In April 2002, I embarked on my first vision quest in the canyon lands of Utah. This was a call to completely separate from my every day, modern life to sink into the remote wilderness. I was on a trajectory of digging into contemplating my “self “and this all too complicated world. A voice deep inside begged me to follow the “YES!” I heard to take this unknown plunge. 

The hallmark of vision questing is fasting and sitting solo for three days and nights. We first came together as a group, sharing our stories with eldered guides. We were navigated to those solo days by hiking deeper into the canyons. Along the way, the defenses and protective layers we wore began to shed. This exposed our inner wildness so we could hold conversations with the outer wildness around us. We shared through medicine walks (or contemplative walking), dream work, journaling, drumming, and our guides’ knowledgeable reflections of our life stories. 

When we were on the threshold of entering our solo time, the guides advised us on a variety of ways we could spend those days and nights: finding fascination with nature, an all-night vigil, journaling, creating an altar, making a small fire to symbolize burning what you wanted to let go of, just sitting and being, doing a Death Lodge… What!? A Death Lodge? What would that entail? 

Within my solo spot, which had many rocky details and niches, I found a place that felt like a good place to lie down and die, (of course, not literally). A Death Lodge provided a chance to create a relationship with the end of my life and mindfully make peace with anyone who was a part of my old story before it died. I called out to see who wanted to meet me. Their arrival came through emotions, memories, fears, and imagination. With the wearing down of my ego from the journey in, as well as fasting, I was more open than any time in my life. 

Lying on my stony deathbed, the first people who came to me were my sister and other women friends who were single as I am. I lamented and shed tears for our aloneness, and yet I imagined their empathetic gazes upon me. This brought great comfort as it stirred up the sisterly love and support we shared with each other. A fly then landed on me, rubbing his front legs as flies do, and it became a most irritating person from a prior workplace rubbing his hands together plotting his next destructive influence. This then triggered memories of a boss who used to wield her superiority over me like a sword. From this perspective, I finally understood the fear from which they operated. I saw them for who they were and knew the deeper insight I gained would prevent such people from getting the better of me in the future.

Interestingly, when a man I was having a difficult relationship with presented, I felt the urge to pee, which meant leaving my Death Lodge. Yes, the profane speaks within the sacred. Messages come in mysterious and representational ways. Luckily I found the strength to finally leave that relationship. 

Forgiveness was also part of the Death Lodge. The guides suggested using a prayer, “I forgive you for not being the way I wanted you to be.” Did I want to be alone or deal with people who were destructive, superior, or difficult? Of course not, but life gives us exactly what we need. It is up to us as to what we do with it. I was able to eventually find forgiveness not only for them but for myself. Especially for myself. I am not alone in saying I could be my own worst enemy. I realized how letting go of judgment and practicing self-forgiveness is essential in setting myself free. 

I believe you are getting the message. Don’t wait until the proverbial “life passing before your eyes” while on the brink of near death to face the hardships of life. Entwined with death are the many lives that have impacted us in a variety of ways. I was given a chance to contemplate them not as I was physically dying, but while fully alive. I am now living from the lessons they taught me with a deeper understanding of myself as well as how people impact me. Taking that unknown plunge was a very freeing practice.

Lisa Diane McCall, MHS, is a Certified Life Coach trained in the technique of Voice Dialogue. She is also a trained Hospice Volunteer. Her background is blended with degrees in biology and international health, as well as experiences in vision questing, shamanic work, meditation, and intensive travel. Check out her website, www.lisadmccall.com to learn how she helps people explore their Dark Heart so they can live from creativity and lightness. Also her Instagram page, www.instagram.com/darkheartsays and Facebook page, www.facebook.com/creativechoicescoaching

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