Truth-seekers and risk-takers: this is for you.

WHAT: A 12 day wilderness quest including a four day solo fast. Pre-event preparation and instruction for your rite of passage. Ceremony and integration after your return. A full year of spiritual support and connection before, during, and after your Quest.

WHEN: June 19 arrival – July 1 departure, 2018

WHERE: Circle H Mountain Lodge (and environs)
50 kms northwest of Clinton, BC, in the Marble Mountain Range of the Southern Cariboo region

HOW MUCH: $3995.00 Canadian dollars, plus 5% GST tax
Monthly payment plans totally available.

We have not even to risk the adventure alone…


for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a God; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.

Joseph Campbell

Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Mary Magdalene, Black Elk…


Most of our great spiritual thought leadership has come from individuals who’ve sacrificed time, energy, food, companionship, and comfort, so that they could discern the truth.

They retreated into nature to merge with something greater than themselves.

And they inspired millions, literally millions, of other truth-seekers to follow in their footsteps. Now, there is a well-worn path. The Quest is an ancient tradition with a long and noble lineage that has been passed down for millennia and persists, even today in our harried, secular, urban world.

But why, you might ask. For those of us with less lofty ambitions than Jesus or Buddha, what reason might we have for going on a Quest?

There are three basic reasons people go on Quest:

– as a rite of passage to mark the end of one thing and the beginning of another

– to discover one’s direction or purpose and find a path that is compelling, fulfilling and contributes

– for renewal and reconnection with one’s inner compass or spirit or the earth itself

Still, you may be frightened at the prospect, and that is good. It’s not something to undertake lightly. This is your soul we’re talking about here. But your fears likely come from more physical concerns about being in the wilderness, and spending at least some of that time in the wild entirely alone.

{Is it safe? Will I be cold? Can my body handle it? How long will I be alone out there? What am I supposed to do out there? What about wild animals? What about snakes or bugs or the dark?}

All good questions. Each with a good answer. Each, in fact, with pretty much the same answer:

You won’t die out there.

In fact, there’s a good chance you will be reborn.

Preparation. Initiation. Return.

These are the three main phases of the Quest. On this journey we will undertake them together, both online and in the field. You will be supported by me and your fellow questers over the course of a little more than a year, and it’s expected that you will be a support to others as well.

Most of us don’t live in an intact culture that has nurtured us from before our birth, and has raised us in praise of our uniqueness and with a knowledge of how necessary we are, and encouraged us to discover the gifts we bring to our community.

In light of that, it makes sense that we don’t understand what a Quest is or what it’s for.

No doubt, we can feel foolish for even considering it.

But it’s not we who are foolish and untethered; it’s Western culture.

On this journey, we will set our hands to the difficult work of reclaiming some of the forgotten beautiful parts of human culture, together in a small and intentional community.

Ritual, ceremony, rites of passage, retreat and communion are just some of the pieces we’ll put back into our lives.

Who goes on a Wilderness Quest?

The type of person that’s up for this challenge is someone who loves, loves, loves a certain amount of depth, complexity, and nuance on every level. They pay attention to the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions of their life.

To be quite explicit, this program is open to men, women, non-binary folx, couples, and young adults 20 years and older.

The Quester is a bit of an iconoclast, always a little out of step with the mainstream but proudly so. They are inventive and love figuring things out.

They might be an activist or a healer, CEO or retiree, entrepreneur or stay-at-home parent – no matter what they do, they are deeply engaged. However they’ve spent their moments on this planet, they’ve never been easily satisfied with simple answers or paint-by-numbers.

In fact, it’s probably been difficult for them to swallow a modality or teacher or career or anything of someone else’s creation because they just don’t like being spoon fed.

Straight-laced or loosey goosey, Type A or Type B, in their prime or in decline, currently able-bodied or disabled – wherever they land on any spectrum – they share the same zero fucks approach:

They are determined to know their truth, honour it and live it, whether it pleases the world or not.

And that can be a lonely road.

Let’s walk it together.


I always knew that I wanted to do a Quest. I did not know when I started that I would feel called to lead them.

The person I apprenticed with to lead quests is Sparrow Hart of Circles of Air and Stone. He was the first student of Steven Foster and Meredith Little, founders of The School of Lost Borders. I went on Quest with him in 2007.

It changed my life from the ground up.


Ten years later and it’s still working me over, in the best, best way. To apprentice with Sparrow, I undertook a special Quest to affirm to myself that, yes, I am now ready to guide my own Quest journeys.

