At the Autumn equinox this year, I went into the forest for three days on vision quest. No tent, no food, no fire. Just me and water, a hammock, some tarps and my bundle and tarot cards.
Many people have asked me to talk about it, but it’s been a challenge. I think because the way that my psyche is integrating the experience, is in little pieces, amidst returning to regular life of being a mom, running a business, laundry and dishes.
I don’t seem to be able to share about it in its entirety. It wants to present itself to me in this way – disjointed, abstract sometimes, revelatory. So – here’s a bit about a little piece.
I feel as though I have revisited myself at my own a gravesite. Let’s see if I can make sense of that: like Indiana Jones hunting for artifacts in long-lost tombs, I come upon these gems rolling in ancient dust – my body, my psyche is like a sleeping beauty, the Queen in the mound asleep for 100 years – or Snow White, dead to the world until true love’s kiss.
My heart is opening. But at times there isn’t any of the usual fanfare that comes along with that: fear of rejection, fear of loss, fear of intimacy, fear of judgement, of not meeting expectations. It’s just, love for the sake of love.
And, I feel like I have stepped into myself.
Yeah – like, where was I before if I wasn’t in myself? I’ll tell you. Hovering up on the ceiling. Disassociated. Trapped behind a fortress of ice, a gilded bone-cage, a self-made entombment (that took years to perfect by the way).
In the forest on the first night, after I had spent hours setting up my camp, creating a circle of protection, greeting the locals properly, leaving offerings, creating ceremony in each direction – it started to rain. Torrentially. I was lucky (though we don’t really believe in luck do we?) to have my tarp and hammock set up just before it started and well before dusk, so I had the chance to watch where water was collecting and make adjustments. This ensured me a warm and dry night out in a storm. But even still, as I watched the forest collect the night amidst the trees, it rained like there as some kind of purpose to it all. Like someone up there had to just get it all out! And I sat, all bundled in my little camp, like Ichabod Crane, shivering in my socks.
And, as the night fell darker and darker, and the rain fell harder and harder against my tarp, I fell apart. Entirely. I came apart at the seams that I had so carefully sewn – with invisible thread mind you! I never even knew they were holding me together.
The terror that resided in my heart was… unbelievable. My reaction to being out in the forest was so visceral, so instinctual that it overpowered my common sense, my ability to properly sus-out my situation, my logic-mind. I was actually gagging at one point, foaming at the mouth. Pure, unadulterated terror.
Of what, you might ask? Well, at the time I thought it was about cougars (mountain lion). I had visions in my head of being ripped into, eaten alive. But – I also had this voice screaming like a banshee in my head:
“what the fuck are you doing? people don’t belong in the forest! have you lost your fucking mind? our ancestors wrote fairy tales to keep us out of the forests. they build huge castles and towns with walls and moats to keep the spirits of the forest at bay. what the fuck are YOU doing out here? what makes you think you need to be here? you need to GO. You need to SEEK SHELTER. people don’t belong in the forest!”
I now know that I belong in the forest
After that night and the dawn came, (oh blessed day!), I spent the next 12 hours deep in personal work and ceremony. I spoke my whole life to the trees. I watched beetles build their nests. I watched ravens go back and forth in their raven-tasks. I praised the sun when it came out and lit up the forest in a thousand shades of green. I cried over my past and all that had led me to that moment. I let the forest take it all from me.
And at some point in the quiet of the afternoon, a realization dawned on me: over these past few years of studying on a shamanic path, I’ve gotten the message a number of times, to ‘go to the forest’. I always thought this meant, you know, take more walks. Get out more into the trees. Find some nice trails. But oh no – the message was clear:
Immerse yourself in nature. You are one and the same.
And this is when the masks begin to fall.
In this little video (below) Author and mythologist Martin Shaw talks about western culture being ‘three days deep’:
What it means is three days out in the bush, all of the paraphernalia you have out on you gets cracked open. Three days deep. On the fourth day, there is a possibility that you can move into a moment where you don’t dream anymore, there’s no ambition left, there’s no hubris left, there’s not much ego left – and it’s in that sweet spot that you may get dreamt by the land itself, and that was the moment that myths used to move into the songlines of human beings – that was the moment.
And it follows, it occurs to me that if we don’t spend time out in the bush alone, and many of us never do anymore, then this important cracking open of the ego – this revealing of the self to the self, absent of all of the masks we wear to function in modern culture – the busyness, the social media personas, the break-neck speed of it all, the roles we play, the pressures we live under to succeed, to climb, the regrets, the all of it – never happens. And this, is what nature has to teach us: ultimately we, you all of us are nothing more, or less, than tiny cells in the greater body of the earth. Creation is the earth. Humans belong in there – in the forest, among the animals and the bugs, the stars and the elements – and among the natural order of things.
When I was out there in the forest, the terror overtook me many times. I have never been that terrified in my life. But also – there was this realization that I was a part of all the green, just as much as any fern leaf or fallen tree – there was no separation. And in the full embodiment of that realization… I want to say it was peaceful but it was so much more than that.
It was an all-stop. It was like in meditation, when your monkey-mind finally shuts up and you experience true silence, after not even realizing that you were constantly inundated with chatter. I felt myself open to a new language – a silent paradigm shifting.
I could ‘hear’ myself softly come to rest in the seat of my creation.
Rest in natural great peace
This exhausted mind
Beaten helpless by karma and neurotic thought
Like the relentless fury of the pounding waves
In the infinite ocean of samsara.
Rest in natural great peace.
~Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche
And somewhere amidst that, begins my awakening.
Always more to come,