The wilderness fast at Southwestern College is the most profound peak experience I’ve encountered– there’s just nothing else like it out there.
If you’ve ever listened to a native medicine person or shaman talk about destiny and truly being connected to the universe, the wilderness fast is that unique rite of passage into universal consciousness. If you’ve been intrigued by Ram Dass when he talks about truly knowing thyself, finding cosmic oneness, and “Being Here Now” or wanted to really try to live what Eckhart Tolle talks about in The Power of Now, and want this type of experience in your life, then the wilderness fast is your ticket.
How and why (I’ll get to where soon) and when else in your life will you spend 4 days and nights alone with no food, phone, computer, people, or any other distractions, delving deep into yourself exploring what you’re made out of and what you’re capable of in life? I’ve never found any other time in my life that I’ve experienced such clarity of mind and could truly feel destiny calling to me, showing me my life path.
What makes the wilderness fast at Southwestern College particularly unique is the fact that this is the only school in the country that offers such a class. The wilderness fast can be taken for continuing education credits, credit towards Southwestern College’s Ecotherapy Certificate, or as an elective. Plus, you don’t need to be a student at Southwestern College to register for the wilderness fast; this class is fully open to non-enrolled students.
In the following paragraphs I’ll cover the gifts, insights and epiphanies I’ve had, as well as explain what a wilderness fast is made up of.
The wilderness fast is held once each year at Canyon de Chelly National Monument, located in the Navajo Nation in Arizona, during September. In the past, it was offered twice each year, with a March Wilderness Fast in Death Valley National Park. I chose Death Valley National Park; despite the name, Death Valley was in full blossom covered in wildflowers–even the cactus had brilliant bright blossoming flowers on them. Not to mention the weather there (in March) was excellent.
Many people carpool to the location, or fly in to the closest airport, and meet close to the destination to caravan to the base campsite that is chosen and explored beforehand by the wilderness fast leader Dr. Carol Parker. There are several trained people including Dr. Parker who hold three days of base camp (before the 4 solo days of fasting alone) and help prepare you for the quest. During this time, you develop a deeper understanding of the purpose of the wilderness fast in addition to exploring your personal intention that you wish to be the mantra (so to say) of your fast’s purpose. For example my intention was “By healing my ancestors’ lineage, I now cultivate unconditional love to spread through the world around me as a healer.”
Of course everyone with whom I did the wilderness fast had very different intentions, came from different walks of life, and ranged in age from early 20’s to 60’s.
During the three days of base camp I became emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically prepared for what I was about to embark on. Dr. Parker holds meetings as well as ceremonies during the base camp time that will fully prepare you for the wilderness fast, and she is very very good at what she does! During this time you also hike around the area to familiarize yourself with the surrounding wilderness and seek a solo fasting site where you will carry out your wilderness fast alone.
To my surprise my stomach never hurt during the 4 days of fasting, in fact I felt I could have gone a few more days without food. My hunger would come and go in waves, and by using what I call “Jedi mind tricks” I could think my way out of hunger and into prayer, meditation, and bliss. I first had to tell myself that it was OK to be vulnerable and to have faith that the universe would take care of me until I was able to get good sleep at night. With just a tarp, sleeping bag, clothes, and a backpack with some supplies and 4 gallons of water, I felt exposed and vulnerable. Yet, once I accepted vulnerability as a threshold that I was to cross in order to enter into the wilderness fast, I began to feel an incredible support, oneness, and universal embrace that I can still feel holding me today.
I meditated, prayed, laughed, and sang while sitting on boulders on top a mountain ridge overlooking a vast majestic desert landscape. I learned that I would never be alone, for even flies and grasshoppers came to visit me and were filled with the love that is life’s will. Lizards came to sit by me in my meditation and one lizard even began to lick my hand while sitting next to me. After about 3 days and nights alone you can really get “out there”–well at least I did. I told bugs and lizards that I loved them, and sang songs on a mountain ridge while flapping my arms like a bird totally sky-clad. I felt liberated and realized there was nothing holding me back, limiting me, or suppressing me. I was free and I had the strength, trust, and support in myself as well as from the universe to truly and freely be me. Only the first day and night was difficult to find the right mindset and quiet my mind, plus there was the fear of the unknown element that I had to get past. Yet once I got past my fears and vulnerability, focused my mind on my intention, and filled myself with gratitude to have the opportunity to have this rite of passage in my life, the universe opened up to me.
I returned to base camp after the 4 days and nights alone not even hungry, just with a giant smile on my face. for I knew I had made my intention into a reality that I would be carrying for the rest of my life. I felt I had crossed the threshold into my universal destiny and felt that the universal gift of oneness was bestowed upon me while on my wilderness fast. I was excited to see the other wilderness fasters and was happy to share as well as to hear others stories of their experiences. I felt I now have the strength and blessing from the universe to carry out my destiny of becoming a counselor. Not to mention the meal Dr. Parker made for us was the best and most appreciated meal I’ve ever eaten! After sharing stories and spending some time together in addition to closing ceremonies, we were to start the voyage back into society.
I must admit that coming back to society was challenging for about 2 weeks for me. I missed the peaceful tranquility in nature and the magical time I spent with myself out in nature. However, it was time to integrate my intention into my life and into society. I feel that anyone who has an interest, or a calling to doing a wilderness fast should go heed the call and carry out this epic voyage of the mind, heart, body, spirit and soul. The wilderness fast teaches one how to “Be Here Now” as well as “The Power Of Now.” The wilderness fast is that ancient rite of passage that ushers in oneness through consciousness and a deep healing connection to the world around us.