Thursday, September 11, 2014

Of Crystal Skulls and Ouija Boards Part I

"I've tried everything. I've done therapy, I've done colonics. I went to a psychic who had me running around town buying pieces of ribbon to fill the colors in my aura."
~Jim Carrey

Men with pony tails, women with feathers in their hair, impromptu ceremonial rituals involving smoldering bundles of sage, a loudly chanting (and possibly weeping) self-proclaimed shaman and a hermaphrodite playing a haunting tune on the crystal bowls. No, you are not about to read a touching tale of mysterious Native American tribal customs. These are all middle-class white folks gathered at a crystal shop conveniently located next door to the so-called psychic temple of “Dr. Hal” in Sedona, Arizona.

As I venture further into the shop, I observe a paunchy man in a too-tight lime green tee shirt perched on a huge chunk of quartz polished into the shape of a tortoise/footstool. He is tearfully whispering into the pages of a book about extraterrestrial encounters, oblivious to the curious stares of the shoppers reaching over him for the vanilla incense which is on clearance. A statuesque woman (not an employee of the store, I learn later) with black hair flowing to her mid-thighs is giving an informal lecture to a group of Asian tourists gathered around a life-size painting of an incredibly attractive Jesus, his linen tunic torn open to reveal a smooth, muscular chest (think New Testament Fabio). While it is unclear if the Asians understand a word she is saying, the woman is describing in vivid detail one of her past lives in which she was the girlfriend of Jesus (NOT Mary Magdalene, she is quick to add, but from her accounting of events of the day, I gather that she was a groupie, following Jesus from town to town, taking care of his…um…"needs" and doing her best to keep that rascal, Judas in line).

Sedona is one of the New Age epicenters in North America where people come to experience the vortex energy ("spiritual hot tubs without the water" as it has been described), take bone-jarring Jeep rides to haunted burial grounds and spaceship landing sites, chat casually in the soy milk aisle of the grocery store about alien abductions and have their auras read by trained professionals.

The first time I was here was 1990 (in the relatively serene and unfettered days before I stumbled into the psychic profession) and either I was asleep at the switch and did not notice the "local color", or it was not as celebrated and paraded around town as it is today. Now it seems that one cannot possibly escape the New Agey circus going on here. These folks are my cohorts, my tribe, my homies...we toil away day after day, reading palms, tea leaves and energy fields. We listen to the questions of the fearful seeking comfort, the angry seeking revenge and the lost seeking guidance. All of this seems pretty heavy as I sit on the patio of a restaurant on the main drag, sipping my Mothership Margarita and trying not to feel cynical about Dr. Hal giving psychic readings from a worn leather recliner back at the crystal shop earlier that afternoon.

I'm not entirely sure why I agreed to come to this place again. A friend suggested it, and before I knew what I was doing, I was enthusiastically investigating sites online to sign up for energy balancing, psychic readings and chakra clearing.

I was quick to drink the Kool-aid.

Following are the highlights of my three day experience:

Day 1:
Arrive in town and observe tourists wandering trance-like through the streets. Speculate casually if something in the air is affecting them while making mental notes to stay alert in case we have blundered into Ground Zero of the Zombie Apocalypse. Compelled to enter shop after shop selling crystals, Native American totems, religious art and healing tinctures, sprays and potions. Notice that in each of these shops, there is enough patchouli and gauze to mummify an elephant (initially disturbing, but it gradually becomes part of the "experience"). Find myself purchasing bags of unnecessary crystals while the clerks behind the counters smile reassuringly and nod in time to the Enya tunes wafting through the shop. Still coherent enough to giggle about McDonald's arches being turquoise instead of the traditional gold. Am asked earnestly and with great concern by a local shopkeeper if I remember being abducted by ETs when I was 8 years old. Jokingly tell him that I believe I was raised by aliens hell-bent on a mission to destroy all life on planet earth. Shopkeeper is not amused and I note that a sarcastic attitude about our space neighbors is frowned upon. Become fascinated by the myriad of massage therapy options in town...nothing is out of the question, apparently, and one can choose from a vast array of offerings from Chinese Happy Foot Massage to Trauma Touch Therapy, to Animal Massage (animals are receiving massages as opposed to giving them, I learn), Mineral Mud massage, Crystal Massage (sharing space with "Astara" who offers Shamanic Leg Waxing) and the intriguing Psychic Massage which I avoid investigating since someone in a caftan (gender unknown) is standing outside of the treatment room, cajoling passers-by to come in and "experience the magic". All I can imagine is that it's less strenuous to massage people in their past lives than it is to address their current physical bodies.

