Experiences that push the boundaries become a dream oft forgotten. What do we do with this vision, with the dream once awakened? Is it well kept and hidden, safeguarded from the pangs of another dream called reality? Do we shout it out for all to hear? Are these words empty if not felled on deaf ears? Do we wait in poise like a wild cat stalking its prey, so patient and determined, lulled by yet another dream, a dream of a dream come true...
Last week I attended a vision fast guide training at the School of Lost Borders in Northern California, near Death Valley. The program included a 4-day and night fast in a chosen spot amidst the sun and rock -- no food, no shelter, no people. Just you, your pack, a few gallons of water, the landscape... and your intent.
People come to this ceremony for many reasons. To mark a significant change in their life. To release or let go of something. To heal and grow. To face fear. To receive vision. To transcend and transform. Yet in paring down the essence of why, every reason or purpose for coming to this ceremony is revealed as born of a common spirit, a common impulse that moves you in your depths.
Something is out there, and I am going to find it.
This impulse is in response to a growing need unfulfilled by the rhythm of a mundane modernity. It just isn't enough. There is something else, something more. A question unanswered. A sense of need, even desperation clawing at the deepest recesses of your longing. And it's not in vain or in passing; no, it grows and grows until it turns into a roaring that comes to define your life.
For some people, they just want to know. To know what it is. To know what it is they really want, and what they are willing to give to find out.
And so they come. The people come. It may not be a deluge but it is a flow. The rivers run, the rains come. Even in the midst of crag and dry and drought, the rains come.
For some it's their whole lives in question, and this is what they take to the fast: What am I doing? Who am I? Or it's simple, more refined: Do I take this new job? Do I need to relocate? It's often a transition from one phase to the next, a marking of passage: Adolescent to adulthood. Adulthood into elderhood. A quest marking marriage or parenthood. A quest for physical or emotional healing. It's in response to a spiritual desire or crisis. Asking the "big" ones: What is the meaning of life? What is the point of all this? And what is my place in this world?
Regardless of what it is, the common element binding each purpose together is the initial desire to perform the vision quest ceremony in order to mark or change something -- to become whole with something and fulfill that task, whatever it may be. Beyond this, it is only the courage and strength required to go forward, to undertake the journey.
There is a lot that can be said about what happens during the time spent alone. This was my second 4-day quest, each completely different and unique, fulfilling and transformative. When I came down the mountain after my first quest two years ago, I was all fired up and excited. It was such an incredible and affirmative experience that I wanted to share with anyone and everyone. The vision quest. Such a treasure. This recent jaunt into the desert was (and is) the culmination of that first vision. Yet on the other side of the desert dream, the story of my experience isn't coming out as spoken so much as expressed and acted upon. It's a language of embodiment and commitment, of intention and manifestation. This was my claim in the desert, and so it remains.
But I can say that the experience of community we formed in our circle of seven was unmatched. Everyone cried. Everyone laid bare their vulnerability. We all supported and helped hold space for the ceremony. And we all did our duty and accomplished what was asked of us. Unending gratitude for everyone present, and to all of those who have and who will experience this vision.
For anyone interested in learning more, I would love to hear from you. I will be guiding individual and small group wilderness fasts in the coming year, as well as building a structure to offer fasts through this site. You are welcome and encouraged to email or contact me if you feel drawn to this work.
It's in the sun -- even rays blanketing bleak concrete and cracked pavement.
It's in the birds, always the birds. Perched hawk, morning mockingbird, midnight owl.
In the altar stones. Her smile.
It's the songs and tears, still flowing.
It's everywhere. Look -- and you will see it,
Matt Toussaint has immersed himself in shamanic practice and exploration for the past 10 years. He currently resides in Peru where he serves as an apprentice shaman and facilitator at a plant medicine retreat center. Read more.