The world is intense these days, and suffering is everywhere. Nothing new; wars and massacres have been going on for 5,000 years since the transition from pre-history to history. The advent of written records marks the beginning of human history. In Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), the Sumerians were credited with developing one of the earliest writing systems around 3,200 BCE.
Adopting a broad eagle view of history and time to understand what is happening while our friends and family suffer or even die is extremely difficult.
When I did my first vision quest with my Lakota indigenous guide (previous story) -I call him “Thunder Hawk"- he said to me before I entered the initiation:
“I am going to redefine your perception of time forever.”
That is one of the gifts he gave me, which I would like to share with you; there is another very important one.
I find it increasingly difficult to know who and what to trust. What is “truth,” and who says it? How much should we or can we tell the “truth?” or what we understand as the truth?
As I approach my 52nd birthday next year, I can't help but reflect on the unprecedented prevalence of disinformation, falsehoods, and the apparent absence of accountability among political leaders today.
The rapid advancement of AI and the widespread reach of social networks have created an environment where the creation and dissemination of false information have become alarmingly accessible to anyone.
Lies are everywhere in the media, social media, and many people’s mouths.
Learning to see through lies might be the one most important skill we have to constantly, sadly, practice.
During my vision quest in South Dakota, I froze from the cold and almost hurt myself.
I redefined my understanding of time and truth.
I was told that vision quests are done over four years in Lakota tradition. In the first year, one can only vision quest for 24 hours. The second year, 48 hours; the third, 72; and the fourth, four days and four nights. So this one would be alone for 24 hours only with no food or water.
I arrived on a very dark night, around 9 p.m., on Bear Butte. The wind was so strong the “Inipi” dome barely held together. The Inipi is a half circle of wood or metal structure covered with skin, plastic tarp, or concrete. A depression is dug in the center into which hot rocks are positioned. Once you get inside, I was told, it is like the womb of Mother Earth. There is a half circle on the ground, and the other half is inside the Earth; it is mysterious; we cannot see it and only feel it.
The sweat lodge is a Native American healing ritual for purification, spiritual renewal, healing, and education.
I am an entrepreneur with classic Western business school training and had no spiritual or religious beliefs at the time, not even believing in a Creator. I believed only in what science could explain. I listened attentively but constantly took a lot of distance from what was said and put my mind in front of it. Yet, I was following the ritual with great humility and appreciation.
“Aho! Metakuye Oyasin,” - I was invited to say as I entered the sweat lodge. It means “we are all related” or “all my relations.” It is a prayer with all life forms: other people, animals, birds, insects, trees and plants, rocks, mountains, and valleys.
Many stones were put into a massive fire, and I was told each stone was an “Elder,” an ancestor that would come and visit as each stone entered the Inipi. Thunder Hawk, my spiritual guide, had arranged for his son to prepare the fire and get the “sacred” stones in individually.
As each stone entered the sweat lodge, we welcomed them as if they were alive. The stones were carefully carried in with large deer horns. Each stone entered the Inipi extremely hot; the temperature rose quickly. They were beautiful, and I could see many forms on them as they entered individually. I started sweating a lot. The Inipi is also called a “sweat lodge” for a reason. The temperature made it hard for me to remain seated normally; I wanted to lie down badly but stayed in position. Water was thrown on the rocks to create steam.
I was told from now on, the initiation of the “hanbleceya” or vision quest had started, and I could not drink any water anymore. The wind got stronger and stronger outside.
The sweat lodge was not too long and wasn’t too hard. My mind was entirely focused on my fear of being left alone in the cold and a building strong storm. It got really cold, near freezing temperatures.
We started walking up the hill in the dark. The moon was there, so it was not completely dark, but we needed torch lights to make our way through the bushes as there was no path to where Thunder Hawk had decided for me to stay. It was around 10 p.m., and the freezing wind strengthened. I carried my 403 tobacco prayers and five long wood sticks. They were rolled around my poncho. I also prepared seven flags with a big center with a knot filled with lots of tobacco, each for one of the seven directions: the East, the North, the West, the South, the Sky, the Earth, and the “center.”
Please get a paid subscription to read this story; I will use your funds to support more men and women doing the Vision Quest and the Sundance. Our Chief really needs it, and I wish more people had this healing experience. This story is one of the most epic in my life!