In 2015, I took my Wilderness Guide training through the Canadian Wilderness Tourism Training Centre, plus took my Bear Safety training, Wilderness Emergency First Aid and earned my firearms license.

Over the years I’ve led several  forms of ritual, ceremony and spiritual studies with groups in semi-remote locations. Everything I’ve researched, synthesized and taught about the nature of spirit, nature as mirror and metaphor, the subconscious mind, the Abandonment Wound, social justice, archetypes, myth, grief, rage, long dark nights of the soul, the mysteries of the Dark Moon, all of it, shows up in how I structure the Quest.

My style of quest is different from my teacher’s.

Though the structure and overall guiding principles of the Quest I lead is directly from Sparrow’s teaching, we differ in the stories we tell and the way we frame them. With much respect to my teacher, I can’t speak from the position of a white male of the Boomer generation. My experience of the world has been different, which seasons and colours the way I lead.

All of my work, even Quest, is based on a trauma-informed, attachment-based, relational approach and I strive to be intersectional. As a seeker myself, I’ve had a hard time finding a teacher who can take both an archetypal and intersectional view.

As a white cis-gendered female, I do this work with an awareness of the harm that can come when we take from other peoples’ cultures and remove stories from their original context.

So you’ll never hear me talk about Medicine Wheel teachings, or refer to our work as “vision quest”, or tell the stories of the First Nations peoples.

I’m definitely concerned about cultural appropriation and imperialism in the spirituality scene. Truth and Reconciliation has been a big focus for me personally for about four years and in my business practices for the past two years. I’m still learning.

I’m interested in restoring (restory-ing?) female heroes alongside their male counterparts. And to be honest, I’m really not comfortable with using overtly gendered terms like “sacred masculine” and “divine feminine” because in my understanding, those are culturally created associations rather than inherent spiritual energies.

As a general rule, I’m highly suspicious of “universality” and that trait happily slides right up alongside my deep desire to take up common cause with my fellow humans of all stripes.

So what is my approach?

We start with the land and its original inhabitants including the flora, fauna and human communities.

The first day of our Quest begins with a territorial welcome and teachings from a local First Nations elder, drum maker and friend, Norman Retasket of the Secwepemc Nation.

Norman will introduce us to the ancestors of the land and the stories it carries.

That afternoon and the days beyond that are led by myself and I’ll share teachings based on what all humans everywhere at all times have used as their primary teacher when it comes to life and death and rebirth: nature and the seasons.

The Four Shields/Wheel of the Seasons is the map for your Quest. Again, this is taken directly from the work of Foster and Little.

It’s simple and intuitive. You already know it in your bones.

Each season has a corresponding developmental task on the spiritual level, a purpose and a teaching.

When I tell the stories and share the ceremonies and rituals that match the work of the season, you will breathe a sigh of relief and then your breath will quicken with excitement; you’ve been waiting your whole life for it to be this clear.

{You can find out a bit more about my training, experience and background here. and here. Bottom line:}

Your body and soul are safe with me.

The Quest is a process of separating oneself from the womb of comfort in the life we have created, returning to nature from which we came, and making a sacred offering of oneself to the more-than-human realm.

Traditionally, a Quest was preceded by a preparatory phase. Not many programs these days offer very much preparatory support. But it’s important that you (and your people) feel confident that you can survive out there on your own. And it’s critical that you have enough spiritual literacy to absorb the messages you might receive from spirit, the elements, the land and all the beings living there.

Pre-Quest support is often overlooked but I think it’s so key to getting the most value from your investment of time and energy.

Because the thing is, your Quest doesn’t begin the day you step foot on the land where you’ve chosen to retreat; your Quest begins the day you say yes to it in your heart.

And once you’ve said yes in your heart, it can be something of a journey just to really sit with that and let it sink in.

You begin having a relationship to your Quest immediately, a bit like love at first sight. After the glow wears off you have to contend with the reality of it.

And so it is good to have a guide to witness you as early in the process as possible.

What do you actually do out there?

Before you depart on your solo, you’ll spend four days learning about rituals and ceremonies that you might want to perform. You’ll be guided through practice exercises. We’ll do some rituals together so you can observe and experience for yourself.

Most importantly, you’ll learn to discern which rituals and ceremonies are the right ones for you at this time in your life.

So what you actually do out there will depend on what you decide you need for your own healing.

Most likely, you’ll do a lot of thinking and reflecting. Many people experience stillness, quiet, solitude, nature, or themselves in new ways or ones they’ve long forgotten.

Everyone’s Quest is different.

