Recently, I traveled to the States to take part in Vision Quest - a part of the SpiralDancing training.
To be truthful, I have been avoiding this ceremony ever since I started SpiralDancing. It pushes so many of my buttons and challenges me - fear of the dark, fear of the wild (especially as i have no experience with the wild animals in the States - we don't really have anything dangerous or poisonous over in the uk), fear of not keeping myself - and my mind- busy, fear of not eating or eating very little (although I did have a little food as I am hypoglycemic). However, I knew that I needed to do this in order to continue, and to face my fears which I have learnt is very important.
The run up was tough - lots of fear going on. it was a big lesson in not getting carried away and keep taking that next step. There were several times i thought about cancelling but I managed to just keep going.
I arrived at Taa-naash-kaa-da a few days early and quickly started responding to the magic that Lynda and Maria spin. It really is very special and if you have yet to visit I heartily recommend it. Spending time on the land, talking through my fears, slowing down all helped me reach a place where Vision Quest became more of an adventure rather than solely about fear.
Then the day came...making the prayer ties was a beautiful experience. I found it very focussing and calming. it really helped me settle and calm myself. During the quest they seemed to me like a small cosmos, radiating beauty and keeping my intent infusing on the wind.
The first night it snowed! I couldn't believe it when i saw it. It was so outrageous that my mood actually got very light. The Sacred Parents have a great sense of humour. The second morning there was ice in my water! I watched it spin in the sunlight. My fear of the cold and how my body would react was given a thorough chance to be addressed.
On the third day - I was shifting between. I learnt something very important about my fear toward opening to visionary experience. I was able to see the fear clearly and discover some of the roots about where it had come from in earlier experience. I started experimenting with shifting into a more in-between state. I became more playful.
Then some dogs came to visit - big dogs! They came up to my circle, sniffed the line and crossed in. It really shook me - animals - possibly wild. I got up and went to get my rattle but they gathered together and started growling and barking. I stood for a few moments then had to leave. I left the circle and went to the house. This was a big thing for me - it felt like failing. I didn't do it lightly but I guess I was panicking. I met my guardian and she suggested just making myself big and shouting at them. I felt so small and stupid. Of course I should have done that. Instead I'd acted like a small child.
Lynda took me back to my circle and I sat there and sobbed my heart out. I felt like a failure, like I couldn't do this work, that it was beyond me. That I'd reached my limit.
That night was hard - I faced myself. I faced my fears of not being good enough. I faced my shame. I felt so small. I wondered if the ancestors on the land were angry at me for leaving the circle. Had I dishonoured the ceremony? I sat with it all. I faced myself at a very fundamental level. I prayed and prayed about it all but i didn't even know if anyone was listening. Was it all in my head? All my stuff really came up!
At some point I realised that I could only face this quest with who I was at this moment. I had to bring myself just as I am - with my fears. I realised that i am small - and that's alright. I came to a great acceptance of my limits. And I was staying - i was staying out during that night, after the dogs, I was continuing. I realised i could ask nothing more of myself. I also saw and felt at a fundamental level how fear freezes me. This is a very real physical thing. My body becomes stiff and the energy blocks. At one point it took every amount of courage I had just to sit up and rattle to try and shift the energy.
Although I did my best to stay awake I dozed off at some point but it was a long night. Although during the quest I had seen Kachinas and felt the presence of my guide, Nakia and Tzegojuni very strongly, i had felt that the Sacred Parents were not as there as I was used to.
I woke before sunrise. The land was beautiful and looked like Australia. I sat down with my dzil kugha (personal medicine wheel) and meditated. Then I carried out ceremony to merge with my Spirit Guide. As my guide came in I was filled with energy. We danced, we sang. At one point I started crying out to the valley. It echoed around and the dogs started barking! I laughed. I was beginning to find an answer to the questions of the night before - to consciously connect with my guide was a way to start opening more to mystery.
A calm entered me - all of the cramping stuff fell away. I sat in peace and the Sacred Parents were there - and I realised that they had always been there - holding me. It was my fear that had blocked my feeling this.
So, what I learnt on the hill is that we always approach life with who we are at that point and to not accept that actually blocks us from meeting what is going on fully. I faced how easy discouragement can be, and how important it is to honour these feelings but not get caught up in them. I learnt that I need to stand up for myself a bit more. I learnt how fear actually freezes me on many levels. I am finding I am more alert to when this happens now, and can begin to relax it. And I learnt that opening to the vastness of life is the solution to fear - it brings us so many more resources. Co-creation truly is the best way to do things. I also found profound respect for the tradition I was in and how in tune with the world the people in this tradition had been throughout history.
I would like to thank the lineage of Tlish Diyan for preserving such a beautiful ceremony, Taa-naash-kaa-da for holding me so perfectly, the dogs for giving me my lesson so perfectly, Nakia, Tzego, the Kachinas, my guides, the geese that flew overhead and all the animals and birds.
I would like to thank and honour Maria and Lynda for being such good Shimas and Akicitas and creating a space where it is possible to actually feel what it is to be Guzughjuja - Perfectly Encircled.
And I would like to thank the Sacred Parents and All That Is for so perfectly holding us all always.
I've been saying a lot since the quest that the Sacred Parents have a great sense of humour. It can be a bit bruising at times but it's a great sense of humour!
(If you are interested in attending this ceremony then you can find the details of the next one here.)
(Photo Credit: by Lynda Yraceburu. Details of her work can be found here).
Steven Dances the Dream