Monday, December 30, 2013

PHOTO MOMENT: Cactus and Fire

One of my favorite things about Arizona during the holidays is the fire pits and cactus decorated with lights.  So romantic.

This is from the Camelback Inn on Lincoln Rd in Scottsdale / Paradise Valley.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sedona Sweat lodge with the amazing, mystical Rahelio

Photo courtesy of Rahelio's website
When you tell people you are going to a sweat lodge, you generally get two responses. It’s either, “Cool, can I come?” or “You’re nuts. People die in those.” 

I obviously fall into the “Cool, can I come?” category.

My first weekend in Arizona in 2012, I drove to Sedona to check out the mystic vortexes with an Indian Sharma that I found randomly through Google.  His name was Rahelio and I had an amazing time on his tour (see blog post)  - which was completely different than what I expected it to be. If you go, here's a note: you won't need hiking shoes and a big camelback full of water. It's very chill.  (You can read more about Rahelio on his website) .

 It was then I learned he also had a sweat lodge…in his backyard!  How cool is that? You know I had to go back to check it out. It’s taken me a year to get around to it mainly because Phoenix is hot in the summer and the thought of sweating around a fire when it’s already 118 degrees outside seemed really unappealing.  I needed the temperature to cool down a bit. And now that it's December, the time to sweat in a lodge full of strangers has come.


But before I get into the Sedona sweat lodge experience, let me tell you a bit about Rahelio .

He’s earthy. And really laid back. I mean REALLY REALLY laid back to the point where he doesn’t schedule things, but kind of lets them happen.

Here’s what I mean:

"I’m thinking about driving to Sedona and do a sweat lodge session. Do you have one coming up this weekend,” I ask over the phone.

"I don’t have one planned yet, but text me Friday and I’ll see,” he says.

Apparently, spiritual sweat lodges aren’t like city-slicker yoga classes where you know there will be one every Saturday at 9 a.m. They are on a “need to have” basis and happen when they are supposed to happen – like destiny.

I love that Rahelio lives like this. I'm not like this. My friend Cristina calls me the Type A Hippie, which makes sense. I may not have concrete plans, but I do HAVE plans.  With Radelio, you have to accept that the not knowing when the sweat lodge will happen is part of the whole spiritual experience.


Following the instructions, I text Radelio on Friday and hear nothing. I'm assume it's not happening and figure I will have to try the next weekend instead.

Then on Sunday night I get a text saying he’s going to have one on Monday. Can I come? Sadly, I work so skipping out the last minute to drive to Sedona to do a sweat lodge probably wouldn't go over well with my boss.

I text again the following Friday to see if he’s having one Saturday. He’s not, but maybe Sunday? Yay!! Sunday it is. I’m set.

And it turns out Sunday also works out for two of my friends. After listening to my on-going quest to do this thing for the last week, they too have decided it's time to meet their sweat lodge destiny. 

Triple yay!! I won't sweat...or die alone - depending on your sweat lodge perspective.

I was actually impressed my friends were willing to do this last minute because I knew nothing about what would happen or what to expect. In fact all I knew was that it was on Sunday at 4 p.m. and that it could be 2 hours – or longer. 

Rahelio also told me to bring towels. 

Did I know how many people would be there? No. Did I know anything about the lodge itself? No. Was it safe? Hopefully.

Yup… I was going in blind and dragging my two friends with me.


We arrived at 4:15 pm at Rahelio’s house in Sedona.

As we walked up the driveway, we were still unsure of how it worked and we were surprised at how many people were there. Thirteen people had shown up (we made 16) and many of them were first timers like us.

But the turnout wasn’t the only surprise. Rahelio’s backyard was also amazing. It looks like poop in the photo below, so you'll have to take my word that it was actually nice in real-life.

The sweat lodge was to the far left, but the right of it, he had created a prayer circle filled with comfy chairs, a futon, mats, statues, and crystals for people to mediate beforehand. He also had incense burning to put you in a tranquil mood. 

After we had changed into shorts, he had everyone enter the circular lodge single file and clockwise. We then waited in silence for it to begin.

It was fantastic…and hotter than you think it would be. But at the same time it was cleansing as the steam created from the water on the fire rained down on you. 

It was also relaxing and freeing. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about chanting and sweating with 13 strangers, but because it’s dark in the tent and Rahelio has a way of making everyone feel comfortable, it was fine. 

The place also smelled great.  He would through different herbs and plants on the fire like sage and cedar.  You inhaled this while trying to stay focused on the chanting, and when you left the lodge, your skin smelled like the plants as their scent mixed with your sweat through the humid air.

After about two hours, we emerged from the tent dripping wet. The sun had gone down and the Sedona sky was filled with crystal clear stars. Everyone (except us because we didn’t know) had brought food for a post-sweat lodge pot luck which was perfect.

Who would have thought chanting and sweating would work up your appetite?


Had to share this last bit. I wrote this blog entry during a plane ride from Phoenix to Calgary. After finishing it, I opened up the UP Magazine in the plane's seat pocket....and what did I see? An article on 4 ways to Explore Sedona featuring Rahelio!!! So unexpected and wonderful.