Wilderness Quest – I Went To The Mountains, Twice


I went to the mountains, again.
I spent four days alone, in nature, sleeping in a sleeping bag under a tarp. Yes, a tarp, no tent. Oh, and I fasted.

And that “alone” part? I was never alone. I was surrounded by trees, the wind, insects and other beings.
(I saw three deer and they were beautiful!)

Why?
Because I had to.
(More on that later)

Who am I?
I’m a Type-A Healer slash Truth Seeker slash Rebel.
I’m usually a bit out of step with the rest of the world and on most days, I feel like I don’t fit into this world.

I dislike rules (hence the rebel) and I want answers.
Not simple answers.
I want to know how, why, what and I want the depth.
I believe one of the ways to get the deep answers is to go to the mountains.

I often despair about the state of the world.
I believe that if we are honest with ourselves, most would agree that we are caught in a dilemma between wanting to save ourselves and the world, but we don’t know where to start.

How long can we ignore the simple truth that the world is hurting?
How long can we keep using the earth’s resources and pretend that it won’t affect future generations?

Then, when you are brave enough to go deeper, you ask yourself:
“Am I worthy of this life that I’ve been miraculously given?”
“Can I forgive my loved one who took his own life?”
“How can I support my friend/relative who is dying of cancer and not make it about myself?”

And the BIG one…”Am I living my life’s purpose?”

Who am I? Deep within? What is my purpose?

 

Other ways I cope with my despair about the state world are to surround myself with good people, drink matcha lattes and make pottery mugs.
When I play with clay and make beautiful mugs, I feel a bit safer in this crazy world.

Why Quest? Again?

Because I had to.

I needed to finish things that were set in motion at last year’s quest.
I needed alone time, and something deep within me needed healing.
I needed to give thanks for my people, for their love and care. Especially for their support last year when my father was dying.

I needed witnessing, from all the beings, human and more-than-human.
Because some things are too big, too hard, and too painful to contain by myself.

What is a Wilderness Quest?

 

“This is a dialogue between you and the universe –
an individual journey that you bring back to your people as an offering, the offering of a truer self.”
~ Carmen Spagnola

But Why Quest?
Because I needed the strength of the mountains to help me to face my fears, and to discover my strengths.

But! Do you really have to do it on the mountain?
Yes.
Because the city is too loud.
Solitude allows you to learn about your deepest self, what your fears are and how to deal with grief and anger.
And when you do such deep soul work, you need to know you will be held, witnessed and seen so it doesn’t just become a dream.

I went on Quest to die my old self and to be reborn.

 

What does it mean to be seen and witnessed?
It means you have people, good people to hold your quest for you in a safe place, and when you forget who you are, your strengths, your tenacity — they will remind you. They will not allow you to forget what you discovered about yourself on the mountain.

Held?
Yes, my friends, you will be held. When you leave quest, you have people who truly “get” you.

People who even when you are alone, you know they are within reach.

People who will remind you of your strengths, just by saying……
“Remember your dream on the mountain?”
“Remember when you looked at the full moon on the mountain, you realised then, that you are never alone?”

People who understand when you say things like “I’m in pain, I just need witnessing.”

People who will show up and hold space when you are in crisis.

I am not talking about your BFF who text you (once) when you are sad.

I am talking about people who will bring chicken soup, people who will do rituals, say prayers and sings songs on your behalf to the ancestors/Spirit to invoke help…so you know you are not alone.

My Quest

Day 0 – Drive up to Circle H Lodge with my fellow quester Andy
Me: “Should I call you Andy or Andrew?”
Andy: “All my friends and people I love to call me Andy, so I hope you will call me Andy.”

Bless his heart! That was the first time we met!

The seven hours drive went by quickly.
Conversation topics ranged from our careers to our partners, to “why… why are you doing Quest? What is missing? What are you searching for?” And “Are you ready?”