Day 2:
Disquieting juxtaposition of The Nutcracker soundtrack (it’s February), chili peppers hanging in dusty clumps from the ceiling and a garish Kokopelli motif splashed across the walls. We are dining at the Coffee Pot restaurant, celebrated home of 101 omelets (peanut butter and jelly, Spam and pineapple, pepperoni and asparagus to name but a few of the questionable combinations perhaps conceived during a late-night drinking binge and/or a Magic 8 Ball consultation) and a gift shop whose inventory has busted loose from its original enclosure and spilled over into the dining area. While awaiting the arrival of our less-adventurous omelets, the hostess encourages us to try on a jaunty cowgirl hat, a scarf knit from cactus fibers or a faux leather skirt festooned with beaded fringe. We choose instead to listen in on a loud conversation at an adjacent table where a rotund couple are debating the health benefits of soy bacon while washing down their five-cheese omelets with military-grade coffee.

Sleep was elusive the previous night as I became convinced that my pillow was stuffed with what can only be described as golf balls and bubble wrap. At 3:00 a.m., frustrated and strangely alert, I wander out to sit on the balcony in the light of the full moon and observe strange flashing lights on the side of the mountain. Was this the beginning of my own transformation into one of the zombie-tourist Pod People roaming through town? And if so, could Trauma Touch Therapy be far behind?

Today, I have an appointment with "Wanda" for an intuitive reading and energy balancing. A friend has recommended her services as "very healing", and I am past due for some of that. My friend has warned me, however that Wanda is from New Jersey and is a bad-ass. She is not a purveyor of sweetness and light, but rather a powerhouse of cosmic manhandling who will plow through my energy field, toss out the trash and set all things right in my world. At the very least, I am looking forward to observing how someone else works with the intuitive guidance aspect since I have worn deep grooves of routine and habit in my own practice. A breath of fresh air is most definitely needed at this stage of the game.

I arrive at Wanda's condo and am greeted enthusiastically with a ferocious bear hug and loud, braying laughter as she informs me (while I am still standing in the doorway) that she could feel me coming a mile away. I am ushered into a small knick-knack nightmare of a living room and am not sure if I should look at the statues representing every known religion, the Virgin Mary clock on the wall or the Egyptian sarcophagus standing guard in the corner. There is a massage table in the middle of the room where the purported energy balancing will take place, but first, I am to sit on the floral love seat and tell her why I wanted to come see her. What am I struggling with? What am I resisting? Why am I unhappy with my life? Wanda is looking deep into my eyes, searching for the meaning of my presence in her condo, and perhaps here on earth. Suddenly, I have no idea what to say to her. She is, indeed, a bad-ass, and will not tolerate any whining or fear-based bullshit coming from my mouth today. She asks, "so what's your problem, Honey", as though I have brought my car into a busy repair shop because I heard a "funny noise".
I stumble around the usual human complaints and she dismisses each one with a wave of her Jersey hand adorned with neon pink nail polish and gold rings. I sheepishly come to the end of my short list of issues and allow her to offer her opinion about my station in life. In the first sentence of her impatient evaluation, she pronounces the word "ask" as "ax"...and it is at this precise moment that the Chief of the Grammar Police in me no longer feels obligated to listen to her advice. I tune out. I nod and smile and begin to compose in my mind the email I am going to write to my friend who recommended Wanda to me. She is blunt and rough as she tells me to get off my ass and stop stalling. Life is waiting. What the fuck am I so scared of, anyway?

Now that we have solved all of my problems, it's time for me to hoist myself onto the massage table so Wanda can do what she likes to do best: blast through the road blocks and brick walls I have erected in my energy field. But before we do that, I am ordered to use the bathroom so that I don't interrupt her while she is working her magic.

There are rules to using Wanda's toilet. I must not flush tampons, sanitary napkins or excessive wads of toilet paper. I must hold the handle down for 10 seconds, otherwise everything won't flush. I am to put the lid down when I am done and wash my hands with antibacterial soap. If I feel so inclined, I am welcome to use the unscented lotion on the sink. I do not have tampons or sanitary napkins to dispose of today, thankfully, so I concentrate on counting to 10 as I hold the handle down...but instead of things flushing away in the traditional manner, the water begins to rise, as does my heart rate. I really didn't have much to offer the toilet gods today, so why the damn thing is about to overflow is a mystery. I call out to Wanda that something is going wrong, and she bustles in with a plunger to fix whatever the hell I did to her toilet. Is this part of the energy clearing? Because I feel a strong wave of emotions (shame, anxiety, I-didn't-even-really-need-to-pee righteousness) rising to the surface as she plunges away at her temperamental commode.

