Photo: Gilles Uzan
Originally seen in Audi Magazine.
Gliding into Sedona in the nearly silent, allelectric Audi e-tron® SUV heightens the humbling proximity to Arizona’s prehistoric beauty. The high-desert town appears to be cut out of the red rocks, with a stunning view from almost every corner. Homes and businesses are painted in sandstone-adjacent hues that echo the scenery. Stacked and staggered architecture further fuses the buildings with the rock formations.
The quest for a deeper mind-body-spirit connection is an advertised highlight of Sedona. The crystal industry is booming, as is the work of psychic healers, tarot card readers and other New Age establishments. This self-discovery does not always happen indoors, though.
Some say the true magic of Sedona is the fusion of the spiritual and the natural. “We often find these things pitted against one another, when I think they are both part of the larger human experience,” said Dr. Andrea Christelle, founder of Sedona Philosophy.
01 Sedona’s noise and sound restrictions enhance interactions with nature. With smooth, nearly silent power, the Audi e-tron® SUV is the optimal vehicle to explore this naturally stunning environment.
02 Driving into town on Highway 179A is an experience within itself.
ARISTOTLE IN HIKING BOOTS
Along with Dr. Matthew Goodwin, Christelle started Sedona Philosophy experiences to provide an alternative to quick fixes via philosophy hikes and creekside conversations. Wearing hiking gear, Goodwin with a backpack and Christelle in a colorful scarf, the pair led a guided discussion on the trails of Red Rock State Park.
Following in the footsteps of Aristotle, who famously used walking conversations as the cornerstone of his Peripatetic school amid the Lyceum’s covered walkways, Christelle and Goodwin see value in conversing outdoors to solicit larger thoughts. They strive to marry philosophy with nature and movement and bring them into participants’ everyday lives.
Goodwin said he believes many people wait to reflect on their lives after the window for taking an elective philosophy course has passed. Instead, Sedona Philosophy gives visitors an opportunity to practice philosophy while surrounded by a beautiful outdoor classroom. “That’s when we can get away from our daily lives,” he said. “And that helps us to become clearer about what we are doing and why, so that we return to work not only recharged but more self-aware.”
During the hike, Christelle layered question on top of question. Parallels to nature and its relation to daily life appeared and dissipated like the clouds. Tangled trees might go unnoticed by the average hiker, but she brought attention to the mutually supportive growth. “None of them are identical, but it works,” she said. The discussion of intertwined trees moved from the importance of communities to the value of the individuals who build them.
“We’re so busy trying to meet the standards and expectations of others that we forget to engage in a process of self-examination,” Christelle said. “Socrates’ famous injunction to ‘Know thyself’ gets at this issue.”
The sometimes-uncomfortable path of selfexploration was made easier by the babbling Oak Creek and the dancing shadows of the trees. Sedona Philosophy participants have said these kinds of conversations become a lot easier in nature than in a clinical office. “When we come out here, we’re moving our bodies,” Christelle said. “We actually think differently about our life and the world.”
TRANSITIONS IN A TIMELESS CANYON
Like Christelle and Goodwin, the founders of Sedona’s famed Mii amo® destination spa grasped nature’s potential to heal. The property hugs the sides of the awe-inspiring Boynton Canyon, nestled away from stress and distraction. Flute music reverberates off the canyon walls. The pleasing scent of something burning—Is it palo santo? Sage? No, it’s juniper wood.
Twenty thousand years ago, Boynton Canyon hosted Native American tribes for ceremonies. According to soft-speaking General Manager Jim Root, upholding and honoring the traditions of those tribes is key to Mii amo’s success. “If we lost sight of the timelessness of this canyon and the history here and became trendy, we would do a disservice,” Root said. “That sense of place would not be appropriate.”
Visits to Mii amo®, which means “to continue one’s path” or “moving forward” in the Yuman dialect, revolve around each guest’s intentions. This could be to find meaning after a life-changing event or to simply unwind with bodywork. Upon arrival, each guest receives a welcome gift, including a necklace made from juniper beads, considered sacred to the Navajo and a symbol to honor those who have come before. Near the check-in desk, an artist in residence—such as Charles Decker—might paint scenes inspired by his heritage.
The spa was built around a small, circular room called the Crystal Grotto, with a red earth floor. Modeled after a Hopi kiva, or round room of ceremony, this is where the morning ritual is held. This ceremonial sage burning and a ringing of the crystal bowl encourages guests to slow down, breath and focus their intentions for the day.
Spa treatments also are inspired by local tribes. The Inner Quest treatment draws from the traditions of a vision quest and a sweat lodge. There is no outdoor fasting in solitude, but the 90-minute service incorporates feathers, burning sweat grass and heat. Indigenous botanicals—like prickly pear, clay and pinion nuts—are incorporated into some of the bodywork treatments.
Transition is a common thread connecting visitors of Mii amo® and Sedona at large. Root sees a lot of guests going through changes: relationships, deaths, professions and health. “We’re not here to fix that,” he said. “We’re here to support you within.”
Even strenuous activities like mountain biking can impart life lessons to guests. Learning how to successfully navigate downhill through trees and around rocks can teach and empower participants. “It’s the same as life,” said Steven Tedrick, mountain bike guide. “Go with the flow, stay relaxed, let things take care of you to a certain extent.”
FEEDING THE SOUL
Many come to Sedona to start their transformational journeys, but some stay to watch it flourish. More than 20 years ago, Lisa Dahl paused her career in fashion and moved west. She was looking for a new beginning after losing her only son, Justin. The self-taught chef overcame tragedy to pioneer the fine-dining scene in Sedona and gain national recognition.
Before Dahl’s first restaurant, culinary establishments were not a selling point of Sedona. With strong features and a raspy voice, she helms Dahl Restaurant Group, which serves hundreds of thousands of guests annually. Justin’s memory is her guiding motivation. Moving to Sedona, she said, helped her tap into what she calls her voice within.
The background acoustics of the soft rush of wind through junipers is much more conducive to creativity than, say, honking cars and construction. Of her time living in California’s noisy Bay Area, Dahl said, “I wasn’t able to hear those voices or those callings in the way I do here. So, I have to think that a lot of that is the environment, that it’s the energy, as we call it.”
The backdrop of the American Southwest is an integral part of Dahl’s latest project, Mariposa Latin Inspired Grill. She describes the theme as “earthiness.” Massive windows and mirrors ensure that red rock vistas can be enjoyed from every seat. Steaks are grilled outside on a rustic Argentinian parrilla.
Dahl’s mantra, inspired by Justin, is “when you cook with love, you feed the soul.” To Dahl, cooking with love means honoring the food and passing down tradition. She nurtures and commands respect, whether she is instructing a line cook to slice the cabbage more thinly or informing a server on the best way to sell the soup.
When Dahl teaches young people to make something, cooking with love means leading by example. “You can express through your hands, through your excitement, through your interaction, that joy of what we’re doing: making the food for our guests,” she said. “We have an obligation to make it as beautiful, delicious and soul-satisfying as we can.”
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