Featured Artist

Sedona’s Beloved Intuitive Shares Tips for Tapping into Your Spiritual Side

Banya Lim, Spiritual Intuitive, Manager of Sedona Healing Arts

Banya Lim, Spiritual Intuitive, Manager of Sedona Healing Arts

Spiritual Intuitive Banya Lim has been practicing energy healing in Sedona for over 13 years. Her company, Sedona Healing Arts, sits among magnificent red rocks on the way to Uptown Sedona and offers visitors from around the world personal guidance for experiencing the powerful healing energy of Sedona that Ilchi Lee speaks of in The Call of Sedona.

In this article, Banya Lim offers several tips for tapping into your spiritual side.

1. “Before anything else, know that you are a spiritual being!”
Banya points out that realizing that this not something that is taught in schools. “We have not been taught to get in touch with our spiritual side and enhance that aspect of ourselves. The truth is that we are spiritual beings in this physical world.” Understanding that you are a ‘spiritual being’ must come first.

2. Train to sense and feel energy.
With this basic understanding of our spirituality, understanding the energy that flows through all living things becomes easier. Banya comments, “Being able to sense and to feel energy is something that can be learned through training. The word ‘training’ has many connotations, but it is important to realize that all of the sages through history have practiced some form of training to harness the energy we are speaking about.

3. Practice enhancing and expanding energy.
I personally practice Tao to not only feel the energy, but to enhance and expand the energy as well. Through training exercises and meditation, we begin to feel the energy.” She adds, “Energy is the language of the soul. Just as spirit is ‘who we are.’ Even though we may not see it, we know that it exists. We practice to experience it, confirm its existence, and to expand the experience of it.”

4. Get guidance when you need it.
Banya also points out that it is helpful to have some guidance as you strive to be in greater touch with your spiritual aspect. That guidance can assist you in growing and expanding not only your spiritual awareness, but your consciousness as well. Sedona Healing Arts utilizes readings, healing and energy training and Sedona retreats in an individually personalized way to assist in this wonderful process of self-discovery.

To learn more, visit www.sedonahealingarts.com.

Lynn A. TrombettaBy Lynn A. Trombetta: A freelance writer on nature, creativity and wellness, Lynn is also a visual artist, professional flutist, recording artist, and published author.

Like Ilchi Lee, Retreat to Sedona to Find Yourself When You Are Feeling Lost

Ilchibuko Todd in Sedona AZ

Ilchibuko Todd has recently moved from the beautiful islands of Hawaii to Sedona to teach energy healing and to spread the message of love with more people. As the new director of the Sedona Meditation Center, Ilchibuko shares her thoughts on discovering new energy, direction, and vitality in Sedona.

LAT: Please share a bit about yourself, your passion and the work you do at the Sedona Meditation Center.
IT: I feel deeply connected to Sedona, especially since I experienced a big awakening at Sedona Mago Retreat. Since then, my main goal has been to share what I have experienced—a profound feeling of oneness with people and nature, and with the entire universe. I want others to experience that same awakening, so I do my best to bring that energy to them. My wish is that they will experience it themselves. That is my vision and my passion for every moment of my life!

LAT:Many people are drawn to Sedona Meditation center because they are seeking greater health and energy. How do you deliver these to them?
IT: An important part of my role here at Sedona Meditation Center is sharing important principles with members. The main principle I want them to realize is that they already have health existing inside of them and that their true self is already alive and well inside of them. What they have been looking for, what they want—all of that is already inside of them. Everything they seek is about their inner journey.

LAT: What tools or techniques are used to bring this message to the members of Sedona Meditation Center?
IT: I lead workshops, meet people individually, and guide them to meet their True Selves. Members, to me, are very, very precious, so for every single person who walks in here, I have the mindset that they are able to experience their True Selves. They might do that by going out to the trails around Sedona, or they might experience it in the classroom. Wherever they are, it is always the same for them—all they have is themselves. And they themselves are the only people who can make them change and grow. So, my job is to guide them to let them feel that for themselves.

LAT: Are people sometimes surprised to discover that what they’ve been searching for has always been inside, right there all along?
IT: Yes, definitely. Often they have been searching all their lives, so it can be a surprise. Some of them already have the mental knowledge that it exists inside, but they have never known how to access it. Other times, there are people who don’t necessarily feel the need of it. They might even feel like they already know, but in reality they have not truly experienced it. It’s all about awareness and consciousness and being open-minded about it in order to see the possibilities for oneself.

Even me, I have had many different awakenings, but I still don’t say I know everything. If I were to believe that, I can’t experience any more. The key for them is to remain open-minded so that, however awakened they might believe themselves to be, they can continue to deepen their awakening.

So, yes, it can be surprising that everything they want and need, everything they’ve been yearning for, already exists inside. Most people nowadays have some idea or knowledge that it exists. The problem is that they cannot believe it completely. Also, ideas and preconceptions about themselves can prevent them from really experiencing it. And that is what Brain Education, which we share at Sedona Meditation Center, is all about. It provides concrete steps toward the experience of meeting oneself. It helps people see potential that they didn’t see before.

LAT: Why is Sedona so important to you? What is it about Sedona that helps people on their inward journey?
IT: That’s a really good question, and it’s not easy to understand because it’s invisible. Anyone can see the beautiful red rocks and nature, but the power of Sedona is beyond that. It’s the sacred energy of it—something that’s indescribable, but that everybody can feel. With the special energy and the vibration Sedona provides, it’s easier here for people to open up and let go of all the business of life. Here they can more easily experience oneness with energy and with nature. Ultimately, you can do that anywhere, but because of the special nature of this place, it’s so much easier to do in Sedona.

LAT: Ilchibuko, how do you guide people who may be feeling lost on their search to find their True Self?
IT: It’s all about the internal journey, or, as we say, “being mindful.” But what does “being mindful” mean? It’s about being in the present moment. That sounds easy, but it can be very difficult during people’s busy daily lives, where they live every day according to busy work schedules and following the routines of life. When they come to Sedona, it’s easier to be in the present moment.

