Drumming for the vision fast

Solo spotI was interviewed this week on Vancouver’s Co-op Radio (CFRO 102.7 FM) about the vision fast. The interview was for a radio show called Conscious Living. Listen to the interview to find out more about this thing called a vision fast. The interview concludes with a song for calling in the four directions, which I wrote about last time. When you click Log In, you are given a chance to register for the show’s web site. You must do this before you can listen to the MP3, but it only takes a minute or two.

I smudged myself with sage before going downtown to do the interview, and asked the spirits of the seven directions to be with me and help draw those people to the vision fast on July 5 – 11 at Monkey Valley who would most benefit from the ceremony. May it be so!

Why would anyone want to do a think like go without food for three days, alone in the woods, with only a tarp and sleeping bag for shelter? I think it takes a certain kind of person to be interested in this type of adventure, and a certain yearning in the soul. I believe that all humans yearn for connection with nature, because we evolved as a species for tens of thousands of years in the natural world. But nowadays, living in cities, many people do not hear their heart’s call to be out in nature. Or they may misinterpret the call as a yearning for something else, or drown it out with one of the substances so readily available to us for such purposes! So I think the vision fast ceremony appeals specifically to people who already feel their connection to nature, or who are aware of wanting to build or strengthen this connection. After all, there are many paths for gaining spiritual and psychological understanding that do not involve this level of physical discomfort!

Then there is the yearning to know yourself more deeply, to find guidance or healing, or to mark a life passage in a significant way. Perhaps you might feel the urge to test yourself, and gain a sense of confidence or strength from knowing you have passed the test. Certainly this is one of the functions the vision fast has served historically, as a right of passage from adolescence to adulthood. Since many of us never experienced or marked this passage into adulthood as a teenager, for some adults this might feel like an incompleteness that the vision fast ceremony can remedy.

When it comes to finding guidance, healing, inspiration, and self-knowledge in nature, the process is very mysterious. Time alone on the land opens us up. It makes our ego shell more permeable, usually in a safe and gentle way. It deepens our senses and our awareness, opening us to knowing and interacting with the natural world in a different way than we might experience on a weekend hike with friends. Being alone and not having to interact with others is actually a great gift, which allows a portion of our regular unconscious functioning (to maintain a self image, monitor how the other person is feeling, make sure the relationship is okay) to work for a different purpose. All of these factors, and the physiological changes brought about by fasting, can lead us into altered states of consciousness, where information is available to us in a new way.

This type of opening into the unknown is not for everyone. It takes a courage and a curiosity. A willingness to look foolish (or at least, dirty!). It takes a wanting. This is why on the School of Lost Borders vision fast program page they have a statement to warn away those who might be entering into this too lightly: “Or just forget that such a wild idea ever came into your head.” I love that! Enter at your own risk…

Singing in the sweat lodge

Water bucketAs I mentioned earlier, there were four rounds in the sweat lodge: The first round was for calling in the ancestors and spirits. The second round was for praying. The third round was for healing. And the final round was the “going home” round. At the beginning of each round, more rocks were brought in. During the round, Munro used a dipper to scoop water from a bucket and splash it onto the rocks, creating steam and raising the heat in the lodge.

Each rock was blessed with herbs as it was brought in. Herbs commonly used are cedar, sweet grass, sage, lavender (for gentleness), copal (resin), and osha-root or bear root. Each has its own magical scent, but I found that the osha-root was especially captivating. I later learned that osha is associated with dreaming and helps one to realize that there is magic in everything, including each one of us. It helps to lift a veil between the conscious and unconscious worlds. Osha is a powerful, spicy-smelling root that was sometimes ingested to cause a sweat or fever that could release toxins from the body.

During the first round Munro taught us songs for welcoming in the spirits of the seven directions. Here is one of the songs. I have adapted the lyrics slightly. Each line is repeated twice.

  • Power in the East, standing there, we are humbly praying
  • Power in the South, standing there, we are humbly praying
  • Power in the West, standing there, we are humbly praying
  • Power in the North, standing there, we are humbly praying
  • Power in the Sky, standing there, we are humbly praying
  • Power in the Earth, lying there, we are humbly praying
  • Beloved in my heart, abiding there, we are humbly praying

Desert cactusWhen I was out on the vision fast, I added lines to pray for individual people:

  • I pray for Dorrie, I pray for Dorrie, I pray she is warm and safe, I pray she is warm and safe…

Another song he taught us is the Stone People song for honoring the grandfather stones:

  • Stone people, stone people
  • Stone people, stone people
  • You are the first people, thank you for coming, thank you for praying with us
  • Stone people, stone people

This is a great, simple song that can be adapted to honour all of the creatures in the natural world: tree people, cactus people, sky people, cloud people, grass people, ant people, and so on. I made up lots of different lyrics during my vision fast. Singing to the plants and animals is a way of opening my heart to connect with them and appreciate them. It is also a lot of fun!

Postscript to perfect pedicure: parking ticket!

Parking ticketThat about sums it up. The incident I mentioned earlier about the unsatisfactory pedicure had a reverberation through time, namely a $75 parking ticket. The appointment had run over the scheduled time (torture can be time consuming), and my parking had run out. Unbeknownst to me, because the ticket wasn’t on my windshield when I got to the car, I had been issued a parking ticket within 11 minutes of the time expiring… Someone must have taken it to put on their own car.

I am never parking in that lot again, I swear. This is the second time I’ve gotten a ticket there. Anyway, a phone call talked the charge from $75 to $45, but it was a painful postscript to a disagreeable episode.

C’est la vie, especially to one who is prone to irritation and reactivity!

Anyway, in more cheerful news, I am going to a sweat lodge in Marysville, WA on Wednesday, and will pick up the thread of the sweat lodges at the Wilderness Guides Gathering soon.