Vision Quest,the journey inside
foto: Melissa Noordervliet
It felt like a calling. The question came from my good friend Tessa, if I might feel like going to France with her for a Vision Quest. I knew exactly what it was; a few years ago I had spoken to people who had done a quest and I remember thinking then: "I would never really do that." For those who don't know exactly what it means: a Vision Quest is a transition ritual that has been performed by indigenous cultures since the beginning of time and consists of three days and three nights of solitude in nature, fasting on water. It is a way to get to know your inner truth and to make contact with your nature; a journey within, where you encounter your fears and self-imposed limitations. Fasting is part of the physical, mental and emotional cleansing that you can gain strength and clarity. Anyway, the question came and although I already knew the answer, it took a few weeks before I said yes. After all, it is not nothing, the challenge that I would take on ... Moreover, I was actually planning to go to a Human Design symposium in Romania that same week, so when this came through, it really became a choice between one or the other. But on a beautiful spring evening in March, while I was watching the evening sun over a quiet lake, where the only sound was some chattering ducks flying over, then I knew for sure. I am going to do that Vision Quest. Nature calls me and I want to respond to it. It is time to be completely dependent on myself, just like in the old days when as a child I spent an endless amount of time in nature. Not being a wife of, mother of daughter of or girlfriend of; no just be Barbara. I also wanted to close a period and start a new one in the year that I turn 50 ... really a transition ritual. And it also seemed a nice challenge and good for my body to eat for a very different time, and even to fast for three days. A kind of gift to myself. Understandably enough, most people didn't understand that much, because what the hell can it be like? "Three days alone on a mountain? In a tent?" "No, I sleep in a hammock". Oh my God I saw them think. And once in a while I thought that to be honest ... what did I do?
24 hours after I said YES I got sick well. Nauseous, shivering, sweating; I felt very bad. As if I was an addict who had to quit. I immediately felt it was my body's response to the process. And I knew that I had made the right choice. This would only improve. And that strengthened me in my process of going for it. The preparatory program was well organized, we received excellent guidance in the area of diet, the 'intermittent fasting' but also in the preparation of my personal intentions, and the run-up to the Quest. The last moon (d) before departure was marked by a different element every week. Air, water, earth, fire. And immediately there was more synchronicity in my life. Often afterwards the penny dropped. And the more I started paying attention to it, the more 'coincidences' that made me more and more aligned with the universe. They were songs on the radio, events that caught my attention, weather conditions, activities that I undertook and objects that I encountered on my way. Very special to experience how everything flows when you are attuned. How you have a question in mind that will be answered shortly afterwards. Or how your attention is drawn to something and you suddenly understand why in the evening ... And then after 6 weeks of preparation and rehab of coffee, animal products and alcohol, the time had come and Tessa and I went to France!
We arrived at Maison Alauzet, the beautiful high end retreat center of Melissa and Jasper, who created this magical ecological place with a lot of dedication and love. The three days in the forest would be a thing of the past but the rest of the week we were spoiled with everything our hearts wanted and more. Hot tub on the shore of the lake, sauna with view over the valley, vegan meals that never bored me. Beautiful surroundings where we felt immediately welcome. We could chill, swim, relax, walk. Our intentions were sharpened, we shared experiences with each other, and the group became familiar with each other. The last evening with the shamanic ritual in the sweat lodge. Outside the fire with the hot stones, the heat; steam (great spirit) in the womb of mother Earth. The songs and prayers, at first a little hesitant but increasingly convincing and powerful, became our voices. Ah! Pain, joy, fear and sorrow; it all passed. To be born again symbolically. And slowly that evening the tension was built up to the next morning, the day of departure. On my way to my place in nature where I would stay for three days and three nights. Practically speaking, I like to manage things well so I was prepared for everything, snake bites, thunderstorms, wild boar, sunshine, low blood pressure and cold feet. The non-eating and the boredom seemed difficult enough to me, so let me leave as little as possible to chance. What is left of you when you are alone, your body is empty and hungry, and your only company is the trees, animals, stars, and planets?
"We do not go into the solitude to escape people, but to learn how to find them.
