AN INTRODUCTION TO THE VISION QUEST
“I have been privileged in my life to take (what Joseph Campbell calls) a true ‘hero(ine)’s journey’. I have been allowed to step out of the culture into which I was born and experience life from a whole different worldview. This experience, added to my long desire to help myself and others find ways to live up to our full potential as human beings, has allowed me to encourage many people to find and follow their own visions, their own strongest path. Lilias Folan, a well-known yoga teacher and author, wrote about one of my books, ‘I would like to warn the casual reader of Woman Of The Dawn, this book will reach inside you and speak to your own visions. Her courage and honesty will challenge you …’”
“Sun Bear always used to tell me, ‘Your vision is what gets you up in the morning and keeps you going. It gives sense and purpose to your life.’ I had to experience a lot of adventures, adversity, and challenge to find … (my vision), even more to follow it. Still, I am fortunate to have ever discovered the gift of vision.”
I hear so many people, especially those in their late teens and twenties, saying they feel lost about their purpose in life. Part of this feeling comes because we live in a world that values product, not process, a world that doesn’t believe everyone is special and unique. Finding and following your vision can help you find your purpose, and more happiness.
In times when we lived closer to nature, the vision quest was built into the spiritual life of many tribes. Before a young person was considered an adult, they would undertake a vision quest. A guide would prepare, watch over and then listen to the questor. Although the ceremonies surrounding the quest would differ greatly, most quests then as now lasted for one to four days. After the beginning ceremonies the questor goes alone into nature, and usually fasts from food and all the other distractions of daily life.
There are four stages to the vision quest: preparation, the threshold time, the quest and then reincorporation. In older times, the preparation would begin in childhood when youngsters would see the stages played out as their older relatives undertook the quest. Today, when a person seeks to go on a vision quest they are often already in the threshold time, which can take weeks to years. This is when the person realizes that the way they were is no longer the way they wish to be. This is a difficult stage, rather like balancing on the edge of a chasm and not knowing what is below or how far you need to jump. During this stage the questor needs to find a guide who can prepare them and help them through the other stages. Then they need to follow the guide’s instructions on how to prepare.
During the quest, it is just the person and mother earth. At first people are often bored, and then caught up in their thoughts. It usually takes a while to slow down enough to begin to see all the wonderful parts of nature. Many people see them then mentally catalog them. When that stage is done, the questor is left with his or her own thoughts and feelings. And when even these familiar distractions become boring, the magic can happen. The questor begins to listen to his or her inner voice, or to have wonderful dreams. From this experience most people begin to “see” what has often been there all along: the correct next step for them to take to allow life to unfold.
Following the fast, the person returns to the guide, and sometimes to a group of other questors and begins to tell the story of their experience. When someone shares his or her vision, it is imperative to respond slowly, thoughtfully and in support. Vision, purpose in life is highly personal. A good guide recognizes that and does not impose his or her beliefs, thoughts, values or opinions on the questor. One unthinking conversation can really hurt a sensitive soul. Following the quest comes another difficult stage: reincorporation. The questor needs to go back to the world from which he or she came as a different person, possibly with a new purpose, and discover how to allow that purpose to become part of daily life.
A vision quest is a rite of passage. It marks transition in life: from childhood to adulthood, from single status to coupled, from childless to parental, from adulthood to old age, from health to illness, from life to death. Rites of passage are designed to mark these important events in human life, and to acknowledge them as part of the natural circle of life. A vision fast can be used as part of any of these life passages.
Meredith Little who I will write about in my next blog has guided people from many parts of the world through these important rites, and taught thousands of others how to do so. As a vision quest guide I learned a great deal about the vision fast from working with she and Steven as friend, publisher, agent, fellow teacher