THE PRACTICE OF VISION QUESTING
An extract from The Soulistic Journey, a forthcoming book that Genevieve is co-writing with Lorna Howarth. Due for publication in Autumn 2020.
Cracking open the outer casing of your old story and identity
Okay, so now we approach one of the oldest and deepest practices that we share with you in this book. It is not to be danced into lightly and indeed is one you may find yourself shying away from rather than running towards. If so, good – that means you are sensing into its power.
Vision quests have been used by indigenous cultures across the world for millennia as a mechanism to remove ourselves from our old story, humbly seeking a higher vision from Nature and the forces in our Universe, in order to inform the next chapter of our life purpose. And vision quests often sneak up on us when we least expect them.
You see, life moves in waves. We have periods of time when our focus is more outwards in the world, such as when we have children or start a new job, but then the wave that has risen, falls back again and we feel the pull to retreat inwards to integrate and harvest the wealth of our experiences in order to find new inspiration. These inward arcs of attention inevitably lead us towards transformation, and this is when we need to ‘quest’ in order to find a new vision to guide us into the next phase of our life.
The vision quest often comes at pivotal moments and thresholds in our development such as moving from childhood to adolescence or midlife to elderhood. They can also be as big or as small as you wish and feel called to undertake. Indeed, each person must find their own way of questing that fits their personal circumstances.
What I would say is that the hallmark of any good quest is that it must – must – take you well outside your comfort zone in order to crack open the outer casing of your old story and identity. “Everything we want is outside of our comfort zone,” entrepreneur Tim Ferriss once said, yet we resist leaving it with every breath we take. Humans are after all, creatures of habit.
The essential part of the vision quest is the knowledge that once you accept the quest and leave your old life behind, that you will come back as a new person, forever changed in some way. To do this, you need let go and humbly seek your own ‘death and rebirth’ – the death of the old you and the rebirth into the new you. And there are no guarantees that you will succeed – yet seek you must. To refuse the quest is to know that it will stalk you until you finally face it.
You can undertake a vision quest in your garden or in the mountains, in your spare bedroom or the desert… you get to choose the scale and size of the journey you are willing to undertake. There are also many skilled and experienced organisations and wilderness guides that can help you should you wish to undertake a true wilderness quest.[i]
Some key parts of any self-guided or self-led vision quest are:
- Leaving behind the ‘normal world’ and entering into a liminal, imaginal space without technology or phones for a period of days.
- The night vigil – whether you sleep out for 3-7 days or simply take a 24-hour solo outside, it is important that you become friends with the dark.
- Fasting – abstaining from food for 24-72 hrs (we do recommend drinking water, however) and you must design this part of your quest based on your personal health situation.
- Taking minimal comforts, but ensuring that you are safe and warm (sleeping bag, tent, first aid kit etc – see the resources section for a full kit list)
- Ensuring that someone knows where you are and how long you will be out of contact for.
Once you have carved out enough time and space to undertake your quest, you must commit to it and prepare for it. Take small steps towards each element described above and undertake an avid journaling practice to explore your resistances and fears that come up as you approach the quest itself.
You may find that parts of your old story and life start to naturally drop away. Good. This means you are truly on the path to transformation. Be gentle with yourself and grieve if necessary. This is all part of letting go, so you can let in the new vision.
If you find yourself paralysed with anxiety or fear at the thought of participating in a vision quest, then please seek out an experienced guide who can help you work through the process. Fear is completely normal and indeed expected as you approach a threshold practice such as this. I (Genevieve) host quests in the UK and the US on a regular basis because I have experienced their power in transforming our stories time and time again.
Now plan your adventure. Decide on the amount of days, the location, whether you will fast or eat simple, sacred foods (please make sure you consider your health and wellbeing as foremost in this) and tell someone who can act as your ‘watcher’ where you will be and for how long. Then allow the quest to take you.
Once you become familiar with the vision quest practice that fits your style and circumstances, then you will find that this is an experience you can repeat again and again if you so wish, to continually find clarity and peace as you journey through your evolving story.