In the quiet city of Artesia, 20 miles south of Los Angeles, there’s a four block stretch that will teleport you to the heart of India. On Pioneer Boulevard from street 184th to 188th, your senses will be infused with spices, colors, scents and sounds that will trick your brain into thinking that you’re living the real Indian experience. There are countless restaurants, sari boutiques and stores selling traditional jewelry, furniture, food and spices. Women in their beautiful Indian outfits walk gracefully and shop quietly at their favorite stores, men also wear their best outfits with colorful turbans and they make small chat at the street corner, children play loudly in restaurants; it’s hard not to love this beautiful culture. While I was visiting yesterday, there was a special trepidation for the upcoming Festival of Lights (Diwali) a five day celebration of the victory of the Good over the Evil and Light over Darkness. ”Victory of good over evil”, refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one’s true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With this awakening comes compassion and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings anand (joy or peace). Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Diwali is the celebration of this Inner Light.
Diwali is celebrated in families who perform traditional activities together; one of them involves the lighting of small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. These lamps are kept on during the night and one’s house is cleaned, both done in order to make the goddess Lakshmi feel welcome. Firecrackers are burst in order to drive away evil spirits. During Diwali, all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends.
It is said that this celebration brings good luck, wealth and prosperity. Well, I guess I was just lucky to stumble upon it in Little India, but to increase my fortune I purchased some clay lamps, too!
Sedona is a very special little town 2 hours south of the Grand Canyon, a must-see in Arizona. What makes it particularly special for me, is that we have part of the royal family residing there; our 93 year old grandma, a former Hollywood dancer and shaker, Virginia and our talented former LA Times journalist and novel writer mom, Gerry.
Sedona is known for the beautiful red sandstone formations, called the Red Rocks of Sedona whose stunning shade glow in the daylight. The color of the earth is red, as well and so rich that makes the private homes’ landscapes so unique and lively. Sedona is very green, too and has many hills covered in evergreen vegetation. There are several hiking paths that lead to the main monoliths named Coffeepot, Cathedral and Thunder Mountain.
Sedona is said to be surrounded by four vortexes (swirling centers of subtle energy coming out from the surface of the earth.) According to different studies, the vortex energy is not exactly electricity or magnetism, although it does leave a slight measurable residual magnetism in the places where it is strongest. The subtle energy that exists at these locations interacts with who a person is inside and it is believed that this energy resonates with and strengthens the Inner Being of each person. This is the main reason why Sedona has long been considered the ultimate spiritual mecca of America and has drawn some of our planet’s most amazing healers, intuitives, artists and spiritual guides who come to Mother Nature’s red-rock temples to experience their life-transforming, soul-nourishing work in person. I personally feel a sense of calm and well being, but nothing hugely transformative when I’m there…I guess this requires some prep work that numerous wellbeing centers offer with their workshops. I always enjoy visiting the numerous New Age stores with a multitude of crystals, rocks, meditation kits and books on every possible self discovery and enlightenment topic. My favorite store, “The Crystal Castle”, overlooks a small creek; it’s quite large and has everything you need for the soul…even on the spot aura readings.
Every time we visit, we experience something new; during our visit, we hiked to the Amitabha Stupa which happens to be right up the street from grandma’s castle. I didn’t know that, but the stupa is one of the oldest forms of sacred architecture on earth, dating back to the time of the Buddha, 2600 years ago. Stupas are mostly found in the East, where Buddhism first took root and flourished. They are indeed rare in the West and when we got there we were amazed to find that there was a blessing of the animals by some Tibetan priests underway. Our timing couldn’t have been more perfect! Since we had our beloved Bruna on toe, we walked around the stupa and had her blessed by Buddha. Bruna might now well live for another 50 years!
Only in Sedona…