Winter Solstice 2018: 40-Hour Vision Quest

A Note Before You Start 

It’s been a year since my core-shifting experience on the top of Bell Rock. I’ll admit that ego thought we’d dealt with the issues and learned the lessons all in that one trip, but in a much different setting — a new apartment in Fort Lauderdale (Darren and I moved in together) — I come to accept that my journey of self-love, growth, and improvement was just starting.

My laptop stares at me while I try to make sense of thoughts, feelings, flashbacks, and energy that nonsensically blur in my mind … I’ve finally made the time to sit down and write a long-overdue story.

I have bits and pieces from what I had started writing; I have memories of awesome people we met on our trip and so many lessons that have strengthened me as my reality shifts and evolves. It’s the beauty of impermanence.

What I don’t have are the pictures I took, or the recordings of our celebratory-dinner night (I’d recollected pieces of the unique take of the experience we’d all shared together). To be honest, after losing those, I considered for a long time on whether or not to continue with this post, and after months of pondering on it, I decided on the latter.

If you can relate, you’ll see that I’m learning to glide with the impermanence of the present moment and the up & down waves of life. Over this past year, I’ve faced many “demons,” for lack of a better word,  moments, triggers, instances that I allowed to overwhelm me. Overall, I’ve learned to reestablish balance and discipline in my life — it’s still a work in progress, but every time I’m better at catching myself when I start to derail from a path of self-growth — consciously choosing my behavior, my food, my thoughts, my emotions, and my actions.

Learning and relearning balance and discipline, and implementing those choices into the life I’m creating, was the major lesson I learned from the experience and the energy we shared on that cold, 1111, winter solstice day on top of Bell Rock.

This post is dedicated to Peter who continues to bring souls together and helps them in the most silent way with his magic.

Peter the Arturian.jpg

So, sit back and get comfy … this will get long.

On the Road — A Winter Solstice​​​ Trip

Live energy in the air today. Can you feel it? Close your eyes; enjoy the stillness of silence, allow the energy surrounding you to embrace you and connect you with the all. Only then you can see the truth; only then you can see yourself as a reflection of the outside world that’s the mirror of the universe within. No, it’s not your eyes that see, it’s your soul. The intricate and infinite, pulsating energy of life. A sequence of frequency and vibration that connects us all for we are one.  

– Pacha Mama –

This was a message that resonated through me a year ago while meditating on the top of Bell Rock and putting it into words doesn’t really do it justice. On December 21, 2018, I was sitting on top of a powerful energy vortex in Sedona, Arizona; vibrating, connecting, resonating (the label is up to you), existing in a series of moments during the winter solstice.

The air had a vivid electrical charge that added to the mystical and transformational energy surrounding us.  The people around — who were no longer strangers but soul-siblings — were talking amongst themselves, some were doing handstands or meditating, others were enjoying the unmeasurable beauty of our surroundings. I was quietly observing; we were all living and experiencing our time there in our own way.

winer solstice

Don’t start googling what a winter solstice is, I’ll give you the scientific explanation that you’re most likely to find in your search … a very brief explanation. (The picture above is from

Winter solstice is an astronomical event where the northern and southern hemispheres of the Earth experience different lengths of night and day due to the positioning of the Earth in regard to the sun. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the daylight time is the shortest of the year, and vice versa for those in the southern hemisphere.

But there’s more to this event than the movement of stars and planets. In truth, and if you’re opened to it, you can feel the breeze carry that “zing” in the air; it’s more tangible on this day than any other. Sit still. Can you feel it? The all is within you, don’t fear it, embrace it.

Late Night Travelers: Peter’s Apartment

Monday 17, 2018, was a cold December night. The road wound about after crossing a small bridge, we had just made it past Cottonwood; it was a bit past seven and the sky was dark. Christmas lights greeted us on our way into the Village of Oak Creek, all the colorful plazas were decked and ready for the Holidays.

Sedona was near.

We continued North on 89 A for another 10 minutes and made it to our final destination: Peter’s apartment.

