Vision quests are designed to create deep changes in the bodies, emotions, minds, and imaginations of participants, and the process includes the elements of Fasting, Solitude, and Nature, usually wilderness. It is also a mix of solitude – the solo itself – along with a profound experience of community during the pre-solo preparation and instruction, and the integration after.
Solitude: On a vision quest, you’re alone, removed from conversations, cultural roles, routines, habits, and expectations. Discovering your authentic purpose and voice requires listening deeply to yourself and saying goodbye to other authorities — parents, teachers, priests, peer groups — and whatever stories about the world and ourselves we’ve inherited, mostly unconsciously, from the time and culture we were raised in.
Other than a safety system where you can make contact in case of emergency, people are alone in ways that they may never have been in their entire life. Routines and habits fade, attention becomes available for other concerns. The space taken up by the socially-conditioned, approval-seeking personality becomes quiet, and parts of ourselves we’re unfamiliar with come to the fore. Awareness, freed from the ordinary, perceives aspects of the world we usually miss.
We start to notice things usually below the surface, become more sensitized to our internal environment; present to our feelings; aware of our dreams. Deeper feelings about partners, bosses, work, and the life we’re leading enter our circle. The stories we tell ourselves about who we are, think we should be, and what we have to do to be loved or accepted — stories which may have kept us trapped for decades — arise and make themselves known. As this happens, we’re given a chance to challenge or change them.
Time alone on a vision quest isn’t the only important thing. Most quests throughout history happened in communities and villages with a great deal of support. If one purpose of a quest is to move beyond the self you know and are familiar with, it’s unlikely to happen with that same self as your guide. Having a group increases the possibility of this transformation taking place by providing tools, teachings, perspectives, and counsel you would not get on your own.
In modern life, many people don’t feel connected to others in ways that feel deep, soulful, or worthy of their energy, yet on vision quests, they often discover a sense of community that feels like coming home. Companionship with others who share their struggles, pain and joy while seeking a deep relationship to Spirit, is rare, intimate, and moving. .
After the solo, returning to this rich network who witness, affirm, and validate new insights and commitments can help keep us on course as we head back to home, family, and community. Tools and teachings are often provided to assist in this process.
Many of these connections become long-lasting, and having allies who understand, affirm, and support you after you go home is important. Living a sacred or purpose-filled life is a blessings and joy. But it can make you feel out of step, marching to a different drummer than many around you. Having the friendship and on-going support from those who know your experience, are committed to spiritual growth, and willing to share a journey of the heart helps heal the deep aloneness many have felt throughout their lives.