Being that it’s the first day of autumn, I thought we could kick off the change of the season with the self-discovery that a vision quest provides.
When I ask clients if they’ve ever heard of a vision quest, I often get responses with mumbles of magic mushrooms, deep meditation, or why they no longer eat at Taco Bell.
I love hearing whatever stories my clients bring me, but the vision quest goes waaaay back. I’m talking thousands of years ago. It was typically a rite of passage for young adults of indigenous tribes to figure out their purpose within their tribe and within the greater universe. The quest would often last days or weeks with its sole purpose being to embark on self-discovery. This journey back then was often about survival, prayer, and learning to understand weaknesses and particularly what strengths one could bring back to their tribe.
Carl Jung, my favorite psychoanalyst of all time, later named this process “Individuation.” A time where one begins to realize their unique individual qualities and begins to solidify their own personality. Jung saw individuation as a process of transformation with distinct steps (Simplified):
1. Catharsis: The process of becoming self-aware, bringing in ideas about the self into consciousness
2. Elucidation: The amplification of that awareness through ideas, thoughts, imagination, or other creative processes
3. Education: Using this newfound consciousness to understand thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to better understand and interpret one’s being.
4. Transformation: This final stage is where all the previous stages are present in a way that creates new choices and actions to live one’s life differently than before, from a place of presence.
Today, we no longer are required to go out and survive in the wild to transform ourselves or figure out what our role in society should be. However, in times where we lose our purpose, feel disconnected, lost, or simply want to connect deeper to ourselves and our intuition-the vision quest can do all of that and more!
That’s what’s exciting about it, you never know what you will get out of it until you do it!
The Vision Quest of Today
Now, the vision quest can really be just because you want to do one and see what it’s like to do something more serious like working your way out of a dark place or taking a deep dive into connecting to yourself spiritually. Maybe you just want to get out of your head and get outside. It doesn’t matter, whatever the intentions your vision quest are for, are yours.
It starts with your readiness to take the quest. I took my first quest as part of a college class and wasn’t ready for it to transform me the way it did. Over my years of doing this on my own, with my therapy clients, coaching clients, and employees, I can tell you no one has ever had a similar experience. Each experience is as unique as it is to the individual and powerful in unexpected ways.
It’s incredibly cool to help people process their quests, understand all the meaning and symbolism the quest provides, and also how it helps people begin or continue their transformation into becoming the person they are meant to be.
The vision quest begins with you setting aside the space to make it happen and the willingness to be open to whatever you may experience. I recommend 2-4hrs for an optimal quest, but have had people do a mini 1hr quest and still get a lot out of it. If you are nervous about it, it’s ok. You can start small and work your way up to more time as you feel more comfortable with the process.
Once you’ve committed to a time, the next step is to get a small blank notebook you can carry for your quest. In that notebook, on the first page, you will write the date of your vision quest and 1 question you want to put out into the universe. Yes, just 1 question. Trust me, you’ll get a lot from a little.
Signs & Symbols
As you start your quest, it’ll be important to allow yourself to think and feel freely. It will also be important to allow yourself to go freely. So if you decide at the moment you want to walk on the grass next to the sidewalk and not the sidewalk, do that. Anything goes as long as it’s safe, legal, and not putting anyone in harm’s way. Some people do drive to a starting point for their quest, typically in nature, but it doesn’t have to be the case. Many have done quests in cities and I even had a client do one on a cruise ship and another in a hot air balloon. Sky’s the limit!
I don’t want you to try to clear your mind, this isn’t a meditation (although some people do end up meditating on their quests). Certain thoughts and feelings will stand out to you. When you get that “stand-out” feeling, that’s when you want to write in your notebook. Try not to think hard about it, just see what happens and write down those moments where you are curious, feel intense emotions, or surprise yourself-it’s those moments that are usually meaningful in some way.
While your mind is wandering, you may find yourself instinctually looking in certain directions or noticing things. These are important! Write them down in detail! Like if you look down and see a beetle, please write down what it looks like, what it’s doing, and if you remember what you were thinking when you noticed it.
In this example, let’s say we saw a black beetle. Well, a black beetle is symbolic of the human soul, renewal, rebirth, and creative potential. Maybe you were about to step on it. Yikes! That’s some deep stuff to explore right there!
As you write things down on your quest, leave some space in the notebook to process later. Feel free to Google symbols, signs, talk things over with a life coach, friends, or your loved ones. Once you look things over you’ll begin to see the answer to your original question and a transformation in the wings.
Now there are a few very important rules to follow for your quest to be successful. I’ve put them all here in a handy 1-page guide for you so they can be easily accessible, you can print out and bring it with you or just hang it up to remind yourself you want to go on a quest, to begin with…
I wish you the best on your vision quest journey!
This fall is the perfect time to go on a vision quest and see what you can discover about yourself! The leaves are transforming on the trees and you are ready for your own transformation. Go for it!