His apartment is located atop, off of a small road from the main SR 89A that snakes around a small hill. The apartment complexes located in the area share a parking lot to the Snoopy trailhead.

The view from Peter’s apartment.

Darren parked the car across the apartment complex; the spot overlooks Sedona, far to the west, you could make out Cathedral’s silhouette.

I opened the car door and enjoyed the crisp Sedona air. From afar, the red rock welcomed us back.

We grabbed our duffle-bags and headed toward a stocky, brown, concrete building. We made our way into the apartment with puffy jackets and bags; there was a young sweet couple happily conversing with Peter.

Katelyn and Jimmy from Michigan had arrived not too long before us.

We drove with them to the Airbnb Peter had reserved for them and the other seven people who would be joining us on the top of Bell Rock come Thursday afternoon.

I saw the house once, under the dim moonlight that swam in a dark-starry night, so I don’t quite remember what the outside looked like. Somewhere in that fuzzy-tired memory, I see a white wooden cabin amidst tall trees.

Back at Peter’s apartment, we greeted Anthony from Brooklyn, his brother Nathan from Ohio, Leann from Georgia, Daniel from Minneapolis, and his girlfriend Omina originally from Japan.

magnificent 9
After catching up and planning the next few climbs before Thursday, Peter, Darren and I went out to dinner.

On the way back from Tara Thai Restaurant — the papaya salad is a must! —  I was so ready to sleep, and I couldn’t wait to start climbing.

Lessons, Hikes & Climbs Before the Solstice

I woke up around 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday to enjoy the early morning. The simple beauty of the early sun livening the red rock, the open horizon, and a warm-yellow hue blended with the blue sky was breathtaking. The cold air welcomed a new day.

I dressed in layers, and I was happy with my foot ware; it’s a crucial tool for climbing.

Though I’m far from an experienced climber (yes mom and dad, I’m conscientious about climber.jpgmy climbing), I felt more confident on my stride this time around. I knew what to expect, sort to speak.

Staying present and making sure you’re aware of your grip and surroundings is crucial.

The strength you consent to your mind is what keeps you going. That’s as far as your involvement in the matter goes; your body does the rest. If you stay present and indulge in the moment thoughts: paying attention where you step, what you grab, your grasp, the angle and your positioning while you advance, then you see the path.

Nature is harsh but true. She’ll show you the way, and if you pay attention, you advance and marble in the beauty of it all. When we know how to listen, Nature is our biggest teacher.

nature is true.jpg

The moment you distract yourself, say an errant thought crosses your mind, you stumble — at the very least.

Staying present and knowing which thoughts to concentrate on was the first and biggest lesson I took from Sedona the first time I visited.

pay attention

Being mindful and present is a practice that I’m implementing into every aspect of my
life — from healing to overcoming my anorexia and other traumas that made and continue to make themselves apparent every time I encounter the red rock. It’s medicine for my soul.

Stay humble. Another big lesson for me, one that constantly requires work.

If ego gets in the way, say you get too confident on where or how you’re approaching the rock, you will stumble or hit a cactus or another thorny plant. And trust me, you do not want to have a thorn-skin encounter.

climbing cort house

Be confident enough on your body’s ability to interact with Nature, stay humble enough to know that you must be conscious of where you step, you are not the only organism on the path; and, you certainly cannot expect to know how the rock will behave. Sometimes your decision may look firm, but it turns out to be loose, if you don’t pay attention, you’ll end up getting hurt.


Peter pulled in to the Court House Vista Parking lot, to the North of Bell Rock. We met a group of about nine people and started our walk up to the red rock. The sky was blue, the air was cold, and Bell Rock was waiting.

It was invigorating to be back.

Peter led the way, teaching the secrets of the rock to the newcomers, as he always does. He guides first-timers up the safest way, he shows them where to put their hands and feet, their bodies do the rest.

For those of you who don’t know Peter, keep that in mind for the rest of the way, it’s an intrinsic part of his personality, the desert-wisdom is vividly engraved on his copper-skin.

His silent presence and his tranquil energy create a calming effect that helps those who stumble or get stuck.