We do not leave them in order to have nothing more to do with them, but to find out the way to do them the most good" - Thomas Merton
Three days and three nights sitting on a mountain, no food, no distraction,no phone, alone with yourself and ten liters of water
The day before the Quest we went looking for our place. The Vision Quest forest is rugged, fierce, steep and dense. Very different than in my head. At first a slight panic but soon I found my way upstairs with good courage. On hands and feet sometimes, grabbing at a branch or root of a tree to pull me up. Slipping over the slippery wet stones, it had just rained and thundered that afternoon. I was determined. I certainly won't sit here, I thought. I have to go upstairs. It is way too dark here on the steep slope. It just didn't feel right. I had been climbing for an hour but had not yet found the place. I climbed bravely. However, I regularly thought: how do you think you will climb here with all your luggage at all? And I didn't want to think about the way down. Because climbing is one thing, descending is a lot more complicated under these circumstances. The first possible place I encountered was on an animal trail, and I saw more bears on the road. It just wasn't quite it. I felt that there might be something better. Story of my life. The first tears came. I always have this, it will never be good enough. Always keep searching until it is perfect. And I was nicely confronted with that on my search. Arriving at the top of the mountain I got air again, I felt it flow. Here I sit down ... and it is good that I have continued, I am proud of myself. It really started the next morning.
The feeling of pride when I had built up my 'base camp' and sacred circle on day one and installed me I will never forget. The feeling of happiness when I was rocking in the hammock with the sun on my body. I was not alone at all, I felt embraced and supported. The first day I was mainly observing, for example how a few ants were busy with a twig and a grain of sand. Circling birds of prey above me in the sky. The crickets that caught on every afternoon. The constantly changing light above the valley that I looked out to; the fierce colors became softer and softer to a palette of 50 shades of green. And while I was sitting in my cocoon and was busy with the assignments that I had received, I got the first insights. From my childhood, painful and fearful but also so much loving. It became clear what the different survival mechanisms do, what they do out of love for me, why and when they became part of my life. Inner conversations. Made deep connections. With all those parts in myself but also with Mother Earth, our universal mother. And it was in those moments that I felt the connection with all of you so clearly. With humanity, with my ancestors, I saw our struggle, all our attempts to find happiness, to find love. Personal themes, small and big sorrows, concerns about children, inability to say what you feel, shortcomings, inner struggles and our desire to give meaning to life. The feeling of failure, powerlessness about aging, life questions and answers. And I have felt that despair and pain. And there was a voice in me: tell them, tell how everyone struggles in their own way. If people come to realize that they are not the only ones then they can really connect with themselves and each other. We are not saints, we all fight our own struggles and are unique in that, but at the same time all driven by the same basic needs. And that means that we long for love. And it is in ourselves, but most people have forgotten this original source.
Halfway through the quest on day 2 I ended up in a deep valley. No more energy, nauseous from the salt I had brought, and a lot of inner resistance. I just surrendered to it, had little choice for my feelings. The weakness and boredom had taken over me. Fortunately it also passed again. I didn't know what time it was, but I did know that I was about halfway through the second day. It was also on this day that I sought connection with my totem animals and received my spirit name. As soon as evening came, I sat down on my rug, wrapped my blanket around me, and just sat there for a few hours watching the darkness fall. It was at those moments that I saw everything in the trees. You could call it hallucinations. I saw things that I knew were not really there. A cottage in the woods. Lights behind the windows, it looked like a restaurant ... Later I saw faces in the leaves. Faces that changed to other images. It wasn't scary, it was just there. The moment the moon appeared over the hills the sign for me was that I could start my evening ritual. Put on pajamas, pee and wash. Fill bottle of water for the night. Put on warm socks. And then into my hammock. Zipper sleeping bag completely. The full moon and clear sky were magical .... it was as if an immense beam of light was shining on me, as if it wanted to illuminate me. I slowly fell asleep, the sounds of the forest cherished me. Even the bats and the herd of wild boar could not scare me. We were one. I was not separated but felt part of the forest. In the middle of the night when the moon was right above me in the sky, I opened my eyes and peered up through my eyelashes. I was satisfied that the moon was still shining. And that I felt intensely happy with the fact that I was there. Nothing gives you the feeling of being connected to nature more than sleeping in the open air.
