Crossing the bridge to nowhere
The beginning of the year we started a training called The Laughing Shaman with Lieve de Boeck. One of the main modules was doing a Vision Quest in Portugal. So for the summer we hit the road towards Serra da Estrela, to a beautiful eco glamping spot, called Senses.
Traveling by car or plane, every one of the group arrived and we got together with a specific purpose. Four days in nature… without food, shelter and social contact. Away from social media, the sweet smell of coffee and the busy rush of modern city life. Back to nature, back to simplicity.
Once arrived, our training resumed, with a fresh jump into the tempting cold river next to our incredible yurt!
After two days of preparation and our last breakfast we were heading off to find our spot in nature. Lieve was very confident that we’ll all be fine. A few practical explanations later and with heartfelt laughter, our (appropriately named) laughing shaman patted us on the back and took us into the ‘wild’.
The bridge crossing the river had a sign ‘Bridge to Nowhere’.
It couldn’t have been more accurate.
Bridge to Nowhere
What is a Vision Quest exactly?
Solitude, Nature, and Fasting — The Three Elements of a Vision Quest: Solitude: A person on a VQ is alone. He/she has no contact with the outside world, is removed from social conversation, cultural roles, routines, habits and expectations.
This is a personal spiritual journey undertaken by someone as a rite of passage, to reach a turning point in life in order to find oneself and to see clearly one’s direction in life. Similar to an initiation in some Native American cultures.
What are the health benefits?
Fasting will get you in a state of ‘ketosis’ and switch on the self-healing capacity of the body. Autophagy will be triggered in your body. This is the body’s natural process of “eating bad cells” that’s not cleared in the body. It is an important system in the prevention of many diseases, including cancer. The respons on insulin will be better, inflammation will be cooled down and it turns on the production of stem cells in the brain and all other organs of the body. To keep it short: The body will be in a repairing mode.
Carmen’s tree of bliss
I survived THE VISION QUEST in Portugal!
For four days, no social contact, no food, no books, no phone, no external distraction at all. It was me versus nature.
Secretly I had BIG expectations of getting some kind of ‘awakening’ or an ‘enlightening experience’ during the quest. So there I sat under my version of a Portuguese ‘bodhi tree’, waiting for something to happen. Waiting for suffering to come (hunger, fear, burning heat of the sun, fatigue, boredom, or whatever) and I will tell you none of this happened… I felt it, but didn’t become it.
I, or someone in my head, began questioning myself. Thoughts like: ‘Why are you not hungry, why are you not afraid, why are you not suffering? You should be, because then, you will have some big insights. And why are you even feeling peaceful?’.
Suddenly it hit me… A question arose: ‘Why are you questioning yourself that you are not suffering? Should I be suffering’, ‘who is this anyway in my head that’s talking?’…. This so called ‘I need to suffer to get something’ is such a conviction in my head…
So nothing really did ‘happen’ and yet so many things did. Just being there, one with the surroundings, one with nature…I felt a part of the everyday cycle, the sun rising and going down again, and not much later the bright light of the moon would rise upon a field full of flickering stars.
I chose a more “dry” spot with big ants crawling everywhere, with bees, spiders, crickets and an amazing red centipede totally mesmerised me, but they are all just minding their own business, just being there and yet by minding there “own business” everything felt just so harmonious.
Physically my body felt really good, not hungry at all and on the last day I wasn’t even thirsty. I experienced a very clear and sharp mind and the dreams I had, have never been so vivid! It was like there was no distinction between the dream state and the waking state. Really amazing!
I felt in complete harmony with all surroundings. I can truly say that nature is my medicine by just being fully immersed in it… It was an experience for me that revealed the possibility to feel one, to feel whole at all times. I don’t need to suffer to get somewhere, I don’t need to search for something…
Thank you, It’s all JUST THERE.
