Reflections on Wilderness Vigils - GTEC Blog

By Scott Lawrance:

Wilderness Vigils

Tara Souch and I offer a wilderness solo opportunity each year on a quiet mountain on Salt Spring Island located on the traditional Indigenous territory of the Coast Salish peoples. We support participants in engaging in a four day solo retreat on the land. When they return from their four days and four nights, we sit in circle to hear their stories. Hearing and bearing witness to their stories is an integral part of the wilderness vigil.


I have been wondering for a while what to say to those who are interested in participating this year – no doubt each of you have very unique and particular interests & thoughts regarding nature connection generally and the practice of wilderness vigil specifically. I was speaking with a colleague a few days ago about the current challenges and even frustrations of making this work available more widely, at least to all those who might be “called”. From our side there is a responsibility to be as clear as possible regarding sufficient details of structure, logistics, etc. but also a clarification of framework and intent.

The work is actually counter-cultural in many ways – centrally, it stands counter to the settler-colonialist paradigm of the quest for personal satisfaction, fulfillment, happiness etc. Bill Plotkin’s new work, “The Journey of Soul Initiation” hinges on the contrast between egocentric development (which is reinforced & supported by a culture based on resource extraction, consumerism, and “growth”) and soul development (borrowing heavily from Jung’s work, including importantly, the Red Book.) This seems to me to be a useful distinction.

From this perspective, what the times offer, invite, or even demand, is a change of course, both individually (as we come to understand the viral nature of imperial and colonized/colonized consciousness in our own lives) and socially-globally. The pandemic has clarified this moment (as I attempted to manifest in my recent book (playg daze; a threshold journal) as a threshold, a liminal space that is continuing to invite a pause and a re-set, preparatory to a “return”, or “incorporation”, the taking on of a new role, status, or set of behaviors that serves one’s community and one’s “self” more adequately as reality (invariably) shifts and changes.

But then, a wilderness vigil can also be seen like the elephant in the parable, with each person perceiving a reality that accords with their own proclivities, so who knows what one might discover. Bottom line, your “journey” will likely consist of a “dropping in”, a thickening of connection with “inner” and “outer” nature that resists burn-out, despair, and cynicism, while clarifying what it is that you are called upon to offer your people (whether that consists of a single person, a family, a community, or “all my relations”).

And remember, listen, listen, listen to your body, your dreams, to what arises in the spaces between the rumblings of the default system of ruminations that comprise your “self” –
you will know when you are being called to partake of a wilderness ceremony. Causes and conditions arise and fall away. Trust auspicious coincidence.

This Year

We are writing to provide a quick update to all who are interested in a deeper connection to the natural world through the practice of Wilderness Vigils (aka wilderness rites of passage).

We had been hoping to gather over the summer solstice this year, but for a variety of reasons, causes and conditions, not least of which is the ongoing pandemic, have decided to postpone the ceremony until the fall. We imagine that the change of dates may open doors for some and close them for others. Hopefully, if you are currently “hearing the call”, the change will be a welcome one.

Let us know if you would like to join us or if you have any questions.

Our new dates are Friday, September 17 to Sunday, September 26. The place is, once again, the Buddhist Retreat land, KDOL, on Mount Tuam, on Saltspring Island.

Wild Blessings,
Scott and Tara

Scott Lawrance Ed.D. & Tara Souch M.C.
Wilderness Guides & Registered Clinical Counsellors
Salish Sea Eco-Retreats

Scott Lawrance –

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