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  • Maria Vandenburg

Celebrating Life in the Vortexes of Sedona

Updated: Nov 16

Last week I "treated myself" - a term I use for anytime I go on vacation. It's a shift to the mindset of having money not be an issue and allowing myself to spend/receive/do whatever my spirit/soul/heart is calling for without guilt and worry. I did this for the very first time when I traveled to Egypt in 2019 with Center for Spiritual Living. Prior to that trip, I had always scrimped by on budget hostels and "continental breakfasts" (that consisted of pieces of toast and occasionally a slab of butter and jam), Egypt opened up my world to the idea of luxury travel, and while I don't currently have the opportunities to travel like this often, I take full advantage of it when I do... and I did, last week for a Celebrate Your Life Retreat in Sedona, Arizona. You can find details on the incredible organization that put it all on here.



Sunrise over Kachina Woman and Man
Sunrise over Kachina Woman and Man




The Arrival

I flew out of Seattle on Wednesday morning, leaving my apartment at 5:30am to be greeted by Orion and Sirius as I made my way to SeaTac Intl Airport before sunrise. My original intention was to have some time to relax at the airport, get coffee, some breakfast, see if I could find some sort of Seattle-type gift for a woman who would be picking me up at the Phoenix airport. But I arrived with literally just enough time to get through security and board my plane.



Driving into Enchantment
Driving into Enchantment

It just so happened that a woman named Sarah who lives just outside of the Phoenix just so happened to be picking up another woman named Molly at the exact same time that my flight got in the day before the retreat started (Thank you, Universe). So I gratefully accepted the ride from the Phoenix airport to Sedona with these two amazing woman, and had a lovely meal and brief tour of Jerome on the way there. Jerome is an old mining town literally built into the hills. Everything is "ghost" themed - I'm not kidding, we ate at a place called "haunted hamburger," and I'm not entirely sure of the full story why. Jerome did have a beautiful look out though and an interesting feel.



Day One:

Thursday day, Sarah, Molly and my roommate Jane and I explored Bell Rock, the Airport Vortex, the Chapel of the Cross and Uptown Sedona. The evening brought us to the opening ceremony for Celebrate Your Life, where I had my very first direct exposure to native traditions - and was so deeply honored and touched by the whole experience. Uqualla, the Local Medicine Man and Guardian of the Land opened up the space for it. To say it was powerful, doesn't really give the whole experience justice. He was channeling and reminding us to begin "a new" on our "earth walk" with our "body tribe." I sat and listened, opening myself to the full experience.


Opening Ceremony under the Stars
Opening Ceremony under the Stars


We had an intention setting/burning ritual. Where I originally wrote out that I was releasing 'seeking external validation' but over the course of the evening that shifted to just one word 'control.' Which is HUGE for the control freak/project-manager who lives within me.


The evening came to close with gazing up at the stars and venturing back to my hotel for a quick night cap and conversation.


Day Two


Day Two brought us to the beginning of the workshops themselves. We began with a livestream from Matt Kahn. It was Matt who originally drew me to this conference, and the opportunity to physically be in presence for one of his transmissions. Shortly after booking the retreat, my flight and my hotel, he communicated that he would no longer be there in person... HOWEVER, at that point I knew I was meant to go regardless, he had served as the propeller. His transmission was powerful, as always, and the invitation was to stop "working on" ourselves and start "exploring."


After a delicious lunch we then met Abiola Abrams. Like many of the people at this particular retreat, I was not familiar with her or her work ahead of being with her in person. Abiola was a Goddess (I'm not kidding), she activated something within each and every single one of us and introduced us to her many MANY African Goddesses and healing rituals. To say it was magical is also an understatement.


Collette Baron-Reid & Abiola Abrams
Collette Baron-Reid & Abiola Abrams


Collette Baron-Reid was next where she reminded us of the power in believing in our own intuition/divinity. She lead us through a meditation and then asked us to walk the building in silence asking ourselves " What do I need to know in order for me to express you more fully." This was a super powerful practice for me because when we started the walk, I was fully in my mind... thinking about: "OK, how do I do this?" "What do I need to do?" "Should I be saying a mantra?" "What should I be doing?"


Eventually... about half way through the first lap, I looked up and reconnected to the sacredness of the place and the intention and realized my mind couldn't actually guide me in any of this. I had to trust myself and drop more fully into the moment. And... I did! From there the magic began to happen, or I should say, I became more fully conscious of the magic that surrounds all of us.


