An Unusually Memorable Vision Quest

An Unusually Memorable Vision Quest

I was at a week-long residential Shamanic training. The group was on the small side and we would be together amongst ourselves for the duration, 24/7. It was a fairly isolated natural setting, but the accommodations were comfortable. We had all arrived the evening before and did not have any idea what to expect, as the weeks’ exercises and activities were kept “secret”.

The first day it was announced we would be doing a vision quest. A vision quest is a rite of passage in some native cultures. It is one of the most universal and ancient means to find spiritual guidance or to gain a deep understanding of one’s life purpose. While it was a sort of “mini” vision quest I wasn’t too thrilled. I say “mini” because it was not overnight, nor several days. We wouldn’t have to sit on a branch or make a nest in a tree, nor were we deprived of food or water. However, it was extremely cold and wet (setting record colds for the region at that time of year) and none of us had travelled with the right clothing and a few of us had serious medical conditions.

I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea because already in summertime in southern California I was wearing mid-west style winter clothes, hat and scarf to keep my body warm. My medical conditions made absorbing nutrients and calories to produce enough body heat impossible. I was in pain with systemic swelling and internal bleeding from my auto-immune diseases. The problems were far reaching, serious and had been on-going for years.

Going out for a hike to find the perfect questing waterside location on a shivering cold wet raining day (it was bitter cold for the healthy people too) was not exactly what I had in mind. I was anything but the picture of peaceful bliss when I heard what would happen. Instead of seeing sugar plums dancing in my head for the opportunity to do a vision quest in a magical place, I was instead seeing nurses carrying needles and IV bags to my bedside for a body that had gone into full blown crisis at a hospital states away from where I lived.

The paradox was I had gotten on this spiritual path many years prior as a result of my health problems and my search to find answers. But was this a good idea? I didn’t even have enough time to get an answer or to figure out how to withdraw from the exercise before we shipped off to the questing site.

The instructions were simple. The intention of the vision quest was to receive guidance. Each person was allowed to have their personally defined intention/question or to not have one at all. It was up to each person to decide.

I was still grumbling inside about the risks for my body, the hike and weather conditions. Could I do this? Could my body do this? Did I have the right to put my body through this?

Things were moving so fast that I still didn’t know if this was a good idea, but until I had a clear answer I was moving along like a sheep in a herd.

Since starting on my uncommon spiritual path my desires were for clarity, peace, serenity and healing. Healing for my body and for greater comfort. Over the years I had come to a sort of peaceful resignation about my conditions, but I still wanted and needed to understand more. I kept looking and wanting to find what felt missing. My life was and had been in limbo for years with debilitating conditions. It was as if I was alive, but not a part of the living.

I came to understand years earlier that wisdom came one morsel at a time. Slowly over time, if I kept on keeping on the wisdom floated towards me. In many ways it was the best way. It was like receiving and relishing a piece of fine Belgium chocolate one at a time versus getting a huge box and eating it all in one hour. The more insight I got, the more I understood and the more I realized there was to understand.

While it all came in pieces here and there, I thought it would be better if the sky just opened up and showered down on me the whole big picture in one go. It is as ridiculous a thought as thinking I can plant a seed and harvest the crop from that seed on the same exact day.

We headed off into nature on a vision quest with our belongings, persons, thoughts and intention. Most everyone found a spot fairly quickly. I meandered on looking because I couldn’t find a place that felt right and where I would want to stay for the hours to come. Eventually I got to a big rock near some moving water where it was slightly sheltered. It looked beautiful, sounded peaceful and in spite of the circumstances I knew that I would get through the vision quest and be safe (ie – not end up in the hospital).

Before I had even created my sacred space for the vision quest, the clarity I was supposed to sit for hours to obtain came thundering down with a glamourous bolt of lightning. It was loud, clear and bold. So much so I didn’t need it to be repeated. I got it the first time. That doesn’t always happen with me. Sometimes I need to hear many times over several months the same message because I am being resistance or just can’t see it. Other times the message needs to be delivered in all its various forms for me to grasp it.

