As I tell my stories of my vision quest in the desert, I will be offering them to you in the form of a myth, a tale. All of it happened to me, but I hope by offering it to you in the form of a story, like many stories we have heard in life, you will find themes in your life and lessons you can take away from this universal experience I have had. As a member of the community of the world, I am honored to offer up to all, the journey I walked. Take what serves you, and whatever doesn’t, leave here.
This is the story of Rebecca on her vision quest. On a bright and warm Wednesday morning, she and her fellow vision questers went on to search in the Mojave Desert by Ryan Mountain for their powerful spot. This would be the spot they would call home for two days and two nights. Where, alone, with only water and their thoughts, they would meet themselves. The park authorities decreed that they could be offered anything within 1 to 3 miles deep on the trail from Ryan Camp Ground at Joshua Tree National park, and between 500 to 2500 ft off the main path. Thus ensuring their privacy, the integrity of the park. Rebecca was thinking more along the lines that they wanted a reasonable distance to carry the bodies after the coyotes and rattlesnakes had their way with them. After they hiked into the one mile marker ,their guide, Patrick, pointed to a valley to the right that held some good spots and spoke of a very friendly valley another mile along, and then mentioned the terrain further along the path with the volcanic rock as possible power camping spots. He drew a rough map on the sand suggesting where each of these terrains were and in succession, each quester claimed their spot. One took the spot immediately to the right; three more took the friendly valley ahead. But Rebecca loved the idea of the volcanic rock-so dramatic and energizing. She ended up choosing the camp site the furthest away. She was exited by the adventure and this wonderful dry land she was in. Today they would choose their spot and cache their water and the extra mile seemed like no big deal. She hiked along the trail, around the corner past the big grandaddy rock of solid magma and up over a hill to the left. She had found her power spot with its masculine rocks pointing to the sky. It was a gateway up on a hill, facing to the all important east. She relished the thoughts of waking up to the sunrise. She could hardly leave her rocks and view. It would be so hard to wait for the adventure tomorrow!
With enthusiasm they returned to the retreat and she began to pack her bag. Tomorrow they would leave at sunrise and hike in, in silence, each to their own spot. Set up their tarps and settle in for the two days of solo time on the land. What to pack? One pair of long underwear? Better take two. Desert is cold, one might get sweaty. T-shirts? Yes. How many longs sleeves? Better have some of different weights. Books? Not allowed. Sigh. Camera? Yes! Marantz for the CBC documentary for Tapestry? Yes. Socks, two and two spare. Underwear, take lots. And so on and so on. An extra journal incase she had more to say, tarot cards, her ceremonial tray, rattle, sunscreen and on and on. When it was fully loaded she tried it on. It felt solid. Good.
After the last meal on that Wednesday night, she tried to sleep on her retreat bed, knowing that for the next two nights, she would be out in the elements. Exciting yet terrifying. Tomorrow morning she would, with 5 other brave and adventurous souls into Joshua Tree National Park. Each of them would walk in silence, their quest begun at daybreak. They would set off in a line on the path but break off to their individual, private sites where they would spend the next two days, alone. Talking to the cactus, the rocks, the sky and whatever spiritual guides they saw. But basically, they would be alone, fasting, in the desert.
The next morning she saw the sunrise as they drove into the park. Coyotes greeted them, crossing the road in front of their convoy. She knew her sacred quest had begun. Once they were parked and assembled at the trailhead, free to go, Rebecca leapt off in front of the group onto the trail. It was 7 am. She was athletic in her stride and had pride of purpose. Still, she could feel another quester tight on her heels, but knew she could keep a good pace going and lead on. Not far in she began to feel her pack was heavy. Too heavy. She cursed her need to be prepared for all needs. Really, did she need to pack a second journal? What is that ? Two pounds?. She wanted to slow her pace, but she was in front. The others needed her to keep going. She pushed herself and tried to straighten up under the weight of the pack, but this was a losing battle. Pride said-You can do this. You are strong. But she began to hear another voice. Quiet at first, but getting louder as she began to bend under the weight of her pack. This voice said:
“You do not have to lead. These people are fine on their own. Why would it matter if you needed to rest. If you need to stop and rest, have a drink, there is no shame in this.”
Pride bellowed that is was nonsense. What was she? A quitter?
But that quiet voice persisted in it’s measured way. So she did something she never had done before. She stepped to the side. It was good. Two of the others passed by. She had a drink and took off one sweater. She began again with only one quester behind her now.
