People sometimes ask, “What’s special or distinctive about Circles of Air and Stone? In what ways does it differ from other organizations that guide vision quests and soul-based workshops?” We can think of several things that make us unique:
On vision quests, we keep our groups small – limited to eight people. Many organizations take twelve to fifteen people out on a quest, and – because of the numbers – limit the time allocated for participants to share their stories and receive feedback and guidance around their experience. We hold the numbers in check because we value the depth, intimacy, and sense of communion that develops from doing so.
All our programs are known for their dynamic processes and powerful feelings of community that result, but this is especially so in our vision quests. For example, as far as we know, we are the only organization that uses a “community mirroring process” after the solo time of the quest is over. In most other organizations, after the solo is completed and people report on their quest experience, only the guides comment on those experiences, leaving the rest as observers. In COAS quests, all participants are instructed in how to mirror and offer feedback. Everyone, having quested together, is empowered to also become a vital and important part of integrating the return.
We keep our costs reasonable. Some organizations charge twice what we do for a vision quest; others, hundreds of dollars more for programs significantly shorter. Our retreats and workshops nearly always have camping options, and the preparation and return phases of our vision quests take place in campgrounds and other natural places, usually without fees. Other lodging options – motels, bed and breakfasts, etc. – are often available nearby if someone chooses, but they are not required. Plus, we believe being outdoors and becoming intimate with nature is better preparation for a wilderness solo than enjoying the comforts (and cost) of a spa or retreat center.
Nearly all spiritual paths have developed traditions of right livelihood and voluntary simplicity. A common theme in these traditions is the need to resist the temptation to sacrifice what is sacred for values that are social or profane – money, status, and power. Hence the Biblical statement that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven and the admonition from Carlos Castaneda’s teacher that people who take more than they need will never have a good relationship with the Earth.
We are in love with the earth and with all those we share this planet with. And we are committed to having that good relationship by walking our talk – finding satisfaction and fulfillment through acting with integrity, developing our inner lives and serving our communities – and not being seduced by the lure of purchasing more things. In service to that, we aspire to keep our programs affordable.
Our extraordinary guides: Sparrow Hart has been the lead guide on all vision quests offered by Circles of Air and Stone up to now. (This will likely change over the next several years). Steven Foster and Meredith Little, who trained most of the first generation of modern vision quest guides, called Sparrow “the best who ever enrolled” in their program. Currently, he’s led more vision quests than anyone in North America, He’s also undertaken over thirty of his own. If you enroll in a quest with Circles of Air and Stone, you’ll likely get Sparrow as a guide. (Full bio here.)
All guides who lead any other programs at Circles of Air and Stone are well-trained and of the highest integrity. Some have led quests and workshops for other like-minded organizations in the past. Some have apprenticed in the Mythic Warrior Training for years, the most in-depth, experiential exploration of men’s’ souls we’re aware of. Others are college teachers, professional counselors, or health-care workers in their “day jobs.” All are knowledgeable about rites of passage dynamics, the Heroic Journey archetype, Four Shields medicine wheel teachings, and experienced in being ceremonial leaders.
Some new people and programs will soon be appearing on the website. Those who now – or soon will be – assisting or guiding programs are people whose passion, skills, or experience includes – classical and ayahuasca shamanism; Holotropic Breathwork; African and trance drumming; psychodrama; Pathwork counseling; hiking the Pacific Crest Trail; overseas programs for youth; Jungian and embodied dreamwork; Integral coaching; and more…
In today’s world, the sense of disconnection and crisis is palpable, and it sometimes seems overwhelming. But what most seek is simple: a) a feeling of belonging (somewhere); b) the sense that we and our lives make a difference; and c) a connection to something greater than ourselves. Or, as we call it, “a bigger dream.” At Circles of Air and Stone, it’s our life’s work to bring that bigger dream into modern life. But nobody does it alone.
Our guides are passionate about celebrating and sharing the grand heroic adventure. We see ourselves as companions on the path, on our individually unique, but archetypal heroic journey. We’re here to offer our experience, to share what we’ve learned in service of empowering you find your answers, rather than pretending to be experts on your life. Joseph Campbell once commented that a priest gets his authority from an institution (the Church), from the fact he’s satisfied their requirements, while a shaman’s authority exists to the extent he or she knows the territory. We aspire to the latter, and we welcome you to journey with us to discover and map territories beyond what we currently know.