Three years ago, I started writing a novel about a young woman who goes on a vision quest. At the time, I had no idea what a "vision quest" was. That manuscript spun me onto a path to do a real vision quest, to discover what my own creative soul was trying to tell me.
It involved three days, all by myself, without food or water in the desert (I shared a sliver the experience in this article).
Here's what we cover:
- The tradition of vision quests, and the discipline and preparation required. [9:10]
- Some of the major insights I gained. [14:20]
- What it was like being on a mountain in the desert with no food or water. [17:35]
- On working with a Medicine Woman to prepare, and the predominant emotions I felt during the quest. [21:13]
- Coming down the mountain: Meaningful metaphors around water (and being thirsty!), and not being recognized by my parents. [25:41]
- How the experience sowed many seeds that will continue to sprout for a long time. [34:41]
- Some immediate life changes following the event, as well as a few poems I wrote about the experience. [41:20]
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share with you.
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Maria: I got out of grad school with so much creative confidence that I decided I wanted to write a book. I decided I was going to write 2,000 words a day and I did that for a month. I was so disciplined about it that even if I didn't feel like it, I was going to write through the discomfort. I was literally dreaming on the page. I felt like the story wanted to rip through me. The experience of writing it was the most powerful thing...more powerful than the outcome.
Two things emerged from the process. One, I realized I loved writing fiction. I didn't know that before. And two, the book was about a woman who goes on a vision quest. So I was like, 'Oh, I need to go on a vision quest.' I felt like my psyche or soul was trying to give me a message.
Dijon: What sort of preparation do you have to do before going out into nature without food and water?
Maria: I prepared for a year. All that discipline I had when I was writing my book, went towards prepping for my vision quest. Everyday I was praying at my altar with tobacco and making ties. The medicine woman that I was working with had a very high bar. Sometimes you can prep for 3 months before a vision quest but she told me we were going to prep for a year and that we were going to do a lot of work; intense preparation. I had to make a thousand ties, go seek certain plants like cedar and mugwort, I had to harvest willow poles— I had to make my altar basically, which was what I was going to have while I was out there on my vision quest.
The preparation was even more intense than being on the mountain in some ways. Six months before you go up you prepare your body with a diet, so you go vegan, then gluten free. A month before you go up you’re on non solid foods, then you’re just on juices…and a ton on water. So you prepare the body, but it’s mostly preparing the spirit for what you’re about to encounter. I worked with a Lakota man and he said, "You’re gonna go on a date with the Creator."
Listen to the full interview on Heroine.