One by one people picked their spot. So far, nothing stood out for me so we kept going along the river. Suddenly, after going through some dense bushes it appeared right before me. A stork took off to the sky as we laid our eyes on what looked like a hidden miniature oasis. Waterfall included 😊 I couldn’t be more happier with the scenery. The stork was the first animal that presented itself to me. Once arrived I took my stuff and opened the sacred space by doing the ritual. My vision quest had begun.
There I sat butt-naked next to my waterfall. I took an occasional plunge in the water, sat by the trees, by the rocks and watched various animals go about their business. Beautiful dragonflies whisked by. A squirrel in the distance. Small frogs on the rocks. Oh and waking up next to a pack of goats that curiously wondered what some strange man was doing in the middle of nowhere.
In all honesty… It’s all hard to explain. It’s a range of emotions that happened during my stay.
I felt bored, I felt at peace, I felt tension, relief, gratitude, amazement, wonder, apathy, restlessness and relaxed. It’s a flow of emotions. But mostly… I just sat there. Looking at nature, wondering at it’s glory, it’s beauty. Amazed by it. Mesmerized by the colors, the waves, the sounds, the light.
Hunger wasn’t a big of an issue as I had anticipated. Not eating actually felt good, after a lifetime of constant food supply. My body got some well needed rest and after four days I felt more energized. I can’t lie though… visions of food where plenty 😊 But I understand now more than ever that I eat out of boredom. Not because we need 3 meals a day. We definitely don’t!
At times I was impatient. I had all the time in the world to sit there and just watch. Watch the sun rise and set. But sometimes my mind kept wishing it would just set a little faster.
Do I not enjoy myself I asked. I do… I’m sitting here and there’s nothing to do, nothing to accomplish.
I’m just not used to it. My mind has build up a narrative about how I always should be doing something. Always working on a project. Trying to achieve something. Something to get somewhere.
But there is no getting somewhere.. I asked myself, why do I do these things. Is it for recognition? Because I like doing it? Because I’m bored? This already is bringing clarity. Why Do I do it? So what if… there’s nothing to do…
That “you”, your identity, starts breaking down… Because there is no doing. Just being. My mind is so tricky. It convinces me to always seek for something. If I’m bored I look for distraction. And in this way I’ve programmed myself to never relax. It’s as if I have forgotten to relax.
So 4 days not doing anything, might just be the best thing I have ever done. There’s nothing to show for it. I can’t show the experience. Even sharing it with words is difficult and it doesn’t even matter.
I asked myself, why would I even care if I share it. Do I do it to post on Instagram? To “show off”? To fuel my ego somehow? And if so, why would I even care about how others perceive me? It doesn’t bring me more joy. I should be doing it for myself. Sharing it is just the result of doing something you love and showing it to the world, without any attachment or desire of how it would be perceived. Again i’m rationalizing.. but there’s only an endless shift of experiences. Every moment is vastly different. And in each moment I can be allow myself to feel and be different. No ‘identity’ attached.
So my mind is the biggest culprit. It creates expectations and desires. After 4 days… My mind slowly started to fade away. I became one with nature. One with the cycle. The thoughts fade away and I just sat there, feeling complete, relaxed and happy. Our natural state of being.
It all felt so simple. So easy..
You wake up, you experience and you go to sleep. Nothing to do.. We hardly know what that feels like. And it can be quite liberating. There’s a part of me that feels glad to be doing stuff again, because I can appreciate it even better now. There’s also a part that can help remind me to stop doing whatever I’m doing, breathe, take it all in, enjoy, breathe out…
Brief moments of bliss.. followed by whatever presents itself. Boredom, frustration, anxiety, stress, anticipation, expectation… Just letting it flow and not holding on to it. A constant flow of energy… The rustling winds in the leaves help remind the constant change and flow.
For me, the grounding part of nature really helps to find balance. I’ve been given a body to enjoy and experience this world. Spending too much time in my mind will not do me any good. So thank you nature for your guidance. And thank you, Laughing Shaman for helping me smile more often.
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