Personal Development and Spirituality Topics

with Karen Scheel

A Quest For Vision

There are many paths we can walk in life but the path that matters most is that of spirit. Questing for a vision is one of mankind’s oldest traditions. For thousands of years prophets have gone out into the middle of a desert and Native Americans have gone off into the wilderness to fast and pray. Each questing experience varies from one person to the next and there are many reasons why an individual chooses to undertake a vision quest. Many ancient cultures used this as a formal rite of passage to assist people in transitioning from one stage of development to the next. In our culture, there are no rites of passage that carry the power of these ancient ceremonies and many of us find ourselves drifting along, without true purpose in life.

A vision quest is used as a doorway to enter into higher spiritual realms. Through physical separation, an individual detaches from their daily routine and retreats into nature with clear intent to listen. Through solitude, fasting and praying for personal direction and life purpose we gain clarity for what is ending and what is seeking to be born. One comes to a deeper level of knowing thyself, and learns to listen with the heart to hear the messages the Great Spirit (God) has for them so that one may better serve themselves, their people, and the community.

Vision Quest area in the High Sierra Mountains.After almost two decades of thinking this was something ‘I might’ want to do, the commitment to undertake this rite of passage was finally made. My vision quest would take place beyond the designated camping areas at “Sweet Medicine Valley” located 11,000 feet up in the High Sierra Mountains. My intentions for questing were to push beyond my comfort level, to sacrifice for a deeper communion with the spiritual realms, to refine my listening abilities and to gain more guidance to fulfill my destiny – whatever that may be.

Once the commitment is made, the “first phase” (the preparation process) for both the physical and non-physical realms begins; however, this first phase may also begin on an unconscious level long before a conscious commitment. Within a short period of time, the question as to why I was choosing to climb to the top of a mountain, camp out in the middle of nowhere, and bypass an invitation to go out to a reservation where I would only have to climb a hill was the first of many to dance through my thoughts. The details of my one previous camping experience had been taken care of for me – I did not have to carry anything or even learn how to put up a tent. I was not even  sure what I thought about camping to begin with. Many doubts began to filter through – such as the financial expense, hard physical work, my being able to do the climb, and camping alone in the cold wilderness. Not to mention, there was a very great possibility that I just might come face to face with a bear or mountain lion. Yep, my fear was coming up and I was wondering where my head was when this commitment had been made.

“Turn it over and let Spirit handle the details” was the voice of reason in the sea of my turbulent thoughts, which also included the knowledge that my cancellation was still a very strong possibility. I had mistakenly believed my lack of financial funds was a major escape route that could be used at any time to avoid taking this journey. However, a timely money gift for some past work showed up in my mailbox and then an airline ticket came from another shortly thereafter. Something somewhere was definitely pushing this one on through, and removing the escape route seemed to be asking me to go deeper to uncover the truth

My initial intention to push through my comfort level and sacrifice for a deeper communion with the spiritual realms had not included any kind of agreement to experience actual physical pain. My foot measurements fall within three percent of the population. I painfully tried to break in three pairs of boots before getting a fourth pair ready to hit the trail in two weeks time. Within a few days, my foot finally had enough and swelled with throbbing pain. All endurance training was brought to a screeching halt. I was forced to remain in a reclined position with my foot elevated. This resting period provided plenty of time to revisit and seriously reconsider my rising doubts. With the exception of the initial gifts, most of the other signs were not looking at all good. It was becoming apparent the well used mantra, “Breathe and become one with the pain” would probably be coming along with me for the actual climb. Although, my foot was definitely offering another valid escape route but that strong desire to meet the challenges in my life kept whispering, “C’mon – you can do this!” No doubt, the endurance requirements and my inexperience in the wilderness were issues I struggled with right up to the bitter end.

I arrived in California a few days early and stayed with friends. The swelling in my foot had subsided a bit but it was still quite tender. The little window of playtime reserved for my friends was used for additional foot rest in their guest bedroom. Dream-time reflected many things but what could not be missed was the death of my old ways, as the East was about to come face to face with the transformational healing powers of the West, which scared the hell outa me.  The day had arrived for my journey to begin. I awoke with strong feelings to cancel and cried quietly in my bed. I had not come this far to turn back but I was not sure I had the strength to make it up the mountain or what would happen to me once I did? “Turn it over and let Spirit handle the details,” flashed through to calm my thoughts.

