FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – After deciding I was to attend Northern Arizona University, a friend of mine wrote, “Ah, Flagstaff: where the only thing higher than the mountains are the people.” He was, indeed, correct. With an elevation of just over 12,000 feet, Humphrey’s Peak in Flagstaff is the highest natural point in the state of Arizona. Also, there appears to be an abundance of marijuana here. Another friend had mentioned to me that I would “fall in love with a hippie chick,” which has yet to happen but I have, however, met my fair share of “hippie chicks.” Even r/Flagstaff of Reddit.com describes itself as “that one town with the hippies.”
It was clear that Flagstaff had garnered a reputation which varied quite significantly from the image I always had of Arizona life: strict immigration laws, gun-touting, god-fearing Republicans, and a dry heat that people use as their only solace when it is over one hundred degrees outside. Having visited Flagstaff only twice very briefly, I was anxious to explore the city and meet its people. I once visited Paris where I met a young German named Michael Stocker and his girlfriend, Agatha. Knowing it was my first time visiting Paris they had asked me what I was expecting and what I wanted to experience. I told them, “Nothing and everything.” They told me that was the only way to experience Paris and so my mentality when venturing to Flagstaff, Arizona was the same: expect nothing, experience everything.
Everything is Energy
“You’re giving off a nice blue,” he said as he coiled the chord for his vacuum cleaner. To which I replied, “Huh?” It was a week before the Fall 2015 semester at NAU was to start and I was desperately searching for a home, apartment, loft, or box to sleep in. He was a 25-year-old grad student named Matthew and I was attempting to persuade him to let me room with him and his two roommates. Despite our interaction being much in line with business rather than congeniality, it was still the first interaction with a genuine Flagstonian. Matthew had grown up, went to school, and got a career as a hair stylist in Flagstaff. After straightening his vacuum cleaner and tucking his thin black hair behind his ear, he looked not directly at but around my body. “Yeah,” he said, affirming whatever it was he saw. “We’d get along good. You’re definitely our second choice.”
But I gave off a “nice blue.” How could this be? Did their first choice give off a nicer blue? Darker? Lighter? Was the issue that my blue was more of a teal or a violet? Whatever the case, I didn’t quite understand what Matthew meant by blue. “Your aura,” he said, reading my confusion, “It’s nice.” I was familiar with the idea of auras through a couple documentaries but had never quite met anyone who genuinely believed in them. Auras are supposed emanations around our bodies, energy typically recognizable by colors: green is the color of heart and nature and blue is the color of intuitiveness and a loving nature.
I shook Matthew’s hand, not entirely sure what had transpired, and left his apartment. As I walked downstairs he began to whistle but it was quickly covered up by the sound of the vacuum cleaner. Eventually, Matthew and his roommates went with their first choice and I found a room elsewhere.
By now I’ve settled in but immediately one thing was clear to me: there was something strange and spiritual happening in Flagstaff. A simple stroll downtown and you’ll notice that there are a multitude of places to do yoga or meditate such as Simply Spiritual Healing, The Yoga Experience, or the Human Nature Dance Theater and Studio. You’ll see a place where you can have your auras cleansed and your chakras balanced at a Psychic Reading store near Aloha Hawaiian BBQ and Flagstaff Brewing Company. Sacred Rites, according to their website description, specializes in “instruments for consciousness-raising and healing,” selling singing bowls, flutes, and monochords, an ancient musical instrument whose Greek translation literally means “one string.”
Sound healing instruments are also sold at another store called Crystal Magic; however, Crystal Magic specializes in energy-giving/absorbing crystals and rocks. These crystals and rocks can enhance the following: interstellar communication, libido, creativity, chakra alignment, cosmic consciousness, and dimensional travel. They can also remove: anger, hatred, jealousy, the desire to smoke, stress, and addiction. Others offer the holder a good financial future or can act as an anti-inflammatory agent. As I perused around the store, I watched a middle-aged women grab a small howlite, a rock which absorbs anger, gives wisdom, and enhances past-life recall. She stuck the howlite in her palm, wrapped her fingers around it, closed her eyes, and breathed softly. After a beat, she opened her eyes, set the rock back down, grabbed another and did the same process. She eventually noticed my odd staring and shimmied away from me but what exactly was it that she was doing?
“If I pick up a crystal or rock and hold on to it, a certain part of my body is going to vibrate,” says current Flagstaff resident, Alex Pierce. Apparently, these crystals and rocks, some smaller than a dime, give energy to our subtle bodies. “If I pick it up, hold it, and accept that vibration and energy it’s going to affect a certain part of me, you know?” In addition to crystals and rocks giving us energy, Pierce believes that we give energy to them. He says, “It’s like I’m putting my own imprint onto it.” Born in Massachusetts, Pierce has spent the last few years travelling across the United States and he claims there is much more of a spiritual influence in the western part of the country. “I think it’s because we’re closer to Sedona but also it’s just where our civilization is headed.”
Pierce and I shared a pie at Alpine Pizza and discussed spirituality, why people seek it out and what it does for them. As he explained to me the philosophy behind auras, chakras, crystals, and rocks one word kept reappearing: enlightenment. Were meta-physical energies and shiny crystals the only way to achieve enlightenment? It seemed enlightenment always had a price tag attached to it: $6.00 for three realigning crystals, $14.95 for a handbook on meditation techniques, $49.99 per month for online courses on how to balance all seven of your chakras. Pierce, too, noticed the trend and claimed spirituality disregards monetary profit, or at least it should. To Pierce and other practitioners of spirituality, spirituality is mindfulness: feeling energies within yourself, good or bad, and allowing yourself to be in the presence of them rather than disregarding or combating. The stuff for sale like the Buddha paper weights and the tiny trinkets that say “Namaste” are like tourist gift shop items. Pierce shakes his head and neglects the notion that enlightenment is achieved through possessions. “Everything is energy,” says Pierce. “Pizza, us, our spirit, everything. The only thing that stops us from perfection and enlightenment is the resistance to the now.”
Considering that energy is everything and that we have the ability to control the energies we radiate, then everything happens for a reason, because we hoped it would and therefor projected those energies toward the goal or because the universe and its own energies projected things beyond our control. It seems this mentality of mindfulness and spirituality has maintained a grasp on this small city. Acceptance is a solution. To deny your energies negates what it means to be conscious creature. You hear this in coffee shops and bars and on campus and in the park. There are two common beliefs here with regard to spirituality: either you believe in a singular god somewhere in the sky or you believe god is nature, everything. Here in the mountains, elevated to a height of 7,000 feet, surrounded by clouds, wildlife, and ponderosa pines, you’re either closer to god or right in the middle everything.