Little by little, he guides them to the top, allowing them to do it for themselves. No obligations, if you can’t keep up or decide to stay behind, he won’t force you to go. Peter shows you the way and gives you the space to figure it out on your own … and that’s when the magic happens.

As you climb up you find yourself, you face triggers, insecurities, fears, thoughts of negativity and self-doubt. You face yourself and learn that it’s all in your mind.

Personally, I overcame myself, my cultural conditioning of negativity and self-hate, which were often disguised behind a perfectly constructed ego-mask to fit in a rigid society that isn’t always accepting of us all.

Once you go up one of the crevasses, you finally reach the top. Peter takes pictures of the prayer box brnew members of the Top of Bell Rock Club (TBRC) on different places of Bell; and, they earn their numbers by solving riddles before heading back down.
It’s truly an awesome, somewhat touristy, experience for those who dare face their fears and follow Peter up to the top.
Darren and I sat on the sidelines while the new TBRC members tried their luck with Peter’s riddles. As of today December 21, 2019, there are 3424 TBRC members; my number is 2524.

Early Wednesday morning, Darren and I ventured to Jerome, Arizona to get one of the most delicious, sugary, melt on your tongue as soon as you eat it treats that I’ve ever tasted: fudge. Sadly, as I said earlier, I have no pics from this short trip (lucky for anyone who dares read this post, as it’s intimidatingly long already).

During these two days, the other 40-hour-vision-quest companions ventured on their own as well. We all met Thursday afternoon, at the north parking lot that leads to the Bell Rock Pathway Vista.

Up we went, with backpacks, sleeping bags, podcast equipment, and undefined expectations of what we’d encounter during those 40 hours.

on the way up

As we carefully made our way to the top, I think it was the first time for everyone present climbing with more than a small backpack, I kept thinking of how we’d all come together to witness such a unique event: a full moon during the winter solstice (while camping at the top of Bell Rock).

No, it wasn’t a spontaneous idea. Peter had been talking about such a night (camping on top of Bell) since the winter solstice of 2012 and became the Vortex Jumper — that’s another story for another blog, perhaps. But it’s a story we address in the interviewTom, Darren and I did with Peter.

Fun fact, the next full moon during the winter solstice won’t happen until 2094.

Starry Nights, Sunsets & an Interview

 Colorful sleeping bags, backpacks, and a small tent on the south-facing side of Bell, and three more sleeping bags by the prayer box (the east-facing side, if I’m not mistaken) made our campsite.

It’s all a blur, of course, but what I mainly remember are the conversations we shared, and how we were all in similar paths of self-discovery, growth, and improvement.

full moon

The full moon lit up the night; it was easy to see where you were going, and that’s so convenient when you try to find your way to the designated bathroom area in the middle of the night.

full moon 2
It doesn’t do it justice, but just so you get an idea.

A cold morning greeted us on December 21. The sunrise was breathtaking; deep orange hues, streaks of pink and violate colored the sky as the sun rose and the night transitioned to daytime. Words don’t do it justice.

sunrise 2

When the official time for the winter solstice approached, I believe it was at around 3:22 p.m. or so, new climbers and other TBRC members joined our little group.

We stood in a circle around the prayer box and spoke with our hearts … well, the brave ones of the group did, I’m far too shy to voice my thoughts in a group of people … hence the blog. Jaja

Words of love, gratitude, spirituality, appreciation, and awareness for what exists: the present and nothing else. The air buzzed with warm, loving, high-frequency energy. I get goosebumps thinking about it. The memory is close to my heart.

Were we all meant to experience this together? I believe so. I learned so much about myself while sharing these precious moments with every soul who made it up there.

Sometime after our group circle, Dan set up his podcast equipment, he’d agreed to let Tom and me interview Peter. Darren introduced us.


We were sitting in a semicircle across from our campsite. It was quite windy; I was surprised to hear clean audio when Dan shared the podcast link with everyone. The interview was raw, open, and honest. Peter shares some of his wisdom with the world. Give it a listen, you’ll get a different perspective in life. (Thanks again, Dan!)

