Thursday, February 17, 2011
When my elder told me I would need to do four to seven quests during the time I was learning how to offer ceremonies within the Cherokee tradition, I was a little scared, a little excited, and very ready to take the next steps in my awakening. Somehow I knew questing was going to push my edges into the unknown and that is exactly where the Mystery unveils itself. I could live with status quo, or I could choose to experience beyond my current limitations. I chose to visit the unknown.
Some have described quest as a death and rebirth, and energetically this does indeed occur. You are reborn to yourself if you are willing to shed your attachments. It takes great courage to look the physical, emotional and spiritual limitations you have placed on yourself and consciously choose to let go of your need to define yourself through those limits. Then, the courageous journey continues as you surrender to the limitless nature of who you truly are, and willingly allow yourself to remember your most profound nature as a physical and spiritual being.
When you are sitting quiet and alone on Mother Earth for several days, you have time let your mind slow down. You discover a rhythm that is in complete harmony with the earth. The elements, nature and the animals know this rhythm (usually better than we do as humans), and you discover there is a oneness and peace that your busy life wasn’t fully experiencing. You are then questing with the Mother rather than on her, and you will experience this oneness reflected in interactions with your physical world.
This slowing down also creates an opening with the spirit world. It is common for questers to experience very different kinds of dreams, where they are much more lucid in dreaming reality. They are engaged with life in both the waking and dreaming worlds, and recognize the intersections between the two. Mystical awareness is quite common for those that surrender, opening themselves to the existence of their being beyond material life.
Questers experience the physical connections between themselves and their loved ones. If a quester is fasting completely (which I don’t recommend for people on medications or herbal therapy) or eating and drinking minimally during their days alone, they can discover what it is like when friends and family eat and drink for them. It is actually possible to be hungry, pray for satisfaction, and minutes later feel the physical relief as someone in camp eats for you.
While it is true that many questers receive visions or medicine songs during their quest, I usually recommend that questers not attach to this. Quest is a space in which you can open to a greater understanding of the Mystery that flows within you and around you. It is a place to shed spiritual and emotional weight. And it is a place in which to gain greater clarity about who you are and how you can best walk in the world in your greatest happiness and service. If a vision or a medicine song helps bring you in understanding your true nature and purpose, then that is a blessing.
There are many kinds of questing rituals. Some that I have personally experienced include sitting alone in the woods for several days, day-long sweat lodge, meditating with water for days, and ritual burial. Even how you sit alone can vary from tradition to tradition. I prefer to create an environment where there is a community of supporters in camp, tending sacred fire for 24 hours per day, holding space for themselves and the questers. I was taught ceremony within a matriarchal tribe, so our customs and practices reflect a unique perspective about the Sacred Feminine.
If you have never been to a quest or supported someone questing, it is an honor and there are sacred openings for the supporters as well as the questers. Commonly, I hear people express their thanks for being invited to participate because they could not have imagined how much was going to be spiritually revealed to them simply by coming to witness and support. If you would like to read about New Dream’s quest and read comments from supporter, you can discover more here: http://www.newdreamfoundation.com/spirit-quest.htm. (Many of our regular attendees are making plans this winter while airfares are still low.)
When it comes to questing, within some traditions, you are not asked or required to do any preparatory work. When I hold space for a quester, I ask them to prepare for a year. They offer daily prayers, reflect upon their dreams, and meditate upon questions that I ask them to consider as they begin the process of shedding layers of attachments, self-doubt, confusion, fear, self-abuse, regrets or resentments. This helps them release from the challenges of life before their quest, purifying their spiritual bodies to become ready to experience the beauty of the Mystery.
People quest for many reasons. In fact, it is one of the first questions I tend to ask, “Why do you want to quest?” From there, the quest develops a life of its own, and we can then hold space for your unfolding. You can ask any person that has quested if it was difficult, and they are likely to tell you, “Yes.” You can also ask them if it was worth it and they will probably also tell you, “Yes.”
What is revealed during questing ceremony, whether you attend as a quester or a witness and supporter, is the Mystery itself. Certainly the Mystery unveils itself to us every day, and yet, do we typically take the time to slow down and notice? For many of us, we would have to admit honestly that we don’t slow down nearly enough. If we wish to surrender to the limitless love and expressions of the unknown, a quest is one meaningful way to slow down and open the door to the wonders of the Mystery.