In a past blog, I talked about going to Sedona to support a woman named Cathy to do her vision quest. Do you remember? Please note that this is not the same person as the Kathy I recently met at my first sweat. After I committed to this quest, I asked the first Cathy to support me on my quest. She definitely wanted to because she wanted to see what a vision quest conducted by a Lakota Native American looked like. Do you recall that the one in Sedona lasted only a few hours, with us stopping to get cokes and chips before going out to Bell Rock for the vision quest? Well, this one appeared to be quite different. Now, before you begin, know I attempted to shorten this. I am dividing it into two parts for you, but I still did not include all I wanted to share with you. Now, let’s begin.
Gary guided Kathy and me by phone through the preparation process with only a few telephone calls. Even though Kathy and I were both single and working, we each began gathering items for our vision quests that he suggested. One of our assignments was to pick up 400 stones. We spent multiple days together, picking up the four hundred stones that would be used for sweats during purification and the quest. We got to know each other well. Gary also told us to be certain to make a tobacco offering and say a prayer for the rock nation before picking up the stones. We decided to also pray with each stone about our vision quest as we carried it to Kathy’s Blazer, gently placing each stone in the back of her Blazer.We both wanted strong answers on this quest for us and the other two that committed to the quest when we planned to do so. When we were fully loaded, we had to drive more than an hour to the land chosen for our vision quest to unload the rocks just as gently. Multiple trips were required due to the heaviness of the stones and what her automobile held.
Gary also explained that we were to begin purification four days before the quest. I realized that I would be the first person to begin purification and the first one to go on the hill since I chose to go for three days and nights. As the time came closer, I felt like I had everything I needed except for finishing the remainder of my six hundred prayer ties. I remembered that when Gary told Kathy and me what we needed for this adventure, I almost panicked. Both John and Gary saw the look on my face. How could I get all of the things I needed? I also needed money that I did not have at present. I did not even know what some of the items on the list were! Both assured me that I had no need to worry, and I would be surprised by what would come to me and what would happen in my life to help me do this quest.
It all went back to “Have Faith.” Sure enough, everything did happen to bring this about. With guidance and an extra good check from sales for the month, I was okay. John gifted me his pipe, Kathy and I had delivered the 400 stones we prayed with. I also had the clothes I needed and the Pendleton blanket I purchased to use on the hill. Kathy had all the camping gear we might need. We only needed to stop on the way to purchase the food that Gary and Elizabeth could eat during their trip to Oklahoma to help us.
An unexpected phone call from Gary and Elizabeth came the day before purification began. They were already at Mary’s and asked if Kathy and I wanted to come sweat with them the next day. “Yes.” Even though I had just returned from John’s, I telephoned him to share the news that Gary and Elizabeth had arrived. Then I made my sage tea I was to drink during the four days of purification rather than water. Next, I enjoyed a long, hot shower because I could not touch or drink any water after midnight until my quest was over in seven days. After the shower, I had a cup of sage tea, and it was surprisingly good.
I thought about all that had happened in the last three and a half years since I began to work on “me.” I also thought about how things had worked out in the last two weeks. I sold my house for $100 above what I owed (thank goodness) and even rented an apartment. I had no idea what would happen during this quest, but I kept focusing on “trust the process and praying three times a day as Gary said to do. I also kept knowing all will be fine.” My life had been orchestrated perfectly to get me to this point, and I felt that my quest was already being orchestrated.
Kathy picked me up. When we arrived on the land, the fire was already started. The stones were almost ready. We greeted Gary and Elizabeth, set up our small tent, and dressed for the sweat as quickly as possible. During the sweat, Gary explained that the vision quest helps each person look over their lives; past, present, and future. He suggested that Kathy and I might want to remain on this land and camp rather than return home. He went on to share about lessons being presented to us during these four days of purification. It seemed that the lessons would come to us stronger if we remained at home working rather than on the land. He encouraged us to stay and not return home, saying that, at home, those lessons might come from people we care about. It would be better to remain on this land. We would have the same lessons here, but they would be more gentle. Kathy and I both had appointments for work the next day and explained that we probably needed to return home.
