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.

When:

Spring/May 1 - 12, 2017
Summer/August 15 - 26, 2017

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:

Spring/$3495.00 Canadian dollars, including tax
Summer/$3995.00 Canadian dollars, plus 5% GST tax

Some of us feel a particular pull. A highly developed yearning for something beyond.


There’s just something seductive about thresholds.
It’s like we can’t help ourselves. We’ve just got to know.

What would happen if we…?

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.

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 our 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.

This person 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.

In their prime, in decline, disabled, gay or straight, 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 had read about the concept of the “vision quest” when I was 9 years old. I was flipping through a book in the public library about “American Indians” and I came across a cool name: Crazy Horse.

Let me just say right off the bat that when I think about this book now, I am horrified by the condescension of the writing. It’s problematic in a thousand ways. But it kindled my fascination with Crazy Horse and “vision quests”.

Crazy Horse was one of the great warriors of the Oglala Lakota, one of the Sioux tribes of the region settlers would call South Dakota. His true name was T?ašú?ke Witkó, meaning "In the Wilderness" or "Among the Trees”. When he was twelve, he killed a buffalo and was given his own horse. His father, who was a medicine man, gave him his new name which meant, “he who has a spirited horse”.

The book told the story that as a young boy, Crazy Horse mysteriously disappeared one day. He left his tribe causing his parents and community to become sick with worry. They didn’t know he had followed a calling from the Great Spirit to go out into the wilderness to fast and pray.

After several days, he received a vision that foretold his future and the struggles he would go through to protect his people and how even his own people would try to stop him.

But he was told by the Great Spirit that if he didn’t follow his vision, he and his people would die from the face of the earth. And so even though his path was difficult, he needed to have courage and stay on his path no matter what.

When Crazy Horse returned, he lived his vision and became a great warrior. His people sometimes pleaded with him to stop fighting the invading colonists and make peace so that no more people would die. Sometimes he needed to disappear to the wilderness again because his faith would waver.

But each time he quested, his vision became stronger. As his vision became stronger, he became stronger.

It was through the strength of his vision that he was able to lead his people to victory at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Yes, please! thought my little 9 year old self. I want that.

I didn’t know the meaning of “conviction” then, but I already had it in me. And when I recognize the feeling in T?ašú?ke Witkó’s story, it gave me hope.

As soon as the words “vision quest” entered my consciousness, I knew I wanted to do one someday.

Decades later, when time and money finally lined up, I could feel that stirring within me that said, It’s time.

So I Googled it.

And then I was overwhelmed.

So. many. options. So. many. differences.

How do you know which one is right for you? Some are a weekend long, some are several weeks. Some include fasting, some don’t. Some seem really self-directed, some seem like group therapy.

I ended up choosing a teacher who’s lineage seemed to resonate with me, 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. Eventually, I apprenticed with Sparrow and 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 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 teachers.

I'm reticent to speak of Medicine Wheel teachings since those are not teachings from my own culture and have not been passed down to me by a specific Nation. (I am of Scottish ancestry.) I’m definitely concerned about cultural appropriation and imperialism in the spirituality scene. 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.

As a seeker myself, I’ve had a hard time finding a teacher who can take both an archetypal and intersectional view.

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 “masculine” and “feminine” because in my understanding, those are culturally created associations rather than inherent.

I’m highly suspicious of “universality” and as such, my teachings include some different perspectives than many of the North American quest guides I’ve studied, known and observed from afar. Though again, I’m still learning.

So what is my approach?

My teachings are 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 Wheel of the Seasons is the map for your Quest. 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?

You'll be taught rituals and ceremonies that you might want to perform. You'll do a lot of thinking and reflecting. You might accomplish the task of return to your Self. Who knows? Everyone's Quest is different.

Read a bit more about the mechanics of it all in this article I wrote:7 Things To Expect When You Go On A Wilderness Quest..

STRUCTURE

  • March online call: Q&A for Logistic Concerns. How can I prepare my body and mind for my Quest?
  • April online call: Q&A for Spiritual Concerns. How can I prepare my heart and soul for my Quest?
  • May 1-12, 2017. A 12 day retreat at the Circle H Mountain Lodge. We’ll spend three days at the Lodge learning more about rites of passage, ceremony and rituals for your Quest. On Day 4, we head out on horseback to our wilderness basecamp. We’ll be out on the land for five days during which you will spend 100 hours fasting in solitude with just water, a sleeping bag and a tarp. On Day 9, we’ll ride back to the Lodge and have three more days of integration. You’ll leave for home on Day 12.
  • We’ll meet online at regular intervals for one year afterwards (3, 6, 9, and 12 months post-Quest).
    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 this is not surviving your Quest, it’s surviving the Return.

It’s folding your truth into your daily life. It’s taking the emotional risk of living your vision, just like they all had to – Jesus and Buddha, Mohammed and Mary Magdalene, Black Elk and Crazy Horse. All of the ones who’ve come before you in this lineage. 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.

{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.

We’ll talk more about the purpose of fasting later but for now, 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. As I said, your body and soul are safe with me. Okay?

{Hold up.}

What – is this 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.

Reality Check

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.

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.

The Quest in May is a prototype.

As it’s my first time guiding on my own, I’m in need of some intrepid souls who are keen to journey with me in an open, flexible and generous way. We may need to adjust here and there. We might have to adapt to conditions as we find them.

Men welcome! Women welcome! Non-binary folx welcome! Couples welcome! Adults 20 years and older welcome!

In return, you will come on this program at a significantly lower price than the next one I offer.

I’m pleased to offer the May Quest program for $3495.00 CDN.

Quest package includes:

  • 12 hosted days at the Lodge, (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

Your hosts...

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 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’s live 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. But his superpower is stimulating thought-provoking conversation. He has a degree in sculpture, an Industrial Design degree, decades’ experience working in and teaching Sustainability, is a sought-after Behaviour Change Consultant, a thoughtful gardener/farmer, extremely well read in multiple categories, and swings 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.

Ruben and I will 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: Ruben and I are pretty serious preppers. Meaning, we are quite good at detail, planning ahead and preparing for any eventuality. (Care to take a look at our earthquake preparedness plan?)

All of this to say, we are exactly the people you want to be with in a crisis – physical, spiritual or otherwise. Hopefully you're getting a sense of how well resourced we are. But there will also be ample opportunity to ask me more details questions in our pre-Quest conference calls.

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 January 31, 2017.

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 March 1, 2017, and the balance in full by April 30, 2017.
  • You understand that if you withdraw from the program after March 1, 2017, 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 – I got 99 problems but an abusive ass on retreat ain’t one.
      • 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.
        • There.

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

          *Probably.