Vision Quest Notes Part I

It’s only been about a day since i left the quest in death valley. although not quite as dramatic as the let down of say a 10 day silent meditation retreat, i am still feeling the ‘crash’ of the adventure. I figure i better get to writing this experience down as quickly as possible before i forgot all the rich details from it. Although i thought the format of the quest was long (4 days of prep, 4 of solo part and 2 days of more discussion), in actuality, it did make sense. I’ve been to a lot of workshops/retreats and i have to confess, this format of learning outside the entire time is my favorite. sure, it’s nice to have catered meals, hot showers and etc but something about being constantly surrounded by the raw beauty of nature just leaves a bigger impression to me. anyway, from the physical plane point of view, there isn’t too much exciting to report and it’s all really about the group’s energy as we shared stories of the past and our hopes of transformation. the teachings were pretty simple but still very effective in guiding us frame our vision quest.

one aspect i really like about this vision quest was the level of intimacy that you got to know people. although our group was on the bigger side of 9, by the end of the retreat, i felt like i could call these people my brothers and sisters without any hesitation! I am guessing the average age was closer to 33 or something and i was on the higher end of that! Interestingly enough, everyone’s background is also pretty diverse, which also makes for an interesting dynamic. It’s like many of the buddhist retreats i go to and although everyone is diverse, there is some sort of shared cultural institutional framework that can make it easier to connect for introverts like me. Also, one of the most challenging things for me is to be ‘required’ to verbally participate in the circle of discussions on regular basis. the requirement is only out of a sense of shared participation more than anything and i found myself ‘trying’ to mentally construct my thoughts before speaking but for the most part, i ended up speaking from my heart and it didn’t come across as too contrived (that’s what i think anyway, maybe the others disagree). By the end of the retreat, i was getting more comfortable with speaking from my heart without feeling like a total train wreck. I speak regularly in a group context at work about subject matters that i know about but in this format, matters of the heart and repressed fears are entirely different manner.

one of the post vision request tasks is to share the story with your closest people so that the ‘vision’ from the quest can take hold and can maybe slowly grow into your reality. although i will be getting around to sharing the story in person, this journal will have to do for so that i don’t forget the high level details.

The first 4 days of the retreat was teachings and the sharing of the stories that lead the 9 of us to this retreat. on the first day of the retreat, i surprised myself and asked for a support/hug from everyone in the circle. i am not sure where the hell that came from but it was pretty much a precursor of the journey to take place. Since i didn’t have an obvious WHY the hell i was at the retreat, i explained that i was rather ‘numb’ in my daily life. Numb from the fact that i am been stuck in a routine that for the most part was getting rather tiresome to myself. on the surface, it was fine of course, nothing crazy going on my life that would require myself to rethink my whole existence. But in some regard, i had reach the top of my physical plane existence and naturally, it felt rather empty in my emotional landscape. Sure, i got pretty excited about getting the RV last year and was going off every month to some cool outdoor place but even that was feeling rather routine and i was beginning to feel like i was running away from something. Anyway, by the 2nd day of teachings, i was getting a better sense of my WHY.

The particular teaching was about the 4 ‘shields’/4 seasons/4 stages in one’s life. In short, in each stage, there are lessons and purposes around each stage. In general, as we progress through the stages, we acquire new ‘skills’ such as introspection from the west shield and trust from the south shield. But as we reach adulthood, a balanced human is able to maintain the equilibrium of the energy associated with each stage. Well, as it turns out my south shield was out of whack. which is to say i didn’t learn the lessons of trust and innocence from my childhood. As part of my introduction, i spoke of my parents not really being there for me for most of my teenage and young adulthood. I spoke about never feeling at home because i was living in another culture and living with my aunt/uncle for my teenage years meant that i was not feeling home there either. So, my story became that one I shouldn’t or expect support/love from anyone. If your parents didn’t provide to you, who in the whole would do it for you. That story got me pretty far in life without too many break downs. Fast forward until i am over 40 and i realize that there was a huge hidden cost to that story. The hidden cost is an over size ego that thinks he can do everything by himself. of course the ego also knows that it’s not true but one thing is for sure was that he wasn’t going to ask for support. This outer reality would soon be reflected in the natural world as i partake in the exercise of feeling a place to call basecamp during my solo fasting journey.

