MONIQUE REES RN, MA, LPC
WHY DO YOU WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN A WILDERNESS RITE OF PASSAGE?
Copied from The Trail to the Sacred Mountain by Steven Foster and Meredith Little
It is very important that you are certain why you want to participate. If you are not clear about what you are looking for, you will not find it. What passage, crisis, or transition do you find yourself in? What life event do you seek to celebrate, mark, or leave behind? Have you come to a door marked "fresh beginning" or a door marked "conclusion?" If you cannot give yourself a clear reason for going to the wilderness alone, to fast, you should question again. If your intention is to heal and you do not look more deeply into the source of your suffering, the trip may be for naught. Your reasons for undertaking a life passage ceremony such as the vision fast do not have to be significant to anyone else but yourself. In fact, others may think you have gone off the deep end. This reaction from others was well known to the visionaries and prophets of old. If you allow others' assessment of your mental condition to dissuade you, then you are not ready to go alone to the sacred mountain.
The experience that you face is the fruit of many thousands of years of human culture. It is not the exclusive property of any religion or ethnic group. The wilderness rite of passage is, rather, a ceremonial "process" which you undertake and fill with your own value system. In their wisdom, the sacred ancestors of many peoples designed this rite of passage in such a way as to lead you to discover within yourself the healing vision you seek. The very feelings that tug at you, pulling you toward this ceremony, evidence the ancient way of knowing that exists in you. The ceremony of the vision fast evokes this knowing, infuses your life with meaning, and prompts you to find the answers that you seek.
If you have obeyed this urge to "get away from it all," to sever from a former world and find a place of vision and self-empowerment, then you have taken the first step toward participation in this ancient ceremony. It is essential that you take this step with the confident recognition that you are going away only so that you can return and assume the responsibilities of your new life station.
Over the years, thousands have gone out to the desert, the mountains, the plains in a similar way, alone, fasting, praying, seeking connection to self, others and the earth. Many were in the midst of life crises or were passing from one life stage to another. Many went to clarify and strengthen who they were in their lives, their families, their work and their communities.
Many were "teenagers" seeking to celebrate (with their family and friends) the passage from childhood to adulthood. A surprising number of adults also participated for the same reason. Others quested because they were in the midst of a "mid-life crisis." Others went because they faced the prospect of separation or divorce from a spouse. Facing breakdown and disintegration, individuals addicted to drugs or alcohol went to confirm a formal end to their addition, and the beginning of a new life. Others had recently lost a loved one or were facing aging, retirement, or life-threatening illness. Suicidal individuals have quested to find reasons for continuing their life. A pregnant woman and her husband went to the sacred mountain to celebrate their passage into parenthood. Another couple about to be married formalized their commitment to a lifetime relationship. An aging general in the Marines celebrated his passage into retirement and the last phase of an active life. A woman who had been raped healed herself and celebrated an end to her grieving. A woman facing death sought to find the strength and courage to die nobly and with benefit to her family. A Buddhist went to meditate and confirm his vows, a Jew to reconnect with the roots of her heritage. A new President of an environmental organization went to seek guidance and alignment with nature, the earth and spirit. The reasons why these and other individuals left everything behind and went to the sacred mountain indicate the continued relevance and adaptability of this traditional rite to the modern world.