Our group met and drove 9000 feet up into the High Sierra. From there, it would take two days to reach Sweet Medicine Valley. The first day’s climb was easy and not at all what I had expected – it was not as big or bad as my mind had imagined. Ten of us moved slowly up the mountain – the beauty was truly incredible. The people praying for me at home must have been working because my foot was not as tender. However, this changed on day two as my foot seemed to know what was coming up. The throbbing pain served to help me remain focused on each step until we approached an area known as the ‘Lower Coxcomb.’ There was an indescribable feeling that welled within as my eyes quickly scanned the deadly rugged terrain that lay ahead. I was able to leave a few things out of my pack but it was still weighing almost half my body weight and was throwing my balance off. I listened closely to those discussing my fate, and silently began pleading with the spiritual realms for another way up, but there was not going to be an optional route – this was it. I took a deep breath and prepared to push through some major fear.

We were all supposed to be responsible for the person behind us but the cracks within my mind were really up. I was having a hard time keeping my head together. I was not able to focus on anything other than what lay directly in front of me. I heard the words in my mind, “Breathe and ask the stone people for help.”

These words sounded real good until I heard, “If you make one wrong move you could wind up dead or worse – crippled for life!” blasting through my mind. Almost half way to the top and right on the edge of panic, we were walking a tight rope through a narrow maze of boulders when my pack shifted and I lost my balance, which brought me down to the stone ground on all fours. The group stopped to wait but standing up became a major issue for me. My thoughts were spinning out of control. I was on the verge of hysteria. I wanted to scream “Go on without me!” but the question “How will you get back down?” quickly flashed through my mind. I had an instant answer – “Maybe I should just stay right here and wait for them to come back down!”

The next stream of consciousness crashed through my dismembered thoughts with a very firm command – “You best get yourself back up and keep on moving because they aren’t going to leave you and they have no intentions of going back down!” I choked back the tears and silently began questioning why I had put myself in this life or death predicament. “Breathe into your fear and ask the stone people for help” interrupted these thoughts with soft a reminder. Much like an inchworm, I slowly willed myself back up into a short lived standing position. My breathing patterns were extremely erratic but I was mentally screaming, “Help me, please help me!” as I climbed and crawled my way to the top.

Standing above the Coxcomb and looking back down over the grounds I had covered truly amazed me – the territory was surreal.  Getting up there had been extremely challenging and the thought of having to descend this death trap was just beginning to raise even greater feelings of anxiety when a small voice within quickly said, “Deal with this when the time comes.”

By mid afternoon, we reached our base camp and spent the rest of the day settling in. The reality of camping had not really taken hold until this point. I was not sure I liked having to go off in search of a place to dig a latrine hole, burn my toilet paper and bury whatever was there. Not to mention, carting my dishes to an ice covered  stream and then bathing myself  in this coldness were some other aspects that did not particularly thrill me. Sleeping on Mother Earth was quite uncomfortable for the first several nights. I did not realize the valve on my self-inflating sleeping pad needed to be open, and I definitely developed an affinity with the princess from the fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea” tossing and turning all night. There was no doubt, I was missing some of the conveniences of my life at home but the beauty – whew! The environment so pure, so untouched by humans.  One could breathe – one could just be.

High Sierra Mountain sunrise. It was cold and hard to get myself out of my warm sleeping bag to greet Father Sun first thing in the morning. But, there are no words that can accurately describe the spectacular feeling you experience while standing and waiting for this Royal energy to rise up over the mountain and shine His light and warmth down on you. Absolutely mesmerizing! I gave thanks and welcomed His presence.

On the third day, we climbed around the mountain in search of our individual questing sites. As a stone keeper, I could not deny the faces leaping out or the incredible energy I felt when I walked into a sandwiched area between walls with these Ancient Ones. Additionally, this site was close to base camp. I would not even have to take my tent down and could actually walk it over to where I would be questing, which suited me just fine.

