Our theme for the month of July is “stunt journalism.” Writers were asked to try something new, take on a challenge, or perform some other interesting feat strictly for the purpose of writing about it.

This is Bekah’s last post with us, so a hearty thanks and a warm goodbye goes out to her today. Bekah has been writing with us since October 2014.

Living in the Southwest for the summer has presented me with a multitude of new opportunities and experiences. Scorpions, blazing desert heat, and near-total human isolation have been mere warm ups for the true Southwest lifestyle: new age spiritualism.

I am no mystic but, six weeks into the sun-bleached schedule of a boarding school teacher who has no cell phone reception, patchy Wi-Fi, and no car with which to flee campus on her rare days off duty, I was ready for something, anything to distract me from my hermit-like existence.

So, when I was asking around for suggestions on local sightseeing, and a coworker mentioned that Sedona has one of the world’s highest levels of ‘new-age activities,’ I was hooked. To be fair, if my coworker had mentioned that Sedona has the world’s biggest illegal snail-racing rings, I would have been hooked and you would be reading a very different type of blog.

I was oddly geeked for my new age activities to begin; however, there was a problem.

Where was I, a non-mystic ignorant of what the frick-face new-age activities even means, going to start?

“Best Aura Reading” reviews on Yelp surprisingly came in handy. Was I interested in a medium whose shop displays a wide range of healing crystals or a Reiki Master-teacher who engages her customers with sound healing? The psychic readers alone filled three pages of Yelp reviews and suggestions. After thorough research into both the Mystical Bazaar and the Awareness Healing Center, I had to decide if I wanted a chakra balancing session with Phaedra or to step into the celestial dance with Yahaira the Wise Mother.

Decisions, decisions.

Feeling antsy and completely overwhelmed, I jump into a friend’s borrowed car and head into town. I decided that choosing a psychic on a whim, based off which I pass first on the street, is probably a good first step towards allowing myself to be led towards my destiny.

Dearest reader, if you have the image of run down, mice-infested cottage on the outskirts of a dingy town with a rusty sign advertising physic readings hanging precariously on one hinge, know that your imagination cannot be further from the truth. Spiritualism has been fully commercially realized in the stunningly wealthy city of Sedona. The going rate of palm readings was more than I make in a day. These sacred dwellings are new, state of the art, and immensely intimidating to wander into.

There are levels to the Sedona experience. Phases. Steps.

1.Owning multiple salt lamps
2. Intuitive readings
3. Healing crystals
4. Tarot card readings
5. Aura Photography
6. Chakra Balancing (I only put this here because I don’t know what it means and I am too afraid to Google it in case my mom ever checks my search history and becomes worried for my future.)
7. Drum therapy (I put this near the top based purely on the price.)
8. Past life regression
9. Vortex tours

I decided on aura photography because it is decently priced, comes with tangible evidence, and reminds me of Tapenga from Boy Meets World.

I turn off the winding mountain road at the first New Age building I see. Palms sweating, I take a clearing breath and open the door.

Incense. And I don’t mean the single stick that you light right before inviting friends over to your dorm room for the first time freshmen year of college. Effusive incense. Overwhelming. A woman wearing pale blue shawls with heavily penciled eyebrows approaches out of the mist (I shit you not. There was mist inside the shop) and introduces herself as Cayenne, naturally.

I explain my plans for an aura picture and, with much less weirdness than the name implies, I am ushered into a darkened back room, in which the smell of incense mingles with the tartness of Cayenne’s cherry chewing gum. I stand against a black backdrop and, while soothing pipe music plays through Cayenne’s Pandora station, I hear several faint clicks as the camera snaps images of my true self.

I am ushered back out to a bright side room, made to sit at a spindly legged table and forced to drink some acrid tasting tea while Cayenne’s assistant gushes about my pictures. He explains that an aura is an electromagnetic energy field formed by subtle color radiances which surrounds the human body and that, if my heart is open to accept the jewels of self-knowledge, he will walk me through the twenty-three page aura color-wheel manifesto, for a mere seventeen extra dollars.

I choke on my tea, blush as it spills across the silk tablecloth and hurriedly make my case for several airtight reasons why I cannot stay. He nods, eye downcast as though I have done him great harm, and hands me my packet.

Safely back in the car and several blocks away, I open my packet. My own bemused expression gazes out from the picture, surrounded by a steady grey- purple glow, tinged with harsh tones of orange.

I have seen my aura.  It looks like cat vomit.

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