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Vision Quests

A vision without a task is but a dream.
A task without a vision is drudgery.
A vision with a task is the hope of the world.

Church Inscription, Sussex, England 1730

What is a vision quest?
A vision quest is a rite of passage, which has been used for centuries by native american indians and other aboriginal cultures. After a period of preparation, it usually involves a 3 or 4 day period of being alone, in nature, fasting, having brought along only the bare essentials to survive.  Those days are spent in prayer and meditation, reflecting on life and on the changes the quester is faced with.  The quester seeks Self-knowledge, and is willing to separate from familiar surroundings in order to find it.  Alone in nature, without food or familiar distractions, the quester is faced with Self on as deep a level as he/she is ready and willing to open up to, and so knowledge is found.  The quester is then faced with the task of bringing that new self, the new vision, the new understanding or knowledge back into the world, for the benefit of the community.

The real voyage of discovery
consists not in seeking new landscapes
but in having new eyes.

spiritual vision

Literally, a vision quest is 'seeking to see'.  The seeking emanates from a desire to open one's inner eyes in order to have a better understanding of Self and life.  There is something the seeker needs to know and the answer has so far eluded him/her.  Probably, for as long as humans have roamed this earth, they have had a need for the occasional "time-out" in order to re-center themselves.  In our present hectic culture, this need is likely stronger than ever, but who hears and heeds the call?

The bodily food we take is changed into us.
But the spiritual food we receive changes us into itself.

Who goes on a vision quest?
Anyone can go on a vision quest.  You don't need to be a shaman or a native american indian or a buddhist monk with a shaved head in order to hear that calling in your heart.  The key is that call deep in your heart, an ancient stirring, a clear knowing that you need to go into the wilderness, to Mother Earth, to seek a vision.  And you are ready to accept the responsibility that accompanies this choice.  With that calling in your heart, the vision quest can be used to find one's purpose in life, one's own unique vision, or it can mark a transition from one stage of life to the next.

And then the hero left everything behind and went along 
to a sacred place on the body of the Great Mother. 
There the hero was tried by the monsters of his life (or karma) and visited by a spirit guide, an angel, God, the Great Spirit. 
Through a long, dark night of the soul, the seeker was rewarded with wisdom, strength and understanding.   He was revived, reborn, inner eyes were opened, a vision was granted.
But the main condition of the gift received was that the protagonist had to return to the mortal world with the vision of healing or regeneration.

Joseph Campbell

My personal vision quest experience.
I have personally undertaken two vision quests in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.  The first, led by Jon Massey of Sacred Ground Vision Quests, was one of the most awesome and transformative experiences of my life; I discovered profound answers within myself.  The second quest helped me realize my school: 'Visions Of Joy'.
I also helped guide two of Sacred Ground's vision quests in Arizona and I have assisted with a quest led by 'Shumray Hagan' in Israel's Negev desert.  So I know how amazing, powerful and transformational a vision quest is for anyone who experiences it, and I hope that through my mission and this website I can encourage others to cross the threshold too.

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.
John Muir

Esther in her vision quest area Arizona
Esther Joy at her first Vision Quest site, Big Horn Mountain Wilderness, AZ. Photo by Camilla Van Sickle

The purpose of life is a life of purpose.
Robert Byrne

Vision quest guides
If you can feel the call for a vision quest within you, and you know that you are ready to act upon that call, then go for it, follow your intuition.  If you need some guidance and support, the following list may help you locate an experienced vision quest guide near you.

Wilderness Guides Council, has a list of vision quest guides world wide
In the USA:
School of Lost Borders, Meredith Little, California. 
Earth-heart, Malcolm Ringwalt, California.
Earthskills, Jim Lowery and Mary Brooks, California
Circles of Air, Circles of Stone, Sparrow Hart, Vermont 
Cotef, Children of the Earth Foundation, New Jersey.  Vision quest for teenagers
Purpose Mountain, Tim Corcoran and Mark Tollefson, Sandpoint, Idaho

There is no greater tragedy than a life unlived,
and no greater joy than holding to one's Vision
through the blessings and sorrows of life.

Sparrow Hart

If you're not ready for a vision quest but you would love to get closer to nature (and to your own true nature),  then the following sites may be of help to you:

Tom Brown, Tracking, nature & wilderness survival school in New Jersey (USA).
Through Tom's classes and through 'Grandfather' I found my spiritual self.  The difference that has made in my life is immense. Tracker school is simply amazing.

Ray & Nancy Reitze, School of wilderness living / Teaching Lodge. Canaan, Maine (USA).
Similar in philosophy to Tom Brown's Tracker school, but so much more personal; you won't regret signing up for any of Old Turtle's classes or wilderness trips.  

Jen Deraspe, Nurture Through Nature, Denmark, Maine (USA).
Holistic canoe trips and wellness retreats for women and girls.  Jen's mission is to guide women back to themselves and Spirit by finding sanctuary in nature.

Thomas J. Elpel, Hollowtop Outdoor Primitive School, Montana (USA).
Great school, great teachings.  I love Tom's storytelling page, just please don't read it all in one go, and remember to blink and breathe while you read ;-)

Cody Lundin, Aboriginal Living Skills School, near Prescott, Arizona (USA).  
Cody walks his talk.  His teaching style is fun, sincere, and to the point.

Jon Young, Wilderness Awareness School, Duvall, Washington (USA) (Jon's webstore)

Children of the Earth Foundation (USA)

Jim Lowery and Mary Brooks, Earth Skills, Frazier Park, California (USA)

Sam and Novella Kennedy, Earth Vision Inc, Liberty, North Carolina (USA)

Chuck Stratton and Sandy Masse, Heron Walk Healing and Retreat Centre, Langton, Ontario (Canada)

Debbie Tremel, Seeds of Hope, Oregon, (USA)

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart.
Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.

Carl Gustav Jung

A few suggested books related to vision quests:
by Steven Foster PhD and Meredith Little:
- The Book of the Vision Quest  
- The Trail to the Sacred Mountain: a Vision Fast Handbook for Adults
- The Roaring of the Sacred River: The Wilderness Quest for Vision and Self-Healing  
- The Four Shields: The Initiatory Seasons of Human Nature

by Tom Brown Jr
- The Vision
- The Quest
- Awakening Spirits

by Paula D'Arcy
- Gift of the Red Bird

It is in the purity of wilderness that we must learn,
free from the distractions of man.
It is wilderness that brings us close to the Creator
and to the realities of life.
Here in the bosom of creation 
all spiritual things are born...

Grandfather Stalking Wolf, as quoted by Tom Brown Jr, in 'The Quest'


It's the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live
Bette Midler / Amanda McBroom - 'The Rose'

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