Our heroine had chosen her sacred power site for her two days and nights that she would spend in the Mojave Desert as part of her Vision Quest. She knew she had found her spot to spend her days of fasting alone, when she saw it rising up on a high hill, with jagged and angry rocks screaming at the sky on one side and a softer welcoming outcrop on the other. Completing this perfect gateway with a view of the horizon to the east were two ominous cacti on either side. She had found the black volcanic rock to be inspiring. Rugged, wicked, untamed, powerful. She felt repelled by the softer rounder rock and new she would set up her tarp and her activities closer to the other more powerful side.
The questers had went on the Wednesday morning to choose their spots, drop off their water knowing they would return at sunrise the next day for their time alone on the land. When all the questers and our heroine returned to the retreat center to talk about the spots they chose on the Wednesday, she felt compelled to talk about her spot right away. She was so excited by her spot and described it in all its wild beauty. The group smiled and commended her on her strong choice. But, then as the others spoke of their spots, she began to worry. When they reflected on what they had chosen they talked about things that had never crossed her mind. Things like, shelter from wind, perfect spaces for a sleeping bag and tarp, and the compass points that influenced sun and shade and even comfortable rocks built for sitting on. She realized she had thought of nothing practical when she chose her spot. But surely, her spot would provide all that. Wouldn’t it?
The next morning after a difficult hike in, our heroine arrived at her special rocky outcrop, feeling weak and soaking wet with sweat. As she set down her pack ready to set up her shelter first off, her worst fears were realized. She couldn’t help but laugh at herself for the impractical space she had chosen. Scrubby, pointy, ouchy bushes covered her gateway between the rocks in such a way that there was really no way to fit a sleeping bag and tarp on the ground between them it seemed. Then she discovered that there was really nowhere to sit as the rocks were unkind in shape, and certainly there was no shade to be found. With castigations on how impractical and stupid and shortsighted she was, she also thought, how true to herself she had been when she chose it. Always attracted to what was hard, challenging, and difficult. Look at her career! Her life never made up of the easy path. She had convinced herself over the years that she like the challenge. That she liked to conquer what was hard. She wasn’t a victim of life but someone who seemed to actively make it harder. And this ridiculous campsite was really just the reality check.
Our Heroine Is Taught a Much Needed Lesson by the Wind
Patrick, the guide of the quest, had encouraged the questers to notice natural gateways as a chance to symbolically pass from one part of life to another. Our rather dramatically oriented Heroine had already decided that she was sleeping on one side of a gateway. It was manned by rocks and cactus. She looked forward to moving through that gateway tomorrow as she claimed her new life. She felt that the rocks on one side were her-strong, edgy, sharp, and powerful and felt repelled by the other rocks, which seemed weak and feminine. She felt no call for that side. So she worked to create a space for her sleeping bag close to those power rocks at the gateway looking east.
But the wind! And the pointy bushes!
She tried several times to hold the tarp down with many rocks, and she even dug a deep hole for her walking stick that was holding the tarp front up, but the wind just laughed at it. Within hours, it had collapsed. There was the incredible difficulty to get in or out without getting poked.
‘Fine!’ She thought ‘I can live with the softer rocks; I’ll try closer to that side.’
So she moved it all, several heavy rocks that were trying to hold the tarp down from the wind, the stick, the sleeping bag, the pillow, the flashlights; and smushed her tarp in between even more pointy bushes and dug a new hole for the walking stick and recreated her tarp quarters. The wind laughed even harder and louder. In less than half hour this time, it was flat on the ground. Just as well she thought, I couldn’t even get into with the cactus at the doorway. But what to do? She wanted to sleep in this spot, with this powerful rock stuff and the great expansive valley view facing east and the ritual she had envisioned. She had spent the day in ceremonies getting rid of stuff in her life but didn’t want to cross the threshold of this gateway until sunrise tomorrow. She was going to greet the new day with a ritual crossing of the threshold of what she was keeping in her life. Couldn’t she stick it out one night here and move to a better spot tomorrow?
She checked her watch. It was 6 pm and the light was beginning to fade. Struggling with her tarp for the third time against the viscious wind she began to feel this was a losing game. Not only was the tarp not staying up at the front, but the noise from flaps was going to be impossible to sleep through. She had listened to it all day-‘whack, whack, whack,whack’. Being on an exposed hill with a gateway that was basically making a wind tunnel like a New York subway was just plain stupid at this point.
“Enough! This is just stupid ego!” She shouted at the heavens.
“This is just like so many things in my life! Why do I have to be stubborn and make everything so hard! Easy could be good too!”
Plopping down on the dusty ground, with 50 minutes of light left she thought:
‘This is a ridiculous spot. Why would I fight all these factors and have a miserable night because of some fixated idea of tomorrow and a ceremonial threshold crossing. I don’t need to make this hard. I don’t need to be stubborn. I could be wise-now- tonight- and walk through the threshold of letting go of my need to make things hard!’
What a great joyful powerful realization this was. She scoured her spot and abandoned the side of the volcanic rock she originally saw as the powerhouse and embraced the kinder gentler side of the land. She found a new spot that she could feel no wind at. Perfect! She grabbed all the rocks and bedding yet again. Quickly set to making another campsite, but this time with no wind to fight against, it was much easier.
With a hasty ceremony as the sun was setting, our heroine stepped across the threshold. Saying goodbye to the grasping idea she had held for so long:
“ I will never give up no matter how hard anything gets. If I say I want it, then, like a dog with a bone, I will hold on”
And stepped over into:
“I’m wise and I can make discerned choices. I choose to be flexible in my life. That is real strength”
She crossed over and went to her tarp with the last light of day on her shoulders.
Words from the Sakyong Rinpoche: When we approach our difficulties aggressively-thinking that if we just push hard enough, something is bound to give way-we become proud and stubborn. It becomes difficult to perceive the signals that the world is sending us. We’re so wrapped up in speed or worry that we’ve still got our umbrella up, even though it’s not raining anymore. At times like that, we aren’t present to hear what the world is telling us.
How eagerly she anticipated the next day embracing life without attachment to how things ‘should’ be. She was glad she finally listened to the land through her stubborness. Elated and feeling truly free from her fixated mind she crawled into her hastily, but securely rebuilt shelter, and settled in for her first long night alone in the desert.