• Image about Tucson
Cyclists pass the Chapel of the Holy Cross, built in 1956 among the red rocks of Sedona.
Ann Cecil/Lonely Planet Images

My wife, Kirsi, and I meet Pete A. Sanders Jr., a longtime Sedona resident who graduated from MIT with a major in biomedical chemistry and a minor in brain science. We tell him that Sedona seems to calm our blood pressure, but we don’t know how to explain it. Perhaps it’s just the town’s vast spaces and visual beauty that quiets our frazzled nerves? Or is it really possible that we are tapping into the town’s renowned vortex energy? Sanders is not prone to glib explanations. In a weekly lecture and occasional tours, he describes how the human brain’s lymbic system, designed for disaster survival, “pulls you out of your ‘soulness’ into a physical-only perspective.” He tells his audience about Albert Einstein and string theory and the notion that “everything exists in 10 or more dimensions.” He explains that Sedona benefits from low psychic pollution because of its low population density and energy flows (vortexes), which are often found at sacred sites and assist with spiritual development.

And about the rocks — do they possess electromagnetic energy? He says only that “ ‘metallicized’ rock has more oomph.”

  • Image about Tucson
This page, clockwise from left: Alvan Clark Telescope at Lowell Observatory, near Flagstaff; Mission San Xavier del Bac, completed in 1797, near Tucson; a twisted juniper tree thrives in the rugged landscape near Sedona; rock-climbing in Tucson; Lowell Observatory’s Lowell Dome at night, under Flagstaff’s starlit sky.
Richard T. Nowitz/Corbis, Andrew Kornylak/Corbis, Richard Cummins/Lonely Planet Images; Raul Touzon/National Geographic Stock.

Sanders takes us out to Airport Mesa, where we sit cross-legged on smooth red rocks and take in a 360-degree view of vast valleys surrounded by jagged and breathtaking rock formations. Another couple approaches, wanting to know where they can find the best sunsets. “Is the sunset an end or the beginning?” Sanders asks them. Speaking with a Russian accent, the man sagely replies, “It’s a circle.” These are the kinds of conversations that transpire in Sedona.

Soon, Sanders talks us through a meditation process to lift our minds outside our bodies to expand our perception to a higher order. I close my eyes, hope for some oomph and imagine my mind up in the sky. I’m feeling pretty good. I open my eyes, see the red rocks across a distant valley. I feel connected to a distant past and transported to another place.

I close my eyes again, touch the rocks underneath me, and smile. I must be in Arizona.

STEVEN BESCHLOSS lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., near saguaro cactuses, rocky mountains and Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter retreat, Taliesin West. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Parade and many others. Adrift, his book about America, will be published next year by Prometheus Books.