We arrived at Circle H Lodge at 5pm.
There were hugs and warm welcome from our teacher and guide Carmen, and her husband Ruben.
Then we met our fellow quester, Noelle.
BTW: she thought I was bad ass when we first met. (Can you feel the love?)

Day 1-4
Day 1 began with a territorial welcome and blessings from elder Norman Retasket, from the Secwepemc Nation.
He told us about the land we were on, of the Shuswap People. He also blessed us and wished us safe passage.

We spent the next few days learning about The Four Shields/Wheel of the Seasons. The teachings are taken directly from the work of Foster and Little.
We learned about rituals to help us move from one shield to the next.

Day 5-9 — Solo time

“Let us hold you.”

Last year my buddy and I decided to climb straight up the mountain and we were over an hour away from base camp.
(In the snow!) Hence my intention for my solo spot this year was to stay close to base camp.
I felt the need to slow down and be held by the land and the ancestors.

I found my solo spot 20 minutes from base camp and I was surrounded by big trees.

The weather ranged from sunshine to rain to hail — big chunks of ice fell from the sky.
The weather on the mountain can change quickly.
I learned how to look after myself and how to be responsible in the wilderness.

I wrote more about my quest experience last year. You can read more about it here and here.

Day 10 & 11

On Day 10: Witnessing — we shared our stories, what happened on the mountain and our dreams.

On Day 11: Mirroring — our stories were told back to us, so we will remember our dream and what we learned about ourselves during solo time.

Post Quest – What I know for sure

 

“I now know in my body that I am loved and I deserve to be loved.”

 

Yes, I will forget some days. When I do, my people will remind me.

I am still processing both of my quests but I can tell you that I am stronger, in every sense.

I now know that I belong in this world. I might not fit into this world, and that’s alright with me.

I feel safer, because there are people — my people who do the work, who refuse the easy answers and who are not afraid to look at their darkness.

Who are your people?
Think about this. I’m not talking about your girlfriend from work or your gym partner.

I’m talking about people who really “get” you.

People you can call/text at midnight and ask them to burn incense or bury a stone because you are in deep grief.
People who will raise a glass of whiskey and shed tears because your father is dying.
Then they sing songs to help guide his soul to the other side.

At base camp, after solo time. They are now my people.

 

“We Quest for our people, but most of us don’t have people. Not really.
Most of us don’t have family or friends or communities who really “get” us.
Most of us don’t have people who can really receive our Quest. But now, we do.”
~ Carmen Spagnola

 

It warms my heart and heals my spirit that now, I have people — people who understand me, accept my quirkiness, know my strengths, my truths and they will remind me when I forget.

So, I feel complete. Whatever that means.

The day will come when I will do quest again, not yet, but eventually I will be back on the mountain.

By the way, conversations during dinner included topics like:
State of the world, racism, collapse, dreams, the other, attachment theory, trauma, family, co-regulation and more.

When was the last time you talked about these things over nourishing (& super delicious) food, esp. pie, and felt both held and seen?

But wait! Really? Quest?
Yes.

How can I convey to you how quest has changed my life?
How can I describe the beauty and healing I witnessed in myself and my fellow questers?
How can I make you understand that if all of us do quests, our world would be different?

I can try but you need to experience it for yourself. It’s worth it.

If you feel lost, if you sense that there is something bigger within you that needs to be explored, quest can help.
If you feel stagnant and there are things that need to be released, quest can help.
If you feel like you don’t belong in this world, nature will remind you that you do.

You are not going to get all the answers. You might not get the answers for a year or maybe ten, but you will return stronger, more resilient, braver, with a new sense of purpose and strength.

How can you not? After spending four days and nights alone, fasting on the mountain, under the stars, in communion with nature?
It’s not possible.

Quest is a collective experience that helps to heal you from deep within.

The kind of energy and the support you will receive at quest, we don’t get that in our lives.
I know because I’ve done two yoga teacher training, retreats and other gatherings…quest is different.

The best part is, when you take your quest back to your people, they benefit — because after quest, you will know how to be a good witness and how to hold space, and that is what we need, to be seen and held.

