After the Quest

I hesitate writing about my Vision Quest so soon after the experience, knowing that my initial response to it will resemble spaghetti sauce right after combining the ingredients– good but not nearly as good as it will be if I let it simmer for a while.  My view of my Vision Quest hasn’t gotten the richness, depth, or complexity it will have after it “simmers in me” for a few weeks or months, but I want to share it with you anyway, for these early realizations have merit of their own.

At the campsite, our spiritual guide prepared five of us for our quests by quoting Ralph Blum’s “Druid’s Vow”.

I honor your gods.

I drink at your well.

I bring an unprotected heart to our meeting place.

I hold no cherished outcome.

I will not navigate by withholding.

I am not subject to disappointment.

Intellectually, I got it– no expectations, no disappointment.  What is meant to be will be.  Spiritually, on the other hand, I was to find out that the message hadn’t made it into my heart.  (More on that later.)

Our guide suggested that we take a few things with us- a rattle, objects for an altar, writing materials, & art supplies.  I felt very uncomfortable taking a journal because I wanted to “turn up the volume” on my intuition without the critic in my consciousness interrupting.  She explained that we aren’t to analyze what we experience, merely record it so we don’t forget details that may be of importance to us later.  I questioned the wisdom of that for me, “Can I record without judgment?”  Eventually, I made peace with the idea.  She’s right.  There are so many subtle signs & messages in nature that I may want to jot them down so I can reflect on them later.  My journal & pen went into the backpack.

After what was a sleepless night for some of us, we rose to begin our Quests with a profoundly sublime purification ritual that connected us to one another, our inner selves, nature, & the benevolent spirits around us.  Following the ritual, I practically ran to my place in the meadow, eager to get the logistics of setting up the site over with so I could begin the spiritual aspect of the Quest.  Almost immediately, I heard something greater than myself correct me, “There is no separation of logistics & spirituality; it’s all part of the Quest.”  Chastised, I changed my attitude, walking into the meadow with humble reverence.

I created a sacred space by fastening prayer ties in the north, south, east, & west, invoking the spirits of the directions, then set up my tent & lay out an altar of objects that are deeply meaningful to me.  I raised my voice in prayer, “I’m vulnerable & open to accepting & acting on any message of love you send me for my greatest & highest good.”

There I sat on the mountainside overlooking trees, wildflowers, & the vast expanse of sky I needed to establish a serene sense of connection with all that is.  The nearby brook, babbling noisily over the rocks, was a comforting companion.   “I’m part of this & this is part of me”, I sighed, taking notice of the ground literally vibrating with ants, beetles, dragonflies, butterflies, & other creatures whose entire world is this mountaintop.  “This is all that matters to them– being in this place at this time”, I thought.

While countless species of insects accompanied me both day & night, it was the grasshoppers who stood out from the rest.  At any given moment while I was awake, at least 6 were simply hanging out on my altar.  Sure, butterflies landing on my knee & ants crawling on my skirt are to be expected when I sit in a meadow,  but 6 or more grasshoppers sitting silently on an altar seem a bit out of the ordinary!  I got out my sketchpad & drew each one, noting how different they were.  No two looked alike.  Every creature is unique… it’s not a quality reserved just for the human race.

(Once home, I referenced Ted Andrews book Animal Speak to find out the symbolic meaning of grasshopper.  He wrote, “When grasshopper shows up, there is about to be a new leap forward…  Grasshopper can show up if we are not listening or if we are afraid to make the leap off our mound… Remember, a grasshopper always leaps up or forward.  It doesn’t leap backward… Trust your inner voice.“)

My Vision Quest had both peaks of joy & contentment & valleys of doubt & fear.  At times, I felt at one with all around me & other times I felt like a fraud for even attempting this highly spiritual experience that stretched me far beyond my comfort zone.

Remember what I wrote about having no expectations & not subjecting myself to disappointment?  I have to confess that I did both… I expected a spiritual epiphany in the form of a burning bush or some spiritual being hovering in blindingly white light before my eyes.  After all, I fasted, drove hours from home, & slept in the dark among the deer flies & mosquitoes… didn’t I deserve a spiritual epiphany?  When that didn’t happen, I was disappointed, accusing myself of being a bad Vision Quester.  Really?!  I’m going to beat myself up because I didn’t get a miracle?  That sounds ridiculous but that’s what happened.

I was human.

At that moment, I realized a purpose of my quest… to face my Shadow, the Perfectionist.  I didn’t get a lesson from an angel, Native American spirit guide, or even my power animal; instead, my teachers were the insects all around me, for they knew better than I to live with no expectations & hold no disappointments.  Simply be your authentic self.  That’s all that is asked of any of us.

I knew that… I just needed a reminder.

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A Vision Quest… for Me?

I generally recognize the moments in my life when I’m simply to say “Yes!!” without hesitation.  Whether I actually do it or not is another matter entirely.  Sometimes fear makes me second-guess myself, paralyzing me when I most want to act & filling me with regret if I submit to it.  When I find the courage to release the apprehension that grips me, instead confidently seizing life’s opportunities when they appear, I act from an authentic place- a place of intuition & deep knowing.  Then, there can be no regrets for at least I had the courage to try.

One of my spiritual teachers & dear friends offered me the chance to go on a Vision Quest…but wait a minute… aren’t Vision Quests for adolescent boys & girls of Native American descent or other indigenous people desiring a connection with all that is?  Yes.  Can Vision Quests be a way for any of us to connect with all that is, respectfully crying out for a vision for our lives, too?  Absolutely YES.

The Vision Quest is a way to seek clarity during life’s transitions & move forward from a place of greater awareness.  For example, we may need redirection or illumination at stages of our lives such as adolescence, graduation, marriage, divorce, empty-nest syndrome, menopause or retirement.  Any time we feel apprehension, restlessness, self-doubt, or a gnawing eagerness for transformation is a perfect time for a Vision Quest.

Diverse groups of people around the world have participated in Vision Quests for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  There are just as many ways to prepare for a Vision Quest, from purification rituals to fasting, as there are ways to experience the quest itself.  Some believe a Vision Quest should be taken without food & water while others believe water is acceptable.  Some believe it should last several days while others believe a shorter time is just as relevant.  There doesn’t seem to be a right or wrong here.  It’s all about intent.

Can a Vision Quest be a meaningful experience for a middle class, European-American woman,  like me, in the 21st century?  Again, YES.  I approached the concept of Vision Quests carefully for I never want to be disrespectful of someone’s beliefs by arrogantly sticking in my flag, claiming their tradition for my own.  (There’s already been too much of that.)  Yet I continue to consider the value in the quest for I view my spirituality globally, believing wholeheartedly that everything is connected & that truth can be found in a variety of places if viewed with open eyes & open hearts.  I researched & meditated on this topic for weeks to ensure that I was doing this for the right reasons, taking time to consider my motives & expectations.

So why do I want to do this?  Time alone with the Divine speaks to my spirit (my soul) so I’m going to go on the quest, staying open to what will be.

As I prepare,  I realize the need for a physical, mental, emotional, & spiritual commitment on my part… obvious proof that my intentions are pure so I follow my instincts & do what feels right to get ready for this experience.  While some people set a specific purpose for their quest, I choose instead to humbly say, “Communicate with me in a way that I can understand.  Tell me what I need to know for my greatest & highest good.”

The quest itself will be a significant amount of time alone in the wilderness, where I will designate a patch of ground as “sacred space” for my quest.  It is on that patch of ground that I will simply BE… open & aware.  My quest will be like no other for each Vision Quest is as unique as those who quest.