by Andrew Pacholyk, MS L.Ac from his exciting new book, Lead Us To A Place ~ your spiritual journey through life’s seasons.

Spirituality can be found anywhere. You can experience it in a church or temple, in the beauty of nature, in a yoga, dance or exercise class, or in the darkest, most unlikely places. Spirituality is a state of mind. It is an experience that brings you closer to the realization of life’s truths. It can be found when facing fear, enjoying simplicities or contemplation from within. Here are some of the most Sacred places covered in this book:

1. The Arizona Desert

Desert climates around the world have a powerful and charismatic persona! The desert holds on to secrets and then releases them centuries later for a new generation to unearth and discover their Sacred past. The desert is a unique environment. From extreme temperature to extreme ways of life, a desert offers us a broad picture of the fullest spectrum of life itself. Like Spring, it shows us the possibilities of promise, with equal opportunities of darkness and light. It teaches us how life can be harsh at times, but yet, how it can also be filled with the nourishment an oasis can offer. From storms of sand to blistering heat, or air that is crisp with sunsets of inspiration, the desert teaches us how to listen. Silence can be a great tool for looking within and releasing the chatter from outside.

Consider a silent, sunset meditation, done within a crystal mandala circle in Tuscon’s Saguaro National Park. The Arizona sunsets paints a picture across the desert floor. These sunsets are staggering bursts of fire that flare up over the mountains. As the sun sets, the play of light and shadow stretch across the desert floor, kissing the cactus as it begins its introduction to the night. From the desert floor, the darker hues of the Chakra rainbow offer its cooling colors such as deep blue, intriguing indigo and vibrant violet washing over you as you take a deep breath and let go the day.

2. The Caribbean Sea 

The mysterious and amazing healing power of water has been utilized for centuries. Water cleanses, refreshes, and restores all life. We are always drawn to water. Be it a soothing fountain, majestic waterfall, or the churning sea. Water is a carrier. It flows. It moves along the lines of least resistance to find its way to the sea where it comes and goes in the ebb and flow of tides and waves. The appeal is inexplicable! We crave water. Perhaps because our bodies are made up of a large percent of it. Maybe we instinctively know how it can heal us. This powerful source of nature yields some of the most essential healing tools and additional benefits that are hard to compare with anything else. We already know the necessary and soothing abilities water offers.

A gentle, soft, sky-blue Caribbean healer, the sand and surf bring the tranquility of sea and air to heart and mind. It Soothes and uplifts the pain of life, changing it to love and appreciation. The sea is beneficial for self-expression, patience, acceptance, simplicity, and creativity. The coasts of the Riviera Maya, Islands of the Bahamas or the Dominican Republic overlook the most blue-green healing waters of the Caribbean Sea. Legend has it, this is also called the “Atlantis basin” since claims surfaced that Bimini was part of the lost continent of Atlantis.

3. England’s Secret Garden

Gardens have been associated with our spirituality throughout history. From the Gardens of Eden and Gethsemani to the Gardens of Haifa and Earthly Delights, these sanctuaries have great healing and curative powers. I love being able to meditate in a summer garden. The air is clean, the scent of flowers drift by throughout the day and offer up a visually breath-taking combination of colors. It is a wonderful way to connect to God.

In Greencombe, Porlock, Somerset, just outside Porlock in Exmoor, lies one of England’s most memorable secret gardens. From April to July, this private, fully organic garden is open to the public to explore. You will never forget the unbridled pageantry and natural allure the gardens offer. From every color in the rainbow to the creatures they would attract, it seems everyone is attracted to flowers and herbs growing in a garden. From “secret gardens” and Japanese style gardens to floral, vegetable and English gardens, the opportunity for creating a bed of flowers is endless.  A garden is a Sacred place. It is a place to contemplate, entertain, meditate or simply to wander and enjoy its beauty.

4. Greece’s Caldera

Santorini is famous for its sunsets! I was inspired by this beautiful island in the southern Aegean Sea. You can create breathtaking memories from precious moments spent in the azure waters and multi-colored beaches here! Famous for its white buildings and churches and some of the most eye-popping sunsets in the world, Santorini is a shining jewel in the Crown of the Greek Islands.  Santorini is essentially what remains after an enormous volcanic eruption destroyed the earliest single island and created the current geological caldera. Due to even more recent evidence, the island’s pre-eruption shape and landscape frescoes located under the ash, both strongly resemble Plato’s description of the lost city of Atlantis.

A giant central, rectangular lagoon is surrounded by high, steep cliffs on three sides. It is from here, that you can witness the sun relinquishing its reign, as it spills into the cooling sea. As if it were exploding as it passes beyond the horizon, bright red and orange streaks pine upward as cooling indigo and violet rays wash across the apparent waterline!  It is a spectacular site and lives up to its infamous reputation. No matter what the appeal, this island embraces the magic and color of an endless summer!

5. The World Trade Center

The Hudson River Park is 400 acres of water area that has been designated as the Hudson River Park Estuarine Sanctuary. Estuaries occur where fresh water from the land meets salt water from the ocean, resulting in a dynamic nutrient-rich habitat with high biodiversity. This designation acknowledges the importance of the sanctuary as an official New York State significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat. It is at the crossroads where Manhattan meets this junction, that you will find the New World Trade Center.  After its horrific destruction on September 11, 2001, it has risen from the ashes like a Phoenix to defend its honor.