So how can people be in the present moment? It’s a matter of feeling one’s body, feeling one’s breath. In the center, people learn to utilize the five senses fully—smell, taste, touch, sight, hearing—through breath, and they take time to experience the energy of this place. Through their five senses, they can start connecting and feeling. Breath is an important aspect of that, too.

Also, slow walking is one of the types of meditations we do. Sometimes we take socks and shoes off because we have so many senses in our feet, and our feet are connected to our whole body. In particular, there is a special point in the foot, the Yong-chun in the middle area, that allows us to feel the energy of the Earth.

We also do slow moving meditation, called Dahnmu, or energy dance. And we do Qigong movement, too. Through these slow movements and connection to energy, we can gain awareness of our oneness with the energy of nature. As we do this, we can release old energy that we’ve been holding and receive new energy for healing and renewal. Release of emotions and reflection about the self then flows naturally from this.

In meditations, there are four key phrases for purification of the soul that we use: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” It may be easier to say one than to say others. Slowly, we can melt away all of the things we are holding on to. We can start the releasing and purification process. And that’s all about energy—receiving and releasing. That is the principle of Tao, and that’s what we teach.

LAT: So the journey of self-discovery is also about understanding of the way that energy flows—within ourselves and within all things.
IT: One thing that is unchanging is that everything is changing. So, if we try to hold on to something, we become blocked, and we become sick. Continuously letting that energy move is the only way to release old energy and old consciousness, and that is the only way to discover yourself.

LAT: In The Call of Sedona, Ilchi Lee writes about meditating in several special places around Sedona and about the feeling of oneness that arises through the energy of nature.
IT: We can also do meditations with the tree, the creek, the bright sun, the red rocks. There is so much that we can experience about ourselves through communication with nature. We can purify, and we can receive. We can discover some voice inside of us that continuously talks to us, a voice that was always there but we ignored. And it can start talking to us more. And we can hear that voice more. At that time, we can be touched by ourselves, and we can recover.

Whether in the classroom or outside with nature, how we guide people is the same. They can reconnect to the self they really are, and once awakened to that, it’s unchangeable. In other words, no one can “un-awaken.”

So people come here, and they change. As their awakened self, they go back home, and they see everything in a different light. That is our mission. There are so many visitors here, and although we want to help them all, that’s hard to do. Many are visitors to Sedona from all over the world. For them, it’s a gift that they can take back home.

LAT: What message would you most like to share with those who dream of coming to Sedona?
IT: If you dream of coming to Sedona, that means your soul is calling you to experience who you really are. Listen to your heart and come to Sedona. You’ll have the experience of a lifetime!

LAT: Thank you, Ilchibuko!

Lynn A. TrombettaBy Lynn A. Trombetta: A freelance writer on nature, creativity and wellness, Lynn is also a visual artist, professional flutist, recording artist, and published author.

Discover the Divine Connection to Your Creativity at Sedona Mago Retreat with Julia Cameron, Bestselling Author this Month!

Julia Cameron Where does creativity come from? Find out during Julia Cameron’s ‘Creativity and Divinity – Dancing Partners’ Retreat and Workshop, September 30 through October 2, 2016.

According to this bestselling author and creative artist, “We often speak of God as the Creator without realizing that creator is another word for artist.”

And, as she notes, artists longing to ‘create’ soon discover the ways that creating beauty is spiritually uplifting both for the artist and those who behold the finished product.

However, we too are a work of art that desires fulfillment and completion. All too often, we dismiss our yearning for creativity due to the belief that creating art is somehow a process to be achieved using tools and ideas from outside of ourselves.

In truth, creativity is a ‘full circle’ type of process: That is, we are both the Artist and the Art. Can you see the parallel between the Creator and that which is created?

Come explore this idea for yourself with world-renowned artist and bestselling author, Julia Cameron, who comments, “Most of us have no idea of our real creative height. We are much more gifted than we know.” Learn how to nurture those gifts and boost your creativity with new ideas about what creativity is, where it comes from, and how the process works!

Cameron will guide you through 3 days of self-discovery as you create a working partnership between your creative self and your Divine self. In a safe community of like minds at Sedona Mago Retreat, you will enjoy exercises that will allow you to experience the joy of connection with your true self and the creative energy that flows through all things. You will also explore and discover the ways prayer and meditation can reconnect you with your inherent creativity.

The workshop is being held at Sedona Mago Retreat, a center for spiritual awakening and holistic healing where participants can immerse themselves in renewal and rediscovery of the true self as envisioned by founder Ilchi Lee.

If you have read The Call of Sedona, you may recall the story of Sedona Mago Garden, the nickname for Sedona Mago Retreat. Mago means Mother Earth in Korean, and in the book Ilchi Lee describes Sedona as, “the land where the heart of the earth can be felt.” The beautiful, peaceful grounds of the property nestled near the red rocks encompass walking trails, a natural pond, gardens, and yoga facilities. What a perfect place to slow down and allow the pure natural surroundings to reconnect you to your Divine inner creativity and energy!

The retreat is operated by Tao Fellowship, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is “Love Humanity, Love the Earth.” As a spiritual center seeking interfaith friendship, the organization states, “We believe that peace and harmony can be realized through our connection with Earth; without which, humanity cannot survive. Our common goal is sustainability of Earth and all of its inhabitants, now and for future generations.”

Escape into the beauty that is Sedona to rediscover your own creative spirit! Learn more and register for this exciting upcoming creativity workshop and Sedona retreat at SedonaMagoRetreat.org.

Lynn A. TrombettaBy Lynn A. Trombetta: A freelance writer on nature, creativity and wellness, Lynn is also a visual artist, professional flutist, recording artist, and published author.

Sedona Film Festival Director, Patrick Schweiss Shares His Joy of Sedona Living

Patrick SchweissLike Ilchi Lee, Patrick Schweiss, Executive Director of the Sedona International Film Festival, heeded the Call of Sedona and enjoys an exciting career helping to create some of the annual excitement that happens in Sedona.

LT: Please tell our readers what drew you to Sedona.

