Spiritual Development

Page 94

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Vision Quest
By Advent

The Historical Vision Quest
Throughout history, Shaman of all cultures have engaged in vision quests to help force their
spiritual essence out from the submerged depths of their subconscious into the common world of
the earthwalk. Vision quests are truly transforming journey activities that carry us through a
ritual "death" from the common earthwalk and rebirth into the eyes and heart of the Spirit.
In early tribal cultures (and still in "primitive" cultures) the vision quest was performed under
truly life-threatening conditions. These variously included long periods of fasting; conditions of
extreme physical stress; exposure to elements and the dangers of being alone far from the aid and
companionship of our fellow man; intentional infliction of great amounts of pain; the use of
psychotropic substances; and intentional isolation in dark, cold, and lifeless conditions beneath
the earth. Some well-known examples of vision questing include Jesus' forty days spent in the
wilderness, the Buddha's forty days of fasting beneath the Bodhi Tree, and Odin's nine days and
nine nights hanging suspended from Yggdrasil, the tree of life.

The vision quest was commonly used as an initiation of one into the position of a Shaman. In
these instances, one who underwent a certain amount of training by an experienced Shaman
became prepared to undergo this ritual death and rebirth. In truly harrowing conditions, the
"apprentice Shaman" would experience the vision quest under conditions generally accepted by
their culture as being appropriate, and (if they survived), they were elevated to the position of
Shaman in the eyes of their culture. Many did not survive.

Later, the Shaman would continue to engage in vision questing whenever necessary to realign
themselves with the consciousness of the Spirit and to force themselves to shift into the
perception of an alternate reality, or what I prefer to call "Spirit consciousness." Note that the
alternate reality perceived as a result of vision questing is just that: an alternate reality. It is still
real. Every bit as real as the type of reality we experience during our common earthwalk. It may
be different; but it is no less important or valid.

The Use of Vision Quest Today
The vision quest is still an effective way to elevate one's awareness of, and relationship with, the
Spirit. It is still conducted in a manner that removes the distractions of our daily lives and
permits our exclusive focus of attention to shift to the Spirit and to achieve the Spirit
consciousness in which the Spirit and his workings may be readily observed. Modernly, the
vision quest is conducted under much less dangerous conditions than in primitive societies, and
hopefully with much less danger to life and limb! After all, our perception of the Spirit does not
really depend on whether we are in fact placing our life on the line (although this will almost
always have a drastic effect on one's Spiritual consciousness). It is changed, however, by our
ability to isolate our focus toward the Spirit and allow the lessons that the Spirit sends into our
souls to surface.

NOTE: Spirit Lodge urges all persons undergoing vision quest to do so safely, with necessary
precautions and attention to personal health and well-being. We do not recommend any activities
that place one's life or health in danger, and we strongly discourage the use of any psychotropic
substances or drugs for vision quest.

Techniques of Vision Quest
The technique of vision questing described below is one gained by experience, and involves
travel to a remote, outdoors location where privacy is assured. It can be modified for vision
questing near (or even in) one's own home, for those who are prevented by various
circumstances from traveling to remote locations.

Remote Travel Vision Quest
One of the most effective means of vision quest still involves travel to the out of doors, where we
are surrounded by the Spirit's creations in nature, preferably to a location where one will be alone
for a period of time. Three days is a common length of time used for vision quest. Interestingly,
the period of time that one devotes to the vision quest is really determined by the amount of time
it takes to achieve the state of Spirit consciousness. Once this state of consciousness is achieved,
time becomes immaterial. In this state of consciousness, we can spend a month with the Spirit in
only an hour measured in "common reality" time.

Can't take three days off at the drop of a hat? Need to collect more vacation time? Fine! One
doesn't get up in the morning and decide "I'll go on a vision quest today...."A vision quest is a
planned, anticipated event. It is special. If it takes a few months, or a year, to get ready, so be it.
During the time you are preparing your mind and soul will become more and more focused on
the Spirit, and your feet will walk closer to the path he has set for you. And preparation for the
vision quest is not just "getting ready to go." It is even more a time for the Spirit to prepare you.
Vision quests are not vacations. They are not meant to be easy nor comfortable, and they can at
times be frightening. As much as anything else, know your own heart before you go; because
without a doubt the Spirit will know exactly what you need when you quest, and even when your
faith in the Spirit's path is solid, it will still be one heck of an experience!