However, the next morning, things changed. Kathy showed up at my place, unannounced, and asked if my morning was as difficult as hers. It had been. We agreed we preferred to go camp and finish our prayer ties there. We canceled appointments. I gathered a few more items I needed, and we headed to our destination.
I finished my ties before the evening sweat. In that sweat, Gary told us to rise with the Morning Star and make prayers. He suggested that we might want to make friends with the morning star. On the third day, we chose our spots where we would be for our quest. I placed my big, red heart-shaped stone that Cathy gave me in Sedona in my spot. After the evening meal, there was another sweat. More people kept arriving. Early the fourth day, Gary sent me to John’s house to acquire something for him that he needed. John casually shared with me that he would be going to a reception that night and would not be at the sweat. He did quickly add that he would be there before I went up on the hill. I could not believe my ears, because he had educated me about how one supports a quest. Now he was attending a reception rather than coming to this last, important sweat! He also said some odd things unlike himself.
I realized this was part of my quest and exactly what Gary told us about remaining on the land. I needed to look at my feelings and my reaction. I also knew that I needed to work on something I was being shown during this quest. Was it about “my worth?” My feelings were hurt, and I was not happy as I returned to the land, but I still had lots of work to do before going up on the hill. Gary had told us how important it was to go on the hill balanced. Perhaps work would help me.
It was time to gather my trees, six fruit trees and one cedar tree. It had to be fruit trees to represent growth. Mary said that she would help me acquire my trees. She knew where there were prune trees. She was the perfect person to help since she owned this land. I made a prayer to the tree nation as I gathered the six fruit trees and one small cedar tree. The cedar tree had to be stripped with only about two feet of the top remaining. Four were to be placed in the four directions. The cedar and two fruit trees were to be placed in front of me when standing to pray facing West. I attached prayer flags to each tree. They would be right in front of me for the entire quest.
Finally, it was time for this last sweat before I was to begin the quest. I had all trees and a few items leaning against the sweat lodge that people would carry up the hill when I went. Just as we were about to get in, John pulled in to park his van. Sally was with him, and I was delighted to see both of them. John hugged me. He explained that he wanted to hug me now because after the sweat, I would be wakan (That meant holy in Lakota) and no one could touch me. They were both ready to sweat. Gary told me to get into the lodge and to sit in the East for this sweat. When Gary crawled in, he asked for the pipe John had given me. I passed it to him. Knowing it was a gift from John, he then cleaned it by making a prayer with it. We all watched as he filled my pipe with natural tobacco and gently handed it back to me. Gary then instructed me not to let it touch the ground during the quest, saying I was to keep the stem of the pipe always facing West when I was to be on the hill. He added, “Now that pipe is yours.”
Following the sweat, a few women remained in the lodge to help me change my sweat dress to my clothes for this quest. I held the pipe carefully. When I crawled out of the sweat lodge, A woman carefully draped my blanket over my shoulders, and Gary told me to guide everyone to the place I had chosen. All supporters that had been in the lodge for this sweat, and others that were going to quest for fewer nights and days, followed me to my spot. They carried what I had leaned against the lodge up the hill. No one said a word. Everyone walked in a straight line behind me, stopping four times to make a prayer for each direction: West, North, East, and South. Walking up this hill made me think about Jesus. I knew that I had relatives and friends that did not understand what I was doing. I also knew some of them were mocking me. Jesus had many more that mocked him during his lifetime.
Vision Quest, Part II
I arrived at my spot and stood facing West. My trees were placed in each direction and front of me. Next, my prayer ties were placed around my trees. They defined my area. I was to stay inside this space of about four by six feet until it was time that I return to camp. I had cleared a bigger spot, not knowing how big an area I should clear. Each supporter made prayers for me one at a time. Then they all turned and left. Gary told me that someone might come to check on me. They were not to talk to me, and I was not to look them in the eye. He left, and I was alone. Soon the weather began to change. Clouds covered the moon. The wind was blowing. All I had was a new wool Pendleton blanket wrapped around me, the one to present to Gary when this quest was complete.
