I think everyone remembers their first vision quest so vividly because it marks such a dramatic shift in their experience on the spiritual path. Before I attempted my first quest in 1982, I had already been on a very disciplined and focused spiritual path for over ten years. I had already done long fasting and taken long spiritual retreats. Couple this background with a lifetime love of nature and time spent out of doors and I felt I was primed for the quest experience.
However, my previous spiritual training had left me unprepared for the quest. It had taught me much about transcending the physical dimension by rising to an expanded awareness. I could enter this expanded spiritual awareness easily, however that ease seemed not to make a difference to my day to day experience and action. I had begun to feel a curious but definite split within myself. After first wondering whether it was some bizarre aberration within my own experience I began to think that the split was a result of the nature of the spiritual path I had been following, a path so focused on transcendence.
Every one of us is a duality, one part physical and personal, and one part spiritual essence. By and large, my previous spiritual path sought to enliven the spiritual side of my nature by focusing on transcendence. However, this created a gulf between the physical and spiritual sides of myself. This seemed to be true for others as well. The more we practiced spiritual techniques, the wider the gap grew and we actually become more unbalanced than we were before we started. Today, there are seekers who have been on the spiritual path for many years who hold a great deal of light in their hearts, but their personal lives are still dominated by emotional distress, anger, and fear.
The vision quest originates a different path to spirit. Instead of seeking spiritual growth through ascension and transcendence, it derives its power through the process of descent into and through the physical. Simply being a small circle without food or distraction, leaves us only the environment around us and ourselves for our awareness to dance within.
We descend into our physical/mental/emotional self and gain deep, though sometimes uncomfortable, understanding and clarity. Then, we descend further into the natural world and the power and importance of our connection there. Finally we drop below the physical veneer into the subtle rhythms of life itself and are expanded into the universal spiritual consciousness. The path of the quest, then, leaves us grounded and embodied, as the ground and the body have become the pathway into spirit.
However, at the start of this first quest, I only dimly intuited these things. I was struggling to articulate them. I did believe that the unique nature of the quest would open to me the experience of insight and vision into the directions I should, or would, be following in my life. Because I felt very stuck in my life, I needed that awareness badly. Paradoxically, I approached this first quest with a certain cockiness. From within the framework of my past experience, I expected it to be easy. However, it turned out to be, in many ways, the hardest thing I had ever done.
Our quest protector was Tom Brown, Jr., author and leader of the world’s largest wilderness awareness and survival school. He explained that this quest had been passed to him through his teacher, Stalking Wolf, an Apache elder and shaman. He warned us that our task would be daunting. For indigenous peoples, the entrance to the quest was far easier than we would face. They lived close to the earth and were familiar with her rhythms, her voices. For them, it was a few short steps into the quest. Modern peoples, stepping out from busy lives in a culture steeped in almost constant, frenetic action, would have a much longer journey into the purity of the wilderness. He said that the challenge would be great.
However, his strongest warning was about the greatest challenge we would encounter, and that would be the coming face to face with ourselves. He said that most of modern life distracted us from that encounter but when we remove all distraction, as we do in the vision quest, we can no longer avoid it. We see all the way to the core of our heart, all illusion is stripped away. When he told us that, I felt fear at his words because I felt sure that I would succumb to all the darkness that I sensed behind my quiet presence.
Those four days and nights I spent in my quest circle, turned out to be one of the hardest things I had ever done, but I was hooked. It temporarily stripped me of all the knowledge and information I had gained along my spiritual path and forced me to confront the truth of who I was, and to see both what I had, and had not, accomplished along my way. It foretold of a hope of healing and showed me the pathway. It cut through the dogma and the conceptual so prevalent in modern spirituality, and brought me face to face with myself.