If you walk along Warren Street and turned the corner, try to get your bearings. Landmarks that were once familiar, now seem to be either shadows of their former selves or gone entirely. The borders around the area continue to change and morph as construction continues. The new Freedom Tower stands 1,776-feet high. The steel and glass figure commands attention as the gentle reflecting pools spill their powerful water over the original building’s footprints! You will then be made wonderfully aware of the resurrection that has taken place here.

6. Ecuador’s Middle of the World

Ecuador is rich in Amazonian forests, herbs and animal life. Shaman and healers search out these amazing places, such as the European-like capital of Quito, the healing mountain town of Banos and the sprawling discovery of Charles Darwin, the Galapagos Islands. Metaphysically, mountains (and hills) represent challenges that will lead to growth once we overcome them. The steepness of that mountain is indicative of the degree of challenge or risk involved. We all face “mountains” or uphill climbs in our lives. The approach to navigating this mountain demonstrates our ability to surmount the obstacle and eventually overcome it.

High in the mountains, approximately 16 miles north of the capital, marks the exact Middle of the World (Mitad del Mundo), latitude 0 ° where you can stand with one foot on each hemisphere. There is a town surrounding this monumental place replicating a colonial Spanish town called Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World City). The local Shaman celebrate the Solstice on this spot each year to usher out the dying of one season and the rebirth of another. As the sun rises above the Andes mountains, one is given the opportunity to greet the sun as it lights the ceremonial circle and the start of a new and promising season ahead.

7. Sedona Valley

Sedona is a city that straddles the county line between Coconino and Yavapai counties in the northern Verde Valley region of Arizona. Sedona is famous for its energy centers or vortexes. These amazing centers pulse with energy! You will find tours, meditation sites and natural structures near these area vortexes. These Sacred places are said to embody compassionate, nurturing, energy that engulfs you when you become attuned to them. Vortexes are famous for Sacred Native ceremonies held to honor the heart, mind, spirit, and body. Sedona has become a magnet for those seeking powerful enlightenment and a spiritual presence.

Sedona’s main attraction is its array of red sandstone formations. The formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun. The red rocks form a popular backdrop for many activities, ranging from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails. Its roots in Native American culture are the backbone of this breathtaking sanctuary!

8. India’s Sacred River

At dawn and sunset along the banks of India’s Ganges River, you will find the most honorable ceremonies taking place as millions of devout Hindus bathe in the waters of India’s most Holy river. The Ganges River rises in the western Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand and flows south and east through the Gangetic Plain of North India. In a ritual they believe can wash away their sins, they emerge their bodies in the cold water to pray, let go and give thanks. There are six auspicious bathing days, in particular, that are decided by the alignment of stars, when they come to wash away their sins and free themselves from the cycle of death and rebirth.

These waters are said to provide its bathers with strength, self-control, and mastery of thought. It enhances the powers of serenity. The waters provide “good common sense” in matters of the home, heart and one’s constitution. It provides protection, stability, and structure both in the physical and emotional mind. Wishes and prayers are set upon lotus leaves and then tossed into the sacred waters. One of the most revered waterways in the world, it is also one of the most polluted. The river is worshiped by many Hindus and is a water source for an estimated 400 million people.

9. California’s Ojai Valley

Ojai, California is a vibrant place with so much natural beauty that it gained fame decades ago when the area was photographed to represent Shangri-La in the 1939 movie, The Lost Horizon. Nestled in the Ojai Valley, the town is surrounded by peaks that give off a glow in the evening light known as “the pink moment”.

Since Ojai is lined up with an east-west mountain range, it is one of few towns in the world to have a “Pink Moment”. This magic moment occurs as the sun is setting when the fading sunlight creates awash of brilliant shades of pink, lavender, peach, and purples for several minutes over the Topatopa Bluffs at the east end of the Ojai Valley. Once you tour the mountains to the Secret Garden and see the Chumash Indian’s sacred places, you could understand why Ojai offers special meaning to all who come time and again.

10. Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Medjugorje is a small mountain town located in western Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the Herzegovina region, close to the border of Croatia. Since June 24, 1981, it has become a popular spiritual pilgrimage site due to reports of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to six local children. St. James Church is the focus and center of Medjugorje, not only for the parishioners but also for the millions of pilgrims that come each year. Because of the new needs of the parish, an exterior altar was built behind the church in 1989 and the surrounding prayer area extending outward with 5000 seats.

Be sure to visit the apparition sites including Crnica Hill (called Podbrdo), but is nicknamed, Apparition Hill. It is here, that the Blessed Virgin Mary or Gospa, as the locals refer to her as, appeared to six local children and continues to do so, over 30 years on. Cross Mountain is above Medjugorje and stands 1,710 feet high. It is here on March 15, 1934, the parishioners constructed a concrete cross, 28-foot-tall, built in remembrance of the 1,900 years since the death of Christ. Behind St. James Church, a promenade was built. Named, the Via Domini (the Way of the Lord). The path starts with the Mysteries of Light and connects the old town cemetery to the newest addition, the Risen Christ statue. This statue of the crucified Christ has been exuding a unique oil from one knee, continuously since the 20th anniversary of the apparitions in 2001. Although the nature of this oil is mysterious, the fact is, it has begun to increase and now the unknown substance flows from both knees of this bronze sculpture.

You can discover more about these Sacred places, how to reach them and many more in Lead Us To A Place ~ your spiritual journey through life’s seasons.