April 17, 2016

My vision quest – 3 days and nights fasting in the desert totally alone

Sally Nilsson
Back in November I did something called a Vision Quest in Death Valley. I didn’t post about it as it was something very personal and powerful for me and I needed some time to process it. A Vision Quest is an ancient rite of passage from Native American cultures, where people take a time out to connect, in solitude, with the natural world to reflect and explore the human-nature connection. It is a means of marking an important transition, to deepen a sense of purpose.
For me, it marked the transition between my corporate London lawyer life to my current life in rural Costa Rica, helping people grow and develop themselves through experiences with horses. I needed to somehow change my shell like a lobster (if you watch this video on lobsters and stress https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aD… you will know what I mean!), in order to take on my new ‘form’ for my new life.
I went with an amazing organisation, Rites of Passage (http://ritesofpassagevisionquest.org/…) into the wilds of Death Valley. Our group set up a base camp and, with the support of our inspirational quest leaders, Mike Bodkin and Dashielle Vawter, each of us went out into the desert on our own, with nothing but water to drink and a tarpaulin and some rope to create our own shelter. 3 days and 3 nights completely alone, without any food, sleeping on the rocks under a tarp in the middle of Death Valley. I know, it sounds crazy!
I didn’t even know what a tarp was before I went, let alone how to put one up. And the first few nights we had a huge wind storm, hail and freezing temperatures. I have never been so terrified in my life as I was during those nights. For safety on our solo we had another quester as a “buddy” and each put a stone in an agreed spot in our “buddy circle” every day (one of us in the morning, the other in the afternoon), so that if anything happened and there was no stone that day our buddy could sound the alarm….so help would come within at least 36 hours. Comforting! Oh and we had a whistle. That was pretty much it. It certainly was one of the hardest things I have ever done, mentally, physically, emotionally. Having said that, we were sensitively and comprehensively prepared for our quest by Dashielle Vawter and Mike Bodkin and I felt huge support from my fellow questers, each on their own personal journey on their solos out in the wilderness, and, most powerfully, from nature itself.
Have you every watched the stars move across the sky all night? Yes I know, it’s the earth that is moving, but it looks like the stars are and I don’t think I had consciously realised that before. Have you ever watched the moon rise and set, witnessed the complete darkness and quiet before the sun starts to rise again? The colours, the sounds, the smells, the movement, the stillness. I don’t want to sound corny but it is seriously magical to be truly present, with no agenda, stripped back to basics in such a huge, vast, wild expanse. With none of the usual human comforts, no conversation, computers, books or even food to distract me, my mind (usually filled with thoughts and chatter) was still and my body was quiet, in fasting mode. I felt what it is like to live on our giant nourishing planet as a tiny human being, no more and no less than anything else, a part of something bigger with nothing to achieve and nothing to prove, just to be with myself. Wow that sounds weird! But if you go outside, close your eyes and listen to the birds or look out of your window and count the stars, or imagine the earth on its trajectory around the sun, you will know what I mean.
Anyway the pictures in the Vision Quest album tell the story. I returned with an incredible sense of peace, personal power, vitality and most of all total connection to nature, the world and everyone in it. I felt truly safe, connected and free. My intention is to stay connected to that feeling and to help others find it. The horses are great teachers and there are many other ways to tap into it too. Thank you for reading / listening / sharing!

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