We must all follow our vision quest to discover ourselves, and to find our relationship with the world around us.
I wrote a series of blog posts on my Vision Quest experience; these were on my Amazing People site. As I write on meaningful living, I wanted to put together a summary of my experience.
My first post
I’m at a point in my life where I want to think again on my life purpose but this time to do it in nature. I want to get in touch with the deeper part of who I am. You may think this would come easy to me, it is an area I work on with my clients, I use psychometric tools and interesting exercises alongside coaching. It’s quite a traditional, and effective approach and yes, I have done it on myself, but now time for a different way.
On Friday 5th July 2019, I will be starting a wilderness Rites of Passage where you do a Vision Quest and spend 10 days in nature, 4 of these spent on a solo fast.
A Vision Quest is a ceremony to facilitate change and to help people to move from one stage of their life through to the next. I’m at a turning point, a year on from separating from my husband, approaching 62, and wanting to decide on the focus of my life. I’m in the final stages of acceptance to do a PhD, is that the best way to make a change in the world?
I want to escape the noise and chatter of my daily life and listen to my inner voice. I’ve spent too long looking for the answer via books and other sources of external knowledge. The answer will be within me.
The process will go through 3 stages and is being lead by David Wendl-Berry who trained with Sun Bear and other American medicine men over 30 years ago.
David’s website says:
You will emerge from the Vision Quest with a profound connection to the Earth, and to all of nature. You will in all likelihood know yourself more completely, have dealt with unresolved issues from your past, made plans for your future, discovered who you really are and what your purpose is in life. You will take these discoveries with you to your people – your family, friends, and colleagues.
A powerful process and there are 3 stages:
Stage 1 Severance
The first phase is preparation, held at base camp. As part of a small group, maximum of 6, we prepare and I will get clear on what I need to say goodbye to, what I am letting go of. This process starts before the Quest, I’ve written a letter of intention and created a 10-page autobiography.
Stage 2 Threshold – The Vision Fast
I’ll be spending 4 days and 4 nights living on my own in the wild. I take water, but no food for this time. When I first heard this, I said I can barely go 4 hours without food, never mind 4 days. But as I reflected on this, I felt it was a fear. People do fast, why can’t I do it?
I’ll be alone with my thoughts. A lot of time to think. No technology, no watch. I’ll judge the passing of time by the movement of the sun. How many of us really listen to the sound of the wind and look closely at plants? I’m so looking forward to this. I really will be away from all distractions; it will be nature that guides me and helps me find my vision.
We travel light, no tent, but a tarp to make a crude shelter. A journal and pen to make notes and essentials that I’m happy to carry.
Stage 3 – Incorporation
This is when I return, and we make it real and learn from the experience. The quest leader, David Wendl-Berry will hear our story and mirror back. It’s meant to be a very powerful process.
From the day I decided yes, I’ve felt different – currently feelings of excitement and anticipation, the fear will surely raise its head the closer it gets. But mainly there is a calmness and a noticeable heightening of my senses. I notice more – vision is sharper, hearing is more acute.
I’ve had a range of emotions for what’s coming up – scared and nervous, with an upset tummy for nearly a week. Then the calmness came. And that remains.
I don’t know in any detail what will happen, that’s good for someone like me who likes to be in control, at all times.
The first stage started once I said yes. I wrote a letter of intention and created a 10-page autobiography. I like writing and that flowed well, interestingly filling the 10 pages with little effort.
Through my re-read I noticed what I didn’t include, or downplayed, and I’m sure that will be one of the things we talk about.
I know some of what happens over the first few days. We get prepared, we each talk with David, we find the place we will go to for our vision fast.
But it is good for me not to know. To be more open to what will happen.
I’ll switch my phone off on arrival and leave it in the car. No intention of switching it on till I start my journey home, 10 days later.
The place I’m going to is in rural Herefordshire, a private 5,000 acre estate.
MY LETTER OF INTENT
I need to stop the endless chatter in my head, the swirl of ideas and have some time to let go. I want to free my mind so that my next direction becomes clear – it could be personally, professionally, or both, as both sides work together. I want time to stop so that I see more. That I be more. To help me become more of who I am, stepping aside from expectations – clients, family, society.
I want to live life with intention. I want to be clear on where I’m heading. For too long I have filled my life with ‘doing’ and little chance just to be. This Vision Quest will allow me to take stock of where I have come from – to seek forgiveness and to forgive and have a clearer direction on where I go next.
I want to be more of me, to welcome and use the gifts I have. I think this is to work with people aged 50+ to help them transition into a new phase to be elders or crones.
