The solo experience at the core of a vision quest includes three elements: 1) Fasting 2) Solitude, and 3) Nature, usually wilderness. With preparation before along with instruction and integration after, a quest is designed to create a deep change in the participants… in their bodies, emotions, minds, and imaginations.
A. Fasting creates a change in consciousness. Our focus becomes more broad-based, our attention more dream-like and less riveted on rational thought. The internal dialogue slows down; other thoughts and ways of perceiving bubble up from below the surface. We find ourselves thinking about people or things we’ve not considered for decades. As the mind quiets and the static dies down, that “still small voice” and our deeper longings can emerge and be heard.
B. Solitude: A person on a vision quest is alone, removed from social conversation, cultural roles, routines, habits, and expectations. Discovering your authentic purpose and voice… becoming author and creator of your own story, requires listening deeply to yourself and saying goodbye to all the other authorities — parents, teachers, , priests, peer groups — and the stories about the world and ourselves we’ve inherited, mostly unconsciously, from the time and culture we were raised in.
C. Nature: A vision quest happens in nature, usually wilderness, where one lives within the larger ecosystem. If “my home is my castle,” then being outside that home removes me from my sense of power and self-centeredness. I become part of something larger, a strand in the web, not the ruler or purpose of the web itself.
We can’t “meet our Maker” by staying inside the world that we (humans) have made. Leaving behind roads, houses, televisions, — the human-created world — requires entering an older world — Nature — that created us.
We’ve evolved through millions of years of interactions with the living Earth. Returning to intimate contact with it awakens forgotten senses and atrophied ways of perceiving. Our wild, authentic, and natural selves are discovered only through reconnection with Nature herself.
Although often associated with Native Americans, vision quests have been undertaken by people in diverse cultures for millennia. In 500 B.C. Buddha went into the forest and fasted underneath the Bodhi Tree. Christ and the Biblical prophets fasted in the desert… Moses climbed Mt. Sinai; Mohammed retired to a cave. These, as well as numerous Native Americans, mystics, ascetics, and seekers of spiritual truth have undertaken quests to find their direction and purpose; come close to God or Spirit; or have an authentic and profound encounter with the Source of life to guide them in the challenges of their times.