Jay Michaelson

1.       Cowardice in Sedona

My next stop was the Psychic Expo I'd seen advertised at the Center for the New Age, a bright purple building just outside of town offering any number of spiritual trinkets and people proffering everything from aura cleansings to shakra realignments to pet channeling. I figured this was the place to sample Sedona's mystical wonders. A total disbeliever, I leafed through the binder at the concierge desk, finally requesting an aura cleansing by whomever was free, which turned out to be Renee, a barefoot, barrel-chested woman with spiky orange hair and a rayon dress to match. . . .

Somehow, my aura told her I was a stressed-out person who lacks vitamins B and C and doesn't breathe enough. . . that I tend only to use my left brain (true), don't express my emotions to the fullest (true) and that the cleaning had lifted a weight off my energy field (I'll let you know). She warned me I'd have "wacky" dreams that night and suggested a personal affirmation: "I freely and easily release the old and joyfully welcome the new."

Perhaps freaked out by how right-on Renee had seemed or maybe just conveniently taking her last bit of advice, I sped to the local outlet mall and bought four pairs of shoes.

       Hope Reeves, A Vacation, or Maybe a Quest, NY Times Travel Section

When I read Hope Reeves' experience with an aura reader in Sedona, NM, it struck me as very sad. It's got a good punchline, and when I read it, I laughed. But I also felt, almost immediately, a sense that something potentially precious had been wasted. Reeves had an encounter with something she (and we) expected would be ridiculous. Yet it was surprisingly insightful. These serendipities are gifts, little glimmers of grace in an increasingly worrisome world. And yet she threw it away, instantly seeking solace in the oblivion of consumerism.

It's not that Reeves thought the aura reading was hokum. She admits that she was "freaked out" by it. But her reaction was to flee; rather than confront the pain she felt, she immediately recoiled and sought to erase it from her soul, like someone nervously giggling upon revealing too much of a private truth.

Of course, I'm not so serious as to not enjoy her joke, and I recognize the absurdity of a tourist industry devoted to the most self-centered indulgences of the New Age. I've never had my aura read, myself. But I have noticed that when I think honestly the New Age, especially the parts I find ridiculous -- crystal healing, aura reading etc. -- my pulse begins to race. My anger arises even before I pinpoint what it is that bothers me, which makes me wonder if the explanation is more rationale than anything else. Now, I can eventually articulate what about the self-centered aspects of the New Age are so problematic for me. But that isn't my first response. The first response is resistance, constriction, anger. I am repulsed. Or is the first response actually - fear? What is that quickening of my heart if not nervousness? Am I afraid of the New Age because the nonsense might make me uncomfortable?

Well, why else?

Hold that thought.

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Image: from Barbara Brennan, Hands of Light, 1987

March 2003

Readings and Misreadings
Zeek live, March 20 at Makor

surrender monkeys
Michael Shurkin

the reason for
Hal Sirowitz

Jay Michaelson

war and not-peace
Dan Friedman

Only Shelter
Bryn Canner

Abraham Mezrich

josh goes to prague
Josh Ring

David Stromberg

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