I want to get closer to me – isn’t what I’ve been looking for already inside me, but I have never given myself time to listen. Filling my head with noise and chatter. I’m ready to hear now – this is the right time for me. I want a time to stop and reflect and create a new beginning. Also, to reflect on death – I am over 60 now. I don’t think that I’m scared of death – I’m more scared of a life unlived.
Friday 5 July
I left home at 12.30. Excitement, anticipation and a little unsure; but certainly, up for the Vision Quest. 10 days of camping, 4 nights without a tent. I hadn’t camped for years … and over 15 years since I’d had to crawl in and out of a small dome tent. Without any camping gear, I was thankful for one to be loaned to me. Compost loos were a joy, I thought we were digging holes, I’d got my mini trowel to use.
The setting is beautiful, 5000 acres of land at Kentchurch, owned by Sir John Scudamore. Few of us there, in a month it was be lively with Sunrise Celebration and I’m going to go back, with my tent. I’ve got camping now!
Three steps to the Vision Quest, and Severance had started as soon as I decided to come and began reading the preparation materials.
People prepare in different ways. I’d decided I didn’t want to go through caffeine withdrawals so had given up coffee three weeks before. I’d also moved to a mainly light vegetarian diet. This week I’d moved onto 3 protein shakes and one proper meal a day and planned to continue to eat this way at base camp. Firstly, it meant I didn’t have to buy a cooker but also it seemed a good way to prepare for the 4 day and night fast.
I’d also begun to be quieter – the weekend before I’d spent at home, rather than 2 nights out at gigs. I was feeling calmer and centred.
This afternoon we walked some of the 5,000-acre site beginning to get a feel for the place and where we would like to spend our solo fast. Tall redwoods were amazing, and there were 5000 year old trees over in the deer park but I didn’t want to go that far. In the evening we walked again, including walking the path of the ‘Night Walk’ that we would do tomorrow evening.
David has been leading Wilderness Rites of Package for over 30 years, often taking groups of young people into nature. A perfect time to move into adulthood, as without a formal rites of passage people create their own – taking drugs, minor stealing, and getting into trouble. He has completed 20 Vision Quests himself.
Saturday 6 July
This morning we went out for breakfast to a café and chatted. When we got back the prep started. We were smudged with sage and an eagle feather was passed around. We were asked why we had come on the Vision Quest and what did we fear.
David said that he was there as a guide, not as a shaman or guru. We were given activity to help us and some key advice including activities to help us in the 4-day period.
This afternoon we walked individually to find the place we wanted for our vision fast. We had to sit there and see how it feels. Then try a different location, notice the difference, and then go back. I went walking again, this time to a wood through the meadow. I liked this area. I found it peaceful and welcoming.
The Night Walk
A lot of people fear the dark, but I don’t. We had to think of a question to ask. Mine was ‘what do I need to make this a powerful experience’.
We set off at around 11pm. David took me to the start of the path. He asked me to wait a few minutes for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. I had my torch for an emergency. It stayed dark. Hardly any moonlight as it was a new moon.
I started walking, thinking that I was on the path, but then came face to face with a tree. So, I walked back to the main path. It happened again. This time I put the torch on for a couple of seconds. I still don’t think that I was on the path. My foot got stuck in mud, then later there was a lot of water and I fell. It was so very hard.
I went off the path, not realising it as there was a lot of space. I was lost. I put on my torch but still had no idea where I was. I found a path, but it was covered in brambles, so I thought it was the wrong path. So, I walked straight across at right angles. Why did I think the road was blocked? I wasn’t scared. I’m fine with the dark. I knew more than an hour had gone by and someone would come looking for me. Eventually I heard David’s’ voice, saw a light and he took me back.
Sunday 7 July
David talked about the 4 shields. Each day of the Vision Quest we will focus on one direction. Each shield has a positive and negative side, light and dark.
During these four days we will slow down and slowly merge with nature. We will find out where we are out of balance. If the West is over inflated, we can focus on the East to bring back into balance.
Day 1 we face South
… and connect with the emotions of the child within us. This will be the day when we set up camp so likely to get dirty. We can be a kid. This night we do a Death Lodge Ceremony. People are often scared by the dark on this night, so it is a way to channel the fear. The death lodge allows us to get rid of our crap!
Day 2 we face West
… and consider the shadow side. We look into the darkness at what is hidden – hidden gifts too. We need to internalise this. We can take our little girl or little boy with us, bring in humour and have fun.
Day 3 we look at the North.
We look at what is our purpose, what we want to do with our life. We can also make gifts for people to give them when we return to basecamp.
Day 4 we face East
… and focus on spirit. This is the day around creativity, inspiration. Maybe we write poetry. It all depends on what we are dealing with. We will close one part of our life and start a new one. This is also the day we create a purpose ceremony. We will balance our shields and find the focus on the next phase on life. It will then surround us like a sphere.