 

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2018: The Year of the Earth Dog

As the Year of the Fire Rooster draws to a close, a year where the rooster exposed many long held secrets, many are excited to welcome the year of the Earth Dog, also known as the year of the Yang Earth Dog.

The year of the dog is a double earth year, it is believed with the earth energy, this upcoming year will be calmer. Some might even find it a bit boring with the double earth energy but many Chinese believe that a boring life is a life of peace and tranquillity.

In this blog, I will provide some highlights for the upcoming year and remedies according to the principles of Feng Shui and Chinese traditions.

What is Feng Shui? (风水)
Feng Shui is an ancient art that takes into account the importance of how energy flows in your space, and ensuring that you live in harmony with your environment. In many Chinese families, Feng Shui is utilised when placing furniture or when designing homes and buildings. Good Feng Shui in one’s space can affect all areas of your life, such as a successful career, finding the right partner and good health.

Even though I grew up with aspects of Feng Shui, I didn’t understand the importance of it until I was in my 20s when I met my teacher, applied its principles and saw immediate results. Now, I apply the principles of Feng Shui in my home, relationship and work space everyday.

With Feng Shui, I take the approach of “Do your best, trust your instinct and have fun as you can never get it 100% right.

Highlights for the Year of the Dog

1. No Spring—Lap Chun

Lap Chun is the first day of spring in the Chinese Almanac. If Lap Chun and the first day of Chinese New Year (according to the lunar calendar) fall on the same day then that year is considered to have spring and it will be a good year for growth.

However, since Lap Chun falls on February 4th this year, and the first day of Chinese New Year is on February 16th, there is no spring.

What Happens When There’s no Lap Chun?
Don’t panic…Simply place some spring plants in your home during Chinese New Year to signify spring and growth.

2. Double Earth

While double earth is great as it signifies plenty of resources and opportunities, too much earth energy can cause a lack of strength to make things happen. Hence, this is a good year to refrain from being hasty, and practice patience.

With the double earth energy, it can also cause instability in the earth. This might mean there is a higher chance of natural disasters like mudslides, earthquakes and volcano eruptions. It is advisable to place crystals on all four corners of your home to stabilise the earth energy.

3. Lack of Metal Element, except August & September

This year the metal element is lacking so do surround your home with metal elements, like having a bowl made of metal or brass and place some red apples in it. You can also wear white and gold jewellery.

Best Months for Making Money during 2018
In August and September, there is Double Metal hidden in the chart. Hence these are great months to make money, increase your income and build your business.

4. Harmonious Energy

With the earth energy, there will be less conflict between people. It is a good year to surround yourself with like minded people.

In Chinese astrology and Feng Shui, each animal sign has allies and a secret friend. Your two allies are those animal signs that get along with you very well, and your secret friend is one that will always be there by your side no matter what happens.

Animal sign: Allies, Secret Friend.

Monkey: Rat, Dragon, Snake
Rooster: Ox, Snake, Dragon
Dog: Tiger, Horse, Rabbit
Pig: Rabbit, Sheep, Tiger
Rat: Dragon, Monkey, Ox
Ox: Rooster, Snake, Rat
Tiger: Horse, Dog, Pig
Rabbit: Sheep, Pig, Dog
Dragon:, Rat, Monkey, Rooster
Snake: Ox, Rooster, Monkey
Horse: Tiger, Dog, Sheep
Sheep: Rabbit, Pig, Horse

Many Chinese people plan families according to this chart. For e.g. If you are a Dog and your spouse is a Tiger, it is considered auspicious if your child is born in the year of the horse or the rabbit.

5. Year of the No. 9

The number 9 indicates that this is a good year to complete projects you have started. Due to the lack of metal element this year, it is not a great year to start something. However, if you have a desire to start a new project, book launch or a new career, perform a ritual and set the intention to start now, before February 4th.

For example, I did a ritual last week and set the intention that I will start a podcast this year.

