Vision Quests

A vision quest provides the structure and the support for you to raise your self-awareness to a point where you can examine your life, find the root of any discontent and gain a vision of new directions and new goals. The quest is a chance to rediscover that you are responsible for yourself, that you have the power of choice and that you can give yourself permission to create new options for your life.

In times of change aboriginal people have always found it useful to go on a quest, a
retreat or a walk-about. The circumstance of change could be an obvious one such as the transition from childhood to adulthood or a loss of a loved one or it could simply be a feeling of dissatisfaction with life and a need for movement. There is an inherent recognition within our subconscious of the need to be alone and reassess our life and more and more people are using the traditions of questing to help them create positive change in their lives.

A vision quest provides the structure and the support for you to raise your self-awareness to a point where you can examine your life, find the root of any discontent and gain a vision of new directions and new goals. The quest is a chance to rediscover that you are responsible for yourself, that you have the power of choice and that you can give yourself permission to create new options for your life.

The structure of a vision quest is important – it gives you the tools and the rituals to use to help you become more sensitive to your inner world in order to affirm your goals and to step outside any limitations that you have set yourself. You could create your own tools and rituals but it is powerful to use those from cultures such as the North American Indian because they have already worked out and refined their structure. Their rituals also contain the power of tradition and connection.

A support system is vital to help you feel safe to delve deep inside yourself. Having a shaman, a teacher or some friends to watch over you frees you from your everyday need to focus on the external world. You can go into a state of being, using your five senses to examine your inner landscape, with the security that you are being watched over. In most quests there is also a strong link to your unseen support – God, Great Spirit, your ancestors, your guides, nature spirits and angels, depending on the tradition you choose. This connection with the invisible also helps you draw power to achieve your goals after your quest is over.

A Vision Quest consists of three phases – the preparation, the seeking of the vision and the affirmation. These vary according the traditions that you choose for your quest.

In the preparation phase you are seeking to attune your senses and your conscious mind to your inner world. During preparation you learn the rituals and tools to help you seek your vision. This is a time for quiet community with others sharing the quest, for meditation and visualisation, and for heightening your feeling of connection to the natural and invisible worlds. You reduce your intake of food to free you from the needs of our body. You reduce your conversation to increase the power of your inner dialogue.

In the vision-seeking phase you are alone with your thoughts and your feelings. Generally this takes place in nature where you are out of sight or influence of other human beings. This is when you create the safe space for your quest, in Native American tradition, your sacred circle. This is when you use the rituals you have learned, such as making a prayer stick, and where you watch and wait for your vision.

Fasting during this phase helps free you from bodily distraction and heighten you senses. Silence quietens your inner chatter. The better your preparation have been and the stronger your rituals feel the easier it will be for you to move into a state of heightened consciousness. In this state you examine your life, your inner desires, your mental map of the world and your goals and you find the signs and the inspirations to guide your choices for the future.

In the affirmation stage you give yourself permission to change. Immediately after your vision seeking you will feel quiet and reflective and it is important that you re-enter the world gradually as you move back into normal consciousness. The first words that you speak after your time on your own are powerful so it good to pray for yourself and others and to thank your visible and invisible support. In Native American tradition this is done in the sweat lodge ritual to further increase the power.

After resting and eating it is good to speak about your experiences with your support group. Speaking helps you organise your thoughts, helps you gain insights on your experience and starts the anchoring process for the new choices you are making. It is important to be heard within a supportive environment as this helps you give yourself permission to achieve your new goals. During this phase you should write down life goals and affirmations for your future. You can create a treasure map with pictures showing the life you want. You are giving signals to your subconscious to help you make the necessary changes to your life. You are programming your reticular formation (where your five senses are monitored in your brain) to watch out unconsciously for opportunities to move towards your goals.

A vision quest is not the few days that you spend on your own. The quest starts from your intention to seek a vision through to the time you spend working with your new affirmations. When you feel the need to make further changes you can go on a new quest as often as you want. You are responsible for your life, you make your own choices and you have a right to be happy.

(This introduction has been kindly contributed by David Hill.
David & Susan Hill run vision quests, based on Native American traditions, from their home in Kent. To find out more, please visit their entry in the list of Vision Quest facilitators)

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