Starting the vision fast – setting up base camp

Standing rock at base campFinally, I am ready to continue with the story of my first vision fast, which I started telling you about in February 2011! Last time I wrote of this epic journey, I recounted some of the details of the road trip from BC to Colorado, and the week I spent at Naropa with my ecopsychology classmates, doing classwork and making final preparations for the vision fast. Our two vision fast guides, John Boyer and Nancy Jane, visited us at Naropa to answer our questions in preparation for the trip. I remember sitting around a table in the cafeteria with about 12 of my classmates, trying to get a sense of the two guides and whether I would like them and could trust them. My biggest fear that day was that the sleeping bag I bought for the trip, rated to -10° Celsius, might not be warm enough! We also had a lot of questions about the wild animals that might be roaming around our fasting place in the red desert of Wyoming.

In the early morning hours of June 18, 2005, I dreamt that I was with my classmates and we had to go through a lake to get where we were going, but I didn’t want to get wet. I found a way to get across the lake without getting wet. The lake symbolized the unconscious, dark, scary places. In the dream I managed to continue the journey without facing those dark scary places. Nothing to fear but fear itself—hah! I was afraid of everything, as I soon found out. There is no way to continue the authentic journey without looking into those scary places.

On June 20, we set out in a convoy of 4WD vehicles, to make the 5- to 6-hour journey from Boulder, Colorado to the vision fast spot in Wyoming. John Boyer had a ranch in Wyoming, and had brought many fasters to this place, which he had wandered through many times when he was a boy. I was one of the drivers, and I recall how anxious I felt because of the speed of the convoy—my little yellow Tracker wasn’t as stable at 80 MPH as some of the other cars. I was afraid of car accidents and the fast drivers that whizzed past us, their wind causing the Tracker to rock and slew. I grew more anxious, and another student took over the driving for me. The last hour or so of the trip was on unmarked dirt roads, with various turns from one unmarked road to another, and I was worried that if I had to drive out on my own I would never find my way! It didn’t occur to me to make notes of the way so that I would be able to drive out.

Finally we came to our final destination, with the cars all pulled up in a row, a short distance from the basecamp, which had a firepit and a level place for the kitchen equipment to be set up. The basecamp was on a clifftop overlooking a vista of desert canyons with vast open spaces beyond. It was beautiful and strange—the landscape unlike anything I had ever seen before. But I loved the openness and stark beauty. After a brief orientation and discussion of latrine procedures, we began to make camp. Some people helped set up the kitchen, and we were given time to scout around for a nearby spot to set up our tarps for the night. We would be spending 3 days in basecamp before going out on our solos. OMG, we were here and this was really happening!

The search for a sleeping spot was my first attempt at looking for perfection. I wanted it to be really special. Most of the students were sleeping out in the open near the parked cars, but I wanted to be protected in case of rain, and I didn’t want to sleep with the others. I ended up finding a cave that was a 5- to 10-minute walk from the campfire. It seemed really special to me, to have found a cave, and John Boyer said no one else had ever slept there; he hadn’t known there was a cave close by. He cooked dinner for us all, using two frying pans over the campfire. I was totally impressed! We scraped our dishes clean with sand, and as the sky grew dark, we headed off to our sleeping spots.

I loved making my cave home, setting out my journal and flashlight, getting cozy in the sleeping bag. It was almost the summer solstice, and the days were at their longest, so it was about 11 PM by the time I was settled in my bag and writing my thoughts from the day. As I reflected on the fear I had felt during the drive, I was also aware of much earlier fears from childhood. These were impacting the present. I was afraid of not being completely autonomous, of having to go along with the group and not being safe. The fear had been so strong I almost didn’t want to go on the vision fast. I felt huge anger and hatred arise, and under it was sadness. Even now, here in the cave, I didn’t feel completely safe. I wanted to be in the cave, but I was afraid and didn’t trust that it would be okay. It might cave in on top of me. If there was rain, the path of the water might wash me out. We had been taught by John and Nancy Jane that the spirits of the land were called the grandmothers and grandfathers. I asked the grandmothers and grandfathers to protect me. To be continued…