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!)
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?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
“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?
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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Thank you for being a part of my world.