Fasting during the vision quest is an excellent idea if one's health and safety permit it, along with
limiting fluid intake to clean water. Stopping the intake of solid foods prevents the body energy
from being directed to digestion, allows concentration to focus on the Spirit, and helps "shock"
the physical senses into Spirit consciousness. Small quantities of solid food are necessary,
however, if one's health dictates or if one is vision questing in a remote area where energy is
needed to hike long distances. Complete fasting is safer if the vision quest is performed near
one's home. In any event, do not stop the intake of water, especially if long distances of hiking
to, or traveling in, remote locations is part of the vision quest. Always plan for the necessary
amount of water. In the mountains or deserts of Southern California, for example, one should
always plan for at least one gallon of water to drink per day. Other than water, you will need
very little: map and compass, sufficient clothing to protect you from the elements, a small
amount of food, fire starting supplies, emergency first aid equipment, and perhaps some type of
shelter such as a sleeping bag and small tent. That's about it. In other words, take what you need
to ensure your safety and survival. Nothing else. Also, if you are traveling to a remote location,
always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.

It is also advisable that you carry with you some token items of thanks to offer any Spirits of
Place that you may encounter in your quest, as well as a special token to offer to the Great One
after he has blessed you with the visions of Spiritual consciousness. Tobacco or corn make good
offerings, as do semi-precious stones. In particularly dry regions of the country, one of the
greatest gifts of thanks may be a small quantity of fresh water poured on the ground.
The vision quest really begins with a focus on one's state of mind. Prepare to meet the Spirit.
This is not a state of mind that questions "I wonder if I will meet the Spirit...," but rather "I
wonder what the Spirit will show to me?...." The difference is substantial. Know that the Spirit
will be there to meet you, as he will. One should anticipate that a meaningful event will occur;
but not expect any particular lesson or event. Anticipate a substantial lesson; but don't set your
mind or heart on any particular occurrence. Anticipate; but don't expect. It's the Spirit that calls
the shots on a vision quest... not us.

Next begins the journey. A walking journey. It allows us to contact the Earth Mother directly,
and to observe our brother and sister creatures in nature as we progress to the remote region
where our quest will occur in earnest. I suggest for specific reasons that you plan your journey to
arrive at your (planned) location while it is still daylight. Note the path that one follows in this
walk. Those of us that choose to follow the path of the Spirit should always be sensitive to the
physical paths that we take on the face of the Earth Mother. Also, it is this path that is leading us
closer to our meeting with the Spirit. This path should be one of growing excitement, for we go
to meet the unknown. This path may also require a fair amount of physical exertion, for going to
meet the Spirit is not an easy task, and requires effort on our part. As we expend energy walking,
we open ourselves up to the inflow of energy from the Spirit.

We may plan where we will stay to accomplish our quest; but don't get too locked into your own
plans. Remember, it's the Spirit that makes the decisions on a vision quest. What we plan is
really of very little consequence. Go where the Spirit leads you, and stay where he wants you to
stay. You will know the direction and the place once you arrive. It has always been the ultimate
paradox of Shamanism and following the path of the Spirit: the journey is what is important, not
the destination. No one can advise another specifically how the Spirit will tell them where to stop
for their meeting with him. In my experience, it is a place one arrives at in a very tired state, and
a yet a place where your pulse starts to race and excitement mounts. There may be natural
features of the geography that make the place notable, such as a circular rock formation, large
trees or bushes that form a natural gate, or particular views of surrounding country or the skies.
A particular animal may be present. In any event, once the place has been selected for you it is
time to make yourself ready. Prepare a fire for the night if necessary. Arrange your sleeping area.
You didn't bring a lot of things, because you won't need a lot, so spend your remaining time
studying what surrounds you. Note anything particular that draws your attention. Do not disturb
anything, if possible, unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

Once you have prepared your resting area and carefully observed your surroundings, search for
the location where you will wait. You may find that some place just feels right when you sit
there. Other places may cause an upset or negative feeling, and should be avoided. Try crossing
your eyes slightly, and slowly scan the location. As the location is blurred from your crossed
eyes, see if one place looks different from the others. Perhaps there is one place that appears
lighter than the rest, or where certain marks seem to exist in the soil or on rocks. That may be
your spot. Again, there is no rule governing this. It is dictated by the Spirit. Once your spot is
found, the truly challenging part of the quest begins: the wait.

Sit comfortably in your spot. Keep warm clothes near you if necessary, and perhaps start a little
fire. Do not sleep. Plan on not sleeping for the rest of the quest (yes, for a couple of days). If you
cannot stay awake any other way, rise and move a little in place; but you are not there to sleep.
You are waiting for the Spirit's attention. Be respectful and remain awake. As you fight off sleep
weariness will sap your remaining energy. Then, at the Spirit's proper time, you will slip (or fall)
into a state of Spirit consciousness and the visions will begin.

