This September, even with a pandemic happening around us, I lead a Vision Fast for two courageous souls. I has been approached in the spring and asked if I would lead, and of course I had to say yes. We had a lot of conversation about Vision Fast or Vision Quest or Wilderness Quest, and I keep being asked, as it's seems confusing for people.
So this is why I'm calling this work a Vision Fast.
I trained as a Guide with the School of Lost Borders in California in 2017. It was a month in the high desert of the Inyo Mountains, looking out on the Sierra Nevada. The land is the ancestral land of people who are now called the Paiute, and there is a reservation in Big Pine, which is where the School has its base. Meredith and others from the School have worked closely with the Big Pine Tribe so that the land on which we camped and worked is properly honoured. I found this to be really important - in my bones as well as in my mind- as I work hard in my homeland to honour the places I know, and to make ceremony and 'feed' the soul of the land I work with or visit or know. I was told that the Elders had asked that if this work is done on their land- and yes that is ok- please can we not call it Vision Quest, as that is their ceremony. So the term Vision Fast is used.
I could call call the work a Wilderness Quest, as some others do here in the UK - and the term Wilderness Guide is often used. Well, I'm not sure about that here where I am working, as there is no real wilderness in these green isles! Being based in the South West, the land I am working with has all been managed or cultivated at some point. And I'm not that comfortable with the term Wilderness either. What do we mean we talk of wild and wilderness? It sounds exciting and exotic, which is why it's great for marketing purposes. However, it seems to assume the separation of that nature and our nature. Aren't we all wild somewhere inside?
So do you fast?
Yes! This rite of passage, this time crossing a threshold into another place, this sublime liminal experience, is made more real for us rather-too-comfy humans by taking away the distraction of food. For three of four day and nights. There is time to prepare and drop into it, to create an intention, and there is time to come gently back into the world afterwards. You are welcomed back with food!
"I will never forget the day of the return, arriving back at camp to see Jenny waiting for me, with nurturing food and a fire. My soul felt replenished and loved and seen. " Fasting also changes our relationship with time, and that allows things to shift for us time-bound people.
So if you are thinking... is this for me? Then find out more. You can book a free half hour 1:1 with Jenny.
My January has been a deliberate time away from regular work, away from the normal workdays and into a time of rest, reflection and renewal. For a few months, I was telling people that “I’m having January off”, and not really feeling it myself. Now it’s here, and more than half way through, and it’s my last evening at a cornish cottage alone. This place has a harbour, and there is an icy storm raging. The safety of the harbour has been needed for me to rest and re-find a place of inner quiet, ready for the year ahead. As anyone who knows me would confirm, I have a propensity to hold onto far too many work strands, love creating new projects and generally try hard to make life OK for others. No wonder I was burnt out, exhausted.
Right now, I’m happy to be safe inside, warm and with the prospect of a final spacious evening alone. Over days I have walked the coast path, climbed up step after step and slid down muddy tracks; I’ve explored the woods, crossing streams and noticing primroses getting themselves ready to produce flowers. Tomorrow, it’s into the cold winds of the winter and towards my home. The storm will propel me outwards, into the wilds again. Not just the outer wild; the inner wild landscape that now travels with me. These are the dreaming lands of the winter, a place of renewal and a breathing space. For many years I paid lip-service to the notion of winter dreaming, taking a few days off here and there. This year, I carved out a whole month, taking time away from work, some time away from loved ones, away from home, in mountains, on the moor and here by the sea.
So I’m grateful for the storm tonight, and the winds forecast again tomorrow. It has been so good to pay heed to the weather; and to the cliffs, valleys and streams of this place. It has felt like a gift to be in a landscape that demands my full attention; walking the northern coast path in winter is steep, slippy, windblown and empty of people. It evoked within me what is now called mindfulness. I know that as being fully present to the landscape around me, to each step I take, the rocks I pass by, the calling of the gulls, kittiwakes, rooks and ravens overhead.
Now, in my room, I stop and take a breath. Listening, as the rain and sleet again pound the roof and windows. Here in my safe harbour, where I thought that I would dream of new projects for my work. Instead, in this breath between things, this place of renewal, I’ve come to realise that I want to hear the dreams of this land: the ancient cliffs, river valleys and wild seas of this beautiful lush, wet island that is my home. I give thanks and honour the storm that has sent me inward to this realisation, and settle deeper into the warmth of this haven. I feel protected in this valley by the cliffs around me, and grow into a remembered feeling that it is not us who dream this land, but it is the land that dreams us.