I make myself useful by climbing onto the massage table and willing my blood pressure to return to normal. Soon enough, Wanda is sitting on a stool with her large hands on my head (did she wash her hands after using that plunger?) and this is when things start (?) to get weird. Her voice and demeanor change and it sounds as though she is channeling the ghost of Muddy Waters. I resist the urge to open my eyes to see if Wanda has traded places with an elderly black man somewhere between the bathroom and the living room. Now she is chanting in an eerie, unearthly language, and I am struggling to relax. Now she is blowing on the top of my head and commanding me loudly to "release it".

I will be the first to admit that I am a novice when it comes to energy work. I know what it is and how it can help, but at this point, things are feeling so ridiculous that all I want to do is trace my steps back to the restaurant with the Mothership Margaritas and call it a day. The chanting and invoking of various entities continues. Wanda touches a variety of points on my head, neck and arms with a peacock feather while conversing in no-nonsense tones with what she must believe is an ancient demon living in the basement of my psyche.

At last the session is complete and I am told to sit up slowly, which I do. Something must have happened because I feel dizzy and disoriented. Wanda shows me several large cards with images of saints and angels and I am asked to point to the one I resonate with the most, which I do. She regards me carefully and then tells me to get off the table, our session is complete, and reminds me to drink plenty of water. I am not told the significance of the card I chose, but it seemed to mean something to her, and I was not curious enough to "ax". As I am reluctantly hugging her and pretending to thank her for her time, the embittered circus midget in my mind who examines and renders judgment on everything is saying, "see? This is why we don't do this crazy shit! Get out! Go do something normal like purchasing $200 worth of crystals you have no idea how to use!"
Good advice. As usual.

Day 3:
Awakened with a jolt at 3:00 a.m. again (surprised I was actually sleeping on the so-called pillow stuffed with the contents of the recycling bin) and feel the compulsion to go out to the balcony. No flickering lights on the side of the mountain tonight, but I do hear a strange, low humming/rumbling sound which seems to be all around me. I can feel the vibration through the floor of the balcony as the hair on the back of my neck begins to rise. At this point, I am fully expecting to see a large space ship hovering over the hotel, but no such visual occurs...just the unsettling vibration all around me accompanied by the sensation that something is about to happen.
Nothing actually happens.

Back to bed and fall into a deep sleep in which I dream I am watching a surgery from an observation deck. I do not notice any emotions about the dream, and it all seems very clinical and matter-of-fact. Awaken at 6:00 a.m. and decide that I do not need to return to Sedona in this lifetime.
Today we are visiting some art galleries as well as the home of a friend who lives part-time in Sedona. Frankly, I am over this place and ready to escape, but we press on through our day and arrive at "Serena's" house in the late afternoon. It is a large, beautiful home, but once again, I see Egyptian statues, art and gee-gaws displayed in each of the rooms. Back in the 1980s when King Tut's dusty remains were touring the world, it seemed as though everyone was on the Egyptian bandwagon, singing songs, re-decorating homes and wearing artifacts and now it appeared that all of that philosophy/decor had come home to roost in Sedona. As we play a game with Tarot cards (this is what happens when you drink the Kool-Aid, folks), one of the women at the table tells me with tempered alarm that she sees orbs above my head. I look up, expecting to see something like a swarm of glowing wasps and am immediately hit with a wave of vertigo strong enough to make me grab on to the table to steady myself. Suddenly I am crying and shaking and ready to bolt out the door (interior design side note: the entryway is decorated in the style of a medieval castle with a snarling dragon head above a massive mirror and a heavy, carved wooden front door boasting wrought iron handles in the shape of swords). The women take turns trying to calm me down, but the vertigo is increasing and all that is really clear is that our Tarot game is over.

Did I actually see an extraterrestrial? No. Did I experience the vortex energy? Maybe. Did I receive a chair massage from someone claiming to be the reincarnation of Joan of Arc outside of a busy grocery store? Yes. Was I possessed by the ghost of a disgruntled Egyptian tomb-builder? Jury is still out.

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