PS: I’m from Minnesota originally, and I went to Arizona State University, and that’s where I met my wife, Elizabeth Larsen. Elizabeth is a native of Sedona, born and raised here. Sedona is so magnificent—we’d come up on weekends, and it’s so beautiful, but I was never expecting to live here. It’s like being home and being on a permanent vacation! It is that magic we have. But I ended up here in a ‘non-magical’ way.

LT: In what way?

PS: Elizabeth’s family owns the Sedona Red Rock News. She was attending ASU. We met on the yearbook staff there. That is more of an enchanting story than the whole “Sedona connection.” I guess it was meant to be.

This was 1986, and ASU hadn’t had a yearbook for 14 years! (Because of the political unrest of the early 70’s, the students made a very politically-motivated book, and so the college canceled it.) The year we were there a group of students decided to bring the yearbook back.

Both Elizabeth and I have publishing backgrounds and were high school yearbook editors, so the happenstance that we actually met in a group that shouldn’t have even been formed was kind of amazing! We brought the yearbook back and did several years of award-winning books. We became best friends instantly and eventually got married in 1990.

LT: Is that when you moved to Sedona?

PS: No, first I took a job with a publishing company in Richmond, Virginia right after we got married, so we moved out there for two years. I loved it, but Elizabeth just didn’t like Virginia. So we came back to Sedona. And, I’ve had a blast! I started working for her family’s business and ended up being there for 12 years. And I fell in love with Sedona . . . it is a magical and wonderful place!

LT: You eventually left the newspaper and became Executive Director for the Sedona International Film Festival, a non-profit organization.

PS: Yes, the festival is 22 years old; I joined them in year eleven, so I’ve done twelve of the festivals. When I took over, it was a two-and-a-half day festival; now it is nine days. We built the Mary D. Fisher Theatre four years ago, so we have our own venue and can do independent films and special cultural events. Now, our festival actually expands all year long with two shows a day, and has brought many cultural things Sedona normally wouldn’t be exposed to: the Bolshoi Ballet, the National Theatre of London, simulcast events, Met Live Opera, and more!

LT: The festival makes people’s imaginations dance and is a huge annual event!

PS: Audiences are blown away by the quality of the films we show! We take them to another world they wouldn’t normally get to see or experience. We are very, very fortunate, not only to have filmmakers and audience members from around the world, but we are one of the strongest-supported local organizations: by the local residents and businesses, our membership base, and our sponsorship base. We are just really blessed!

Audience members are coming from everywhere. We’ve gained a reputation now of being a really wonderful, wonderful festival in a very beautiful destination.

And, I’m not foolish enough to think that Sedona doesn’t have something to do with that draw!

LT: Thank you, Patrick!

Lynn A. TrombettaBy Lynn A. Trombetta: A freelance web writer on topics of art, music, and wellness, Lynn is also a wildlife artist/photographer, professional flutist, recording artist, and published author.

The Call of Sedona Awakened the Artist for Harriet McInnis

As Ilchi Lee so often points out in The Call of Sedona, the landscape here is fertile ground for inspiration and creativity! Oil painter, Harriet McInnis discovered this for herself as she developed new interests and talents in Sedona.

Harriet-McInnis-for-CoS

LT: Harriet, your work has an essence that captures the gentle countryside, rather than the famous red rocks of Sedona.

HM: I love to paint landscapes. Everybody talks about the red rocks, and a lot of artists paint them. We could not live in a more beautiful place, but I don’t really have any interest in painting red rocks. I’m in awe of the people who do such a beautiful job of it, but I want to establish my own area of expertise. I like telling “a story,” like the history of an old barn or old building and like to take a different perspective.

Waiting-for-a-Fisherman-by-Harriet-McInnis-350wLT: It was interesting to learn you have been painting only a short time.

HM: I see myself as an emerging artist, so there was a tremendous thrill in having three landscape paintings sell from the Movin’ On Gallery at Hillside Sedona. That just kind of blew me away and gave me the feeling that I’m on the right track.

LT: What year did you arrive in Sedona?

HM: My husband and I moved here from Connecticut in 1991. Our first trip we arrived at night, so it was kind of a shock when we got up in the morning and saw the red rocks! We discovered right away that people were extremely friendly here and we liked the openness of Sedona.

On the second trip here my husband and I spent the whole day with a realtor and we picked two houses. There was “his house” and “my house,” and my house won! We never expected to be doing that—it was just that we fell in love with the area.

LT: When did you begin painting?

HM: I didn’t take art classes until the end of 2009! I began with Dumb Bunnies Art Class. It was taught by Mary Belle, a woman in her early eighties who had previously owned a gallery. Her expertise was different techniques and I learned a lot from her. She had us copy reference material, which was an interesting experience because you actually learned how another artist created what they did. And if you came up with a good copy, you supposedly learned to do what they did. Color was important, light and contrast was important, and then there were the techniques that she taught you.

She used all kinds of things to make different textures; sponges, aluminum foil balls, scrubbies, fan brushes, and I got a lot out of it. But after about a year and a half, I didn’t feel I was getting the instruction I needed to work on my own, and I didn’t want to keep doing copies. That’s when I went to Sedona Art Center (SAC) and took a class with Gretchen Lopez.

Gretchen’s a wonderful teacher, and I love her art. She was a good example for me. I go now as often as I can afford to and sometimes I will do a private tutoring session with her. I love her brush strokes, and that’s what I’m trying to achieve in my own paintings. SAC is rich with talented teachers. You can work in a variety of mediums, you can learn from different styles. I haven’t taken full advantage of that, but I know that SAC is there and I can see the possibilities.

Into-the-Light-by-Harriet-McInnis]

LT: In what ways would you say Sedona has influenced your artwork?

HM: The art and artists here have had a tremendous influence on inspiring me to keep going and do better. The ability to talk to other Sedona artists helps because you see them at exhibits, you meet them on the street, you go to galleries and sometimes they are there working, and every time you have a conversation you learn something.

LT: Any Final thoughts?

HM: I just want to say that because of the friendliness of the people here, I have never felt as at home as I do here!

LT: Thank You, Harriet!

Lynn A. TrombettaBy Lynn A. Trombetta: A freelance web writer on topics of art, music, and wellness, Lynn is also a wildlife artist/photographer, professional flutist, recording artist, and published author.