It began to rain, and the night turned freezing. I covered myself and lay down to sleep. It was so wet. Not being able to sleep, I sat up and looked around. It was still raining, but there were three lights in the grass. No one was there but me, so I said out loud, “Are you part of the diva kingdom? I am so happy to see you. It is frigid. After visiting with them for a while, I said, “If you are part of the deva kingdom and have any friends that would like to come to join us, invite them.” I told more things to this little light before I laid back down. I was so excited. Could it really be a little light being from the deva kingdom?
I remembered when Sally mentioned the deva kingdom to me a few months ago. We were sitting in her kitchen at the table when she mentioned it. I said, “What, Sally, is a deva kingdom?” I thought she was talking about something mythical or perhaps women. She was not. She admitted that she had never seen one but thought she had discovered a place in New Mexico where they lived. In fact, John and I were going to Taos, and she asked that we deliver offerings to the place she felt they must live.(John knew Sally, my Al-Anon sponsor, and I could not wait to see his face when I shared with him that we were to make her offerings for her. He agreed to it.) I loved her next explanation that she shared with me about the deva kingdom. “They are little light beings that live under the earth. Their only light is within them. They had to learn how to radiate their own light to find their path within the earth.” Now, were these the devas she talked about? Did that offering work?
I had been doing affirmations for a long time about my own light shining brighter. Perhaps this little light came to teach me something. Still super cold, I sat up again. I was so, so cold. This time there were six lights! I thought, “Oh, Sally, you would not believe this!” She was down in camp being a supporter. She would love this possibility!. Those light beings stayed with me until daylight. I prayed lots and talked to those little lights, my new friends. They helped me through the night. The rain ended as morning came.
By mid-morning, the sun was out. Everything looked clean and crisp. I knew I had not been fasting long enough to hallucinate, but directly in front of me, I began seeing white dots in the sky while looking out over the land. They lit up like little stars. I sat straight up with attention! They immediately moved down into the earth and came up to form a symbol directly in front of me. I had to look fast to recognize the shape they were showing me. They went into the earth and came up again. Soon I learned that I could ask them if they could show me the same symbol a second time, and they did do that. They would go down into the earth and return in front of me, making the same shape twice. The process continued. First, show themselves right in front of me against the sky, then go down into the earth, and then come out of the earth showing a different symbol. This was better than a picture show!
Eventually, that stopped. I tried to remember the shapes shown. With it warmer, I was able to sleep some. The lights in the night and the day were phenomenal. I continued to pray and continued to say “thank you” in my prayers. I watched which direction the wind was blowing, what animals came into my view, where a butterfly landed on a prayer tie, everything. I knew I was being shown things about myself through each event. I also knew I would learn more about my vision quest and what I saw as my life unfolded when I returned to my regular life.
Night came and was just as cold again. The second night I thought my deva kingdom lights were not there. The night was again cold. I finally stood up to pray. When I pulled my blanket back to crawl back in, a 2″ space on my blanket lit up. Then when I put my hand down by my side, I noticed my three fingers on my right hand lit up. I looked at my left hand. It had no lights, but my right hand still had lights on the same three fingers.! I pulled my hand out, and all lights went off. When I put it back in, the lights went on. However, on about the fourth time I put my hand in to see it again, I said, “That can’t be!” And guess what, the lights turned off and did not turn on again the rest of the night. The rest of the night was cold and long. However, I did make it through the night with the help of that interesting visit of the deva beings. The day came, and my daytime lights returned. Everything was amazing to me! I napped, and when I woke up, two large eagles flew closely over me and circled above. They seemed to be playing tag with each other. Was that an answer to a prayer about a kind companion to have fun with?
