Jump to the following topics:
- What is a vision
- The benefits from
a vision quest.
vision quest has been used for centuries.
- We prepare for a
go into the wilderness to start our vision quest.
- The vision occurs.
- We return to
What is a vision quest? It
is a period of solitude in which we seek an inner revelation -- a
"vision" -- which grants profound meaning and direction to our life.
This initiation leads to maturity and an understanding of our
responsibility to ourselves, our society, our natural environment,
and our soul.
The benefits from
a vision quest.
- The vision itself. It gives our life a new significance,
course, and mission.
- Confidence. If we emerge from the wilderness alive and
healthy, we feel more certain of our abilities and our strength,
because we have survived raw nature and our own imagined
limitations. We did alone, but we also discovered additional
sources of power from beyond us.
- Stronger connections. We enhance our link to nature, humanity,
- Appreciation of life. We cherish it more intensely, after
facing possible dangers and death in the wilderness. Our temporary
deprivals also increase our appreciation of our friends, our food,
and our material comforts.
- The realization that we have our own source of wisdom. The
vision comes to us directly, intimately -- without books,
churches, or religious teachers.
vision quest has been used for centuries. It is associated primarily
with Native Americans, but it has been practiced throughout the
world. As an expression of the archetypal "Heroic Journey," the
vision quest has been enacted in religious pilgrimages, mythological
tales (including the story of the search for the Holy Grail), and our
own daily pursuit of truth and purpose. Today, there are companies
which sponsor vision quests; they provide a wilderness area in which
it is to occur, and they give instructions and guidance before and
after the event.
We prepare for a
vision quest. We ready ourselves in the ways which are prescribed by
tradition, texts on the subject, and the counseling which is given by
a teacher. The vision quest will challenge us spiritually,
psychologically, and physically.
- Physical preparation includes fitness conditioning (for the
hiking and other physiological stresses), a medical checkup (so
that we are aware of any problems which might be aggravated while
we are in the wilderness), lessons in first aid and camping
skills, fasting and general cleansing (to prepare for the long
fast which will occur during the vision quest), one-day excursions
in a forest (to become acquainted with nature), and the
procurement of gear (e.g., tent, sleeping bag, warm clothing).
- Psychological preparation includes strengthening and balancing
of ourselves in anticipation of the possible psychological shock
and disorientation which could happen when the vision quest gives
us a new direction and foundation in life, and new values, and a
redefining of our identity, and a new connection to the mystical
and mythological aspects of life. We review our past, and our
reasons for wanting the vision quest, and our expectations for the
changes which might transpire, and our plans and hopes for the
- Spiritual preparation might include meditation, prayer,
journaling (including dream journaling), a sweat lodge,
the reading of inspirational books -- and a study of the vision
quest's significance, archetypal undertones, and history.
go into the wilderness to start our vision quest. During the two to
four days of the vision quest, we encounter these experiences:
- Solitude. We are separated from our usual environment, habits,
social roles, mass media, technology, creature comforts, books,
religious teachers, friends and foes, and other distractions. We
are alone with our thoughts, our spirit, and our soul. However,
because of the possible dangers in the wilderness, some
participants work in a pair -- never seeing the other person
during this time, but going to a common site once a day
(synchronizing our visit so that we won't be there at the same
time), to leave a marker which indicates that we are still alive
- A relationship with nature. We are immersed in nature -- not
as a casual visitor but as an organic part of the process, no
different from the countless other vision questers from ancient
times, and little different from the other living beings around
us. As the quest continues, we sense a deepening awareness of
nature: we realize that nature has a numinous beauty which we
notice only when we stop to contemplate with it; it is our home;
it is breathtakingly honest in both its nurturing and its
terrorizing; it is a holy cathedral; it lives and breathes (even
through the rocks and the planet itself); it is our mother and
father; it is vibrant with mysterious power, energies, rhythms,
cycles, archetypes, and beings (e.g., "nature spirits").
- Fasting. We fast to purify our body of its toxins, and to
disengage from the earthbound heaviness which is engendered by a
stuffed belly, and to disrupt our mindless habit of eating
according to schedule and routine. Instead, we find a new
understanding of the body's needs and patterns. During the fast,
the belly's emptiness symbolizes the emptiness of a spirit which
is waiting to be filled.
- Spiritual practices. We can use meditation and prayer, singing
and chanting, rituals and dancing, ceremonial bathing (to cleanse
ourselves physically and spiritually), religious alters and fires
and "power objects," dreams and visions, contemplation on the
meaning of surrender and life, the search for a "power spot" where
we will sit and sleep, and the inner search for a vision.
- Death and rebirth. Spiritually we prepare ourselves for a
symbolic death and rebirth; our old self dies, and we await
renewal through the birth of a new self. As in physical
death, we confront our fears, our self-concepts, and our
The vision occurs. It does not
have be a literal vision -- something which we would see with
physical eyes or "inner eyes." It is more likely to be an intuitive
revelation, perhaps triggered by a dream, or a thought, or simply an
inexplicable gift of knowingness from spirit. The vision might occur
when we are meditating, or walking, or listening to a bird's call, or
watching clouds, or sitting in wordless observance of the living
vitality which is flowing through us. As a result of this vision, we
discern our purpose, our life's work, our future, our deeper
identity. In some cultures, the vision gives us a new name which
expresses our new sense of self.
We return to
civilization. Despite the wonders which we have experienced in the
wilderness, we cannot remain here. This has been only a "rite of
passage," to prepare us for our larger duties, back in the world of
people and service. Indeed, our people expect us to bring back
something to share with them; some of the vision is for us alone, but
some is meant to enrich others. In traditional vision quests (and in
those which are sponsored commercially), our solitude does not end
abruptly with a return to civilization. Instead, we go to our base
camp to meet counselors and fellow questers, with whom we discuss our
experiences, our awakenings, and the ways in which we can incorporate
our new wisdom into everyday life. We gradually re-adjust ourselves
to "the real world" with conversation, a meal (to end our fast), and
the long drive back to our homes. In the subsequent days, we
contemplate the memories and insights from our experience, and we try
to express them as a part of this new person. Occasionally we can
return to the wilderness, so that we can refresh our connection to
nature, and to the sacred memories of our vision quest, and to a
source of wisdom which will teach us even more.