With the Wild Beasts
I have returned from my Wilderness Vision Quest. I know many of you are eager to hear about this experience. And I am eager to share it, inviting you to listen for the echoes of your own transformation, for life itself is the Grand Quest and we are all held within the same Great Mystery of Transformation. Much like a Sunday worship which reminds us that all of life is worship, a Wilderness Vision Quest reminds the Quester that all of life is a Sacred Quest. Living consciously within such a sacred distillation serves to highlight what is true and real, but often hidden to us.
As a means of uncovering the most fruitful and timely truths revealed by the Quest, it is customary for the Quester upon her return to ponder these four questions:
•Who went out?
•Who comes back?
•What gifts do you bring your people?
As I share my discoveries, I invite you to attend to what is awakened, touched or triggered within you. In this manner, my experience may nourish yours.
Who went out?
Free of the backpack piled with gear, glady sweating in 90 degree sunshine, my fellow Quester and I were just heading back up the trail to retrieve the last of our base camp supplies when our guide offered this question: Who went out? The hike back to base camp would be 30 minutes, but I didn't need that long to ponder. I wasn't five steps down the trail when the answer flashed the edge of my consciousness, like the swifts I only ever saw from my periphery as they blazed across my quest site. I always heard the swifts before I saw them; so too, this insight arrived instantly with an out-of-nowhere sob and burst of tears.
Who went out? The one who thought she was not worthy of a grand vision.
This sudden truth, so naked, stopped me in my tracks. After all the work and teaching I've done on reclaiming my Original Goodness, the truth is I have more to reclaim. Sanctification is a lifelong collaboration with the Divine.
In the days leading up to the Quest I'd been agitated. At home, I procrastinated on the packing. At base camp, I couldn't quite settle. When my Quest partner greeted me and shared that a Quester last year had left the Quest early and that she hoped that wouldn't happen this year, my fears sprouted, like both the big and the hair-like subtle thorns of prickly pear cacti that covered the the red sand of our base camp. LIterally and figuratively, I kept stepping into them.
The big thorns were easy to spot and easy to pull out. What if I die out there? Very unlikely. Or, get bit by a rattlesnake? All my years in the Southwest had taught me that this too was highly unlikely. Rattlers give a fair warning and I know how to recognize their sound. My previous snake enounters had made me less fearful, not more. Could I be attacked by a mountain lion? Again, highly unlikely, especially in as remote of an area as we were in. Mountain lions keep to themselves. These fears were easily dismissed.
It was the tiny hair-like thorns that required a more patient and discerning approach, and sometimes a friend with tweezers. What if I failed the Quest? What if I couldn't manage the 4-day fast? What if I became crazy with fear out there? What if I became emotionally overwhelmed and couldn't hold space for myself? What if I couldn't properly engineer my tarp set up and the rain and cold proved to be too much? Or, what if nothing at all happened? That might be even worse. What if I was really crazy and delusional to come on this Quest in the first place and God really had nothing much to reveal to me? What if this was just me getting caught up in my Enneatype 4-ness, insisting on being unique? Or, what if I did receive a grand calling and I didn't have the courage to answer the call? Like those tiny prickly pear thorns, these fears showed up in bunches and were harder to get out.
In life's Grand Quest our fears may sound something more like this. What If I never realize my potential? What if I leave this life never to hear, "Well done my good and faithful servant?" What if trial or scarcity or discomfort come my way and I cannot survive? What if I'm just not disciplined or determined enough to really live my life fully? What if I lack the emotional intelligence or endurance to complete my mission in life? What if I lack the skills or training required? What ones might you add?
On our final night at base camp, before engaging in the opening ceremony, after which we would enter the 4-day solitude and silence of the Quest proper, our guide inquired if there was anything else that wanted to be named: questions, clarifications about our engagement, or anything else. I knew I needed to speak my fears. I knew I needed to publicly acknowledge the "wild beasts" bristling under my skin. I"m terrified that I'm going to fail this Quest, I blurted out.
Oh, what do you mean, "fail the Quest?" my guide gently inquired.
I'm worried I won't be able to stick it out the four days, that I'll have to come back early, that I won't complete my intention. I'm worried I'll have a psychotic break. Or that nothing at all will happen.
My wise and experienced guide acknowledged that I was about to enter into a challenging time, but also reminded me that since I was here, I was ready. Then she shared the story of another Quester who went out on her Quest and returned not 15 minutes later stating, "This isn't for me. I can't do this. I need to go home. " Welcome back, the guide responded. "Now we will begin our day and a half of integration."
"What do you mean? I didn't go on a Quest. I have nothing to integrate."
"Oh, you most certainly did go on a Quest. And now you must work with what has been revealed," the guide responded. My guide went on to explain that of all the Questers she has led and learned of, it is this woman's experience that often returns to her as one of the most fruitful. The Quester, years later, reports she is still mining the wisdom uncovered by her 15 minute Quest.
"You cannot fail on your Quest," my guide concluded. "It is not up to you."
All those bristling ego fears and needs relaxed in that moment. Now I was ready. How thankful I was that I could enter in, relieved of the weight of illusion that I was in control of this Quest.
Soul friend, what "wild beasts" may you want to acknowledge and name? Could you let someone else see them? Could you bring them into the light of sacred conversation with God or with another? Why not avail yourself to the gift of entering this day of your own Quest unburdened of the illusions that keep you stuck and prickly?
Stay tuned. In the next days, I'll share with you, What happened?
Until then, and with love and admiration for your bravery,