A few things to consider with regards to directions:

I won’t go into the full details of all the directions or elements here as it can differ for each person (according to your time of birth and Chinese zodiac sign), but I will provide the important points.

West: Reduce earth and fire energy here. This means moving crystals away from this area and avoid lighting candles.

Northeast: Reduce noise but activate fire energy. A good area to light incense and candles.

North: This is known as the area of the three-killings this year, keep it as quiet as possible. This means no renovations in the house or the garden. A good remedy is to place a six metal rod wind chime in this corner.

East: This is the area of the burglary star. Keep it quiet.

Northwest: This is where the Tai Sui (太 岁 )—Grand Duke Jupiter resides this year.

Who is the Tai Sui?
In the Chinese culture, Tai Sui is the Grand Duke who’s in charge of the world’s affairs for that year. It is a position in the celestial heaven and he is considered the Ruler of Earth. The myth states that there are 60 heavenly generals who rotate to take charge every year.

In 2018, the ruling Tai Sui is General Jiang Wu (姜武) and since he resides in the Northwest sector, it is a good idea to avoid conflicting with him by making sure you do not sit facing his direction for long periods of time. It is also advisable to avoid making too much noise in this sector.

Summary
In Feng Shui, it is about living in accordance with the energy of the year and in harmony with your surroundings.

The year of the Earth Dog is a good year to build and strengthen what you have built. It is the year to practice patience and finish projects. This is not the year to be impulsive. Adopt the “think-before-you-act” approach.

                            

Now for the fun part…The Disclaimer:
I have practised and studied Feng Shui for over 20 years and although I have benefited greatly from it, all remedies are to be used at the reader’s own discretion and liability. The information given is subject to personal interpretation and application, and I make no claims to absolute effectiveness and success.

If you are interested in learning more about your individual sign and astrology, please reach out and order your personalised reading, or seek the advice of a professional and qualified Feng Shui practitioner.
Please note that everything here is for informational purpose only. 

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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2017 – The Year I Learned to Surrender

My word for 2017 was Surrender.

I think it was surrender. Maybe it was trust, but they are the same, aren’t they?
You cannot surrender without trust. They go hand in hand.

2017 was a big year.

Lot of lessons learned, I made a few soul friends, I did a lot of inner work, and I lost my father.

I surrendered.

I surrendered when I went to a wilderness retreat, slept under the stars for four nights (alone) and prayed that the bears won’t find me.
There were no bears. It funny where the mind goes.

I surrendered when I met new friends during my retreat and I shared my fears and hopes with these strangers.
I trusted that they would not judge me. They didn’t, they were understanding and loving.

I surrendered when my father was dying. I fought, I resisted, I cried, a lot, and then I surrendered.
What could I do? I had to trust that everything was playing out exactly the way it was supposed to.
It sucked but I surrendered.

I surrendered when my father died and I went home for the funeral.
I trusted that the airfare would be reasonable. It was.
I trusted that I would be okay during the funeral. I had to hold space for my family. I did.

I surrendered when I felt lost last winter. I felt like I was living my life without a purpose.
I tried to fix it. I meditated, I prayed, I talked to close friends, and then I surrendered.
I trusted that I was safe and that I was exactly where I needed to be.

2017 was a year filled with many adventures.
I travelled, I laughed, I cried (a lot), I walked the beach, I yelled at the universe.
I released a lot of my anger, and many of my fears and expectations.
I released relationships that no longer served me. I embraced allowing new people into my life.

I surrendered. The work continues.

It was a tough but good year.

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Can I Read During Solo Time on Wilderness Quest?

quest

I am back from my Wilderness Quest but I left a piece of my soul and spirit on the mountains. The Return to everyday life has been difficult. I get impatient easily. I get annoyed with our materialistic society, I get frustrated with how fake our world can be.

I long for the magical mountains. I crave the deep silence and the solitude.

What Did I Do During Solo Time?

Naps, there were a lot of naps.

