Wilderness-based Vision Quest

Many of us do not live genuine lives because we do not know what our purpose is or because we are not living in accordance with what we know it to be. Either way can be painful, depressing and unfulfilling.

Spending time in Nature is healing in and of itself. It can be a time to relax, decompress, release anxiety for a while, and get in touch with deeper parts of ourselves that have been squelched or forgotten. Such time can open up new possibilities for seeing ourselves and our world, giving us vision and strength to meet challenges or make changes in our lives. This is the purpose of the Vision Quest.

Often what is needed to awaken our purpose or to find the will and inspiration to realign ourselves with what we know it to be is a quest for soulful vision. In order to facilitate such an awakening or realignment, the SoulCraft method incorporates various tantric and shamanic techniques, including Vision Quests held within wilderness settings, that serve as initiations, empowerments and rites of passage into healing and transformation.

The quests take place in wilderness settings in the Pacific Northwest, the West, the Southwest, California or Hawaii depending upon the season of the year and the number of participants. They usually last nine days with a month of preparatory reflection and journaling prior to the quest. This 9-day journey includes instruction in communication with Nature and Medicine Wheel philosophy, personal healing work, a 3 to 5-day solitary fasting time for soulful regeneration and spiritual awakening, and nourishing vegetarian meals before and after the fasting time.

The Vision Quest is the great mythic inner journey that pushes our edges and takes us beyond ourselves into a deep communion with Nature. Every indigenous culture has incorporated elements of the vision quest into psycho-spiritual development. From Jesus to Buddha, Native Americans to Aborigines, the vision quest is the archetypal journey to wholeness, healing, truth and wisdom which is done alone in the remote wild.

Many contemporary people quest when they are facing momentous life transitions. Events such as marriage or divorce, loss of a loved one, facing ones death, a spiritual crisis, moving to a new location, loss of a job, or a deep dissatisfaction with ones life, can bring a person to an emotional edge which calls them to seek the answers found in the solitude of a Vision Quest. Questers come from all walks of life and backgrounds. The quest is open to adults of all ages and levels of physical ability.

The wilderness is a powerful teacher and healer. In our modern lives we have lost the connection to the wild, which was such an integral part of spiritual, emotional and physical vitality to our ancestors. We are so overrun with busy schedules, noisy environments, emotional and psychological stresses, that we have forgotten how to listen to our inner voices and truths. In the great beauty and silence of the wild, many people rediscover wholeness.

Incredible things can happen when you spend eight days and nights in the wild. At first the changes seem subtle, there is quiet and stillness that begins to slow down our inner chatter. Then we begin to see the exquisite beauty of the wilderness around us that calls to the beauty within us. As we become more still the animals begin to present themselves: deer stroll through the meadows, a vole burrows in the grass beside us, otters come out to play in the stream, chickadees chat in the branches above, a hawk soars on thermals. Our senses expand and we begin to discover our primary community that is Nature itself. As the days pass our rhythms slow down to the rhythms of the natural world, it is here that you begin to discover that you are a part of a very alive and vibrant universe, a generous and loving earth so ready to teach you and hold you. The Great Mystery opens up and soon you notice that the animals, birds, insects, plants, trees, rocks and elements all have gentle teachings to help you on your journey. You learn to trust in the ways that a child trusts, and recapture the body-wisdom that is your original birth right. For many people it is a coming home.

The inner journey begins when you make the decision to go on the vision quest. With a commitment to the quest you will begin to feel a shift inside. Emotions of fear, excitement, anxiety or anticipation may begin to stir.

During our nine days together we gather initially to clarify our goals, prepare for our quest, participate in ritual and ceremony and learn to open our hearts and minds. In the days prior to the solo time, I will meet with each person to clarify the main purpose & issues the quester needs to bring to the wilderness. Instruction is given to learn wilderness respect and safety as well as teachings of the medicine wheel. Time is allowed for exploration and enjoyment of our surroundings.

Following the teachings, questers find a special power place for their three to five days of solitary time, fasting and opening to a vision which culminates in an all night vigil in the medicine wheel. This is the time to become transparent to Spirit, to cry for healing or teaching, to listen for a medicine name or song, to surrender all that holds us back from our divine connection to the Great Mystery.

There are challenges that come during the solo time. Our addictions and attachments come to haunt us, emotions of fear, helplessness, confusion, irritability, boredom, or loneliness can overwhelm us. Fasting can take us to our emotional & physical edge. Yet it is these very challenges that, when faced, can transform us and help us reclaim our lives.

