• Cindy Zampa

Portal 52 - Week 18: Vision Quest

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ― C.G. Jung

“Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you're riding through the ruts, don't complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don't bury your thoughts. Put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!” ― Bob Marley

The year had been a rut-filled, challenging journey. I was exhausted and, at times, overwhelmed with grief, stress and the herculean efforts it took to get through mundane, everyday tasks – ‘burnt out’ some might have called it, though I was not in the space to recognize that myself.

At first I was hesitant, resistant even, when the opportunity arose to unplug and disappear for 5 days into the wilderness of the Sunshine Coast on a guided ‘Vision Quest’ retreat. My initial thoughts were fear-based, the main one being that I’d be going with complete strangers into a remote and isolated area. I don’t like being without the comforts of home, and my brain struggled to justify the cost of this venture.

But then my heart spoke up, loud and clear, of all that could be gained from this excursion: reflective time to myself; being immersed in nature; the chance to rest; a digital detox due to being in such a remote area; having someone else take the lead for a change, allowing me to shift my focus inward. “Now is the time!” my heart sang.

The beautifully serene oceanfront location in the Narrows Inlet north of Vancouver, accessible only by boat, was magical to say the least. I was at ease immediately. I reconnected with nature, breathed in the fresh air and absorbed the energy of the landscape and wildlife around me. I remained open to the experiences and exercises we were led through and discovered new truths. Strangers quickly became friends. I wandered along uninhabited shorelines. My heart swelled with joy watching otters play in the water around me as I drifted alongside them in a kayak. I swam in the ocean at night, in water that glowed with bioluminescence. When we gathered to feast on the healthy meals that were prepared for us, we were amazed to see that we shared our dining space with several black bears. They'd meander along the berry lined pathways to the shoreline, stopping occasionally to crack open clams or mussels to eat. All of the wildlife behaved differently than anything I'd ever experienced before. They did not seem threatened by our presence, so we co-existed rather peacefully - except for that one instance.....

​Every one of the participants had scouted out their own areas of the forest or shoreline, and claimed a spot where we could not see, or be seen by, anyone else. We were to spend 24 hours fasting and reflecting, in solitude. This was to be the pinnacle of our vision quest journey. Several of us had settled into spots along the shoreline where the ocean had cut tiny coves into the old growth forest, leaving a steep walled beach of boulders and exposed roots of the massive cedar trees that towered above us.

It happened in the wee hours of the morning, when darkness enveloped everything except for the glints of moonlight on the ocean. A large creature could be heard lumbering through the deadfall, its large claws click click clicking on the rocks of a small creek that drained into the ocean, immediately behind the boulder I was resting against. It snorted and clawed at the rocks on the beach directly in front of me. There was a loud growling noise and more snuffling. The snorting and scraping of claws as it dug into the rocky beach could be heard by everyone, even those camped a half kilometre away, as the sound carried easily across the open water. I was paralyzed with fear for a few heart-stopping moments.

And then, somehow, I managed to pick up my drum and began hitting it. The beat was a quick tempo: I pounded out the pace of my heartbeat. Gradually, I slowed the beat. My heart then slowed to keep pace with the rhythm of the drum. I thought if I let the creature know I was there, it would not be startled by my presence. Reflecting later, I realized it probably knew exactly where each of us was long before we knew it was there.

The next day when we gathered together again, we took turns sharing our experiences of the previous 24 hours. Needless to say, that close encounter– with what many thought to be a bear– figured prominently in each recounting of highlights. Many expressed gratitude for the sound of the drum. It had calmed them as much as it helped calm me.

I emerged from the wilderness with more self-awareness, having connected with nature in new ways. I found courage I didn’t know I had, and gained clarity about things in my life I didn’t know needed examining. I crossed through many portals. Portals not only in the mental, physical, and spiritual realm, but also in the emotional, creative and intuitive realms –– portals I did not even know existed.

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