The third night was again cold and wet again! No deva lights showed up to help. I started negative self-talk. Was I just crazy to do this? Gary had said, “When you come to the point of deciding between returning to camp and not continuing any longer, stand up and pray. Face your cedar tree and your fruit trees surrounding your space and look at all of your prayer ties. “When you complete your commitment, know that every prayer will be answered.” Billy came to mind, my young cousin that was 14 and had a drunk hit him on the first day he rode a motorbike to school. He was in intensive care for three months in a body cast. They told him he would not be able to do this or that or anything. I encouraged him not to listen. They even asked me not to encourage him, saying that he would never talk to us again. Billy was in some of my prayer ties. If Billy could be in that situation and come out of it, standing in the cold was worth it! Billy is alive, talks, and is a great young man in his forties today. He is in a wheelchair, but you should just see his smile and how he lives life! Obviously, I stayed!
My life had been a pattern of money problems, no money, money, no money, etc. So I thought about my financial patterns with money issues throughout my entire life, relationship patterns of my past, decisions I made about my children, etc. I prayed about all of this and a closer relationship with God and Spirit, to have a greater understanding of death and life, why some things happen to one and not another, and other questions I hope to be answered! I knew these answers would come.
I kept praying and praying, and finally, it began to be warmer. Mid-morning came, and my little star-like lights came again to show me shapes. I was afraid they would come to get me to return to camp before my show was over, but they did not. Soon afterward, Gary and a few people showed up to collect the trees, my prayer ties, and what was in my spot. They told me to head back to camp, sit inside the lodge, and not speak. All of us that did a quest seemed to be returning about the same time. Those that supported crawled into the lodge with us. No one spoke. When Gary crawled in, and the door closed, he began the sweat. After a prayer song, he asked each one to share what happened. It was amazing to listen to everyone’s story. Afterward, I changed into the new clothes I was told to bring and wear after the quest. Why new? Because we were new. Then there was a feast and water. I ate and drank lightly, presented Gary with my blanket, and gave all supporters a small present. The other persons that completed questing also did this.
LESSON: Open to answers. Allow yourself to receive answers. Ask your divine source for answers about your life. Answers will come. Do not justify a miracle away when an answer comes. Take all limits off for answers will come in many ways.
GIFT: My gifts were huge. We limit God in so many ways. God wants us to “ask, see, and receive.” Too many times, we allow a statement made by someone, belief parents perhaps taught us, or a teacher, or a friend, or a preacher to hold us back. God is so good. All that makes up the Holy Spirit and helps us amazes me!
I did make friends with the Morning Star. It is the first star in the morning. It shines when it is still dark so many times, just like we can. It is the dawn of a new day, a new beginning for each of us. How can I learn to shine in the dark or before the sun comes out in my own life! It teaches, supports, and brings new beginnings.
The rain at night and super cold at night represented the pain I have felt during long, difficult struggles in my life. The deva kingdom beings reminded me of the family and friends’ support during difficult times. They also reminded me that I, too, can shine my own light during dark times, and it is important to do so. Then the warmth that came following each miserably cold night brought the same feeling we have when the clouds in life lift, difficulties pass, and warmth returns to life.
When we go through a difficult time, we can stand up and pray and face the storm. Focus on all of the answers already received in life. Eventually, the warmth and sun will return to our lives, and life becomes better and better!
I learned that every time a supporter in camp ate or drank while we were on our quest, they prayed that those on the hill doing a quest receive nourishment. That is why I did not get hungry or thirsty!
I learned about my own foundation I was strengthening. It was four years ago that I fasted one day a week for four weeks for answers. Apparently, my God thought it might be good for me to fast three days and nights for answers. Then I went with Cathy to do a vision quest in Sedona two-three years ago! God apparently thought I needed a true vision quest with the guidance of a Lakota that truly was a Medicine Man, but never said that about himself. Pay attention to what you do and what God presents to you later. I believe that this gift from God is wonderful!
I knew I wanted to learn more about this Native American path I stepped upon. I had no doubt now. The vision quest was for me. I could not wait to see what the Sun Dance would be like!