The Element of Silence

Wilderness Therapy SkillsWe drove for hours into the San Rafael Desert eventually into some rough rough terrain where the wild mustang would greet us as though we were another group of horses.  They ran parallel to the road beside us keeping up for some distance before disappearing into the pinyon and juniper not far from where we would make camp.  We had come to their beautiful world and they behaved like curious, slightly threatened hosts.

We trod through extensive patches of cactus and Russian thistle who cast a vague allusion to damnation, weakened by the elaborate beauty of the massive sandstone walls, towers, and buttes; like a palace of forgotten gods or the the place where the Almighty rested after creation.

We set camp quickly and then prepared the ceremony to send two men out on vision quest.  The ceremony was a deliciously beautiful reflection of the power of intention brought by the questers.  The next 72 hours would be in ceremony both for the hungry men who emptied themselves, and for the camp who prayed for them and helped, each in his way to contain the trans-formative healing energy of this ancient rite of passage.

On the third day two men joined the fast these on their first twenty four hour solos.

Time stretched into eternity and then dissolved bringing the ceremony to a closing feast.  Where the new men, calmer from silence, and hunger returned.  After the feast we processed the experience in cloaked terms, holding the good stuff close to allow it to shape them.  Days later, after the shift change they’d be invited to talk more if it felt right.

Later, at base camp in the Dixie National Forest we would talk about how hard it was to leave the desert, the ceremony, the nearness to spirit and meaning.  Yet ceremony is designed to use the space, contain the transformation, and then return with a sense of cohesion and being put together properly.  To be down to earth in one’s  normal, although new self.

If I ever worked with a more powerful staff team, in a more awesome location, with a more intent group: I don’t recall.  This was as good as it gets!  We finished the week with each expressing the poetry of our experiences of silence.  I’ve come to regard it as one of the most powerful elements of healing.

Thank you all for making this possible!


Charlie Hopper, Guide.