MEN'S VISION QUEST
July 12-20, 2014
Mono Basin, California
Co-led by Munro Sickafoose & Damien McAnany
The Men's Vision Quest
by Munro Sickafoose
I fasted ceremonially for the first time at the age of 40. Although far past physical adolescence, there was a part of me that felt like I had not really grown up yet. I was scared to spend those days and night alone on the mountain, and even more scared that I would not be able to do it, that I would somehow fail.
The first evening I was greeted by a violent desert thunderstorm, and the rain and lightning kept me awake much of the night. I finally slept from exhaustion, and woke to deep silence under a brilliant moon and a black sky laced with fat white clouds on a stately wind-swept journey to the south. The four days passed faster than I could have imagined. In the end, I left the mountain like one of those clouds - light and airy, suspended between heaven and earth - and feeling very, very alive.
That was nearly 15 years ago, and I have fasted many times since. I now know I can meet the physical challenges, and I have a more positive relationship with failure - but there are always new and different tests, and new challenges to fulfill. Sometimes I fast as an offering: "So that the people may live.". Other times I fast to reconnect with Spirit. And sometimes I fast for no other reason than my almost visceral need for powerful ceremony in my life.
In the years that followed, I began to guide a few young men on their fasts of initiation and to become more involved with the needs of men in our society. Men have needs that are hard to fill in a deep, soulful way in our culture. This is getting better, thanks to the work of many men for many years, but we still have a long way to go.
Men have a deep need to be challenged and tested. When we are young men, these challenges allow us to find the limits of what are capable of, and to explore the possibilities of who we can be. As we get older, the challenges deepen who we are, make us richer in our souls and wiser in our hearts.
Men have a deep need for initiation. On many deep levels: psychologically, socially, spiritually, mythically - it takes a purely masculine circle of power to initiate men into the brotherhood of men. While not all vision questers seek initiation, if becoming an initiated man is part of your intention, then you should consider a men's vision quest.
Men have a deep need to love and be loved. As adults, we are tested by the demands of love and friendship, work and family, and we forget that we can care for and nurture not just ourselves, but other men. Nurturing is not just the province of women - ask any father. The hardest part of nurturing ourselves is to finding the time and the right nourishment for our souls, to make them rich and full.
Men have a deep need to be part of something larger than ourselves. We feel pride in being there for our children and our families. We feel real satisfaction in providing, protecting, and serving. These things give us meaning. When we reach the age of becoming elders, we want to be able to look back and not only know that we lead good lives, but that we still have something to give: our love and wisdom.
Not surprisingly, it is only with other men that we can speak of these things in a way that makes us feel truly understood. For we also have the need for brotherhood, to be in the company of other men, without the distractions of responsibility, of work and family, if only for a short time.
And as much as we need brotherhood, we also need solitude. Our culture gives us little time alone to listen to our inner voices. You might say it actively tries to prevent us from doing so. Except when we sleep, and sometimes even then, we are constantly exposed to a stream of other voices - from tv, radio and other people. I know from experience that for most of us it takes a day or so alone for those other voices to fade... and for our own unique voice to rise up. If for no other reason, this should be the one reason that calls you to the mountain. Not to seek a vision, but the opportunity to hear your own inner voice! The inner voice that can only be heard in the stillness of the stars and sun and wind.
When men go out together on Vision Quest, we can meet these needs together, no matter what stage of life we are at. Our time alone fasting meets our need for glorious solitude and soulful reflection. As brothers, we can honor the young men among us, and help to challenge and test them in a good way as they enter into adulthood. As brothers, we can become initiated. As brothers, we can honor the rich deepening of the mature men, and hear their sorrows and joys without judgement. As brothers, we can honor the elder voices, and learn from their experience and share their wisdom. As brothers, we can.
It's one of those things you have to experience to fully understand.