Many people I talked to expressed concerns with boredom. So much time on the mountains, can you bring a book? Nope. No book.

I spent much of Day 1 setting up my tarp, walking around and getting a sense of my surroundings.

Other things I did on those 4 days:

  • Meditate
  • Journal
  • Chop wood to make fire (I will never look at a tree the same way again)
  • Listen to the bird song
  • Wondering if it would ever stop snowing (Day 2 & 4…snowed)
  • Sun bathing (Day 3: Hallelujah! Sunshine!)
  • Walks
  • Rituals
  • Play with wood

Journal Entry from Day 4

6:26 am: It’s been snowing for an hour now. I need to pee. Do I go out?
10:00 am: It is still snowing. My lips are so dry. I love the snow, it’s so pretty. My water is cold. I can hear the birds, I wonder what they are saying to each other.
11:04 am: It’s still snowing and it’s cold. I am under my tarp in my sleeping bag. I wonder if Carmen (the teacher) is coming to save me? (Turned out she came to our “check-in” spot to drop off hand warmers. Such a lovely woman)
BTW: the ravens stole the hand warmers.

1:30 pm: Why is it only 1:30 pm?!? Hungry. Cold. What am I going to do the rest of the day? Can’t wait to get back to base camp.
3:29 pm: Lovely, just had a nap and two different dreams. Still snowing. A good time to do a ritual to help with my fear of the dark.
7:08 pm: Oh! The fire is nice. Time to do another ritual and go to sleep. I hope it is not snowing tomorrow morning when we go back to base camp.

Day 4 was relentless. It was cold and it felt so long. My stomach growled all day.

But! I caught up on years of sleep and since I came back, people have told me I look younger.

What did I learn about myself?

1. I Can Do Anything (Almost)
I am a city girl and I was born in a tropical country. 35C weather all year. Before Quest, I have never been camping and I did not know how to make fire.

On the mountains for four days and four nights alone? Sleeping under a tarp with a sleeping bag? No tent? No food? Wild Animals?

On Day 2, I realized if I can make it through these four days, I can do almost anything. (No, I am still not jumping out of a plane. OH! Fear of heights, I will work on that at my next quest!)

If I can do it, so can you. Really, it is not as scary as you think.

2. Although I Dislike the Cold and Mother Nature is unpredictable…
Did I mention it was cold? It was the first time this region has seen precipitation in 17 years in May. When I woke up on Day 3, my water was half frozen.

What did I learn? As much as I dislike the cold, it is a mental thing. I had many layers of clothing, I built a small fire when I was cold and I was fine. I managed to quiet the doubts in my head and I enjoyed the different weather systems that passed through.

3. Trust & Surrender
Some of the thoughts that went through my mind:

  • Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? What the heck am I supposed to be doing this lifetime? (DEEP questions)
  • I wonder if the bears will show up? Coyotes?
  • Crap! It’s only 9 am, what am I going to do all day? Nap!
  • What if it never stop snowing and we get snowed in? (Yes, I worry!)

Solo time was hard but I loved it. When the weather got cold and my fear of the dark was heighten, I realized I had to trust and surrender.

There was nothing I could do about the weather and the conditions. I was on the mountains, I was safe although my mind had doubts and I trusted my teacher who was holding vigil at base camp. The rest was out of my control.

4. Human Being vs Human Doing
I had a hard time just “being”. I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing anything “productive”. It became clear very quickly that many of my old beliefs had to be released.

I released a lot of anger, confusion, fears and grief on the mountains.

5. Fasting Is Not A Big Deal
I realized that my (old) relationship with food where I needed to have food around all the time, even though I was not hungry, was due to my upbringing.

Fasting for 100 hours was not that bad. I did not feel hunger until day 3. When my stomach growled, I drank water and that helped to subside my hunger. My digestive system is much happier since Quest.

Your body knows what to do. When you are on the mountains and you are not surrounded by food, you don’t think about food. It is not as hard as you think.