No one can predict what the Spirit will show or teach to another. The Spirit will show you what
you need to see. You may meet other spirit beings. You may find you are leaving your body and
traveling to other locations or times. The geography may change. Animals may meet with you
and speak to you. A hundred and one other things may occur. You can anticipate a great event;
but there is literally no way to expect (or predict) a particular experience. There is only one thing
that you can be certain of: whatever you experience, it will not be like anything you have
experienced before. (See where the "kind of frightening" part comes in?)

Only after you have experienced the visionary state and the visions have ceased should you
sleep. Even then, do not assume that the visionary state has necessarily ended. When you sleep
after visiting a state of Spirit consciousness it is not uncommon for dreams to occur that carry on
the events encountered in the visions. These can be further enlightening. They can also be a trap:
it is too easy to awaken after sleep and convince yourself that everything you experienced was
only a dream (i.e., "not real") brought about by your weakened state. This is not the case. Your
Dreamwalk and earthwalk have the same degree of reality during Spiritual consciousness. One is
equally as valid as the other.

When your time in Spirit consciousness has ended, assemble the items that you have brought
with you, offer your gift(s) of thanks to the Spirit (and any other spirit beings that may have
visited you), and carefully commence your return walk. Use caution in returning, and try to
follow the same path you used to arrive at your location. After a state of Spirit consciousness
many landmarks appear different and there is a possibility of losing your way. You are returning
to a different perception of reality, and the transition is dramatic. At the same time, a part of you
may never fully assume the condition of "ordinary consciousness" again; but will remain forever
ready to slip into Spirit consciousness at planned or unplanned moments.

By Cinnamon:
While Advent covered the context of the vision quest I want to stress the issue of the Call to
Quest itself. Vision Quests are not lightly undertaken, they are a challenge to the individual, and
shamanically speaking one must have "permission" to undergo this test of faith and endurance.
You may be asking yourself how one knows this Call has been put forth. The answer to that is no
mystery, it's a deep and pervasive knowing, a drawing or nagging feeling that this "must" be
done. It's not wishful thinking or just wanting to do it. While that want can initiate the individual
to attempt the quest, and in some cases there will be experiences derived from it, it becomes a
more personal quest for enlightenment than one initiated by a Calling and permission. In this
case it is considered a shamanic journey, albeit a deep journey, it's still not a recognized Quest.
The Call to Quest comes as a growing seed that germinates within your spirit. You simply
"know" you are to do this beyond a doubt, fear or apprehension stand no chance against it and
you "must" fulfill this need. It's like a hunger, or feeling of destiny that is about to be presented
to you. It relates to your spiritual path, the service you provide others, and your overall purpose
in life on a spiritual level. In this one is shown the work they are to do in service to others, AND
in service to Spirit. One comes to understand the "why" of their path and what their role is in
relation to the Web of Life and All Our Relations. It's profound and it's powerful and it's a life
changing experience. You do not return unchanged.

What are the changes like that you undergo? They make you a better person, more
compassionate, more giving, more attuned to life and those who share it with you or cross your
path from time to time. You want to be a better person because you understand that need for all
of us to give our best. As we act we touch the Web of Life and thus touch our own life and
everything comes full circle eventually. Through the Vision Quest we come to see this
interconnectedness and we realize that the touches we make are important so we think about our
actions rather than react with knee jerks. We're more aware as we take our earthwalk and we see
that we walk between the worlds at all times...aware of it or not, this is the case. The Vision
Quest shows this to you.

During the process there are 4 main stages a person must go through: Purification, Preparation,
Questing, and Assimilation. As a rule equal time allotments are allowed for each stage.
During the purification process the questor generally spends time with a shaman and is guided
through this purification process. Mind, body, emotions, and spirit are cleansed. If a soul
retrieval is called for in this process it is done during this time. Long and indepth conversations
lead to the cleansing of misconceptions, issues, and experiences so that the person is "clean"
going into the next stage. If a shaman is not present in this step of the process the individual must
do this work alone. In either case it must be the first step to be completed. It prepares the person
with new insights, a cleaner perspective, and this must be assimilated before going further.
That assimilation takes place simultaneously with the preparation stage. Here the individual
creates sacred space and prepares the location they will soon Quest from. It can be a clearing of
an area and the formation of a Medicine Wheel or circle that will not be exited from until the
Quest is completed. It could be a grave, symbolic of the womb of Mother Earth and a place to
undergo the rebirthing process of spiritual transformation. During this phase there is a definite
"space" created and it defines the arena that the person will have to move in which can be very
limiting or offer more mobility as in the case of a Medicine Wheel or circle. Accommodations
are provided for storage of tools (optional), supplies, shelter, and of course toilet needs. All of
which are returned to their natural state when the Quest has ended.

