It is what we know, because that which we understand from the experience of the vision quest finds no words to express it, and if we cannot express it, hear it said, we question and fear it. But we continue to long for the escape, to shed the body like the snake that sheds its skin.
We try to share our experience, the knowledge that nature has imparted upon us -- but it is difficult, and often times seems to fall upon deaf ears. But we cannot pace others, only ourselves, and we cannot make them hear what they resist; perhaps they just are not ready. Enlightenment through nature comes to people at their own pace through life. Often times, I think, it is later in life, when the noise of youth subsides. It is then, for some, that the distant mountain beckons us to our individual vision quest, and we can stand in the cold shade against the strength of the mountain wall, or we can move away from it, into the meadow and stand in the illumination of the light of the collective. For there are many who have gone before us, and this knowledge that we gain is knowledge that has been previously discovered by those who came and went before us -- by those who come and go after us. It is the collective, the light of all the souls, all the knowledge that exists in the universe. If we move away from the strength of the mountain wall to stand on our own, to draw upon our own strength, even if that strength is gained by the mountain, we can bask in the illumination of the collective light without the restraints of manmade barriers, and we can soar to the top of the mountain, and land safely on our feet in the warmth of the light. This was my vision quest, and the secrets of the mountain that were, I found, always with me, inside me, were revealed to me.
That I could not share them with my brother is not a sad thing. My brother must face his barriers, his barb wired fences, and he must choose to go under, over, around, or take the wire cutters and destroy them. These not choices that come to any one man or woman easily, and there is no set time through life's journey when one must make the decision to overcome the barriers of the mindset of prescribed ideologies and man's laws. Indeed, some never come to this time and place, this mountain, and it is perhaps in the next carnation that they will experience the illumination of the collective light of souls. Will that be my brother's path? At this time I cannot say, but I can say that I am grateful that he was with me as I experienced my own release and found the tranquility of the mysteries of the mountain.
Betsy Perluss (2007) writes of her vision quest:
"My experience in the desert wash left me a little perplexed. Did I really hear voices coming from the canyon? Or was I tricked by the sounds of the wind? Certainly, the way the wind moves along the rocks and planes could produce auditory sensations of all kinds (p. 219-220)."
It can indeed be a tricky experience. For me, I felt the existence of the collective spirit from which, I began to understand all intelligence emanates, exists in body, and returns to after it sheds the body. What we experience in the body, the learning, we take with us. We take the love too, when we shed the body of the flesh and return to the collective light. The light grows with the knowledge that we bring back to it, and the universe expands with it, and new worlds are born out of the ashes of death and destruction, and new mountains rise in those worlds and in our own world too.
My brother has not talked much of our walk through the mountain, and I do not intrude upon his innermost thoughts about it. I await patient his sharing of his experience, and it comes to me in bits in pieces. It is hard to be patient, because I am excited about all that I feel was revealed to me in coming to know the mountain. Did he gain strength from the mountain, or did he just touch the mountain wall only to find that it was hard, and resisting of his body? Did it weaken him in the way that it strengthened me? He says he liked the crisp cold mountain air, even though we were at a high altitude and it left him a little breathless. Did the breathlessness, a deprivation of oxygen to the brain, bring him closer to the other side? I want to ask him these things, but he gives me no segue to my questions, and I won't intrude upon his experience, because my own is too precious.
Perhaps the mountain was not the right landscape for my brother. "In a canyon you pick your own path (Williams, 1994, p. 55)." Terry Tempest Williams (1994) talks about the wilderness, and encounters with bears, and for Williams, an encounter in the wilderness with a powerful bear equates to connecting to his feminine side, and that connection is, he says, a commitment to the wildness. Tempest says:
"I see the Feminine defined as a connection to the Self, a commitment to the wildness, our instincts, our capacity to create and destroy; our hunger for connection as well as sovereignty, interdependence, and independence at once. We are taught not to trust our own experience (p. 53)."
For Tempest, the bear is wild, encountered only in the landscape of the wilderness, a place where mankind cannot easily survive. The bear brings him in touch with his Feminine side, because his masculinity cannot, by way of his own strength, overcome the bear. The is the vulnerability of the landscape that is foreign, even hostile to him. Clearly Tempest sees the Feminine as the vulnerability that each of us has within us, but that is his perception. Others might not readily agree that vulnerability is Feminine, except that it is not modern for men to admit to these kinds of vulnerability, although it is contemporary to be in touch with one's Feminine side.
As I walked through nature surrounded by mountains, I was careless, not paying attention to the dangers that were present, like snakes, and other potential dangers. My brother cautioned me to be more careful. Now, as I consider his cautions, I wonder if I had not in fact surrendered to nature, and for that moment was trusting of my instincts. Was I in touch with my Feminine, while my brother did not let down his guard, but was watchful for both of us, resisted the connection?
"The Feminine teaches us experience is our way back home, the psyche bridge that spans rational and intuitive waters. To embrace the Feminine is to embrace paradox. Paradox preserves mystery, and mystery inspires belief (p. 53)."
Tempest is saying that there is a part of the human psyche that wants to believe in all things possible, so long as they are good things. We use myth and mystery to demonstrate the moral of stories that helps us to get in touch with the Feminine Self, in order to bridge the gap between that characteristic expression which resides within us, and which resists certain expressions of Self. We bridge the gap between the Masculine and the Feminine, and find ways for the expression of gentleness, kindness, giving to manifest, to cross the bridge of the paradox so that we can be fully expressive of our Self. We need the "power of the Bear," so that we can believe in the mysteries of nature and God, and thereby believe in the goodness of our Self.
We are strong in the face of diversity and challenge, we draw that strength from the world around us, from nature, that is stronger than us and is a force that man alone, without the tools of technology or the fire of destruction, would not otherwise be able to conquer.
Perhaps my brother will choose a different landscape, a different path to his own illumination. It is, after, an individual experience, even though we may not walk alone. I hope that my brother will invite me, as I did him, on the nature walk that leads to his own illumination of all the mysteries that we hold in our minds and hearts, the freeing of the soul from the body, and the warmth of the collective knowledge.
I will forever view nature with a new perspective. My walk with brother provided volumes of thought that I will contemplate as I move forward in my life. It is revealing…