At the heart of a Vision Quest is time spent alone, apart from the others, fasting and seeking one's own encounter with the Soul of the Earth. How could it be otherwise? Whatever the communal nature of much of our religious life, our spiritual path invites us, ultimately and inevitably, to walk alone. Alone we came into the world and most surely alone we will leave. And alone we will find the path Soul invites us to walk, or not.
Most of the Animas Valley Vision Quest, which I undertook last summer, was spent in preparation. Fourteen questers and three guides, we were encamped high in the Uncompahgre Mountains of Southwestern Colorado. There we were groomed by the open skies and the shimmering forests, the burbling brooks and the stars at night. Inwardly, we were romanced by our longings and our dreams and by our unique inner landscapes.
We sat in counsel with one another and shared the truths of our hearts, asking the questions that would guide us on our Quest. We went on wild wanders into the surrounding woods and meadows, noticing what caught our attention and, when something did, we stopped then and there with wonder and with curiosity. At night we drummed and we danced and we crouched around a fire to sacrifice those parts of ourselves that were no longer helpful on the journey.
Then, we left base camp for our solos. Alone, we fasted, we prayed, we performed ceremonies, we listened, and we paid rapt attention to how the natural world was speaking to us, and to what it was saying. Three days later, each of us came back, transformed by the experience, though our encounters were as varied as we were.
When I invited my friend and fellow quester Vincenzo Falone to meet me online to share the stories of our adventure, we ended up talking for over two hours. Still, that didn't cover it. I recorded our conversation for my podcast, but there was too much material, too much depth, too much left unsaid. Our experiences defied pithy descriptions and easy definitions. It felt almost sacrilegious to try.
But this was foreseeable. Did we really think that the mysteries of a Soul Encounter could be packaged up and sent out neatly for public consumption? We barely know ourselves what happened out there on the mountainside or deep inside within our own souls. Like all mystical experiences, at the end of the day, we were given a new path for our hearts to follow, not a new concept for our heads to consider. And it continues to unfold, this path, an ongoing revelation with each step we take.
Our conversation offers you this, though: an invitation to attend to your own path and to the ways Mystery courts you, calls you, and prepares you for your own Soul Encounter. If nothing else, it reminds us all that we have been given a rich and interesting life to live that is irrevocably unique; a contribution to make to the world that no one else can make; and a role to fulfill that is ours alone. In a sense, aware of it or not, we are all on a Vision Quest.
To listen to the second part of my conversation with Vincenzo Falone, click the Play button below. Follow the Information button ("i") to the show notes for more about Vincenzo and about the Animas Valley Institute.