At the end of the solo time, questers return to base camp to receive counsel, eat and rest. On the final night we participate in a community ritual to incorporate the gifts of the vision quest and a grand celebration by fire and moonlight. The following morning we break camp, make our final prayers and offerings to the land and re-enter the everyday world with breakfast in a local small town.

Saturday: Arrival between 1-4pm. at our meeting place, set up base camp, dinner, wilderness awareness skills group orientation, sleep

Sunday: Rise at dawn, breakfast, sweat lodge set up, lunch, medicine wheel teachings, dinner, Communication with Nature teaching, sleep

Monday: Rise at dawn, breakfast, personal consultations, lunch, locate vision quest sites and staffs, quiet meditation while tying prayer ties and fastening them to prayer staff, dinner, opening (holy) sweat and evening puja (fire purification & intention prayer ceremony marking the beginning of silent period the ends Friday evening), sleep

Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday-Friday: Questers leave base camp at dawn on Tuesday, go to medicine wheel site, construct personal medicine wheel, remain alone in the medicine wheel, fasting (consuming only water), praying, meditating, chanting, observing, writing, drawing and sleeping. Thursday night questers stay awake all night in their personal medicine wheel.

Friday: Questers return to base camp by noon, break the fast with a small meal eaten in silence, and then enter individual counsel sweats with guide. Then, rest, journalling or sleep until breaking the silence together during evening communal meal. Evening: Counsel Fire, during which questers share their experience, and then there is singing and dancing around the fire. Retire.

Saturday: Relaxed morning, breakfast, communion and gratitude. Noon feast, followed by give-away ceremony. Pack base camp. Closing blessings to the land, final hugs and good-byes.

Preparing for your Quest:
You will be asked to send a letter of intent along with your deposit of $300.00 for the vision quest. The letter of intent is an instrument to help you focus and organize your thoughts prior to the quest. It is important to spend time contemplating your purpose for undertaking such a powerful journey. I have found that the more focused the intentions, the more powerful the quest. You may find that aspects of your purpose may change before or even during your quest. Stay curious to what this journey is for you. The more sincere your intention, the more you open your heart to the mystery of the moment, the deeper and more profound your experience will be.

When you write your letter, please write from your heart. Avoid being analytical because this is your soul journey. The following questions are merely suggestions as a guide for your letter of intent:
  • What parts of your life are you ready to release or bury?
  • What are the obstacles, inner or outer, which keep you from letting go?
  • What are the attachments in your life and how do they control you?
  • What attitudes, belief systems, or habits no longer serve you?
  • What are the shadow aspects in your life?
  • What do you really fear and resist?
  • What keeps you from standing in your power and manifesting who you are?
  • Who are you, truly?
  • Who are your allies?
  • What gives you strength when you have been in the deepest, darkest despair?
  • How do you call on this strength?
  • For Visioning, what do you wish to call into your life?
  • What do you wish to integrate and accept?
  • Do you hear a calling for a new and different life?
  • How will you answer that call?
About your guide, Carl Golden:
Carl trained in the Lakota way of Vision Quests for three years under the guidance of Dan Goodpath and Wallace Black Elk in the mountains of southwest Virginia. A shamanic practitioner, psychotherapist, ecotherapist, teacher, chef and wilderness enthusiast, Carl brings his deep passion for the wild and desire to support people on their healing paths to his work.

My guide fee is usually $900 for a nine-day quest. Costs associated with travel, meals and any accommodations are extra. A local quest wherein participants backpack/camp and cook food will keep costs low--generally $150/person for gas, camping & meals (not including costs of your own tent, backpack, sleeping bag, and other backpacking/camping gear).

Please, bear in mind that every participant in a Vision Quest is expected to undergo an evaluation regarding physical, emotional and mental fitness. This evaluative consultation can be done over the phone or online via Skype; however, an "in person" office visit is preferred. The decision to undertake a quest is a serious one that involves physical, emotional and mental challenges; so, attention to general fitness is required to minimize the potential for harm during a quest. The evaluative consult is free, and each quest participant is required to sign a waiver of liabilities.

Generally, I guide a group of four to eight questers; however, I guide solo quests, too, which can be very powerful, especially if one is intending to walk the shamanic path, because the quiet solitude will foster greater concentration and attention, which strengthen vision.

If you would like to register for a Vision Quest, then e-mail Carl Golden anytime or call (206) 778-4465 between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST).

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