Intentional Time in Nature — My First Vision Quest
My first experience of intentional time in nature was a backpacking trip in the summer of 1985 in the Sangre de Christo mountains near Crestone, Colorado for a vision quest. Time alone in the wilderness with nary a day of experience. I had never backpacked, not really camped much, and certainly not sat in ceremony with the spirits of nature. Yet, there I was, along with a group of eleven others and our leader, the late spiritual teacher and guide, David LaChapelle.
I was so new to it all that I tried to put my tent up upside down! Someone quickly corrected the situation much to my relief, but I remained tense and embarrassed in spite of the good will of everyone on the trip. I was out of it, too, really unaware of what was going on, though what was happening was about to change my life completely.
I awoke every morning in the predawn hours, aware that a presence was with me, an energy if you will, a spirit. It enveloped me in an unwavering embrace through the first couple of days with the group and then for the days I spent solo on the land with only the high peaks, sunshine, wind and rain for company. At daybreak for the first couple of days, I sat in stillness atop a rock formation staring eastward, wrapped in my sleeping bag to ward off the icy early morning chill, waiting and watching the massive mountains that rose above the sweeping alpine meadow ringed by aspen and pine. The air warmed as the sun made its way upward over the hills. Never had I been anywhere so awe inspiringly beautiful. Never had I experienced myself in this way. It was all I could do to hold myself together as the Quest unfolded.
And, unfold it did. I learned that when an ancestral spirit comes to you, it is not only real, but is also a profoundly important gift of life. The gift remains with me to this day. I learned that Wind brought Oneness with it and that Oneness was real and everpresent. I felt at one with everything. I learned about nature’s benevolence and generosity, its fierce destructiveness and power, and its intrinsic capacity to heal and balance. I learned that I am not separate from nature, but rather a human part of it. I learned that I could survive time in the wilderness alone, and that the breakdown of my physical self served astonishingly to make me whole.
The teachings from that first vision quest have become a part of who I am. They have been augmented and embellished through the years by repeated encounters in wild nature. These encounters take place in ordinary time and vary from several days to a few hours to a few minutes. Clear intention allows ordinary time to morph into the extraordinary. I’ve learned that there is no real separation between them, and that the interface of my nature with all of nature comes naturally. What is revealed is mitigated by the level of willingness with which I approach the encounters. The more open I am, the more there is for me to appreciate, see, and know.
I became a vision quest guide in the years that followed that first Quest. The medicine that was so healing for me is medicine I now offer to others. I take people out on sacred walks and day quests as well as vision quests. I design these to fit the individual. I’ve been doing this work for over twenty-five years. More about the Quest work is here.