The last day was just as difficult in the morning. I thought I needed juice and made a note of it on the tree that Melissa checked for messages every day. The trip there was already quite a challenge, but oh well I was in no hurry and again something to do! When I was waiting in my hammock for Melissa to come, I saw a buzzard flying in the air. He circled above me and seemed to get lower and lower. Animals sometimes have messages for us, and these encounters can give us many insights. I made the connection with the bird by completely tuning in to its energy. I asked him if he had anything to tell me. And yes, there it was, "you don't need juice at all". Loud and clear. What does he say? You don't need juice, you just go well .... and deep in my heart I knew it was true. The bird stayed with me for a while and then disappeared again. Soon after, Melissa came to see me. I came out of the hammock and sat on my rug. She looked at me and I saw her bright eyes and heard her say; "I'm not going to give you juice, you still look too good!" And I could only laugh, I already knew, of course I wasn't going to take juice. "You look incredibly powerful," she also said. I think I needed that mental boost for a moment because her words brought me directly to my strength! And that is how I came through very well that last day. I have written, drawn and made music a lot. Wonderful day, of course also because I knew the end was in sight. I was so curious about the others in the group. How would they fare? Occasionally I heard (or thought I) someone's drumming. The next morning I went to pack and tidy everything up, and at a certain point my buddy Nienke arrived with her very heavy backpack and we saw Melissa to pick us up with the Jeep. The mission was accomplished! The feeling of euphoria that I had back then is indescribable. The next day we did integration exercises, the processes that continue to work for a long time and which I am now also consciously working on. In the evening the farewell party with non-alcoholic cocktails. It doesn't take much to make a person happy.
foto: Melissa Noordervliet
My exploration was one of extremes. Everyone who knows me a little will not be surprised. My high mountains, deep valleys have been largely worn down, the sharp edges have weakened, but deep feelings will always accompany me, although now that I am walking more hand in hand with my dragons and angels. Beforehand it seemed fearful to sleep alone, in the open air, but the reality was once again 100 percent better! I never felt alone or anxious for a moment, but I did feel physically bad during the day. Sluggish, light-headed, listless; but when I just gave in by taking a nap and taking a nap, the symptoms disappeared again. My body taught me that it still works well without fuel. But the conflict between body and mind was fun to watch. "You really need to eat something now. Think of your low blood pressure!" But that too is simply regulated.
The less resistance, the more flow. I noticed that there was room, that I started to feel free. As if something woke up in me that had been lulled to sleep for a long time. A pure "me", who was earlier in my life but had to give up because it was not resistant to all stories. All those beliefs and stories that I have believed and lived all these years. Beliefs about myself and about others. It doesn't even matter how they were ever created; the moment I realized that they are all stories I just wanted to let them go ... Authentic self, it all sounds so powerful. While I have now experienced that the birth or awakening of this true self is more a matter of simplification than of multiplication ..... (how contradictory with all laws of nature;) It is as if a veil is being lifted and clarity is created in the tangle of thoughts of thought, in the gray mist that sometimes made me feel hopeless. The core remains, everything that matters has always been there. During the quest, I watched the sun rise and make a course from east to west; seen and heard many animals. The interplay of nature, the perfect harmony. The feeling of the sun on my skin, how my body reacts. And the elements. The wind, I felt the connection. The earth and the water. All elements with their specific characteristics. The perfection and wisdom of my body. It knows, much more than I thought. And it is very happy with attention! That is how self-love manifests itself in the connection with the body.
Now two months after the Vision Quest, I have made progress in a number of areas and in other areas it is even less clear. I keep details to myself but I want to reveal that one of my favorite thoughts is: "is it really a problem? Or am I making it a problem?" 90% of everything that I used to worry about doesn't even get the chance to become a story. And the 'deconditioning', or the de-identification with everything that I think I am, has been given a boost. I no longer get so easily caught by my pained body (for the Eckart Tolle connoisseurs). I am aware of my pitfalls. The first weeks after I returned, I felt intensely powerful and radiant and the people around me saw that too. I had lost about 5 kilos, something I felt very comfortable with. In the meantime, I am partly back on track, and at times I feel too heavy again .. literally and figuratively. Some habits are persistent I have noticed but what I have learned from it is that I now listen better to what my body really needs. And perhaps my wish to be something other than what I am is a persistent conviction. The body does what it should, the whole process continues to work for a long time, and I now felt that the moment had come to share it. Maybe to write it off, to let go of something. It certainly brings me back to my intentions and reminds me of a magical week!
"Speaking with Integrity"