William Eaton’s Sedona: To Connect to Nature, Just Go Out and Walk the Trails

Much like Ilchi Lee’s first Sedona experiences, it was an extreme connection to the land which drew William Eaton back. Discover how this gifted musician, harp-guitar luthier, and three-time GRAMMY Nominee found his way to the red rocks of Sedona.

Photo by Nancy Bartell

Photo by Nancy Bartell

WE: My first visit to Sedona was 1969. I was living in Tempe at the time and had heard about Sedona. I just remember being awestruck . . . growing up in Nebraska, everything is flat! Coming to Arizona, it was so exotic. Especially to see the plant flora, the cactus and palm trees. I was just spending a lot of time gawking at the trees—the Palo Verde, the mesquite . . . just being so amazed by such a different terrain than I was used to growing up.

And then Sedona just took it to a whole different level with the beautiful rock formations! I remember that making a very deep impression on me, and I spent some time there. I hiked up Oak Creek for a mile or two, in the canyon, and I still have pretty vivid recollections of just being so amazed and absorbed by the whole landscape.

You know the feeling you get when these things are so present in that way: it takes you to kind of a timeless place where every part of your DNA recollects, “Oh, this is where I’m from. This intimate relationship with the natural world is something that not just me, but that all of our ancestors experienced.” And you kind of get swept away with the beautiful sound of the creek and the birds and looking beyond.

It was in the summertime, it was warm and I was jumping into the water holes here and there, which is so refreshing. That was a pretty indelible experience. Those first few years of being in Arizona I visited a lot of parts of the state—there are so many beautiful places in Arizona. But Sedona really stood out. I have to say that it’s kind of the gem of the state in some ways.

But at the time it wasn’t something I thought, “Well, I want to move here.”

LT: What ultimately happened to draw you to Sedona?

WE: Christy and I fell in love with iron oxide, I would say; with red rocks! We knew about Sedona, and we’d made trips to enjoy being there, but we never thought we could make it work financially. In the late 1980’s we bought a property near Moab, in Castle Valley. Prior to that we spent a couple of weeks going around what’s called the Grand Circle; we went to Arches and Canyonlands and across to Escalante, Bryce and Zion. We went all around Utah, including the Pink Sand Dunes, before returning to Arizona. Near the end of that we took a little road down to Castle Valley and just fell in love with the place. It just happened to be this beautiful, perfect day, and we thought, “This is where our home is.” We bought a five-acre property.

At the time, the music I was making was selling a lot of CDs, and we thought Utah was a good place to base from. About a year went by as we were trying to get organized to move there. What happened next is I’d been involved with the guitar-making school [Roberto – Venn School of Luthiery] as one of the founders since 1975, and my mentor, John Roberts, got sick. It happened very rapidly, and I realized that I had a decision to make: If I go to Utah, for any length of time, the school is probably not going to continue. I made the decision to stay with the school and keep it going, and that made Utah a very difficult proposition.

About a year later, my wife Christy got a residency at Verde Valley School, and I came to Sedona to stay with her for two weeks. I was going back and forth, working at the school in Phoenix and staying with her. We just kind of fell in love with Sedona and said, “We could make this work . . . I could commute.”

Sedona is an amazing place on your first visit, but the longer you stay you realize, “Wow, this is such a special place.”

So that [idea] became more of a reality, and we had picked a good time because we found a place that was manageable for us and affordable. The other thing was our kids were pretty young; Ty was 4 and Walker was 1 year old. We’d been living in downtown Tempe and decided this would be a better place to raise kids.

LT: You have spent some truly contemplative times in the outlying desert areas of Phoenix and under the Arizona skies.

WE: I think underlying for me, the most important thing, when I left school in Palo Alto and moved to the desert, I had this dream of just living out in the desert. And I did for almost two years. I didn’t have a home; I had a car, which I didn’t use all the time. And I spent close to two years being on the ground every night, mostly around the Phoenix area. On some weekends, I traveled to different parts of the state. That was in 1975-76. It transformed me and my perception of the natural world; it was really a wonderful period in my life. But that kind of really set the course and had as much as anything to do with me wanting to be in a place like Sedona that has that natural beauty. I’ve just always been drawn to that, and it’s something that everybody feels.

LT: It seems your contemplations had some profound influence on the music and even the exotic-looking instruments you would one day create.

WE: Yes, and what I’ve always felt about that relationship is that when you look into cultural anthropology (or for me a lot of ethnomusicology), a lot of the stringed instruments, listening to oral tradition, and of course my relationship with Canyon Records, where many of my friends are indigenous to North America . . . hearing the stories started to remind me of the tens of thousands of years we’ve really had this very intimate dialogue with the natural world. And I always felt really in tune to that.

But I was noticing our personal habits about being in houses, being in cars, sitting in front of a computer terminal or a television, and how it makes you realize how distant we’ve become in a matter of generations to having that relation with the natural world.

And I think to some degree, maybe a major part of why we have become disconnected to the biosphere and our relationship to the world is because of our lifestyles. In some ways it’s a wonderful thing, but in other ways, we’ve lost a part of our collective knowledge in our collective experience.

LT: Rediscovering and maintaining a connection to our planet, as well as all other life, seems paramount to survival of life on Earth.

WE: Well, it just keeps getting magnified. Like the recent talks in Paris about global climate change and everything, and we are really at a point, a critical point perhaps in human history (some people will argue that), a point at which we recollect and remember and know that we are part of a biosphere and we are part of a larger system and it’s not just human centered. And Sedona has an important role there.

I will say this, we hesitated to move to Sedona because we could feel a little bit like this is a sacred place, this is a special place and people shouldn’t live here. This should be a national park. Our only rationale was, we didn’t start it, it’s already there. And when I moved to Sedona, I did get involved in things early on: Vision Sedona, which I was the Chairperson for several years, and then later I was one of the founders of Sustainable Arizona.

LT: As a touring artist, what are you most often asked about this unusual land where you create the music they enjoy?