I found that the path of the vision quest opens both personal and spiritual vision and insight to us. Through descent, we ourselves, and then nature, become the pathway for us to approach the spiritual heart of life. As we walk this path we find that we are able to carry our spiritual awareness within our humanness. Our thoughts and feelings become inspired and purified by the visions, both personal and universal, that have touched and transformed our hearts and minds. Within this experience our awareness becomes seamless, it fills into the dark places within ourselves, shedding light and personal insight. It fills in our connections with the natural world with deep understanding and feeling, and we expand into the sacred spiritual realms. In other words, the vision quest can heal the essential human split between the physical and spiritual, rather than making it wider.
I was blessed and I have been blessed with many grand visions over the years, not the least of which was to become a quest protector. I have now guided over a thousand people to Grandfather, Stalking Wolf’s vision of the quest. In that first quest, a commitment was born that has spanned over 18 years and included approximately 30 quests of various lengths. I found a path that could bring me home, and I have stuck with it.
Coaching In My Life.
Coaching is a way of being, a way of communicating, a way of living. It is choosing in every moment to listen or speak or do something based on what I am committed to, not just on what I am thinking or feeling. Coaching is choosing to be powerful and vulnerable at the same time.
When I am being a coach I am being me. I am being a woman who is passionate about making a difference in every conversation I have, every action that I take.
I am honest when I admit that I don’t always want to do the work or even think that I can do it. But I am willing to do it anyway and take the risk of looking foolish or inadequate.
In coaching, I am using the gifts that I have been given and the lessons I have learned. It starts within myself, with being aware of my thoughts and hearing my heart as I awaken and experience each moment of the day.
Some days my first thoughts are what I did not do yesterday or some unpleasant feelings I’m having about someone. I feel heavy and burdened. I feel like lying on the couch and not doing anything. I ask, “Who cares and what does it matter anyway?”
I am recalling one of those days, feeling depressed. Then a thought arrives. It says, “Amy (my daughter) needs a math tutor.” My heart sounds out how much
I love my daughter and how much I want her to have the education that can give her choices in life.
I am fully present to how I will do whatever it takes to provide her with whatever she needs. I am now conscious of what I am committed to. I quickly review what’s been accomplished. I see what is missing.
I jump off the couch and start jamming around the house to get ready for the day. Then the phone rings. My accountant never received the paperwork needed to prepare my tax form. I go into panic. As my thoughts come fast and furious, Amy yells out something from the other room. I look down at my schedule and see that I have an appointment in twenty minutes.
As I start to race, the coach in me says, “Stop!” I sit, listen and breathe. In the space of a minute, I connect with what I am here to accomplish, and with joy of being given so much richness in my life. I go talk with Amy, then gather my paperwork and get on with my day.
I am so grateful to have the distinction and power of conscious thinking, honest emotions and creative actions in my life. Coaching has been instrumental in bringing this out in me.
Coaching is a process of shifting from knowing the answer to asking questions. It is asking what are you committed to? What are the facts? What is missing? What would be possible if you include that which is missing?
Coaching is bringing out the best in ourselves and in others. When we hear what is truly wanted and needed, we can uncover the most effective way to get there.
A coach is someone who is more committed to a person’s fulfillment than to his or her comfort with the status quo. In order for coaches to do their work, there must be a desire for coaching and a clear project at hand. The request for coaching can only be made when we are ready to make the changes that will take us out of the box where we have kept ourselves.
The times that I make the biggest difference in my own life and in those around me are when I choose to act based on a commitment, not on what feels easy. I risk telling the truth. The truth oftentimes brings up difficult thoughts and feelings. I must be willing to confront these before the truth can do its work of setting me free.
I must be prepared to deal with whatever shows up. I use coaching principles of listening, of stating the facts, of acknowledging what’s been accomplished, and being open to what’s possible.
The power of commitment which coaching brings out in me gives me the discipline to do my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual exercises.
The joy and peace that is the result of this work gives me the possibility of serving my purpose, and of choosing happiness in the moment no matter what the circumstance.
Having a coach in my corner has given me a way to consistently know and live my purpose. I have especially been thankful for coaching when I am starting and completing major projects and transitions.
Coaching can make all the difference when we take on the job that we are to do and allow for all of the support that is available.