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Returning from Time on the Hill

by | Aug 19, 2017 | 3 Comments
Fork roads on sunset background

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”
                                                    ~John Muir, author, naturalist

When I was six, I ran away from home for the first time. It was just to the woods behind my house. I don’t remember the reason.

My father had built an outhouse with a cut-out crescent moon on the door just beyond the backyard gate, but I went deeper along the dirt path, where it was quiet and damp and I could hide under the large-leafed bushes.

I made friends there. First with the large trees, talking, sharing stories, and then with the wee people who lived among them, the tree fairies. After awhile, I shared the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches my mother packed for me.

 
Nature became my go to place, first in the woods behind my house, then the larger woods in my town, to my eventual discovery of the vast wildernesses of our country. I went for quiet alone time.

But as I got older, I learned that nature was a wise and honest mirror of my inner world and I often sought the woods and wildernesses for guidance as much for solitude.

Going to the Lost and Found

This spring, though, after four years of an intensive “go go go” pace, I realized I traded in the forest, for the hamster wheel. 

It happened on the eve of sending out this newsletter about a new program I wanted you to know about; I just came to a screeching halt.

I went silent. It wasn’t a choice. I sat at my computer and couldn’t find the words I wanted to share.

It seemed that overnight I was flung off the hamster wheel, became a caterpillar, and like when I was a child hiding underneath big broad leaves, created a cocoon to find my place of quiet stillness.

Again, I turned to Nature for guidance and signed up for a Vision Quest.

A Vision Quest, in the Native American tradition I’m most familiar with, is going into Nature ajackieheadingoutlone for 1-4 days, listening for guidance on the big life path questions.

Off I went, in early June, to join 11 other questers and 4 guides for a week, in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Eastern Washington.

The first three days were preparation time. We took solo walks, journaled and shared stories of what brought us to the mountain at this time. We also picked out our solo-time spots, spread across the valley and hills. 

I found my spot on top of a hillside that faced south to the Cascade Mountains and east toward the rising sun, amidst fields of purple lupines, yellow rattlesnake wildflowers and tall ponderosa pines. 

Fasting. Two days. By myself.

Shortly after dawn on the fourth morning, with the dew still on the tall grass, I hiked up to the remote hillside, set up my tent and tarp, drank some water and took a nap. Several in fact. My own sweet cocoon amidst the vast wilderness around me.

Fasting, I found, was surprisingly liberating. I didn’t need to find food, prepare, cook, eat it, or wash dishes after. 

Instead, during that long summer day, I occupied my time thinking, wondering, worrying, Will I find the answer to my question?

I tired of my worry. Drank more water. Took another nap.

Sitting by a large ponderosa tree, I watched an ant crawl onto my blanket, over my ankle, cross over my forearm and walk down to my wrist.  

I decided not to disturb its work, its natural exploration, but instead to be still, observe its ant-like way of being in the world. At times fearless, sometimes cautious, then curious, yet also pausing, looking around, getting to know its surroundings, take what it needed and then go back home.

I saw myself in that ant.

There was no lack for scary things. Deep-seated old fears arose not only in the darkness, but many sneaked up on me under the bright sun. Pine cones dropped nearby, making me jump and turn. Fresh bear scat near my tent. The bear.

But with stillness also came the early morning birds, who ate easily in the grass and flowers just a few feet from my bare feet.

I asked my question. I listened. Waited. Observed the raven and the eagle, the squirrels and more ants. Became familiar with the sound of pine cones clacking along branches to the ground and the hours passing with the sun’s arc across the cloudless sky.

Leaning against the ponderosa on the hill facing east, I thought about you a lot, too. I did. 

I wondered what it is that you long for and want to call forth into the world that aligns with what I long to call forth into the world?

Under the full moon of the second night, I crawled out from my sleeping bag cocoon, and cried out my question. It was cold and I started to stomp around the little meadow. I began singing and dancing my question and all that I had experienced on the hillside, and the threads came together.

I stared at the bigness of my own shadow, no longer dwarfed by the Ponderosa or my fears. I knew how to be in rhythm again and embraced the next steps for my new work. 

Back at Home and Back at Work

At home among the Northwest coastal cedars, it still took some time to break out of the chrysalis. One of the big messages I got on the hill, was to not rush, to make sure I was rested, and like the butterfly, I’d know when I was ready to emerge from my cocoon.  

Here I am, getting my words back, posting some with my social media groups and in the last few weeks, I put the finishing touches on the program I designed last spring. 

young woman running in the early evening autumn leavesI call this work the Medicine Walk of Transformation and I’m excited to share it with you. 

It taps into the wisdom and guidance from Nature to move your work forward and out in the world. Where it belongs. 

You can check it out here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences about the inner and outer journey’s you’ve had asking about your big life path questions. You can post your answer below or email me.

With much love and appreciation,
Jackie

  • jennifer reich

    Beautifully written- thank you.

  • Carmen Davailus Buck

    Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. Many of us share your desire to get off the hamster wheel and get on the dirt road. ?

  • Cassandra Herbert

    Jackie,
    This was such a powerful story. One that I could totally relate to. I appreciate that you listened, got of the hamster wheel, spent some days in nature and went within.
    So important for us nurses, coaches and heart centered business owners to do on a regular basis. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Jackie Levin

RN, MS, AHN-BC, NC-BC, CHTP

(206) 304-7703

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