This was definitely like the sky opened up and dropped it on me. I didn’t miss it. One would think I would have kneeled down and praised the heavens for such a speedy delivery.

It was so incredible that in that instant it felt like a curse.

Insight and clarity usually floats down gently and seeps in or it lands like a fallen fruit (not a coconut, more like an apricot). My insight isn’t often in “words”, but more of a feeling, image, impression or big picture understanding.

ridgecrest CA lightningThis time it landed like a bolt of lightning that simultaneously lit the fire. It was 5 simple words in a short and concise sentence. In its shear genuine and utter purity and simplicity I knew how LOADED it was. I grumbled. Deep inside I felt a tantrum begin to tremble. I knew every single second of the hours to come would allow that simple message to carve into the depths of how it applied to my past, my present, my person, my health and my future. With all of that I also inherently knew it was going to reveal some things I would have preferred not to look at.

When rotten inner archives are dug up and then cleaned, we are always left with at least one priceless gem. Losing sight of the gem is easy when we are looking at the dirt. I had been through the process so many times, I could sit with the total knowing this was not only a massive gem, but many. I also knew the amount of dirt to be hauled off was going to be contractor worthy.

It was a blessing I would be thankful for, for the rest of my life, but at that moment it didn’t feel like it.

When I tell you what the five words are, you will likely be disappointed.

You will be disappointed because they are so simple. Our human connection and human condition depend so much on our not seeing it, but it shapes the way we move through and experience life.

Here it is


When I heard it, I was in a state of shock. I wrote it down and looked at it. Simply applied to my person, how I lived life and made choices, I did what I always do when something is so spot on and obviously accurate, but I haven’t even seen it.

I laugh.

It wasn’t like someone pointed out the disco ball elephant in the room I hadn’t noticed, it was someone showing me I had been living INSIDE the elephant and wasn’t even aware.

That day sitting on a rock for many hours questing away on those 5 simple words was the journey of journeys. That was over 5-6 years ago now. For weeks afterwards I was in a sort of weird state as my whole person took in the depth of that statement and how it applied to who I am and the choices I make in life. It changed my person. It also changed my life, but it changed how I sit in this very moment right now and what I do with it.

A friend of mine had an unexpected brutal life event hit her. A bad one. I haven’t ever experienced what happened to her, but I understand the depth of pain, the confusion and the sense of feeling lost. I check in to see how she is doing especially since she is a warrior type. By warrior type I mean she can see the eye of the storm inside of herself. Most people don’t know there is a storm and for those that can see it they will run as soon as they catch a glimpse of the perimeter. Not only does a warrior see the eye of the storm inside their person, but they head straight for it, look at it and be with it. The best case may be that a warrior becomes comfortable and rolls with the spinning, but often as the warrior sits in midst of its power it curiously dwindles. Vanishes. And leaves the warrior sitting in a space of blissful understanding along with an inner strength they didn’t have before. It’s magical in a way that words can’t describe. Addictive enough to attract a warrior back when it needs to be done.

It seemed as though she was wanting to force the healing to happen. Not just faster but with the idea healing can be forced. Sensing that reminded me of that vision quest message I had had years earlier. I shared the message of what I learned with her.

It is not a race

“It” is whatever it is that a person is trying to race through in order to get to the “pot of gold”.

A person may want to race through a “bad” to get to “good” like racing through illness, pain, loss, obstacles or healing to “get back to a normal life”.

Sometimes people race through “good” to get to “better”. Like new love relationships which are sprinting through the best honeymoon phase just to get to some finish line called “love” or maybe racing through a business meeting to close the sale and sign the contract.

Racing through life has become a business and is a modern human condition. Life is not a race.

Life happens. Love happens. Healing happens.

It is not a race…. “It” needs time, space, acceptance, and to be “allowed”

Krista Umgelter Palms 2



Helping people find themselves 

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