[Note from Kirsten: I’ve been away for the past two months, walking across Spain and participating in a dream conference in the Netherlands, while guest blogger Tina Tau has brought her gentle wisdom and beautiful writing to Compass Dreamwork. Now, since I still need a little time for rest and reflection before I’ll be ready to fully resume my own writing here, Holly Jarvis—my business partner, and beloved life partner—has offered a lovely article on personal transformation and communal connection…]
By Holly Jarvis, Guest Blogger
This past year brought big changes for both Kirsten and me. Kirsten lost her parents and I left my job and career. We’ve both been looking for meaning, a new perspective not easily accessed in ordinary consciousness or busy lives. And that brought each of us to commit to a transformational life challenge over the summer—for Kirsten a pilgrimage walk across Spain on the Camino de Santiago, and for me a vision quest.
As we talked about our hopes and concerns for our adventures, we discovered how similar they are. Kirsten’s pilgrimage would involve being far away from home, encountering physical hardships, and finding inner strength and spiritual renewal in unfamiliar circumstances. My vision quest will put me alone into a small area in a forest with no food, water or shelter for four days and four nights, also experiencing being away from home, encountering physical hardships, and finding the inner strength to complete the quest.
Like Kirsten, I am looking for a way to wake up, to become more lucid in my waking life by moving into a dream-like state of openness. By taking myself out of my everyday world and entering a situation that is so outside-of-the-ordinary as to be almost surreal, I hope to gain access to an experience of imagination, allowing this dream-like state to help me reassemble my perspective, understanding, and sense of life as it is happening in “real time.”
Another aspect of my quest, and Kirsten’s pilgrimage, is to strip away learned behaviors, unconscious beliefs and ways of being in the world. I want to peel away layers until I get closer to my essence—the gifts and uniqueness I was born with before I took on cultural beliefs or closed down parts of myself in reaction to experiences.
As Kirsten was preparing for her pilgrimage, she felt the call to include her community in the experience. For her the journey wasn’t just for herself—she wanted to “carry” the concerns, prayers, and dreams of others as well. Asking people to share in the process would deepen its meaning and give her strength. So she held a Camino Blessing ceremony to connect people personally with the experience of walking this path, and shared the joys and struggles of each day in emails and Facebook posts.
I stayed home and provided Kirsten logistical, emotional and spiritual support from a distance. I took her phone call in the middle of the night when she had run out of money and her debit card wouldn’t work in any of the ATMs in the little villages along her route. On especially hard days I offered encouragement and reminders of how much support she had from friends, family, and spirit. I reminded her of what she knew deep inside but couldn’t reach or remember in the moment. It connected us and brought out the best in me, my groundedness and belief in the rightness of a larger view of our lives.
My vision quest is supported by my community of shamanic practitioners, as well as by Kirsten and my family. There will be eleven others alone in the woods on quest, and eighty people camping nearby in the forest. It is a powerful experience for those in camp—maintaining a deep focus on the ones who are individually questing, holding the questers in their attention, thoughts, hearts and prayers.
I have been in the support camp for the last two years and it is heart-expanding to be in this role. We send the feeling of a nourishing hot meal, refreshing cool water, and even clean teeth to those in the woods. We also monitor our feelings, thoughts, and words to be sure that we are holding a loving space.
There is a fire that burns 24 hours a day during the week we are in the camp. We take shifts in pairs, feeding the fire and keeping focus and attention on the questers. Two years ago, an incredible deluge of rain started in the middle of the night, flooding tents and canopies. When daylight came, we all pulled together, in good spirits and good humor, to clean up the mess and to share dry sleeping bags and clothing with each other and with the questers. There was no complaining, no wishing it was different. Those of us in the camp were able to rise above the discomforts to serve a larger purpose and support those who were alone on quest and facing even more difficult conditions.
The experience of questing isn’t just for individuals, rather the whole community receives healing and blessing as a result of the quests. When I am a quester, the community will benefit not only from their experience of supporting me and hearing my stories, but also from the internal transformation that I experience. The changes that happen within me (whether immediate or in the months that follow the time in the woods) will also impact them; the experience of transformation will be available to the collective unconscious.
Last year I sat in circle with the questers just before they went off into the woods, listening to each speak about why they were going on quest. So many of their reasons resonated with me and I felt a recognition deep within that led me to realize that the time for my quest had come. I am at a point in my life where I don’t want to waste any more time doing things which are not important to me or being anything less than my deep, true self.
And like Kirsten, I want to share my experiences and my transformation with my community, family, and friends. We all benefit from the experiences, discoveries, and new understandings that each of us bring into the world. We are all linked together in giving and receiving.