On the 4th day, we went into Eureka Valley of Death Valley. We had gone from our base camp in big pine, which was pretty awesome considering we were surrounded by snow cap mountains and the sounds of 2 streams running through our camp. To be honest, i didn’t think much of this exercise where we were suppose to find a place that resonated with our internal emotional landscape. The fact that i hadn’t done my medicine walk in the previous month made me feel pretty unprepared for the exercise. Still, i was being pretty open to a new way of experiencing non rational ‘truth’. So low and behold, as soon as i hike past the first set of hill formations, I am immediately drawn to a set of oddly spaced rocks on a hill top. The picture below is worth at least 20,000 words but it ain’t a pretty place for sure.

howling rock in the distance
I hadn’t intended on finding my ‘home’ on a top of a hill and as i was hiking up to the location, i didn’t think it would actually work. Of course when i get to there, i find a space perfect for my 5’5 foot body to cozily fit. So, it instantly felt like i was at ‘home’. it was like finding the perfect apartment in San Francisco within a day of your search. Compared with my colleagues trying to find their places, my luck made it feel also like an instant love connection! Back in camp, i told everyone that the location instantly felt at home for some reason and it just simply resonated with my soul and the big rock said yes when i ask him if i could stay there! It was not much long later in my journey that i realize the deeper significance of the rock formation. When Sparrow told us to find a place that reflected our ’emotional landscape’, i just just thought it meant emotional connecting your base camp some how. as you can from the image from above, aloof rock seem like an obvious draw for a visual person like me. little did i realize that the inner drawn to that space was more powerful than i could imagine. when this insight struck me, it was one of those distinct times in my life where i came to the truth in a most unpredictable way. i guess some would call it intuition and it never felt so obvious. undoubtedly, it’s something that i want to tap more into. intuition is poetry in a world of verbose novels. at any rate, when my emotional barren and aloof being realize that he saw him as the aloof rock in the scene, it made him so sad for his own being. An over grown man child that get shit done but to what end. although not bothering me on a daily level, the gravity that he may spend the next 20 years like this dawn on him that maybe just maybe, there was something better. With that realization, i subconsciously continue to use the rock symbolism in numerous ways through the journey.

Although I was already on a elevated hill, there was still much elevation for me to explore around my base camp. So, i decided to hike to the highest point of my hill range. After a few hours of slow progress and random watering of the earth, i reached the top of the range. At this point i can’t recall my exact line of reasoning but i decided to let my emotions come out in full force. This was the first time in my life that let the pain and anger of my child come out in it’s full glory. I didn’t linger too long on the anger but there was definitely a deep sense of anguish that roared through my body as i cried out at the top of my lungs. The anger quickly moved towards sadness as my crying became more uncontrollable. I wept out loud, screaming primal sounds against the winds for a good 5-10 mins. At some point, my ego wanted me to cry louder so that just maybe someone would randomly hear me. The reality was far from that considering my location but it didn’t stop the ego from pointing in his two cents. After all the primal howling, i felt quite emotionally spent but spiritually stronger.

Trail Running

I’ve been playing around with my garmin action cam and i must say, i am pretty disappointed with it’s low light performance. Anyway, here’s what i look like when i go off in the woods for a few hours.