During the quest token offerings are presented. The questor centers and begins to Cry for a
Vision. This is a Call put forth from the heart, voiced aloud, perhaps chanted or a song may be
sung, but the vision is Called for. This continues and takes the person into a state of receptivity
and trance that deepens to the point of total submersion into the ritual process. Sleep is a
deprivation, though it may occur, the focus remains the same upon awakening and continues
until the vision is received. What happens when that vision comes, and Spirit makes Its presence
known is beyond description and varies with each quest and individual. No two are the same
other than the outline of the format that is the guideline. Individuals are often assigned to watch
over the questor from a distance to guard against health or safety risks such as elements that may
bring on illness or wild animals. Unless there is cause to disrupt the Quest for these reasons their
presence remains just that of the Witness. It is common when working with a shaman for that
shaman to Witness the vision received by the questor and more or less journey with them but it
does not always happen this way. That depends on the shaman's ability to connect to the
individual and their personal gifts.

After the vision has been received and the sacred space broken, the questor returns to assimilate
all that they underwent. If they work with a shaman every detail is shared and the shaman helps
them interpret the experience, sees their path defined and helps them work with any new
abilities, Gifts of Spirit, or "assignments" that may have indicated the direction their path is to
take. The questor hones those gifts or abilities and works on their own life with them to address
their needs and assimilate the process. Once honed and understood they are ready to step into
service for others and fulfill their pathwork.

Dreams often follow during the assimilation process and sleep is sorely needed so it can be
lengthy as the individual restores stamina. Food intake is gentle, beginning with natural raw
foods such as fruits, nuts, berries, vegetables, etc. Gradually grains and meats are reintroduced
and the stamina begins to strengthen them. To do it any other way can cause upsets to the
system, it's rather like recovering from the flu so there may be nausea, headaches, etc. to deal
with. Extreme exhaustion is common. The shaman guiding the individual through the process of
Questing is going to tend to these needs and nurse the person back to their strength. I'm sure you
can see the advantage to not questing alone by now, and it is always advised to have someone in
attendance that understands the process even if not a shaman per se, it's still a safer route to take.
With the deprivation through fasting stamina is not always there to see to our own needs.

A completed Quest is something that most people never see, some only once in their life. A
shaman is going to go through this process time and time again as their path calls for and in the
tradition of the Plains Indians there are 16 Quests that a shaman must strive to
complete...something that is not always accomplished in a lifetime. A Vision Quest can be
undertaken as part of other ceremonial processes such as the Sun Dance where the individual
makes themselves a sacrifice on behalf of another for a specific purpose. Again the shaman of
the tribe would be consulted before this was undertaken and permission to do so would come
from the shaman in that instance. That permission would be granted only if the shaman saw the
validation that the individual presented to them as worthy of the sacrifice and effort needed to be
successful. This aspect to questing has a tendency to show up more in Men's Medicine than it
does Women's Medicine.

Medicine Men and Women tend to Quest differently and their sacrifices reflect this. I suggest
that you explore the section in the Knowledge Center on Variances of Male and Female
Medicine for further insights. Like Advent said, this is not something that's done for the fun of it.
It is an intense and rigorous process that demands total focus and attention on the experience
itself. It is life transforming and like those transformed in NDE's (Near Death Experiences), you
are not the same coming out of it. While the transformation is for the better, perspectives have
shifted and you live your life in accordance to those shifts from that point on. Sometimes the
vision itself is so intense that it takes a long time to bring about acceptance and fulfillment. I've
been on Vision Quests that took years to complete the process and others that were easily
transitioned. Some can take a lifetime to fulfill and when your pathwork is involved it defines a
lifetime of service and fulfillment.

See the Vision Quest for what it is. Honor it. Do not assume it's a game or something to play
around with. There are risks and dangers in doing so that can be very serious side effects to
inappropriate ceremony. Be wise. Know yourself and you will know if you are being Called. Be
honest. Do not fool yourself with dreams and wishes to be extrapolated from this experience. It's
serious business and not for show or making an impression on others. A’ho.

Libraries are on this row
INDEX Page 1
(Divination & Dreams, Guides & Spirit Helpers)
INDEX Page 2
INDEX Page 3
(Main Section, Medicine Wheel, Native Languages & Nations, Symbology)
INDEX Page 4
(Myth & Lore)
INDEX Page 5
(Sacred Feminine & Masculine, Stones & Minerals)
INDEX Page 6
(Spiritual Development)
INDEX Page 7
(Totem Animals)
INDEX Page 8
(Tools & Crafts. Copyrights)

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