STRUCTURE

  • April 8, 2018 – Online Q&A for Logistic Concerns. Preparing your body and mind for Quest. (Call will be recorded.)
  • May 13 – Online Q&A for Spiritual Concerns. Preparing your heart and soul for Quest. (Call will be recorded.)
  • June 19 – Evening arrival at the Circle H Mountain Lodge.
  • June 23 – Head out on horseback to our wilderness basecamp.
  • June 28 – Ride back to the Lodge.
  • July 1 – Departure.
  • Integration calls the following September, December, March, June.

 

The follow up online sessions are the most important part of the journey together because I’ll tell you now and will repeat it on the regular:

The toughest part of Quest is surviving the Return.

It’s folding your truth into your daily life and taking the emotional risk of living your vision.

We need to stay in contact with people and ancestors who will remind us of our vision and demand we uphold it, even as the world asks us to lay it down and submit to less.

Reality Check

{Uh, wait a sec. Go back. Fasting? What now?}

Oh, yes, yes, you will be fasting for four days while you’re out on your solo time. You will have water and you can bring electrolytes, of course.

Know this: it’s not as hard as it sounds. And there’s a very good reason for it. And literally millions of people have done it (and for much longer) with no ill effects.

{Hold up. What about the “just a sleeping bag and tarp” bit?}

You know what, that is also actually not as hard as it sounds. And there’s a good reason for it. And literally millions of people do it every day in much worse conditions and for far less privileged reasons than to know the nature of their soul. Not to be snarky. But, really, it’s going to be okay. Okay?

And frankly, if Mary Magdalene can spend her final decades in the forest as an aging and solitary hermitess, living in a cave, foraging her provender, eating little and hiking to a mountaintop daily to pray, then surely you can sleep under the stars for a few nights.

Ok, so yes.

This journey does require a certain amount of grit and resilience.

You will have to sign waivers. You will be on a horse. You will be in bear country. If you have a physical disability, it could be even harder for you.

You will need to be responsible for yourself and ask for modifications where you feel an activity is beyond your comfort zone and you feel unsafe. Every aspect of the Quest is up for negotiation with yourself. I can absolutely provide suggestions for other means to the end you seek while you are out on the retreat portion of your Quest. You never have to do anything you don’t want to do.

But a Quest is much more of a mental, emotional and spiritual challenge than a physical one.

You may think, “Easy for you to say”. But honestly, I’ve been on Quests with people from their 20’s to their 70’s and every single person came back healthy.

Every person returned stronger, more capable and more self-assured than when they left.

Each transformed in ways they couldn’t have imagined before they left.

Every single one came back from their solo time. fucking. radiant.

To dive into more specific detail about Quest, check out these additional resources:

A note on physical ability.

You do not have to be athletic to come on a Quest. If you can carry your own day pack, get onto a horse with assistance, and walk at least 50 feet without getting winded, we can make this work.

If you have physical impairments but can perform the three tasks above, we can make modifications where it would make your life easier. I’m happy to adapt to your needs. Talk to me about them.

Men, women, non-binary folk, couples and adults 20 years and older are welcome.

Quest package includes:

  • 12 hosted nights at the Lodge including lodging and meals for all but your solo fasting time, horseback riding (including instruction), campfires, and teaching sessions
  • Six online video calls (60-90 minutes each)
  • The Quest Handbook

It does not include:

  • Travel to and from the Circle H Mountain Lodge
  • Your camping gear, personal first aid kit or other supplies
  • Travel or emergency health insurance

Carmen Spagnola is a Registered Clinical Hypnotherapist, a licensed wilderness guide, and professional intuitive. She’s currently training with Diane Poole Heller in trauma recovery and attachment re-patterning.

Ruben Anderson has a degree in sculpture, an Industrial Design degree, decades’ experience working in and teaching Sustainability, is a sought-after Behaviour Change Consultant, and a thoughtful gardener/farmer. You can learn more about his work on his blog, The Small And Delicious Life.

You’ve read about my Guide training and you can learn more about my experience as a spiritual counsellor throughout this site.


You might also be interested to learn that I graduated magna cum laude from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

I worked in the hospitality industry for twenty years, in every role from dishwasher to restaurant manager, was a personal chef on mega-yachts and worked for nearly a decade as a WSET-certified wine and spirits representative, giving numerous oenology talks and trainings.

Despite all the hoopla, I have a rather laid-back, simple, seasonal style of cooking, always using fresh, organic ingredients. Lately I’m fascinated with Francis Mallmann’slive fire cooking approach.

My husband, Ruben, is my prep cook, project manager, a great bartender, and all-round smooth operator/maître d’. He also has deep roots in the restaurant industry and we make a great service team.

