I just completed one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Many of you know that for the last year since this article, I've been preparing for my Vision Quest. A few weeks ago, I went through the ceremony – along with the support of my family, friends, and an elder. Though I can't share with you everything that happened (it's just too sacred), I would like to share one specific story.
It was my second day out there on the mountain, and my mind was toggling between survival mode (e.g., I'm really thirsty) to a different dimension in which I became completely aware of everything that was happening in the moment. All we can do in such moments is notice the cloud up above, the way the branches move in the wind, or the sound of a bird flapping its wings in the distance.
It was then that, just a foot away, I noticed a red ant wrestling with a dead beetle. The beetle was at least four times its size, and I imagine ten times its weight. But the ant was tenacious, turning and flipping it over multiple times, trying to find the best way to carry the beetle back to its hill.
The beetle's body, however, was tangled up in cedar and grass. After about ten minutes of tugging and pulling, the ant walked away to take a break. It cleaned its little insect paws while staring far into the distance. Then, it headed back to the dead beetle's body. It tugged and pulled for another twenty minutes.
I was beginning to get anxious for this little red ant and began speak to it, "Get the beetle onto your back! We all know that's the way to do it." But the ant kept jerking it in all kinds of directions, trying various strategies without success. It paused, walked away, and took another break. At this point I wondered, with fascination, whether the ant would go back to the beetle or just go home.
And each time, after each break (there were many!), it found its way back to the beetle and began again with renewed energy. I was amazed to see that each new trial had as much zeal as the one before. It was like the ant was approaching the problem innocently, each time with 100% effort.
Finally, for the twist. After a few hours of this, the ant managed to behead the beetle! And walked away with the beetle's head.
After I came home, I researched the symbolism behind ants, and surely enough ants show us perseverance, patience, and cooperation. I then watched this TED talk on grit, and it confirmed the message spirit was giving me.
Animals, plants, insects, can teach us how to overcome our mental dilemmas. They don't churn doubts in their mind again and again. They follow their nature. It's simple. We can therefore ask to embody the qualities of certain animals and insects, when we need it the most, like if we feel like giving up.
In sharing this story with a group of sisters recently, one of the women brought up an excellent point. Maybe the ant isn't the protagonist in the story. She wondered about the beetle, because it was both dead (Vision Quests are about death and rebirth) and then it was beheaded! She shared a beautiful Rumi quote: "behead yourself!"
What does this mean? For me personally, it means learning to drop down into the body, through food, movement, song, dance, music, sex, and rolling around in the dirt (which I also did, while on that mountain). It means to settle the mind by connecting to our breath. It means noticing the thoughts about the past and the future, and just like the ant, bringing the mind back again and again to what is happening right now.
What does it mean to you? I'd love to know. Reply or share in the comment below in this post.
PS: I'm available to take on one or two more private coaching clients this summer. If interested, feel free to request a free consultation.
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