The following morning each person went through a special ceremony. One by one, we left base camp to begin the “second phase” of our journey to spend time alone in the wilderness fasting and praying. Once my nest was set up and after my opening ceremony, I sat back and began to ponder the significance of a vision quest. I thought about my initial reasons for coming to the High Sierra. I had heard a few stories but did not know exactly what I was supposed to do or what to expect. I said some more prayers and waited for whatever was next.

High Sierra Mountain Stone Person Within a short time, an emotional release came out of nowhere. My body curled up in a fetal position on my stone person as I cried out to the faces in the wall. I do not know how long this process lasted but remembered thinking my quest had already reached its peak and the rest of my time would be spent relaxing. Wrong! The medicine took over and there was no off switch. I went through what felt like a torture chamber within my mind.

Imagine your life as a tapestry – you see one thread that comes through as a thought – this thought represents an aspect of your being (past and present). You follow this thought as it crisscrosses back through time to the beginning so you can retrace the steps in order to understand the reality of what is in the present. You go back and forth between thoughts and a dreaming state where you have visions relating to this thought thread. After the vision, you return abruptly to a conscious state so that you remember what you were shown. I loved this process when it first began. However as it continued, I was tracking the threads and seeing the pictures but was no longer able to assimilate or draw any parallels for how the threads connected with one another. There was so much information coming in that I was on overload. At some point in the middle of the night, I angrily yelled out into the darkness –  “I can’t take this anymore!” I threatened to leave the mountain when Father Sun came up if the process did not stop. “They” obviously were not listening. Thought threads and dream visions along with abrupt awakenings bombarded me the entire night.

I missed Father Sun’s early call and was not present for His grand entrance the following morning. I did not even know what time of day it was when consciousness returned. I was totally wiped out mentally and physically. My 114 pound athletic body felt like it weighed a ton. I had to go deep to locate and then use the last ounces of energy left just to get one muscle in my body to move. It seemed like it took forever to get this dead weight into a standing position and then keeping it upright became another issue. The word “Breathe” came through my thoughts. Several minutes that felt like hours were spent breathing and pulling Mother Earth’s strength up through my feet to stabilize my dizzy and shaky body before I could even consider attending to another very pressing call that required walking to a place away from my nest to dig a latrine hole.

The medicine seemed to ease up a bit but the process was not finished. I was just beginning to feel somewhat stable when part two kicked in with some magic. Unfortunately, I was pretty much brain dead and opted to be a dazed and confused witness knowing that all would be understood in the right time sequence. My limp body sat propped up against the stone people wall where my mind moved in and out of consciousness for most of the day. My eyes were the only part of my body able to move with any ease.

An army of ants crossed over and under my legs at one point. Nine were carrying something too small to decipher. It took them quite awhile to get whatever they were transporting over a crease in my pants. I could almost hear one say, “No! Right move back, left move forward” as they zigzagged across my legs. These little beings had such determination and solidarity in their efforts. I remember thinking, “If only we humans could be more like this.”

At another point, two little furry marmots ran right by my feet. These little guys hung around for quite some time. I wondered if they were aware of my presence and deliberately let out a sigh to see if they were. Nope, they weren’t. One marmot’s head spun quickly around making direct eye contact with an expression of complete shock. His/her reaction and expression caused me to giggle. There was a slight delay before both sped off to the top of a stone person to study me from a distance. Watching them watching me was amusing. It was almost as if they were trying to figure out what this talking, giggling thing was and how they missed seeing me.

Towards late afternoon, I was gazing out into the distance and saw, what I thought was a hawk but later learned was an eagle soaring high above me. I felt myself join with this spirit and circle high in the air. I remember thinking how lucky the winged ones are to be able to fly and not be confined to one environment – they were free to go wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted. This illusion was short lived, as some other words surfaced in my mind with a reality check reminder, “This planet is just one huge playpen that all are trapped within while in the physical form – none are truly free – each just has a different playpen is all.” My final thoughts before drifting back into unconsciousness were, “I would gladly walk away from everything in my life to live in this playpen.”

Father Sun was setting when my eyes opened again. I sat waiting for the star nation as the sky became black, but it was cold, I was fighting to keep my eyes open and finally surrendered to sleep. I was only awakened twice during the next questing night.