But this even this proved too arduous. She began cursing her load began in earnest now, and she seemed to see this as a metaphor for her life. She travels so heavily, with so much. So many jobs, careers, responsibilities, needs to meet for others and herself. Those ahead had streamlined packs and lives. How smart they were. She was such an idiot. Look at them, she thought, they do one thing, and it makes them lighter. One career, zipping along breezily. But Rebecca realizes she is so heavy because she cannot choose socks let alone what to fill her time with in her life. She wants everything, afraid to miss out on the best thing. But this comes with a price. The pack is full on her back and so is her backpack of life. Full in a way that makes her heavy and tired and frustrated often. Resentful even, despite the fact no one has asked her to fill it to overflowing. She alone has done this. Once again, hearing the measured voice of reason, she steps to the side and lets the last of her fellow questers pass. She took off the pack, another layer of clothing, drank her water and heard a new voice. A demon on her shoulder. This demon was angry with her for not being smarter in packing, it was angry at what she had brought, and was ready to spout off about it.
“Smarten up and stop trying to plan for every eventuality! You are ridiculous! Did you see that one person with a tiny pack? So fast so light. Look at you. Your pack twice the size of that one. You have so much further to go! It is 8 am already. You have been at this an hour and it was only a 35 minute hike yesterday. You’ll never get there. What were you doing picking the spot so far away? Why couldn’t you take the little valley to the right? Oh no, you had to be the adventurer and take the site farthest of them all. How will you get there with this pack? You have over packed for every trip in your entire life, you always have more suitcases then everyone else and they are the heaviest always. What is wrong with you?
She felt the pull of her spirit saying that she should be able to do anything she wants at any time, but also suddenly saw the cost of this. Packing for all of life’s eventualities with no discernment was making her slow and heavy.
With gritted teeth she flicked that demon of her shoulder and decided to tell herself a story while she walked. It would distract her from her sore shoulders, aching back and weary legs. She was deeply involved in the story she was telling herself when she suddenly looked around and thought:
Where am I? This doesn’t look familiar. Shouldn’t that rock be closer? Wasn’t that hill over to my right before? Oh no! I’ve taken a wrong turn! We were warned their was one fork in the path and be sure not to take it? I took it! How long have I been going off course?
What to do? Her pack so heavy. The little demon, nibbling on her pant leg called out“Your own fault!” Her frustration with herself was overwhelming. She would have to go back. She dug out the map she had. It didn’t help. She couldn’t backtrack it, she was hot and exhausted already, but she didn’t dare go on if this were the wrong path. More cursing and frustration and feeling so hopeless. She had made this misery. She packed the bag. She didn’t pay attention. She was paying the price. She sucked it up, put on that pack and put her head down and backtracked, the last thing she had energy to do. The sun was hot and she was miserable. So she backtracked and found a mile marker she recognized. This was the path! ARGH! Now she had to recover territory! And she had wasted so much time! She returned to telling herself the story of her life and finally she got to the marker that took her off the trail to her treasured spot. As Rebecca slugged on with her too heavy pack now filled with regrets she decided this quest must include what to let go of. This was the last time she would over pack in reality and metaphorically. On this quest she would bury, throw and ritualistically get rid of this ridiculous notion that she didn’t have enough. She thought:
I’m enough. I don’t need to jam up every spare inch of my life to feel fed. This heavy pack is a lie. I doesn’t need all this stuff in it, nor do I need to let my life become so heavy that I lose the ability to move.
It became part of her mission on this quest to put her whole life on the block. Nothing was sacred and she would choose fresh what stayed and what would go. It was an unnerving thought, but the experience of dragging all this gear for 90 minutes had brought home the point crystal clear.
I am creative, resourceful and whole. I want to move with purpose and some speed in life. My backpack of life is heavy. I need to give away, release and maybe even ask for help if I’m going to move ahead and not be miserable.
Lesson to be learned-In life you can pack whatever you want into your packsack, but you have to carry it.
Questions that might come up for you from this myth:
What is in your backpack of life? Are you carrying things that no longer serve you?
Where are you not enough?
What does it cost you emotionally and in quality of life to carry some things?
What are you willing to let go of?
Next week: Miss Impractical chose a powerful spot that the wind felt she needed to be blown out of. Who wins? The wind or the stubborn heroine?