When I first heard about a vision quest, I was young. It sounded like a terrible idea even though I knew it was a respectable thing to do. I mostly feared that I wasn’t made out of the right stuff to undertake such a journey. In the end, it took me 13 years to complete a series of 4 quests. I had to redo my first and then took space between quests to build up my will.
A vison quest really is a strange thing. Even now when I think about it just sounds too far out. You mean you just sit there and do nothing for all that time. What on earth could be the point. There are no formal teachings, no new knowledge, no nothing at the end of it not even a certificate to validate your achievement. Truly, the ego doesn’t get much on this one. So what is the point and that’s something I’d like to answer in a few parts. This then is part one, an introduction to my quest.
Firstly to say that I am so grateful for all the support I received not just from the bottom of the mountain but from friends all over that gave me the strength to go do this. This is the essence of ubuntu, the deeply felt sense that I am because we are. I exist within culture, community, family, friendships, relationships. For much of my life the idea of community felt far away. I errored in the opposite direction. My story went something like I don’t need anyone or at least don’t want to need anyone. I aimed for fierce independence which got me nowhere quickly.
These years of vision questing have healed so much of that. Even though I sometimes felt overwhelmed by the support I received, I needed it the most this time and felt a growing comfort in being able to relax into the arms of community. That’s the beauty I think, that we all get a chance to do this for one another in this ebb and flow of giving and receiving. It has been a time of receiving support and I think this alone was incredibly healing for me.
One of the first insights I received came early on when 13 days felt like an eternity. Even when it gets really tough, a little voice told me, don’t wish this time of nothing away. The first 4 days without food and water are always challenging for me and this quest was no exception. I think the difference was that I wished it away less. I was able be with the extremes of thirsts more than usual, more curious about my bodies response then afraid. As for the rest of the days, I’ll get to that. For now to say the theme of staying with the entire process, beginning to end was the most prominent of all.
To say a few things on the practical side. The actual vision quest space is small, about 15 sqm and you have nothing to entertain you, not even a pen. One of the things I’ve noticed is that it feels natural to want to be as comfortable as possible. And why not try. On a vision quest however, the bar for comfort is dramatically lowered. You accept that many of your moments won’t be comfortable ones. It’s a case of do what you can then let go and this is an ongoing process.
I notice one day for example that I could move a branch for more shade, or change the angle of my tarp so that the rain runs off better. It feels good to evolve things and equally as good knowing the limitations. I’d say overall I have got a lot better at finding and making improvements in my space, working with the setting as well as possible. In that way I see it a little bit like a substitute for scouts training that I didn’t do much of in my youth. I have learned to value this line of practical intelligence so much. It has always been my weaker hand, and as Marcus Aurelius would say, its a good idea to develop skills that don’t come naturally or the ones we neglected in some way.
Next post – reckoning with my story. Acceptance runs far deeper than words.