I don’t know if I could go four days without eating?
Is this something a normal person can do?
The main purpose and effect of fasting is the expansion of awareness and the change of consciousness it engenders. There can be physical side-effects to not eating, such as a lower level of energy, but hunger is unlikely to be one of them. All participants fill out a detailed health questionnaire so any serious medical issues — diabetes, hypoglycemia, etc. — can be addressed before arrival.
Do I have to be in good physical shape or need significant experience camping or hiking?
If you can walk for a mile and a half with a backpack on, you are likely in good enough physical condition to participate in a quest. Since people often enroll months in advance, you can practice walking with a pack and build endurance if you are in doubt. Over the years people with various physical disabilities and conditions have been able to successfully undertake vision quests.
During the solo time, your activity level will be up to you. Some questers are very active while fasting, performing ceremonies, undertaking long walks, and staying up through the night, while others are quiet or contemplative, remaining in a relatively small area.
Couldn’t I go out in the woods by myself and do this alone?
If your intention is to journey beyond the self you know and are familiar with, leaving the preparation in the hands of that very same self is poor strategy. “Old tapes,” habits, and repetitious ways of looking at the world can easily accompany us into the wilderness and back. There are important teachings about ritual, ceremony, physical preparation, and the methodology of the questing process that we would not get if we chose to do this alone. The presence of guides and companions who provide honest feedback, compassionate mirroring, and different perspectives in which we see ourselves in new ways is an invaluable resource.
Going it alone can be powerful. Fasting, solitude, and the contact with the spirit in nature are excellent teachers. But having wise instruction in the preparation phase and emotional support and help in integrating one’s story make it a qualitatively different experience.
There are vision quests offered in various parts of the country.
What difference might this make in my quest experience?
Your set, whether positive or challenging (desires and demons, purposes and fears) will likely be the same regardless of where you undertake a quest, while settings vary widely in different locations and times of the year.
Particular settings do have unique qualities and differing energies. A southwestern desert can be a land of grand vistas and immense space, dominated by the elements of air and fire, while Vermont, with its wildlife, streams, and lakes embodies the elements of earth and water. For more detail, see the page Site Descriptions. Some people consider it important to quest within an area and ecology close to where they live, while others are drawn to go outside what is familiar to them. A quest always involves an encounter between the known and unknown, and the desire to discover what is unknown and wanting to emerge in ourselves will inevitably lead us to approach even the most familiar settings in new and unusual ways.
I am currently taking medication.
Would I have to go off it to do a vision quest?
Medicine is about becoming whole: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Taking care of your physical health is important. If doing so requires ingesting a small amount of nutrients, consider it wisdom, not cheating. A vision quest contains many kinds of medicine for healing the heart, soul, and spirit. Remember, you will be alone in the wilderness without books, conversation, electric lights, showers, or entertainment. You will be fasting from many things other than merely food.
I feel drawn to do this, but it seems overwhelming.
How do I know if I’m ready?
Arriving in a new place, we meet our guides and companions, tell our stories. In a small group we share our fears, address physical and safety needs, learn what to expect. We become familiar with ceremony; practice sleeping out under the stars. By the time we walk alone out of base camp, we will have already left behind most of the fears and questions that seem so imposing to us now.