At specific points around the world, the earth churns with tangible, tingly energy at sites known as vortices, visited by those seeking connection, healing, or a good story to tell. This special series in your road map to six such hotspots in the Western United States—and what to do once you get there.
Homelands Of: Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Serrano, Western Shoshone
Best known for having a national park larger than the state of Rhode Island, Joshua Tree and its surrounds became an extension of Hollywood during the Golden Age of film as an ideal set for the Westerns that defined the era. Although the well-heeled regularly found their way down to Palm Springs (about 45 minutes south), the crustier boot-clad crowd stayed behind to soak in the dusty magic of the high desert with the mystics, artists, and displaced Indigenous groups who called it home.
Today Joshua Tree is a bohemian enclave. Its siren song calls rock climbers, rock-and-rollers, and spiritual seekers into its folds to wake, create, and meditate under the sun. And while its vortices are less defined than those in other locales, there’s no shortage of energy stores to tap into here.
Start your morning deep in Joshua Tree National Park with the fuzzy-looking but highly prickly cholla cacti at the Cholla Cactus Garden (enter via the North Entrance), a quarter-mile loop where flora appears to glow as the sun rises. Return to the park for sunset (the $30 entrance fee gives you weeklong access) via the West Entrance, driving until you reach a forest of Joshua trees on your right. Pull over here and meet the trees on foot. Let your intuition guide you into whatever practice calls you—a power flow, meditation, or simply a Sun Salutation.
Dive into the area’s energy pools at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, also called the Institute of Mentalphysics, a nonprofit spiritual center founded on 420 acres of desert in the 1940s by Edwin Dingle. The father of mentalphysics (a self-described “super yoga” that combines breathwork, meditation, and movement), Dingle felt guided to the desert to seek respite. The grounds alone are a menagerie for the senses, curated to highlight the property’s 17 vortices with organic architecture and sacred geometry. See examples at the Chalice Well pond, a series of cascading stone wells built on top of a vortex and lain over a crystal and gemstone grid incorporating the vesica piscis symbol of two overlapping circles. It’s a joint effort by Dingle, famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and (ultimately, when the two had a disagreement) Lloyd Wright’s son. You can explore the grounds, but call ahead to make sure there’s no retreat happening.
Built in 1954 on what’s believed to be a powerful geomagnetic vortex in nearby Landers, a geodesic dome called the Integratron is a beautiful mash-up of architecture, art, and the otherworldly. George Van Tassel, who created the dome-shaped wooden structure, had a unique connection to the cosmos and designed the building with the goal of using it as an electrostatic generator for time travel. At its center, scientists have measured dramatic increases in the earth’s electromagnetic field, suggesting that Tassel may have tapped into a vortex. Sign up in advance for an al fresco sound bath and allow the vibrations from 20 quartz singing bowls to light your chakras.
One of Joshua Tree’s unsung blessings is that, for whatever reason, chain hotels have stayed out, meaning a mixed bag of eclectic lodging keeps JT funky. It doesn’t get more central than the sweet Mojave Sands Motel, a hip but understated midcentury relic right in downtown (read: less than 10 minutes from the park) with just five rooms, each with its own patio, record player, and curated selection of vinyl. Short-term rentals (such as Airbnb, VRBO, and the like) can also cater to your specific needs, whether you’re in the mood for fully off-grid luxury, a dome in the desert, or the original Joshua Tree House, a 1949 hacienda masterfully renovated by the husband-wife design team who own it. Or plan ahead and apply for a longer, more-structured stay at Dhamma Vaddhana Southern California Vipassana Center for a 10-day course of study in the meditation method.