During the days, I’d make a point to go explore and find direct sun to connect with and warm up. With the sun not that high in the sky yet, the only real warm sun was down in the creek, where I discovered a majestic waterfall to also absorb energy from. Absorbing the solar and water energy became a huge source of providing me the inspiration and strength for the long, cold nights ahead.
Sleep became a luxury. A few hours the first night was about as good as it got. The unexpected wind chill rolling in from the North was bone chilling and with every strip of clothing on, made it really hard to sleep. The message I was getting was that this part of the quest process and The suffering would open up new possibilities to discover something about myself. Our western society and I include myself have become extremely comfortable in our warm and safe environments that our minds have had the tendencies of becoming stale and stuck on same the narratives. Stories that hold us back, keep us safe from stretching ourselves on the road to be our best. I still suffered and it sucked no matter how much I told myself I was in the perfect spot, learning what was next for me. “What doesn’t kill ya makes you stronger “ was a phrase that kept me going.
The daily pilgrimages to the rock pile was a ritual I really looked forward to. Jeff, Jake and I added a note pad and pencil in a plastic bag, which served for some added communication. Everyone was doing fine until Jake decided it was time to end his quest. Lighting a fire became a challenge and the consistent cool temps became too much. Jake gave it his best shot and learned so much about being in the forest, alone and away from all the regular distractions at home like food and his phone. While I felt the disappointment Jake must of been experiencing, there was a sense of relief knowing Jake was home safe and sound.
We had been in the forest for almost 60 hours now and the final evening was about to offer the biggest transformational opportunity. At sunset we walked into our ceremony circle from a direction that we felt best represented how we were currently living our lives. In the days leading up to the quest Bruce guided us through the conversations about the different directions and what they represented so we could create the direction that best spoke to us. For me the North direction nailed it with its king and survival archetype. It was time to acknowledge it was time to start making a shift in attention to guiding a broader community through the more challenging times we all will be confronting as we grow older. The round granite rocks I’d gathered at the creek now lay on the north edge of the circle Inviting me enter in at 8:30pm. By now the temperature was plummeting as I stepped in enthusiastically expecting lightening bolts to go off…..but nope, the only light was from my small crackling fire.
We are asked to stay awake and alert the entire evening until sunrise, which required digging deep into your reserves both mentally and physically since I’d spent a couple of sleepless nights with no food. As expected over the evening you move through many emotions and thoughts. Thoughts from “WTF am I doing, this is crazy” to “it will be over, at some point, everything passes, and I can do it” . Emotions moved through my body as I kept the fire burning (not a small feat) , trying to remember, journaling my thoughts as my head bobbed in a sleep dream state. Encounters with bugs, the fire, my sore body, the mist from my breath and the forest’s sounds all had a life of their own with the many metaphors full of personal messages. Bruce in his pre-quest tone setting helped us create a potent context with a series of questions that helped me bring out the trapped thoughts lodged in our subconscious mind.
As the evening progressed I started to get connected to the deeper emotions that impact all of us if we like it or not. These are ones that we most often push away because of the fear and unknown they may reveal. On several small cedar planks I found hanging off a rotten stump I carved the words love, fear, shame, trust and guilt with my sharp pocket knife. After placing the emotional symbols around the fire I started to focus on my intention as I danced, sang, wept, stood still, and journaled lists on each of these emotions. Its amazing when you are calm, quiet, tired, hungry and cold with no one else but yourself and nature, what you begin to notice that normally is hidden.
A familiar childhood story emerged and would become a key breakthrough of my quest. I could see with more clarity than ever how the stories of “I’m not being good enough” and “I’m not likeable” had driven me subconsciously to want to be liked and loved by everyone and how difficult and hard this has been for myself and the people around me. We all of in some form or another have a version of these stories trapped in our bodies and it was time for me to take another piece out of this limiting belief thats been holding me back from my truest and best self.
With my eyes welling up, and the sky showing its first sign of light, now was the time for me to burn and let go of these emotional planks and the lists I’d gathered over the night and make room for the new ways that would serve me and the people around me.
As the sun was about to rise, an overriding exhilarated calmness which came over me in that moment that I’d never experienced before. The moment allowed me to fully appreciate my full existence in the presence of nature, feeling supported and connected. A confidence in the journey I was on came over me and I knew now I had everything I needed to take care of myself and the people in my life and begin looking broader.
At 8:36am, the sun finally rose, and I could hear chants in the distance. Jeff had just stepped out of his ceremony space and his masculine howl graced me to my core! My energy soared as I realized it was time to leave my circle. I chose to exit in the East direction which represented the Warrior archetype and a rebirth, a springtime renewal and awakening of what has been dead and frozen. It also represented the miracle of the sun rising each morning to fill the world with light. A sense of being able to think bigger, in more visionary ways considering the impact on future generations.
Feeling calmly alive and just enough energy to pack my camp, I met up with Jeff at the rock pile and we started our journey home. By now there was a noticeable lethargy in my step that showed up in my ability to navigate the rooty trail that we decided to descend on. Connecting and sharing with Jeff on our experience really grounded some of what we were able to distinguish during the past 3 nights and days. Jeff for me was so complete and grounded in his presence. This big strong guy, just went to another beautiful level of his power. We would continue to connect and share what was opening up over the week to come.
It took a few days to recover as calories and rest was restored. My life has shifted from being reactive to being responsive, a quality that brings new level of peace and love with myself. Now rather than having to figure out my life, a natural flow is present bringing opportunities and really fun things to do that light me up. Its simply unfolding in an unexplainable way and I don’t have to worry about people liking me….except my wife !!
One of the most profound realizations was the deep nature connection I experienced with the natural world. Reflecting on my quest, an intimate encounter with a flying bug blew me away. This little critter hovered perfectly down in the firelight, six inches directly in front of my face as I stood over the hot coals trying to stay warm. This perfect Insect being had a consciousness. It was amazing, as we locked our gaze on each other. Staring, silently, frozen each in full presence. After a brief conversation (mostly me talking) and continuing to stay focused on my eyes, he retreated back on his airborne route exactly the way he arrived and disappeared into the darkness of the forest. I was left with a knowing that Ill never forget that we are all connected, no matter how small and insignificant we may label different living beings. The small stuff…there is something to always learn and connect with. We so often think we need to have so much, bigger, better, stronger stuff when in fact we can get much more from much less!
Which leads me to what now, and what will I do with this experience? Certainly, Ill never forget this quest for many reasons like the profound awareness I learnt about myself, the brothers I shared it with, and this time in our history of planet earth and human beings! It has forever shifted the foundation of how I will live my life. Like anything we must continue to practice and keep learning about ourselves on one level, while the next level may be how can we pass our experiences on.