6. I Love Horses

Bonus: We got to ride horses from the lodge to base camp, it was my first time and I loved it! My horse’s name was Mini and she was a bit stubborn, she wanted to do things her own way. (A little bit like me)

“Whatever your reason for Questing, your journey begins the moment you say yes to it in your heart, and will continue to unfold long after you return from the mountain.”

Carmen Spagnola

People, it was magical. If you get a chance, do it.

I am seeing the benefits of my Quest every day. I walk around with a clearer sense of purpose. I am calmer. I am happier. l feel more connected to Source/Creator/Universe. I care less about what people think.

Will I do it again? Definitely! Sign me up for the next one.

To learn more, visit my teacher Carmen’s website and listen to her podcast on the Top 10 Fears/Concerns about Wilderness Quest.

Only love

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Wilderness Quest – Thoughts & Reflections

wilderness quest

I went on a Wilderness Quest recently. I fasted for 100 hours and I spent four days and nights alone on the mountains.

I’ve been back for 3 weeks and I am still reluctant to wash my scarf. It smells like campfire.

When I close my eyes, I am instantly transported back to the campfire at base camp. I can feel the warmth of the fire on my skin and I remember the conversations we had. I can hear the bird song and see Mona the dog running around. Frolicking. Can I say she was frolicking?

Fasting? Solo time on the mountains?

Was it hard? Yup! Did I want to give up? Day 4 was a very long day. It snowed all day. Would I do it again? Definitely!

What about wild animals? I saw a deer on Day 1, she was steps away from me. On Day 3, two squirrels came out to play and I saw many birds. There were no bears or snakes. Whew!

Where?

Except for the four days of solo time on the mountains and one day at base camp, most of my time was spent at Circle H Mountain Lodge in the Marble Mountains in Southern Cariboo, British Columbia.

Why Did I Go?

I went for many reasons. When I read about the Quest, my heart said Yes! so fast my brain didn’t have a chance to say Noooooooo…Why would you do that to us???

The mountains beckoned. The trees whispered my name and Mother Nature called.

I went because I needed to say goodbye to parts of myself that no longer serve me. I needed to be in nature so I could think. The city is very loud. I went because I wanted to face my fears. I went because I listened to my soul.

I went because I needed to know that I am a part of something greater.

Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.

Maya Angelou

The fear came later.

Could I have achieve all this without going on a Quest? Maybe, but I doubt it would be the same.

Here’s a list of reasons why other people go on Quest.

Fears

Moment of truth, I am (was) afraid of the dark.

It became very clear to me while we were still at the lodge before solo time at the mountains that I have a fear of the dark. My cabin was less than 50 steps from the main lodge where the washroom is, and I could not walk to the lodge to pee at night.

Yes, I held my pee till the morning.

Now imagine this. Solo time, on the mountains All. By. Myself.

Long dark nights are really long on the mountains. Sleeping outside with a tarp and no tent was a bit scary. Ok maybe a LOT scary for this city girl. I would go to pee at 9pm before it gets dark, then zipped myself up in my sleeping bag and put ear plugs in.

Bears? Wolves? Insects? Cougars? Snakes? (If I can’t see or hear you, you don’t exist.) You see where my mind went?

I did not leave my sleeping bag until 5:30am when it was light outside.

The good news is I faced my fear of the dark up at the mountains during solo time. When we went back to the lodge, for the last three days of Quest, I could go outside when it was dark and use the washroom. I even stood outside to stare at the stars.

Weather

We had rain, snow, wind, sunshine and snow. Yes, I said snow twice. By the way, this region has not seen precipitation on May 1st for 17 years.

Did you know up in the mountains, the wind sounds like waves?

Was it cold? Yes but I had layers and I learned how to make fire. When I got cold, I would zip myself up in my sleeping bag, sit next to the fire and sing Kumbaya. I’m kidding, I sang My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean.

***Next blog…What does one do during solo time? 

Hint: a lot of naps! Hooray!

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