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into the valley of death

i was suppose to keep a journal leading up to my vision quest and as usual, i am pretty unprepared for the entire experience. mentally, i am dreading going for many reasons but spiritually, i know i need it. i was suppose to do a medicine walk as well where i go from dawn until sunset wondering through the nature world and see what draws my attention. it made it to my calendar but it keep getting pushed and of course the day i scheduled it, it was pouring cats and dog. at this point, i am just going to roll with it.

while i was running today, i was trying to be mindful of my body and take it pretty slow. did a bunch of selfies and recorded some commentary for the hell of it. when i wasn’t mindful, i was thinking about how much healing/therapy i was getting these runs. and i remembered when i meditated outside at my last retreat and how much the experience made me yearn for more of it. point being is i am very much looking into meditating a lot in the valley of death. i am sure i will distract myself a bit with some photo taking and reading but i hope the starvation and meditating will lead me into unknown territories of myself. still, a theme of ‘focus’ has been swirling in my mind for the past month. it keeps popping up in a lot of different contexts and even the idea of living my genius is beginning to take hold. i am sure it’s all related somehow where i am still being held back by my own fears/habitual patterns and i am trying to break thru. of course, i wouldn’t dare to set some expectation that going on this experience would make any real difference in transcending to the next level but the thought has crossed my mind. still, i can’t help by think that these types of rites of passage are wonderful markers for stages of life. the intentionally of it and the entire mind, body and soul experience will leave a significant mark in my spirit. i guess my lack of confidence comes from having done many retreats previously and all ‘results’ are not that memorable for the most part. but i can’t deny that there is a growing confidence in what i am capable of ‘achieving’. it’s like i have already ‘achieved’ 80% of my life dream/goals and the last 20% is going to take something more than just smart effort. in so many of the contexts in which i experience life, i am very grateful for the level of experience that i have and yet i know there is ‘more’ for me to do/transcend/achieve. after 44 years of being on this earth, i am ready to give back more than i have taken and god grant me the strenght to do that!

on becoming an obssesion

i was showing uma a video i made a few days ago when i went running in the rain. it wasn’t really a downpour, as i am not that hard core. i definitely wanted to chicken out a few times where i went outside and came back, thinking that it would be silly to run these kind of conditions. rain itself isn’t that bad but combine it with bitterness windy cold and it makes you think twice. so i did think twice but i finally stop thinking about it and did it. of course, once i am running and puffing my ass off because when it’s cold, you run faster. about a few miles in, the wind was going crazy and rain was pounding the leafs, i thought about turning around. instead, i put on my ‘water resistant’ headphones as i thought it would give me something to think about instead of being scared. stupid thoughts like if i slip and fall, no one would know and they would think me as a fool to run in such conditions. meanwhile, the music really took the fear and loneliness away. normally, i don’t listen to music when i am running in nature but sometimes the music is just a welcoming comfort blanket. By mid way through the course that i have run over 50 times, i am really enjoying the entire experience on a new level. i come to be comfortable in my normally uncomfort zone. there is an intensity to it with the howling winds and bitter cold rain drops. it’s always that initial fear that prevents us from doing ‘crazy’ thing because once you walk far enough into that uncomfort zone, you know there is no turning back. not sure what this has to do be becoming an obsession but somehow through all the running events i’ve done in the past year under ‘challenging’ conditions, have made me think that i plan my life around the next time i am in the woods. whether it’s running or taking the RV somewhere, it is to embrace sometime i lost living in the city.

the pull of adventure

i watched a video recently about this guy that rode his bike from the northwest down to patagonia. in short, his message was routine rots away the mind’s joy of expression. it’s one of those half truths because it’s probably true for most unaware persons but maybe not so much for the advance self awareness people. being in between, my break from the routine for this year is epic trail run adventures. i’ve already eye two that i really want to do but given that i’ve sign up for a marathon this year, it may be my peak running year. probably not but definitely to date if my semi obsession doesn’t become more full blown. i think it interesting how my interest in trail running evolve. it makes total sense when i put it in the context of my life’s arc but i am surprised it didn’t come to light earlier. undoubtedly, EASY access to trails is definitely the biggest factor to transforming it to a habit. It could have just evolved to weekend warrior activity but the 5 minute access to nature makes all the difference. for the most part, there is a very primal drawn to the ‘sport’. it’s boils human exercise to it’s simplest and most primal form and wrap the primalness in nature and you primal bliss of sorts.