By Echelle, Pure Matters
When I was 26 years old, I started to prepare for my Vision Quest. It's meant to be a time to commune with "God," "The Creator," or whatever your concept of a higher being may be. A Vision Quest is usually done alone on top of a mountain, or in a secluded spot in nature where you will not be interrupted or have any distractions. It is a pretty intense undertaking, but the personal rewards can be immense.
In order to get ready for the 4 days during which I would be alone on my Vision Quest -- eating no food and drinking no water, with the exception of some sage tea if it became absolutely necessary at any point -- I had to emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually prepare myself. I began my preparations a year prior to the actual Vision Quest. As far as the official instructions for preparations went, I was to observe the following:
- Consume no alcohol.
- Eat a fully vegetarian diet, except for fish.
- No smoking (I didn't have to worry about this one).
- Meditate daily in the morning while burning sage.
- Practice 20 minutes of yoga every morning.
- Take a cold shower once a day.
- Fast every Thursday for the entire day.
- Eliminate any vices that I held onto in my life.
Regarding that last point, the only vice that I had was my addiction to coffee; and I call it an addiction because I was convinced that I needed coffee in order to function. My work at the time required that I be at the office, brain in rapid-fire mode, by 7:00 a.m. Back then, there were no fancy coffee shops around every corner (like Starbucks is today) so I'd hit up the 7-11 and start my day with a 24 oz. cup at about 6:45 a.m. At 7:30, I'd move on down to the 20 oz.; then the 16 oz. around 9:00 a.m.; and finally, I'd wrap it all up with a quick eight ounces at 10:00 a.m. (All the while feeling pretty darn good about myself that I was drinking less and less as the morning progressed.)
This was my Monday-Friday routine. On the weekends I still drank coffee, but it was nowhere near that amount. When I was told that I would have to give up coffee, my one vice, I was horror-stricken. The chief who led the Vision Quest ceremony calmly and in a very matter-of-fact way asked, "Well, it is a vice, isn't it?" I soberly nodded. He said, "Then you get to give it up." After two full weeks of the most excruciating headaches, the shakes, the worst moods ever, the loss of a couple of friendships (which I later regained), I had escaped the claws of coffee. If this sounds like someone detoxing from the worst of narcotics … well, this is what I imagine that must feel like. Those two weeks were just awful. But I knew that I had to go through it in order to be fully able to prepare for my Vision Quest, so I did. And once I got past the coffee hurdle, the remainder of the preparation schedule was practically a breeze. The Vision Quest itself is a whole other blog post ….
Anyway, after my Vision Quest was over, I maintained a vegetarian diet, still including fish, for close to 5 years. I also kept up with many of the other practices that I was taught when preparing for my Quest. It was during this time that I rediscovered tea and fell in love with it. A cup of black tea has, on average, 1/3 the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, and I could definitely feel the difference. But in the end, it made me feel better overall. Tea to me felt a lot more gentle on the system. It even provided a relaxing side-effect which was very different, in a good way, from the energy overload that coffee can give. What I didn't realize when I was all hopped up on coffee was that I was actually getting the jitters every single day; I was so incredibly hyper in the mornings, I was practically buzzing around the office. No more. Today I don't only drink black tea; I also enjoy green tea for the antioxidant benefit, chamomile before bed, and a variety of herbal teas as well.
Now that it's been a good 14 years since my Vision Quest and my departure from daily coffee consumption, when I do have some every once in a while, I notice that even if I just have a regular-sized cup, I can actually feel it surging through my system. I don't like that feeling; I much prefer the gentle approach that tea has. There have been quite a few studies lately showing the benefits of coffee. For example, how coffee may ward off prostate cancer in men, and how it may fend off aggressive varieties of breast cancer. Just a few days ago, in fact, there was yet another, on how it can prevent depression in women. So for the health benefits alone, I'm not willing to say I'll never have another cup of coffee again. But what I think that particular lesson was about for me, was just to be conscious of what holds power over me and my life. I am a very firm believer that you can do fine if you have everything in moderation.