Sedona: Between Earth & Sky

Sedona

Sedona, or “Slow-dona,” as some of the locals called it, has proved to be one of the most peaceful places I’ve visited thus far. Life has a seemingly effortless and natural process of unfolding there. Those I’ve spoken to who have moved to Sedona from elsewhere claim they have been “guided” to Sedona for one reason or another. My mom and I planned this trip back in January and we totally understood the vibe of being guided out there.

One of my 2018 intentions was to travel to the Western United States. After putting that  out to the Universe, I saw an advertisement for a yoga retreat in Sedona and wanted to go, but it seemed a bit too costly to make it a reality. A few days later my mom called and asked if I would like to meet her in Sedona instead of her coming to visit me in Florida. I responding with a resounding “YES!”

There’s something—some high energetic, magical quality—about Sedona that extends beyond the physical. It can’t be explained, it’s something that needs to be experienced. I recommend Sedona to anyone looking for a relaxing, self-reflective, healing vacation.

Below is a guide based on our favorite things we did during our time in Sedona.

WHAT TO DO

LITTLE HORSE TRAIL TO THE CHAPEL OF THE HOLY CROSS

You can drive right up to the chapel, an architectural landmark built into the red rock. Orrrrr you can do an hour hike from the center of the vortex (a place of powerful Earth energy) out to the chapel. If you have the time, do the latter. We stopped about half way to admire the tall red rocks, sat down and did some chanting meditation. Right before we were about to move on, my mom insisted she get a picture of me doing a yoga pose in front of the rock. I positioned myself with my arms reaching outward. Upon later inspection of the photos, we noticed an orange orb (denoting protection) in the direction I was reaching. The trail, the nature, the chapel, the energy, all made for a Divine experience.

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AMBITABHA STUPA AND PEACE PARK

Windchimes and prayer flags line the perimeter of the park and in the center stands The Amitabha Stupa, a monument imbued with the power of higher consciousness to honor the Buddha. As I walked the path that surrounds the sacred structure, I was met with feelings of grace and gratitude. The peace and stillness of the park make it the perfect place to practice meditation and send prayers.

INTUITIVE READINGS AT THE NEW AGE CENTER

Intuitive readings are like spiritual “check-ups.” They provide insight into your emotions, energy, and overall spirit. I used to be wary of readings, but overtime I have learned there is nothing to fear because it’s all done in the interest of your highest and best Self. You can call ahead to make an appointment, but I chose to do it right then and there with one of the readers who was available. In one half hour session, I laughed, I cried, I worked through some major mental blocks, and obtained extreme clarity. 10/10 recommend.

DAY TRIP TO THE LOWER ANTELOPE CANYON, HORSESHOE BEND, & THE GRAND CANYON

Okay, not going to lie, this day was pretty intense. We totaled about 400 miles (5 hours) in the car, but the views were so worth it. We drove directly up to the Lower Antelope Canyon and got the longest part of the drive out of the way early. The Lower Antelope Canyon is a canyon carved out entirely by water. The smooth rock ebbs, flows, and swirls around mirroring the fluidity of the water that created it. Unfortunately, state law prohibits anyone from entering the canyon without a tour guide, so we had no choice but to cram into the tight space with a lot of people more concerned with taking photos of the Canyon than the canyon itself. Honestly, I was pretty annoyed about the people at the time, but thinking back, I only remember the beauty of the canyon, so if you can handle confined spaces with a large group then 100% do it! After the Lower Antelope Canyon, we headed South again and drove a tiring 8 minutes to Horseshoe Bend where we found some space to breathe. Then, we got back in the car for a two-hour ride to the Grand Canyon. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for what I saw because WHOA. The canyon stretched on for miles and miles making it impossible to comprehend the enormity of it. My mom and I remained silent on the edge of the rock and basked in the beauty of the scene in front of us with one thing on our minds: nature is heaven.

THRIFTING

There is plenty of shopping to do in Sedona, but no need to get caught up in all of the touristy shops. I found some real gems at the thrift and consignment stores scattered around the city. Gently used holistic food and healing books for $1 each, a designer dress for $15, silver earrings for $5. Thrifted items are inexpensive, good for the environment, and wayyy more treasurable than anything you’ll find in a destination themed gift shop.

EAT AT CHOCOLATREE

If you know anything about me, you’d know I’m crazy for cocoa, so I had to check out ChocolaTree, a café and shop specializing in homemade chocolate and vegetarian eats. They import their cocoa from South America and stone grind it on site, a process that typically takes a few weeks. You can totally taste the difference in their chocolate and the chocolate you’d get from the grocery store. It’s rich, it’s raw, it’s full of antioxidants, and it tastes the way real chocolate is supposed to taste. The best part about this place? They ship worldwide, so you don’t even have to leave your house to enjoy their delicious sweeties! Shop here.

WHERE TO STAY

THE SKY RANCH LODGE

I owe this one to Mom. I was in charge of flights, she was in charge of stay and she knocked this one out of the park. Located high above the rest of Sedona, the Sky Ranch Lodge promises awe-inspiring views. We had an incredible stay. The rooms were clean, the grounds were beautifully manicured, and the staff was beyond friendly. When we weren’t out and about, we either chilled poolside or relaxed in the wedding area. When the views are this good (↓) there really is no need to venture out!

