Standing Like a Mountain
As the sun rose over the south shoulder of Mt. Shasta on the fourth morning of my vision quest solo, I found myself doing the “Standing Like a Mountain” pose. The theme of constancy in the face of change emerged as a big takeaway from days of reflection and I would like to share some of that thinking. Shasta felt almost like a partner on this quest, as my purpose circle looked directly across a large meadow and up to the peak.
On the last night of the three-day solo, the questers were invited to stay up all night imagining our deaths and praying for a vision. I was sitting up in my sleeping bag in the purpose circle. The milky way arced overhead, bright and immense, with Cygnus the swan flying south along its path. The big dipper and north star stayed constant as the night sky revolved around it. I knew of course the Earth was doing the revolving. Bear came in my imaginal mind.
In the middle of the night one of my spirit guides took me on a journey to talk to an ancient olive tree in Gethsemane, Jerusalem. It is part of a grove where Jesus was arrested while praying. I was able to visit it in January of 2020 right before the beginning of the pandemic with Gisela, my partner. Being raised as a Christian by my minister father, the experience was important.
“What do you have to tell me?” I asked the old tree in my inner mind. “I want to tell you about the importance of constancy. “ it replied. “It is my roots and trunk, here year after year, that allows the branches, leaves and olives to remain vital and productive.” “How did you get here?” I asked. “I was seeded long ago, and my seed contained the urge to grow, the longing to reach up toward the sun.”
I remembered then the large fir that had been at the foot of my day camp. It was the largest of a group of three that made a little sanctuary of shade. Its rugged bark was covered with yellow moss. Dead lower branches snagged out rising to a rich canopy of needles and buds. The squirrels and birds came all day long. The last afternoon there I looked up and appreciated that the basis of this magnificent tree was a trunk that didn’t move much, then or over the years. It too was constant.
Can I be like these trees or this mountain in these times, I wondered? What are my constancies? And they came to me quite clearly there in the middle of the night:
1. Be open to guidance from spirit
2. Be reciprocal in all my relationships. When I receive contribute back.
3. Keep the big picture in mind. Remember the whole while working on parts.
4. Care for myself and others. Stay open to feelings. Can I feel you feeling me? Can I breathe in pain and breath out compassion.
5. Be in service and support the commons.
I’ve come to think that in times like these that are so ambiguous and fragmented, that having leaders who can be reliable, stabilizing influences is important. That kind of stability needs to come from within, from the embodied, lived values of a person. Supporting visionary leaders in finding this kind of core strength is the kind of work that is calling to me now. The five things I listed her have been with me a long time, and seem to be getting stronger.
In past quests I’ve had visions of what I needed to do. This quest was a vision of how I need to be. My memory of the olive, the fir, and the mountain will be my reminder.