WE: People ask me sometimes, “Oh, Sedona, that’s where the crystals are.” I always find myself explaining, “Well, you just need to go there. You don’t have to go into a single store. Just go out and walk the trails, and then you’ll know what that experience is.”

LT: Thank you, William!

William Eaton and his wife Christy Eaton are co-directors and founders Old Town Center for the Arts, in Cottonwood, Arizona, which begins its 9th Season after producing 375 events over the years.

This fall, watch for the Celebrate the River Concert event, dedicated to bringing attention to our most important natural resource—water.

Lynn A. TrombettaBy Lynn A. Trombetta: A freelance web writer on topics of art, music, and wellness, Lynn is also a wildlife artist/photographer, professional flutist, recording artist, and published author.

Musician Jim Sheridan Discovers His Own Song-Writer Voice in Sedona’s Red Rock Beauty

Ilchi-Lee_CallofSedona_Jim-SheridanLT: Jim, Ilchi Lee shared the dramatic story of his personal journey in The Call of Sedona. Please tell us what brought you to Sedona?

JS: I had been in Ft. Lauderdale, playing music for like 25 years, five nights a week, but I had visited Sedona in 1993 when some friends came out, and I loved it. And when I stopped playing music, there was a Windham Worldwide out here, and I knew the guy that was working here. I came out and moved to Sedona in 2000.

LT: Sedona has had a profound impact on your career. Please tell us about that.

JS: When I first got out here I hadn’t played out. (I was so thankful not to be playing five nights a week. It was nice.) And then, in 2004 I wound up having heart surgery, and when they took the [breathing] tube out, they scratched my vocal cord, so I wasn’t singing; I was just playing the guitar.

In 2008, I got invited to Big Sur for a week with a group of singer/songwriters. They were really inspirational because I had never seen anybody that played so well and had written all these great songs; they had written songs for other people that were on the radio. I’ve been going there now for nine years in a row. I began writing my own, developed new friendships, and it’s been great.

In 2010, I still thought I couldn’t sing because of my throat, so I just started really concentrating on playing instrumentals on the guitar, and I wound up doing an album called Sedona Time. In doing the album, I kind of created a different tuning, which gave the guitar more of an orchestral sound. I think three of the titles were about Sedona: “Sunset,” “Sedona Time,” and “Sugarloaf,” which came from ideas I was getting when I was looking at the surrounding area.

From listening to the songwriters playing and singing every year, I just started writing my own songs and singing again. I’m in the middle of doing an album that should be out in February 2016 where I’m singing songs I wrote.

Sedona’s a big part of it; it’s a great place. It’s beautiful! And it seems like it’s very easy to write here. I’d kind of thought I was finished with playing and singing, and now it’s almost like it started all over again; except now it’s all my stuff. Which is great!

LT: Sedona continues to be an important influence in these new compositions.

JS: In speaking with all of the people at Big Sur, I’d ask them, “What do you write about?” They would say, “Write about what you know.” So I started writing some songs about Sedona and different things that had happened to me. I’d written a bunch of them and one day I went outside and discovered I had new neighbors. The woman was eight months pregnant and she came over and introduced herself and her [unborn] baby and said, “This is Avalon.”

I thought, Wow, what a great name. I hadn’t heard that before.

I didn’t see them for two weeks, and one day I went outside as the mother and her son, Seamus, were getting in the car, and I said, “Hey Seamus.” His mother replied, “He’s not Seamus, he’s a wizard. He goes by many names, but Seamus isn’t one of them.”

I’d hear him outside playing, dressed like a wizard: he had a little cape and everything. A week went by and the same thing happened again. When I called his name, his mom said, “He’s still a wizard.” During the next month I kept waiting to see what was going to happen with the baby, and I was thinking about writing a song, but I didn’t really know what to write about.

Then one day, I went outside after a month had gone by and the young couple was taking a walk. I was leaving in my car, so I stopped and asked, “What’s going on?” and she said, “Well, today’s the due date.” I said, “Wow, I guess everyone’s just waiting for Avalon!” And immediately I thought, Oh, that’s what I’ll write the song about! I just turned left, turned left, turn left and came right up my driveway and wrote the song called Waiting for Avalon. At that point, I realized at the end of writing it, that it would be the name of the album.

That’s how that came about and why the song was so easy to write: I had a wizard living next to me and we were all waiting for Avalon to be born!

People ask if I have played it for them; and yes, they came over with Avalon, and they said that she liked the song. Avalon’s mother started crying when I started singing the song, about the wizard living next to me, and she didn’t stop crying until the end of the song, she was so touched. It was inspirational; once I had that, I realized I had a lot of other songs that I liked!

LT: So that one song became a catalyst for you!

JS: I felt good; “Waiting for Avalon” was just perfect, so that kind of spurred me on. I normally wouldn’t have gone out to do an album, but now that I did, it’s changed everything. I have friends that are just wonderful musicians that are playing on this album so I feel like I just went through a whole new musical door.

I’d been playing guitar for almost fifty years, and I’ve played other peoples’ songs; I know thousands of songs, but just writing my own stuff changes everything. Really what it did for me, because I thought I was done playing music, is now I feel like I’ve just started: now the good stuff’s coming out! I mean, all the music I’ve been playing and what I can do with my fingers, and it allows me to be free and just go out there.

I found my writing voice! Now, instead of doing other people’s songs, I get to express the things I’ve been thinking about and it’s like good therapy.

LT: Is there a place you love best in Sedona?

JS: I live right across from Thunder Mountain, so I just walk out the door and across the street and start walking—I love hiking.

I was taking the hike on a full moon where people go up and they walk about halfway up Cathedral Rock. I went up there and watched the full moon come up over the Mogollon Rim. That night it was unbelievable, and I met this girl and I wrote a song for the album from that experience. I mean, it’s a very magical thing: a full moon coming up over the Mogollon Rim, with an absolute clear sky, it’s just amazing! So that song also just kind of wrote itself.

On the album, there’s a song called “Looking for a Miracle,” and that was actually the first song that I wrote when I decided to “write about what you know.” And that was kind of the first song I wrote about being in Sedona. I was watching all these people looking for vortexes and astrology, and I started thinking about it.