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Namaste,

Mary

Key West

Key West is home to the southernmost point in the continental United States. But Key West is not just geographically unique. The island is a tropical paradise full of pastel conch style homes, more boats than you’ve ever seen in your life, brazen roosters, and a bunch of other eccentricities. It’s a definitely a place to check out. Here’s why:

Life is now in Key West

Island living tends to differ from life on the mainland. At all times, fisherman are heading offshore, tourists are sipping frozen fruity drinks on the beach, and locals are hanging out at the bars. The only thing people are concerned about is enjoying life. Which is why in any other part of the country, a disco ball hanging from a tree may strike you as odd, but here it’s just a part of the island decor.

Key West is well established in the arts

Whatever your taste in art may be, there is bound to be something you appreciate. There’s art in the familiar sense— galleries and exhibits can be found up and down Duval Street with displays of abstracts paintings and bronze sculptures. There’s the art of fishing, as Key West is the fishing capital of the world. And, there’s the art of sex. Sex shops and tranny shows are fairly common, further proving nothing is really taboo in Key West.

The food is killer

Casual, upscale, fast-food. Lobster Benedicts, conch fritters, grouper sandwiches. It’s all good. If nothing else, Key West is an ideal place for a culinary adventure.

Things To Do:

  1. Visit Mallory Square for breathtaking sunsets and nightly entertainment courtesy of Key West’s finest street performers
  2. Spend some time at the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory for a peaceful experience
  3. Take a boat trip offshore to do some kayaking and/or snorkeling.
  4. Take a day to visit the Dry Tortugas National Park
  5. Go to Fort Zachary Historic State Park

 

Namaste,

Mary

XX

Why you should do your YTT in India


If you’ve ever contemplated doing a yoga teacher training, consider this your call to action. And definitely consider heading to India. Here’s why:

You will learn the true essence of yoga

Yoga in the West is typically watered down, focusing almost exclusively on the physical aspect of yoga. The physical practice, better known as asana, is only one of the eight limbs of yoga and is not yoga in its own right. In training in India, you will be exposed to and expected to practice the other seven limbs. These include: discipline, moral observances, breath control, withdrawal of the senses, concentration, meditation and union of the self and the Divine. Obviously a month is not long enough to become a master on subjects that have been thousands of years in the making, but at the very least, you will leave with an introduction of what they are.

It will cost less than getting certified at home

Yoga Teacher Trainings in the U.S. cost upwards of $3,000. My program in India cost $1,500. In addition to the course, that cost covered my month’s accommodation, three meals a day, and one weekly excursion. Add in $1,000 for a roundtrip flight and it’s still less than getting certified at home.

There won’t be any outside distractions

You’re going to be pretty disconnected from the rest of the world. Unless you have an international data plan (which costs short of a million dollars a month), your cellphone is going to be nothing more than camera to take photos of the cows in the road and a calculator to convert rupees to dollars. And while my school and a few cafes accommodated us Westerners with free wifi, connectivity was usually poor. At the school, I would be lucky to get two minutes of FaceTime in before the wifi would stop working for the day. Refreshing social media and news apps also got pretty frustrating, so it didn’t take long before I would give up and put my phone away. However, I considered the bad wifi to be a blessing. My interest in scrolling through Instagram abated and I didn’t feel so bombarded by the bad news circulating the media. Because of this, I found it easier to concentrate on the course, myself, and the present moment.

You’ll make friends from around the globe

Like every other abroad program I’ve participated in, I thought I was going to be surrounded by Americans. But to my surprise, there were only four of us out of 40 students. There were a few Germans, some Argentinians, a Brazilian from Australia, an Australian from Brazil, one from India and so on. On the first day, we all swapped our reasons for coming to India and I was struck by how similar all of our stories were. Though our cultures, religions and backgrounds differ, we all felt captivated by yoga and pulled to India. I promise you that after making friends with such likeminded and incredible people from all around, the world will seem a lot smaller and infinitely more comfortable.

It will change you from the moment you step off the plane

India is vibrant and full of life. And all of this life is out in the open for you to experience— the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is India:

You walk into a shop and almost immediately fall into a deep conversation with the shopkeeper about the value of honesty. Outside that same shop, you find a beggar with a single arm and no shirt, sitting upright against the wall, clutching his prayer beads and waiting for someone to throw money in his cup. And around the corner, someone is burning a pile of garbage despite the extreme heat. Behind you, a cow stands in the middle of the road, blocking traffic and provoking drivers to slam those damn high pitched horns. But it’s okay because the bells of the ashram ring, signaling a call to prayer.

In my opinion, there is nowhere better to apply your yogic knowledge than a place that stimulates your mind and colors your thoughts. A place that both drains and revives you of your energy. A place that is going to flip your perspective on society, humanity, and life itself.

Namaste,

Mary

XX

 

Rishikesh, India

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In the months before I got to Rishikesh, I would daydream of what the city was like. I don’t remember exactly what I imagined, but I do know, reality exceeded my expectations.

Rishikesh, also known as “The Yoga Capital of the World,” is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India. The sacred River Ganga flows through the center, separating Rishikesh in two. But, the entire city preaches oneness since yoga literally translates to the word “union.” Rishikesh is filled with yoga schools, ashrams, spiritual centers and visitors from all over the globe paying pilgrimage to the holy city. “OM,” the sound of the Universe and the most well-known Sanskrit chant echoes throughout, literally and figuratively.

Here, life is simple. Everyone lives, eats and breaths yoga. I mean it. Asana is practiced throughout the day, aryuvedic food is served at every meal, and inhales and exhales are very much a part of everyone’s awareness.

So far, I love Rishikesh. Even though, I’ve only been here a week, I’ve already learned a lot about my self and my body, established beautiful friendships, climbed a mountain to visit a meditation cave and celebrated Holi like a local. Below are a few pictures that have captured a glimpse of these amazing events.

Namaste.