For ages, Native Americans have been doing rites of passage in the form of: Vision Quests.
To prepare for adulthood or to reflect on an important decision they spent days, sometimes weeks, alone in nature.
The guiding thought behind these experiences is that in our lives we are influenced and conditioned by education, socialisation and other ’noise' that build layers on top of our true self. The raw and original nature exposure in solitude allows to delayer and get to your true identity and purpose in life.
The hard core Vision Quest consists of several days ‘solo’ in the desert with no shelter, no food, no water, no sleep, no clothes.
John Milton, the founder of Way of Nature, has been providing the opportunity for Vision or Nature Quests to thousands of students around the world for the last 50 years.
These sacred passages pursue mainly three objectives:
- to find your purpose in life
- to connect with nature
- to connect with the source
The preparation took about a day and a half and consisted of a series of exercises of deep relaxation and being in the present moment. Relaxation and presence are key ingredients to make the best of the subsequent solo experience. We were also equipped with rituals, exercises and celebrations for our solo time. With the exception of the welcome and farewell dinners we all fasted during this week. A ‘magic potion’ of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and ginger made the fasting quite bearable.
And then it got serious: all participants had to find their secret spot, where they would spend the next 4 days and 4 nights in solitude.
The experience is obviously very personal, still I felt to share some of my learnings to give you a sense of what such a Nature Quest can bring to your life.
- While we were surrounded by huge amount of nature with unlimited quantity of potential spots, most of us got anxious to find their spot and worried that somebody else might pick the same spot. My natural impulse was to hike up, to get some superior perspective, and while I hiked I was wondering: where is this ‘the only way is up’ thought coming from?
- So, I changed direction, walked along the lake and only later walked up a bit to have a beautiful spot overlooking the lake
- It takes a bit of time to ‘synch’ with nature; while at the first days animals seemed to flee where and whenever I showed up, it felt that over time I moved more cautiously with more respect and it felt as if I was becoming part of it
- Norway had quite some rain in stall for us. In a pre-solo workshop session John took us through the meanings of the elements and the emotions (both negative and positive) related to them. Anger is a negative emotion related to water, gentleness is the positive emotion. During the two days of pouring rain I had tons of opportunities to overcome my anger and to embrace gentleness; the calming effect of the gargling sounds of the mountain creeks helped a lot.
- John encouraged us to connect with nature through appreciation and by consciously use our senses; watch close and look broad, close your eyes to smell and hear, use your touch to embrace a stone, a tree, a plant.
- Whenever I addressed nature with a specific question or sensation, I waited for the answers, and something came up, e.g. when facing:
- North, the direction for old wisdom and in this particular case the direction towards the mountains, I came across some big stones that were beautifully balancing, and I took the message to bring more balance to my life with me
- East, the direction for spiritual awakening and new birth, out of the perfect silence a small bird showed up and started to fly from branch to branch right in front of my eyes: be light, he whispered, let go of the heavy weight.
- and South, the direction of the life force and unconditional love, I was waiting for an answer in the early morning silence. And while I was waiting in that peaceful setting, and nothing was happening, I felt: may be this is it, it is just about peace rather than running for the next experience or insight.
- Hence, my takeaways were around bringing gentleness, balance, lightness and peace to my life. May be not breakthrough insights, and clearly not completely new, and yet they came with a encouraging clarity and power
- The fasting went surprisingly well. It also made me think how our daily lives are structured along meals, and how often we eat not because we are hungry but because it is lunchtime. I wasn’t hungry through the 6 days, and felt lighter – both physically and mentally – every day (overall I lost 4kg). The magic potion clearly did the trick.
- I took long silent walks, showered in natural waterfalls, slept in the cold, and felt the sun on my skin to get warm. And I definitely felt that I was getting closer to my human nature
- I had to push myself to stick to the commitment and meet the group after 4 days and 4 nights. I didn’t feel compelled to get back to verbal communication. Somehow, I felt in peace with no need to talk. Everything seems in peace, in balance, no need to fill the place with noise. John guided us through some non-verbal feedback sessions, very touching and very powerful.
Otto Seharmer’s U-Theory has been inspired by the nature experience of preparation, going into the wild and reinserting yourself.
If you are interested in similar experience check out John Milton’s programs on www.wayofnature.com. He is organising an event next summer in the Romanian Carpates, close to Dracula’s castle; and the topic is: exploring your shadows. I plan to participate.
And here are my questions to you:
- What is your relationship to nature?
- Do you fully appreciate what she brings to us?
- How do you treat her?
- Are you in a taker's mindset, or do you feel you are an integral part of it?
- How much time do you spend appreciating her?
- When is it that you feel "in sync" with nature?
- Do you ever talk to her? Do you listen?
- How much of your food would you consider natural?