I go over to the Java Love Café four or five days a week and read. And, just listening to people, I realized everybody’s kind of looking for a miracle. At the end of the song, (it was like that’s where therapy came in), I realized, Wait a minute, the miracle is us! From the very fact that we are born in this huge, unbelievably big universe, we’re it! You don’t have to look for miracles; we are the miracle!

LT: Thanks, Jim and best of luck with the new album!

Lynn A. TrombettaBy Lynn A. Trombetta: A freelance web writer on topics of art, music, and wellness, Lynn is also a wildlife artist/photographer, professional flutist, recording artist, and published author.

Sherab Khandro: Connecting Art and Spirituality in Sedona, One Colorful Dot at a Time

Through symbols of transformation, Sedona artist Sherab (Shey) Khandro reminds us of our own natural beauty and the power of small acts to make a difference. Enjoy our interview with this fascinating painter, sculptor, speaker and writer and learn how, like Ilchi Lee, she found inspiration in the energy of Sedona.

Sherab Khandro

LT: How did you discover Sedona?

SK: I was living in Maryland where I was practicing as a Tibetan Buddhist Nun; I was ordained. My spiritual teacher said “a group of us are going to go to Sedona, with kind of a pilgrimage, as a place to come for prayer, connection, deep practice, visiting some of the sacred sites that have been actually recognized by many of the Native American tribes over the years.” So, we would come and practice: meditate, pray, hike around out in the rocks, and my teacher was leading some teachings and such, and we did that kind of a trip several times. Then back in the late 90’s, she decided that she was going to relocate here and invited several of her students to come. Actually, there were many that came and we were going to build a stupa and establish a center for study and practice. I came with my spiritual community to work on the stupa; I was the arts director for that project.

LT: What year was this?

SK: I came here in 1998 and kind of hit the ground running, getting involved with the arts scene and getting to know who people were. A couple of years later, I met Linda Goldenstein [Goldenstein Gallery, Sedona] and we’ve had a wonderful partnership in the arts ever since. I do paint and I sculpt and I like to speak about my experiences as a nun, and I also like to speak about the power of art and its voice in the world, and I do a little writing on the same subjects. Most of my days are spent either wrapped up in creating art or connecting with people and connecting them with the arts. It’s been 17 years now, and I have just stayed to focus on my own spiritual growth and my growth as an artist.

LT: Your bio mentions that you were formally trained by Tibetan masters in exile in the U.S. We would love to hear that story!

SK: That’s a fascinating part of things. The formal training began in Maryland with the Tibetan masters who found themselves in exile here in the United States. When I first took Ordination, I was encouraged to explore my gifts as an artist. That was the world I was immersed in at the time; I was with the Buddhist community and the Tibetan teachers that had come. Our community was very active in building things; it’s not my temperament to be just sitting in meditation for hours and hours. And my teacher, of course, knew that, and I think most of her students had that inclination. So, we built things; we would be building stupas and monuments, and building altars and such and there’s a lot of imagery included in it.

LT: Please explain the imagery you speak of.

SK: From three-dimensional pieces, sculptures of the Buddha, relief images, as well as the paintings. So, I started as a sculptor involved in our stupa building projects. Each stupa requires some artistic elements, like lotus petals and the spires and the umbrellas and the images of the Buddha himself and often some decorative elements. I did some large reliefs of snow lions that went around the throne of one of the pieces; each lion was about five by five feet and there were eight of them.

Some of the projects were very involved. Right from the down-and-dirty digging trenches for foundations and such to framing up the walls for the molds to the more delicate kinds of sculpting work that was required, it was a really rich opportunity for me as an artist for me to not only explore the side of it where it requires some hand-eye coordination, some kind of sense of aesthetics, also the part that was most striking to me was the mind quality that’s taught among the Buddhist practitioners, particularly in the arts . . . well, in everything.

LT: Yes, the quality of mind involved is fascinating to think about!

SK: But in the arts it’s really about recognizing the story that the work tells. There are certain qualities that the artist is invited to develop . . . well the artist practices with a certain kind of intention, a “purposefulness.” The art is meant to tell a story, it is meant to remind us of certain qualities; it’s meant to hold an energy. Art is meditation, a creative force rising from our own true nature, an expression of the heart, opening the heart and allowing this intention to arise with a kind of purposefulness into the world. And it ultimately becomes a display, an external display that tells the story.

I found that to be so fascinating. I do paint some traditional images of the Buddha, still now, but I also bring that kind of mind quality to all of the pieces that I’m working on, particularly the pointillism.

LT: For our readers who may not be familiar with the term, Pointillism is a technique of painting. Shey works in the neo-impressionist style of Pointillism in which tiny dots of color are applied to create rich and vibrant imagery. See this style of painting on the website, www.SherabKhandro.com.

Sherab Khandro

SK: Pointillism lends itself so beautifully to that practice [of mind quality] because each dot is visualized as an offering, as a jeweled universe that’s being offered requesting blessings to come to the world to end suffering. So it’s not only a meditation on my part, but it lends kind of purposefulness to the small acts that come together to create just about anything that we do, but particularly those paintings.

LT: How has your work changed since being in Sedona?

SK: It wasn’t until I came to Sedona that I had started painting and at that point had continued my study with the Tibetan Masters, and there is a certain kind of geometry, sacred geometry that goes into the pieces: proportions and sacred elements that are included in each of the pieces. It became just a fascinating kind of study. I was struck by the thoughtfulness of it all, that one invites the mind to focus on an intention and imbues the work with those things.

At the risk of sounding “Woo, Woo,” I do believe that there is a real power to some places. There’s almost a . . . it’s the earth, being an energetic body . . . there are certain places where there’s an opening that may be part of its natural beauty. It may be part of the minerals that the area is made with; it may be that this land has been held in high regard by the native cultures for a very, very long time. I feel that the energy shift of my teacher to come here and place a stupa here was a way of holding and accentuating that energy. My landing here as an artist wanting to connect more deeply with my spirituality, with my voice as an artist and the opportunity to bring that forth as purely as possible without distraction – I think Sedona has lent itself beautifully to that, and I feel it’s such a beautiful place to call home. And the art scene is vibrant here!

