What makes you uncomfortable? How long can you stay in that place? For me, the answer is five days. Those five days led to a life-changing experience with the Way of Nature Sacred Passage.
In May of 2019, I felt the urge to do something radical. Intrigued by the idea of solo camping, my online research led me to the Sacred Passage. Although I had done day-long retreats, nothing could have prepared me for what lay ahead.
From their website:
> The Way of Nature Sacred Passage is a 12-day program where like-minded individuals gather in sacred places worldwide. The program begins with five days of Awareness Training, followed by a 6-7 day period of solo time, known as AllOne time. The goal is to eliminate the trappings of everyday life. It allows participants to unleash their true essence, allowing the qi energy gathered from nature to permeate their bodies without being drained.
Although I was an experienced meditator, this felt more mystical. I was uncomfortable.
Actually, I felt terrified. How much would this experience change me? How would I look at my startup, marriage, and life when I returned? Yet, despite my fears, I found myself packing my bags. I shopped for camping gear and flew to Denver, Colorado, for the program.
After a 3-hour bus ride to Crestone, Colorado, I joined 12 others for the Awareness Training. Afterward, we ventured into the Sangre De Cristo Range wilderness. We each choose our campsites. They were far enough apart to be unseen and unheard from one another.
And then it began. No electronics. No books. No journal. It was me, my thoughts, and the wilderness.
I drew a circle around my campsite, a mandala that I was to stay within unless I needed to get water, which I did once per day. I sat on the rocky, cactus-filled ground for hours. When I wasn't meditating, I had nothing to do but sit and be with my thoughts.
I fasted. Eating and drinking enough to survive. I thought I would get used to it if I could endure the discomfort. But I never did. It was the most uncomfortable thing I've ever done. Even surrendering to the pain provided no relief. Yet, something held me there.
After five days, we regrouped at base camp, where I saw how different the others looked. They had undergone an incredible struggle. Also, I saw no one in days. John Milton, the program's founder, said, "The veneer of civilization is fragile. It only takes about 24 hours for it to break down." I had experienced that firsthand.
We spent a few more days practicing meditation. We reacclimated and socialized before returning home. Finally, I got to the airport six hours early for my flight. I realized that the discomfort my past self would have felt didn't even register. This newfound resilience lasted for months.
Part of me regressed to my old ways. Yet, part of me has transformed. The experience was so extreme that it felt like a massive reset button on my life.
The experience taught me the value of being present in one's thoughts. While it's not an easy journey, I encourage those seeking self-discovery to take on the challenge. By embracing discomfort, you can unlock a new sense of resilience.
You're stronger than you think, and that's a lesson worth experiencing.