That evening, we divided into two groups, and I choose to attend the workshop of one of Liz Dawn (the co-founder and CEO of Celebrate Your Life, the organization that put on the event) staff members workshops. Her name was Kyra Schaefer and she is a hypnotherapist. She demonstrated several techniques and then invited us to share. I am not one to normally public speak, but I felt my heart pulling and in this particular case, I listened. We had just completed a "Disney Method," where you connect with your inner dreamer, analyser and critique (shifting the critique from one of judgment to a trusted confident). We surface a question and then ask each of these archetypes within us for guidance. Mine was how do I bring my "business" or "work" to the next level. As I mentioned earlier, I'm normally quite shy, but found myself compelled to share what came through for me to the entire room. What I affirmed was


My Dreamer said (this was me envisioning the feeling of what was next): A global organization that uplifts and inspires and helps others to launch their own global organizations (that also uplift and inspire). I also saw an interlinking of all of these global organizations into hosting multiple events


My Critique said (this first shifted into a perspective from a trusted friend sharing with me the current obstacles of): Not trusting the universe to guide us to the next step, trying to control exactly how it all unfolds and when it will all unfold, and not using this time as an opportunity for growth and expansion


My Realist said (this was an ask on what are my three next steps):

  1. Keeping a Gratitude Journal

  2. Selecting a Next Step Oracle Card (which affirmed guidance given to us all earlier that day by Collette)

  3. Journaling on my insights - which I have subsequently done and am repeating again here while writing this entry.

Day 3


We began with a morning meditation in the vortex that was slightly cold (as you can see) but INCREDIBLY POWERFUL



Me... bundled up for a morning meditation in Enchantment Circle
Me... bundled up for a morning meditation in Enchantment Circle


Dr. Sue Morter <3
Dr. Sue Morter <3

This was also the day that I discovered Dr. Sue Morter. I don't really have words to explain the significance of finding her and her work but I will try. For YEARS now I have been in my mind, living in stories. I have connected to my own divinity, but that has primarily been through deeply meditative states or when I'm really caught up in the flow through writing or other creative expressions, not on a regular/tangible/day to day basis. I have sensed for awhile now that on my spiritual journey I am being called to no longer be "up and out" which is where I have been for years, but "down and in." I just didn't really know what that meant. What does it mean to be to fully be in my body? To be embodied? This is exactly what Dr. Sue teaches. How we can actually experience "Heaven on Earth" on "HeavenEarth" as she calls it... right now... knowing ourselves as a soul. I was blown wide open by literally JUST being in Dr. Sue's energy. I could literally write a whole entry entirely on her and how grateful I am to have found her and now have the opportunity to study under her (which I am doing, currently reading her book "The Energy Code." signed up for a meditation workshop she is teaching in December and planning on attending an in-person Lineage Retreat with her back in Sedona again... next June). But to not make you all read a 500 page blog entry I will just leave it with, I love her, and if you are interested in checking out more about her, here's a link to a talk she did on GAIA that explains more than I possibly can in a few words



Sunny Dawn Johnston
Sunny Dawn Johnston


In the afternoon, I was introduced to the work of Sunny Dawn Johnston, who I also loved. Sunny Dawn is all about our angels and how can we connect to them and know them on a daily basis. What I appreciated about Sunny Dawn was not only the fact that she is so incredibly gorgeous, but it was her realness. She shared raw/authentic/heartfelt stories of her struggles with both her family and her spirituality that mirrored so much back to me that I wouldn't have registered otherwise. I thought I knew what unconditional love was before her talk... I realized I did not. Plus her energy was just fun, I feel like in addition to being an amazing spiritual teacher, Sunny Dawn would be a great person to sit down and have a cocktail with. Her journey of really learning how to love herself feels so similar to my own.


Day 4





And the final day brought my introduction to Sonia Choquette (who I have loved since I discovered The Psychic Pathway about 15 years ago). Sonia's message though wasn't quite as "easy" to receive as I had anticipated, but was invaluable none the less. She asked us almost immediately to put our notebooks away... something that I was pretty vehemently opposed to. How on Earth was I supposed to remember anything if I wasn't allowed to take notes? She then went on to say that the intellectual part of us that wants to take notes and analyze/rationalize actually inhibits our direct experience. I still was annoyed at the whole thing and then she pretty much called me out on it in front of the entire room, I think her exact words were something along the lines of "I know, I'm psychic.. I can feel your annoyance, BUT the question I ask is... how moveable are you?" Her main point is that to really surrender and be moveable/guided by spirit, we need to get out of own way, we need to stop giving so much power/credit/control to our mind/ego. She calls it the 'barking dog' A series of musical chairs, observing ourselves and our environment and dancing later (oh man... was there a lot of resistance there as well.. dancing.. in public... even with my eyes closed!) Eventually I surrendered though and I realized what she meant in the beginning, how I was actually holding myself back at the start by not fully being present and open to the moment. I had expected rainbow and butterflies, not my own internal resistance, but it was amazing none the less to finally get the chance to connect with her. When she signed my book at the end (she wrote a book about walking the Camino.. something that is still very much on my heart to do at some point in the near future) she looked at me said "Just remember... Spirit's got this." I loved loved loved that moment and my surrender <3


And our final speaker was John Holland who was HILARIOUS. I was humbled by him as well and his vulnerability and realness in sharing not only his struggles but also his process in what he calls "thinking up" or "soul shifting."




The final highlight of the trip was having the opportunity to connect to an amazing group of woman who I have a feeling with stay in my life, we shared so many magical moments together and the trip wouldn't have been the same with out each and every one of them, which is so crazy because two weeks ago today, I had no idea who they each were.


I would usually say onwards and upwards, but I'm feeling more compelled to say "downwards and in" ❤


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