Notes from a Mundane Vision Quest

One of the things I’ve been learning recently is how to take experiences I might perceive as failure and re-frame them as valuable lessons, and therefore NOT failure, but as new wisdom. So when I decided to stop my 3-day fast at the end of the second day, I had to coach myself through the reasons why I was not a failure for not going all the way to the end of the third day.

Let’s start at the beginning. Leading up to the fast, I was hoping I would have some dramatic vision that would give me new deep insights that would completely change my perspective on life. (It’s called a vision quest, after all). In fact, on the morning of Day 1 I had an acupuncture appointment. I joked with the woman at the front desk that I knew that the harder I hoped for a dramatic vision, the less likely it would be that I would receive one.

Also leading up to the fast a couple of interesting things happened. The night before the fast began, I was participating in a group guided meditation and a hawk appeared to me. I was particularly keyed in to the hawk because twice before, in shamanic journeying meditations led by Alberto Villoldo, Hawk came to me as my power animal. And when I started the fast, sure enough, I saw a hawk circling right over my backyard.

On the morning of Day 1, I was trying to get a bit of inspirational viewing in before I shut off all my screens for 3 days. The We Rise Up Summit released a new set of videos and I eagerly clicked to watch. Apparently there was an error in the email sent out to everyone because the link did not send me to the We Rise Up Summit page, but rather to one of Alberto’s guided shamanic journey YouTube videos. I took it as a sign that I was supposed to travel with him to the lower world to encounter the tree of life and the great serpent guarding the tree. We were guided to ask the serpent “what do I need to release to be ready to receive the wisdom from the fruit of this tree?” 

The answer I got? Fear and ego. Then, on the morning of Day 2 the message I received from the tarot was that I need to give up the need to be right. This is clearly a message about the ego. I was curious about when fear was going to come into play.

So then I got busy trying to rationalize some of my ego choices. I was reflecting on a question someone posed to me earlier in the week: What if Donald Trump came to me for healing? Would I be able to put aside my opinions about him in order to serve him on his healing journey?  My first response was “He wouldn’t be ready to come to me for a healing. He’s not ready to heal.” Then I developed this REALLY elaborate justification.

If someone comes to me for help and I determine that something of their actions or behavior I find to be morally reprehensible (ie something that is likely to be a trigger for me) I am within my rights and wisdom to say “I don’t think I’m the right shaman for you”. Because if that person is displaying behavior that triggers me (or immediately attracts me for that matter) then it’s quite likely I could be inadvertently opening myself up to negative intrusive energy. For my own safety I don’t want to do that.

HOWEVER, after another few hours of silent prayerful meditation in my backyard, I had an additional insight come to me. It was right after a glorious thunderstorm that I was delighted to witness. I realized that the real wisdom, and my obligation (as opposed to my right) is to treat all living beings with compassion, no matter what their crimes may be. It’s the way I approached the volunteer work I used to do in one of the local prisons. We were trained beforehand to accept that no matter what crime they may have committed they deserve compassion and they deserve to be treated humanely. If I am living true to that ethic, then I have to make it true for all beings, including Donald Trump, including Mitch McConnell, including people from my own family I won’t name here.

I asked Hawk, my power animal, if he had any advice for me in this situation. He told me that if I find my opinions interfering, I need to fly high to get a higher perspective; remove myself from personal dynamics so I can see the higher truth. That way I can see more clearly where people are on their journey to wellness. Wise words, indeed. Thank you, Hawk.

Now, to the business of ending my fast early. One of the other things the instructors in our shaman training have been saying is that we need to listen to our bodies. So even though I remember reading that it’s only on day three of fasting that the mind can reach that transcendental state to allow for visions, my body was giving me different information, including warning signs that I could not ignore. If it had only been a few symptoms: boredom, hunger pains, headache, nausea, weakness, and fatigue to the point of feeling like I could pass out at any moment, cold sweats, and the return of deep join pain I haven’t felt in about six months, not to mention the heat and mosquitos, … but ALL of those things? No. It was too close to the way I felt when my former primary care physician tried to prescribe Cymbalta for me. At that time, I had to work up the courage to say no to a medication that made me feel like I was dying. And this time I had to say no to a fasting protocol that made me so weak and miserable that I couldn’t even muster the energy to open sacred space to conduct a basic ritual. At that point it started to seem counterproductive to what a vision quest is supposed to be.

But the real value of a vision quest is the nature of the insights gained as a result of the time spent. I gained deep insights about treating all living beings with compassion; the need to do the necessary shadow work to dissipate my triggers; and the importance of impeccability.  It’s not an easy path, but I feel lucky and grateful to be on this path and share the knowledge I’ve gained. Maybe next time I do a 3-day fast I’ll do a liquid diet fast: only broth, water, and juice, just to keep those symptoms at bay.

So yes, my vision quest was a bit mundane, but as shamans we learn that the story is far less important than the healing that results from the experience.

Happy Full Moon in Pisces!

Happy Autumnal Equinox!