off the hit show and didn’t bag another staff position), and I was finally tiring of too much life in and out of the Hollywood fishbowl.

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In Wales, Nothing is Quite What it Seems

by Elyn Aviva

We were savoring our after-dinner espressos at Llys Meddyg, a “restaurant with rooms,” in Newport, Pembrokeshire, Wales, when my cell phone rang. I looked at it suspiciously.

During the week we had stayed at Llys Meddyg the cell phone had never functioned inside the hotel. There simply wasn’t any signal. To make a phone call, I had to walk down the street waving it in the air until gradually the bars started showing up.

The phone kept ringing. I answered it and heard a woman’s voice, speaking rapidly. “Hi, this is Winifred. I hear you’re going to write about my land. If you write about my land, you’d better get it right!”

“Hello,” I replied. “How’d you hear about us?”

“My friend David told me. When can we meet?”

The phone suddenly cut out. I ran outside the restaurant and down the street, looking for a signal. One bar, two bars, three. I tried to return the call. It rang once and Winifred answered.

“Sorry, we lost the connection.” I said.

“It’s because of all the volcanic rock in the Preselis. It interferes with cell phone transmissions.”

“So that’s why!” I exclaimed. “I wondered.”

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Communing with the Garifuna in Belize

by Fyllis Hockman

Garifuna healer, Erdangela Polonio. Buyei, Belize. Picture this. The large thatched-roof, sand-carpeted temple was barren except for the obviously ill child curled up in the single cot by the wall. An old woman could be heard chanting from within her sacred chamber, candlelight flickering around the corners of the sheet separating her from the long hall. Her healing incantations, I later discovered, were addressed to the spirits who may have had reasons of their own to inflict the child.

Intrigued? Okay, here’s the story. Spirits are big in the Garifuna community of Belize -- which by the way is a Central American country that thinks it’s a Caribbean island.  Garifuna, you say? Never heard of them. Part of the melting pot civilization which comprises Belize, the Garifuna share the land with Creole, Mayan, Spanish, Mennonite, Chinese and other neighbors but their language, customs, foods and religion are unique. So are their spirits.

Now there are only about 7000 Garifuna currently in the country, but the spiritual population is a lot larger. “Our ancestors are all about us,” Lawrence, our guide, told me: “Just as we must eat and drink to live, so must they be nourished as well.” This is something the ancestors take very seriously.

So if they perceive they are being neglected, the dead return, most often through dreams, to remind the living that they are in need of nourishment. If this message goes unheeded, the spirits may get angry and make a family member sick. The ancestors do not take kindly to being ignored.

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Searching for Sunrise in a Megalithic Cemetery, Ireland

by Elyn Aviva

Cautiously, my husband Gary, our friend Michael, and I followed a nearly invisible path through the fog and up the side of Loughcrew hill, just before sunrise. A huge crow—perhaps a raven—flew by, its wings flapping loudly in semi-darkness. We were heading to the ridge top to see a twice-a-year spectacle: the rays of the equinox sunrise penetrating the passageway of Cairn T, a 5,500-year-old megalithic tomb situated 52 miles northwest of Dublin. The equinoxes, which occur around March 21 and September 21, are the two times of year when the days and nights are of equal length.

Distant drumming drifted through the swirling mist, along with the faint sound of voices. Others had reached the site before us. Soon we arrived at the top. A large mound of mist-sparkled green grass and rocks, Cairn T looked like an immense, squat mushroom, partly encircled with huge kerbstones. A number of ruined, exposed stone chambers and tumbled stones were scattered over the hillside. Clumps of people milled around, seeking shelter, chanting, or sharing mugs of steaming coffee and pieces of cake. The event had the mixed flavor of a class reunion and a revival meeting.

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What's So Spiritual About Sedona?

by Jan Myers

Don't Believe the Spiritual Hype of Sedona. 

When I first decided to go to Sedona, Arizona with my mother, Judy and my 10-year-old daughter, Maggie, I was curious to see if our three generations would have the spiritual encounters I had heard often occur in the vortex-rich Red Rock Country.  I am certainly open to receiving more positive energy, but I do tend to be a bit skeptical until I experience something for myself. Maggie wasn't buying any of the 'spirituality', but was excited that we planned to visit the Grand Canyon.

We spent nearly two weeks in Sedona soaking up all the energy we could, along with the extreme July heat.  I was a bit disillusioned the very first day when I drove into uptown Sedona in our Hertz rental car. I was apparently not taking the roundabouts quickly enough for the driver behind me and after he blew his horn at me, I glanced into my rearview mirror just in time to see him give me the finger before he made his turn.  "Wow! What a spiritual place this is!" I remarked to Mom and Maggie. 

To be honest, that was the most negative thing that happened to us during our stay.  I did master the roundabouts by the time we left Sedona, and for that I am thankful. We heard all about the many psychics and the UFO activity in Sedona. I'm pretty sure that one fellow we kept running into was 'left behind' to study us earthlings.

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