LT: Are there any final thoughts about Sedona you would like to share?

SK: We’ve been designated as an International City of Peace. We value a lot of the ideals that resonate so perfectly with the commitment I have for my own life and my hopes for the future of our world. I felt so welcome here from the very start with the ability to pursue my dreams of being a voice of healing, a voice of personal empowerment, stimulating conversations of compassion and the small acts that we each can make that can add up to a big difference in our world, and exploring that through symbols of transformation: the Buddhas, the totems from nature, and things of that sort.

LT: Thank you, Shey!

Lynn A. TrombettaBy Lynn A. Trombetta: A freelance web writer on topics of art, music, and wellness, Lynn is also a wildlife artist/photographer, professional flutist, recording artist, and published author.

Sedona Magic: One Thing Led to Another for Violinist Allen Ames

Violinist Allen Ames and his wife, classical guitarist Maryanne Kremer Ames, perform as their duo, “Lyra” in Oak Creek Canyon each summer, a tradition that has endured nearly three decades. Ilchi Lee speaks fondly of this lush canyon area north of Sedona in his book. Read about the simple call to Sedona that has profoundly influenced this masterful musician’s career.

Ilchi-Lee_Call-of-Sedona_Allen-Ames-at-the-Briar-Patch

LT: Allen, please tell us the story of what brought you from your hometown in the greater Phoenix area to Sedona.

AA: My parents used to take me up to Oak Creek Canyon when I was a kid and I had some really magical experiences there. Then, Maryanne and I got together. It was the first year that we really got serious. We were dating and we were forming the duo, Lyra. It’s a pretty amazing story:

She told me, “You know I’ve noticed that Phoenix gets really hot in the summertime, and the work all goes away. We should check northern Arizona and see if there’s any work up there.” I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’m banging my forehead and saying, “Doh! Why didn’t I think of that?”

We got together what repertoire we had and a little publicity tag and we went up to Flagstaff, and especially Sedona. It was just such a wonderful place that we were attracted to it. We started playing, and we landed a few gigs. We were playing at a restaurant called “Eat Your Heart Out,” (which hasn’t existed for a long time now). Joanne Olsen, who owned the Briar Patch Inn was there and heard us. One thing led to another, and she invited us to come and play for one summer, and that started the whole thing.

LT: What year did your performances there begin?

AA: The summer of 1989 was our first full summer there in residence. And then we got married at the Briar Patch the following October. We’ve been playing there for every summer ever since . . . and of course along the way we’ve made a lot of friends and formed a lot of musical relationships that continue off and on for the whole year. So we keep coming back, even when it’s not summer.

LT: How has being in Sedona influenced the way your music developed over the years?

AA: It really has had a huge influence because, of course we freelance during the year in the Phoenix area, and that’s great, we do a lot of playing. Our work in the valley consists of weddings and corporate events and the occasional concert. But in the beginning we were playing six mornings a week, now we’re just doing four mornings. But still that’s a lot of playing, and we’re doing all of it at the Briar Patch in the fantastic Oak Creek Canyon atmosphere and for the people that come there as well.

That really has formed our style as a duo, especially our compositions. Between the two of us we probably have 30 pieces of music that we’ve written, pretty much all influenced by Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, the Briar Patch . . . that whole area. If we had been playing somewhere else in Phoenix the whole time, I’m sure that our style would have evolved to be something different. Maryanne has written the most compositions, and I feel that she has written the ones that are most beautiful. Mine tend to be a little more “jazzy.”

LT: Tell us a little bit about your wife and musical partner, Maryanne Kremer Ames.

AA: Maryanne trained as a classical guitarist in New York and, luckily for me, she moved to the Phoenix area so she could get her Master’s degree at ASU. So I met her when she was working on that—we met on a gig. But she also is trained as a symphonic percussionist and before she moved to the valley, around 1985, she was busy playing a lot of operas and orchestra jobs in New York and New Jersey as a timpanist. Now she’s playing in two or three orchestras in the Phoenix area as a timpanist and percussionist.

LT: You perform with at least two other Sedona musical groups, including the William Eaton Ensemble and the group, Meadowlark.

AA: I’ve known William Eaton since when he was living in Phoenix. I’ve been playing with his ensemble since 1985, which brings it to 30 years and of course, now that he’s in Sedona and has spearheaded a lot of things, I’ve played with him in a lot of the community efforts that he’s done. We’ve had a lot of adventures.

The last one we did has led to a couple of concerts. Last summer most of the ensemble went to a remote grotto on the Colorado River and we stayed there for almost a week, camped out in this unbelievable space and played, improvised, and recorded. Eventually a CD will come out of that. Then, when we came back, it happened to coincide with the whole event celebrating the Verde River, so it really was a river concert! In fact, William composed a piece right there that we’ll be playing again. We’re going to be doing another one soon at the Old Town Center for the Arts, “Celebrate the River.”

I also play with a group called Meadowlark. Oddly enough, they’re now residents of Sedona! I’ve been playing with Meadowlark since the early 90’s—pretty close to 20 years—and that’s been a magical experience. We’ve had our share of adventures too! We’ve shared the same performance space in years past when we used to do concerts at the Briar Patch. I think there may have been at least a couple of times when Meadowlark and William Eaton Ensemble came.

I should mention James Buchanan. He’s been the Music Director at Christ Lutheran Church for, I think, twenty years, and Maryanne and I are good friends of his. We play at least two or three concerts a year with him.

LT: Please share your feelings about Sedona, as a town, as a land.

AA: The community of Sedona has its own wonders: there’s of course, a lot of art, a lot of spirituality, but what drives it all is nature. I don’t even know where to begin with all that. Everybody talks about the red rocks, and that’s definitely there. Oak Creek Canyon itself has to be one of the most beautiful drives in the country, just to go down the canyon. And there really is something about the whole area that is so conducive to creativity. I mean, apart from the natural beauty of the rocks, I think it’s no coincidence that so many artists have been attracted there.

LT: Do you have favorite place to go to enjoy nature in Sedona?