This is just guidelines; we can pack it out with our own thing and create ceremony. This can include singing, drumming, dance, prayer, talking, burning things. We will access old ancient knowledge (Jung’s collective unconscious). We all took a notebook and pens.
Regularly David asks me how I am. He is checking on us to make sure we are ready to go out on the 4-day vision fast. I’m calm. I’m ready. People talk about the edgy wood, and that is where I am going. But it isn’t scary for me, we all have our own perceptions on things.
At base camp I walk around with intention, I notice things. A bird flying above, it could have been a kestrel. I notice the bird glide. I watch the clouds move across the sky. There will be less of this in the forest but the wind in the trees will be magical.
I’m so loving spending time in nature, walking slowly, doing the exercises. Really listening to nature. I’m noticing so much more. I’m not missing technology either.
I like the 4 shields. I like structure so I’ll follow the process.
Discussing my Autobiography
This was a 2-hour session. As part of my preparation, I wrote a letter of intent and a 10-page Autobiography. I read out both to Jen and David. We discussed my unknown grandfather. As people’s names were mentioned I wrote them down. All could be invited to my death circle.
Afterwards I went back and checked my Vision Quest spot. It’s perfect. I’m smiling. I love it. I found my space to put my tarp and where to create the death circle.
I’m glad I moved to eating less – it should help with the 4 days and 4 night without food.
Monday 8 July
We learn more about what will happen tomorrow. I get my rucksack packed. We will go through a threshold ceremony and head off to our Vision Quest sites. We have a buddy and will leave a message for each other at a ‘stone pile’ as a means of checking in. I go in the early evening, my buddy in the morning. I learn how to put up my tarp. We aren’t taking a tent, just creating a crude shelter.
Fasting may energize us, or we could get low blood sugar. If it does, we should take some honey. Also, to drink lots of water. We should only leave our Vision Quest site to go to the stone pile.
We need to talk to everything that we see. To initiate conversations. Once nature knows we are serious about responding, nature will also respond. The fear can be helped by using a rattle and David loaned me one. A rattle changes the energy and attracts spirits. It will also centre us and change the fear.
As we finalised our place, we were to choose a stone and bring it back to base camp so it could be put in the threshold circle. They (Jen and David) will pick it up each day to check on us.
We could carry our water out – 4 x 5 litres of water. It would have been tough to carry it all from base camp.
Tuesday 9 July – Saturday 13 July
I completed the 4 day and 4 night fast. I loved following the 4-shield process and found it a calm experience. I truly loved being away from technology and this focus on nature.
Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper, That we may record our emptiness. Kahlil Gibran
We met our buddy at the meet point on the 5th morning and went to base camp where we did a return ceremony. We had fruit to break our fast. Then a shower (hot!). First time I had showered since arriving and clean clothes were great, I’d stayed in the same clothes for 4 days!!! We then went to Abergavenny for breakfast. Time to re-enter the modern world.
We got back to camp and shared our stories. Staying overnight was good, a meal at the pub. Then a gently return home.
You may want the detail of the 4 days … but we are not able to share. We need to hold this to ourselves, for the next year as the story and message will continue to unfold over the year. A year today … if you want to know you can ask me.
You will emerge from the Vision Quest with a profound connection to the Earth, and to all of nature. You will in all likelihood know yourself more completely, have dealt with unresolved issues from your past, made plans for your future, discovered who you really are and what your purpose is in life.
9 months ago, I went on my Vision Quest. It was truly life changing. Whilst on the solo fast you can write in a journal and every 3 months you need to write it out again. This is important to deepen the learning from the experience.
I did this for the first time in October, whilst in Nepal. I wrote word for word, and I’d written a lot! The second review was in January. That time I wrote what was key. What resonated. What I needed to reflect on.
Now, in April, whilst on ‘lockdown’ due to the Corona Pandemic it is time for the 3rd re-write. I’ve just completed it – good to be reminded of certain things, and to realise the impact it has had on me. I can’t share the detail; I need to keep it within for the full year. In 3 months, the year will end with a 24-hour solo fast to close the quest.
The Vision Quest continues to impact, and I’ve changed. More authentic – I no longer dye my hair and my business photos are with me without makeup, the natural me.
A week after my return I wrote a blog post
“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place”. Paulo Coelho.
I realised that a lot of my life was happening ‘out there’. I still have my energy, but it can also show itself in quieter ways too – appreciating nature. Being a person who radiates warmth and energy. Striking up conversations, looking for more depth. Saying things that come across as wise. As they should. I’m now a wise woman.