The following  morning ushered in the “final phase” (the return). After packing, I looked around at the stone people that had supported my process, gave thanks, and said good-bye. My parting words, “I’ll see you next year” surprised the hell out of me. I asked myself, “Where did those words come from?” I looked closely at a couple stone people and wondered if they had spoken through me? I did not remember having any thoughts about going through this experience again, nor did I believe I wanted to! However, I did find myself giving a little thought to the possibility after the words came out of my mouth and discovered there was a slight openness there, which I knew required some deeper consideration that could be done much later.

Selecting a questing site close to base camp paid off. I was a first to return and my stomach was ready for some food. After everyone reconvened, we spent most of the day feasting on packaged food that tasted like a gourmet meal. In addition to our fine dining, we also rested and explored the mountain. Our closing ceremony with Grandfather Fire was held that night. Through sharing, tears and laughter, a very strong bond deepened within our circle. Although, I had not fully grasped all that had been received so my sharing was quite limited. As it turned out, much of what took place for me would not be revealed or understood until months after my return home.

After our morning ceremony and breakfast on the seventh day, we packed our gear and prepared to go back to the non-reality in which most of us live. Leaving was not at all easy for me. I was just beginning to settle into this camping thing and could have easily stayed for another week, a month, or even the rest of my life.

“Thank you Great Spirit!” We took another route and did not descend via the Lower Coxcomb. I kept looking back to the mountain as we slowly made our way down. I filled my eyes and every fiber of my being with the powerful strength that came from the Ones who stood so tall and proud in the distance with each breath. My mind filled with thoughts drifting back and forth from my questing experience to my return home. I was not sure I wanted or would be able to go back to live in our unreal consumerism world, especially when I had been given a taste of what is real.

“Now, you take the medicine back to your community” filtered through. I began to think about these words because I had absolutely no clue what they meant – what was I bringing back and how would it serve the community?  Suddenly, a strong feeling interrupted my thoughts. I sensed the energy of some others that were not part of my group as we walked. Within a few minutes, I saw them – the others. We were still high up on the mountain and their energy felt tense even though by all outward appearances they looked relaxed. I remember thinking that we must have been more removed from civilization than I realized. I also wondered if this feeling was similar to how animals sense and was our tension the reason they avoided us? It definitely did not feel good and had me wanting to run away. I prayed the calmness I felt would stay with me long after my return home. After we reached the bottom of the mountain, we came together in a circle to give our final thanks. I spent a few minutes pulling in the last bit of energy and mentally called out to my stone people before crossing over an invisible line where the energy of this other life hit me like a ton of bricks.

The next afternoon I went to the airport to board a flight back east. My return brought many aspects to light. I did not realize just how unprepared I was to step back in to the dynamics of my other life. The airport was like being on another planet. I was like an unprotected newborn infant – more vulnerable than I realized. My energy field was wide open to feeling/sensing everything going on around me. It was overwhelming and did not feel at all good, which might have been the very reason a couple little babies were screaming at the top of their lungs. I was approximately seven hours away from my quiet little sanctuary and was so wishing for a hyperspace button to push to get me outa there and home instantly!

Several hours after returning home, I entered the bathroom to find a spirit message waiting. I have lived at Frog Hollow for many years and have never ever encountered a living black snake in my toilet before! On seeing this spirit message the words, “Now the work really begins” filtered through. There was no doubt about this because I had to figure out how to remove the snake from my toilet before it could be used! Not to mention, I had some fear of snakes, and there was nothing like coming into the bathroom half-asleep first thing in the morning, taking a seat and having the word “snake” along with the visual flashing through your mind. This always had me jumping back up to check the bowl. It took about two weeks before I felt safe enough to remain seated, because that snake that went flying out my front door in a thick plastic lidded container used to fish it out could have made its way back to the pipes and gotten back in if it really wanted to be there. Thankfully, it did not!

The snake adventure aside, my return to the fast-paced chaos that most of us live was not at all easy for me. I became more of a hermit than usual and journeyed deep within myself.  It took approximately two months to come out of my well, and to this day, I am still receiving gifts from this first vision quest…