AA: My favorite hikes are definitely in the canyon: Sterling Pass and North Wilson. Unfortunately those are two that were hit especially badly in the Brins Mesa Fire, and it will take them awhile to be restored to their natural beauty. It is interesting that Oak Creek itself has experienced a couple of really epic floods since we’ve been there, and parts of it have been really torn up. But the funny thing is that the area is growing back; the track of the creek gets changed a little bit here too, but eventually it will be as beautiful as ever. Well, it really is, but will probably be even more beautiful.

Every time someplace has a flood or a fire or an earthquake, as John Muir used to say, “It’s all part of the wild beauty-making business.” You know, the human scale is nothing. In the grand scheme of things, Nature is just reorganizing herself to make more beautiful things!

LT: Thank you, Allen!

Lynn A. TrombettaBy Lynn A. Trombetta: A freelance web writer on topics of art, music, and wellness, Lynn is also a wildlife artist/photographer, professional flutist, recording artist, and published author.

Sculpting the Human Experience: Bronze Sculptor John M. Soderberg

Ilchi Lee speaks often of Hongik Spirit, the concept of living a life which benefits all. Learn how Sedona Bronze Sculptor John M. Soderberg embodies this concept and speaks of the inherent nobility of the human experience with his art.

LAT: John, your printed personal biography reaches back to begin with the story of your grandparents and then your parents. The details of their lives are so necessary to understand the adventuresome spirit which one day manifested in you. After your father was commissioned by Afghanistan’s King Mohammed Zahir to be the director of the country’s first engineering school, your parents sailed to Manila en route to Kabul less than two years after the end of World War II. It was there in Afghanistan where you spent the first five years of your life.

When did you begin illustrating the early impressions of your world with your art?

JMS: In Afghanistan my first sculptures, commissioned by my mother, were executed in mud in our family’s front yard. At age four, I began painting in oils with my father’s paints and brushes. When I was five, we moved to India. There I painted continuously and sculpted with British plasticine clay.

LAT: You have literally travelled around the world many times over. How did that come about?

JMS: After five years in India, we moved to Thailand where I studied teakwood carving with the leading master, a Buddhist monk. The U.S. State Department had made it mandatory for U.S. citizens living overseas to visit America periodically. So, every two and a half years we traveled around the world. I traveled eight times around the world before graduating high school in Bangkok, Thailand in 1967. My parents loved art, so we visited famous museums and galleries all over the world.

LAT: When you came to America to attend college, you have said it was a difficult transition.

JMS: I suffered extreme culture shock and ended up oil painting on the streets of Berkeley, California in the midst of the turmoil from the riots of the late 1960’s. This country was way too confusing. I soon joined the U.S. Marine Corps as a way to get back home to South-East Asia.

LAT: How did you first discover Sedona?

JMS: My last duty station was Yuma, Arizona, as an electronics and communication technician. My parents had come back from South-East Asia and settled in Tempe, AZ. After my honorable discharge, I worked as a tool and die-maker machinist, custom knife maker. I painted and made jewelry at night. Eventually I quit that job and moved with my first wife and two baby daughters to Flagstaff. I worked in a small bronze art foundry for four years, earning just $1.00 per hour.

My desire was to live my life as a bronze sculptor. I came down to Sedona often to visit the art galleries. My first bronze was used as a doorstop in the foundry, and the second was bought and used as a boat anchor in Lake Havasu! Still, my work ended up in the galleries of Sedona, and we ultimately moved here . . . I’ve been in the Verde Valley 30 years.

John Soderberg humanitarian work

LAT: For the past 40 years you have been involved in several amazing projects, service and charity work.

JMS: I’ve taught martial arts to disabled children and adults, given sculpture workshops, served as a board member for domestic abuse shelters and other groups, worked on famine relief for the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico and am one of the original core members of Rancho Feliz, a charitable organization which builds and maintains orphanages, soup-kitchens for kids and medical clinics for the poor, and much more. I’ve even been Santa Claus on a Harley to the orphans of Agua Prieta, Mexico for the past 19 years!

LAT: Often through the years, your art and your service-work have intertwined. Please tell our readers about those projects.

JMS: I grew up with art that mattered. You know, in some of Picasso’s best work he was protesting war atrocities. So I’ve tried to deal with things that mattered:

I’ve worked with Amnesty International in protest of the Apartheid in South Africa.

I did a bronze that I unveiled in the late 1980’s with Bob Hope and a bunch of celebrities protesting the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets, and their use of anti-personnel mines disguised as toys targeting children. That bronze, “Steel Butterflies” can be seen right here in the studio.

Way of the Warrior by John SoderbergThe piece I did for Rancho Feliz, “The Way of the Warrior,” portrays a little girl who was found near death in a warehouse, abandoned, and they brought her to our orphanage. We got her adopted, we saved her life. A lot of good, grass roots, and good things for others have happened, with an aim not to give charity, but rather to break the poverty cycle through education and opportunity.

When I did the Freedom Award, one that I’m most proud of, I worked with them for years. Today, there are 27 million slaves in the world, bought and sold more than ever before in history. They chose me to sculpt the Freedom Award, and they would give out five a year to the people who did the most to expose and eradicate modern slavery.

So, when I can couple my art with my service work, that’s where I live, where I really want to be. I like beauty, and it’s nice putting out beautiful pieces, but I like to have something more.

LAT: It is easy to understand why ‘aesthetically,’ you would want to be in Sedona, it has traditionally been culturally rich. And energetically and physically, it has a strong presence.

JMS: Yes. Sedona is a place where a lot of the native Indians would come and pray and to connect with their creator. It feels good to me.

LAT: Do you have a sense of that connection when you work?

JMS: Yes, my best work happens when I’m in a Zen state, where I’m not even aware of it…there are times when I’ll look at something and I can’t remember sculpting it: Can’t remember sculpting my best work!

The song is more important than the singer . . . the work lives on.

LAT: Thank You, John!

See John Soderberg’s Bronze work at www.johnsoderberg.com or visit the studio at 3058 W. State Route 89A.

By Lynn A. Trombetta