Peter believes we exist in a simulation where we get to experience the journey we call life. He also believes that before we’re born, we get to choose whether to follow an already set up life or have autonomy in programming it. Peter says he chose to program his life, so every experience and interaction he has was already agreed upon. This belief makes him completely responsible for his life, his actions, his reactions, and his experiences.

His view is not for everyone, but I resonate with it, and it’s a plausible explanation to my experience and the reality that I’m creating.

After the interview, we walked back to the campsite and joined the group, which had grown noticeably. I don’t quite recall how many of us were on top of Bell at any given time after the interview, but everyone who was there knew Peter and wanted to share the moment with him.

The introvert in me took over and I got the urge to be on my own; I sat down not too far from the group, and in the stillness of my own company, I was able to see. I’ll keep it short to not overwhelm you more, but I saw and recognized the toxic and hurtful patterns that I needed to change.

I humbly laugh at myself for thinking that that was it. In all honesty, 2019 was about learning and understanding that the journey to self-love is challenging, humbling, enriching and never-ending; it exists only in the present moment, and it’s up to you to choose which version of yourself you are in the “right now.”

As the night grew colder and darker, those who had to head back down did, the rest of us bundled up and kept warm through the night.

The beauty of the next morning made up for the cold, but I think we were all ready to head down. We packed up and got ready to climb down. I couldn’t wait to shower.


Before we headed down, Omina gifted us crystal, which she had charged in Cathedral (female energy vortex) and Bell Rock (male energy vortex). Beautiful reminders that it was all real.


Dusty, cold, and hungry we made our way to Miley’s Cafe for breakfast.

miley's cafe

Post Vision Quest Dinner

“What did this experience do for you?” I remember asking Peter; we were sitting at the end of a row of two tables lined up together, I held my red iPhone 7 close to him — I’d already forgiven myself for leaving my Sony recorder back home.

It was dark outside; you could sense the crisp, cold winter night imprinted on the glass.
Our group was big enough; we had our own room. Eight of us sat by the wall near the entrance, and the remaining five sat at a round table across from us.

“Probably absolutely nothing. But to hang out with direct and indirect family (he said this as he gestured to Darren, his nephew, and the rest of the group with his right hand), you can’t ask for anything better than this. And I believe I programmed the best life possible. Look at these high-frequency people here, right? I am honored to share precious moments like this one with you all.”

He said this in his warm, calm voice. As in cue, I looked around. Everyone was engaged in a conversation. Loud chatter and the clinks and clanks of silverware hitting against the plates and containers while people ate, laughed and talked. It was such a heartwarming moment, it’s easy to recall how I felt; while the memory of this moment may not be as clear as I think it is, I know the feeling and the energy of the night remain intact.

dinner red chopstick

We’d gathered for dinner at the Red Chopstick, a family-owned Chinese restaurant; Peter is close to the family.  As a side note, if you’re ever in the Village of Oak Creek in Arizona, this restaurant is a must! The food is just mouthwatering, and the service is cozy and spectacular.

No, we didn’t see UFOs or portals, or any other apparition, but it was such a magical and unique experience in it of itself … perhaps somewhere in the universe, there was a portal, a window through which someone could see in on us and enjoy, learn, and laugh along. If there was, we didn’t see it.

Personally, I faced myself, whether it was Sedona’s magic or the winter solstice, or all of it combined, I learned, laughed, and shared so much that day; and, I continue to learn, grow, and improve in every present moment. Thank you for your wisdom and love, Pacha Mama.

And thank you for reading (even if you skipped to the end or got bored halfway jaja); I know it was long.

Words aren’t enough to express this amazing experience, and there are so many pieces of tangible memories (photos & videos) that encompass the magic we share. These don’t begin to cover them.

game night.jpg

To Peter, to Darren, my love, and all the amazing TBRC members who shared this experience with me. Thank you for the fond memories and the love that strings them together. (Apologies for losing the short interviews we did.)

last dinner.jpg



Attimi Essays Long reads On the road

missejjessim View All →

An incurable passion for writing; a poet and storyteller​ at heart. I am a writer on the road.

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