As a part of my own healing and spiritual journey, I have taken part in two Native American rite of passage rituals, Vision Quests. The experience of Vision Questing is a life changing one for many, and, depending on your guides, it may also allow one to partake in several Native American customs in addition to the 3 day ‘solo’ in the Sacred World.
The sweat lodge is done in anticipation of a Vision Quest. It is a deep cleansing ceremony which includes sharing your truth through speaking from your heart and chanting sacred songs. Another part of the preparation for the Quest itself is the Day Walk – a day spent alone in nature, in which one sets out at sunrise on a pilgrimage seeking signs and symbols from the natural world that resonate with one’s own psyche.
The Vision Quest itself is a journey that is often undertaken during times of great transition in one’s life. It includes fasting, drinking only water and not eating for three days, and spending that time in solitude in a natural landscape, such as a desert, the beach or the mountains. Although each individual is alone for a significant amount of time, a buddy system is employed to ensure safety. A Vision Quest can be a profound spiritual experience rich with insight and lessons about oneself and the universe.
The practicality of a Vision Quest is less than ideal for most, but luckily some of these Native American rituals can be undertaken (in varying forms) independently and close to home! While there is an irreplaceable element of sharing with one’s community that occurs during a sweat lodge, the cleansing and detoxifying qualities and practice of surrender and letting go can be duplicated in a sauna or steam bath. Creating a ritual around your experience which may include lighting candles or incense, putting on soothing music or journaling before or after your sweat can increase your awareness and amplify your intentions.
Additionally, taking an unaccompanied Day Walk in a natural environment can be an opportunity for discovery, healing, or reconnection. Through setting an intention to listen to your intuition and be guided by it, keeping in mind the questions in your heart and mind, the conflict or problem that is being faced, the walk becomes a pilgrimage through the mirror of nature. At some point during this journey, a symbol may be found, perhaps a natural object that represents your struggle, or the answer to your query. I would invite you to take the one object with you and keep it as a source of inspiration or a reminder.
Lastly, dream-work, or dream-tending, is another Native American tradition that can be done independently. Through keeping a dream journal, and writing down the images and experiences that occur in your ‘night-vision,’ you can look at the symbols and allegories that are being presented with to gain clarity, get a different perspective, or better understand your own experience.
If you feel that you are being called do a Native American Vision Quest, finding the right guide is key. Here’s a link to the Wilderness Guides Council where you can explore some options.