A true Renaissance man, Ruben is a stellar conversationalist, doesn't shrink from controversy, is one of the rare true iconoclasts of our time, and used to swing trapeze. You heard me; trapeze.

Ruben provides critical support on all of my business projects, retreats and ventures. You can learn more about his interesting outlook on his blog, The Small And Delicious Life.

We'll be feeding you throughout the Quest (aside from your four day solo). About a month before departure, I’ll send you a questionnaire to find out details about your dietary concerns and preferences. If you have a very strict diet, you may need to bring along your own protein powders or what have you.

Since we are 100 Mile Diet proponents (our best friends literally wrote the book, in which Ruben played the third most important human character), our menus focus on local humanely-raised meats and seasonal organic fruits and vegetables. Not a lot of exotics like avocadoes and mangoes around here. Definitely no açai. Baking is mostly gluten-free but not exclusively.

Taking a big-picture view for just a moment: we're pretty serious peppers.

Meaning, we’re studious, detail-oriented, and prepared for any eventuality. (Care to take a look at our earthquake preparedness plan?)

We’re well qualified to lead you both into and out of the wilderness, literal or metaphoric.

And now, let me lay it out in detail...

This program is limited to 8 participants. A $500 deposit secures your spot. It is refundable until April 1, 2018.

By placing a deposit, you agree that:

  • You are of sound enough mind and body, and confident that you are ready, willing and able to undertake a wilderness Quest with me at this time in your life.
  • You agree to pay at least half of this program fee by May 15, 2018, and the balance in full by June 15, 2018.
  • You understand that if you withdraw from the program after May 15, 2018, no refunds are given unless you find someone else to take your place. You also understand it is solely your responsibility to find a replacement, however, I retain the right to determine any participant’s suitability for the program.
  • You understand that it takes many, many months of preparation, marketing, promotion, outreach and effort to fill a program like this and I cannot be left holding the bag if your life circumstances change.
    • Seriously though, this is not a good choice for you if:

      • You’ve been feeling suicidal or spent time in a psychiatric facility within the past two years. If you want to work with me, consider a session instead.
      • You’ve ever been charged with anything related to violence, stalking, assault, whatever.
      • You’ve been diagnosed with a heart condition, or any compromised health condition of any kind, where the undertaking of this journey may endanger your life or the safety of the group.
      • You are not sure how you will pay for this program and the stress of that is likely to cause a serious health or relationship breakdown.

Register Here


If that’s all agreed and you’d like to secure your spot, I invite you to place your deposit now.

Place Your Deposit

What they say…


I have participated in two retreats with Carmen and Ruben and it is difficult to describe the effects it has had on my life, but they are all encompassing in the most wonderful way. Their knowledge and expertise is off the charts, but it is their authenticity and compassion that make you fall in love with them. There aren't enough accolades to do them justice. Do yourself and your loved ones a tremendous favour by participating in their workshop. You will not regret it.
Phyllis M.
Carmen and Ruben are skilled and prepared facilitators. They excel at creating a space where participants feel safe to share beliefs, experiences and information. I have retreated with Carmen and Ruben three times and I always leave feeling inspired, connected and cared for.
Cathy P.
"It will be life-changing. It's by far the best gift you could give to yourself. And it will have a profound impact on you and your life moving forward. If more people did Quests, we would live in a much different world....You are held by such magic, there are so many things up there on the mountain that take care of you...You just need to do it in an environment where you feel safe and Carmen and Ruben will provide you with that. If you have the opportunity, don't hesitate. Your soul is speaking to you and you should go and you will never, ever regret it. I guarantee it."
Carl-Greger Leijonhufvud
"Going on a Quest is worth the risk. There's a pay out for the risk you take and the courage you need to have in order to make the decision to do something so awesome. It was truly empowering to endure those four days and to make the connections I did within myself. I'm walking around with the benefits every day now – with a confidence I don't know if I could have gained without it."
Ryan White
"You can go (on Quest) and you can be really confused – and it's okay to not know why you're there or what you're doing. Not that it becomes clear in a way you want, but it becomes clear in way that shows you that the next step is possible. And there are no better people to hold you in that space than Carmen and Ruben, even if you don't know what the fuck you're doing. It's powerful."
Jenn Richardson
"If you're even thinking about Quest, your soul is telling you something. Do it! There's no two other people better to do Quest with than Carmen and Ruben. They're so well prepared, well organized and I never feared for my life out there. It will change your life. It will change the way you think about yourself. It will make you believe in yourself and that you can do anything."
Patricia Petersen