Vision Quest

The vision quest is the final step in receiving One Spirit Medicine. Traditionally, it takes place in a natural setting. Fasting and meditationare the central practices to bring about a profound experience of awakening to Spirit and realizing your Oneness with all creation.

Before beginning a vision quest, be sure you have been following the 18-hour sugar fast for at least three months. This will ensure that your body knows how to go into ketosis—the state of switching from glucose to fat as its energy source. Otherwise you will be hungry and miserable in the wilderness for three days without deriving the healing benefits of the vision quest.

The following suggestions will help make your three-day vision quest a success:

Location: To find a suitable location for the vision quest, imagine you are being led by a jaguar to a secluded spot in nature. Cats have an uncanny sense of where to lie, while dogs are always sniffing around, trying one spot and then another. Your imaginary cat will lead you true. Be sure the place is beautiful, safe, and sufficiently secluded that you will not be interrupted by hikers. If you choose not to go into the wilderness for your vision quest you can pick a place closer to home—even in an urban area.

Equipment: You can bring a sleeping bag and sleeping pad, and, if you wish, a tent. Be sure to pack a notebook or journal and a pen, so you can record your dreams and any memories or strong feelings that arise. Do not bring a computer or other electronic devices, or any reading material. You can bring a cell phone but only to use in case of emergency. Be sure to inform a friend or family member (or if you’re staying in a public park or preserve, a ranger) exactly where you’re going to be. If you wish, you can ask someone to check on you once a day, preferably in the evening, as long as they don’t distract you.

Setting the space: When you arrive at the spot for your vision quest, draw a circle about 20 feet in diameter around your tent. This is your spot, and you will stay inside this circle for the next three days, stepping out only to relieve yourself in the woods or behind a bush. (Pack a few plastic garbage bags for waste disposal.)

The entrance to the Dark woods of the Comeragh mountains in Dungarvan

Fasting: Fasting is a central part of the vision quest. In addition to putting the body into ketosis, it detoxifies the cells during autophagy and turns on production of stem cells in the brain. You will get hungry, and your stomach will start growling. Often, the growling will be louder in your head than in your stomach; your limbic brain misses glucose-rich food and believes it will die if it skips a meal. Turn the growling into an opportunity to observe how wild the mind is.

Along with hunger pangs, you will most likely experience mood swings, low energy, and irritability during the first day or so of fasting. Most of the discomfort comes from the fact that your body is detoxifying. During the first 24 hours of a fast, you will burn through all the glycogen stored in your liver, then you will begin burning protein from your muscles, including the heart. After that your body will go into ketosis and switch over to burning fats. You can tell when you’ve switched to burning fats because your hunger pangs will go away.

Fasting for three days is perfectly safe for most people in good health. If you have any concerns, check with your physician or health counselor before starting the vision quest. If you are diabetic, or taking medication, or dealing with acute illness, do not fast without first consulting a physician. There are many places where you can do a medically supervised fast, including our Center for Energy Medicine in Los Lobos, Chile, and Dr. Gabriel Cousens’s Tree of Life Center in Patagonia, Arizona.

During your vision quest, listen to your body and follow its guidance. If at any time you feel very sick, or your blood sugar is dropping dangerously, break your fast. I always keep chocolate and some basic foods like nuts and dried fruit in my vehicle, in case of emergency. Knowing there’s chocolate just a few yards away makes it harder to maintain your fast, but you can turn this longing into a meditation—another opportunity to observe the madness of the limbic mind.

Water: It’s imperative to stay hydrated. You should drink at least four liters of water a day, so plan accordingly when you pack your provisions. If you are making your vision quest in an arid desert climate, you will need more water—closer to six liters a day. The rule is to pee every hour. If you’re not peeing that often, you’re not drinking enough water. 

Boredom: You will be bored. Take boredom as an indication that you are getting close to the state of contemplation you want to be in. Boredom and restlessness are the result of the limbic brain thrashing about for attention. Stay with the boredom, knowing that this is part of the process. Like hunger, it will pass.

Time: Leave your watch at home. Checking the time will not make it go by any faster, and you are trying to step into timelessness. Set your inner clock by the sun and the stars.

Meditation: During the day, you can do a meditation.  In the evening, if you light a fire or a candle, you can do the exercise on burning old roles and identities, also described in my book. (If you do light a fire or candle, be sure there is no brush nearby that could ignite. And be sure the fire is extinguished completely before you leave the area.)

Prayer: During your vision quest, pray, giving thanks for the beauty around you and for every breath you take. Give thanks for your hunger pangs or the wolves you are sure will devour you during the night. Practice praying with your heart and not with your head.

Ending your vision quest: Plan to end your three-day vision quest before nightfall on the third day. Before you leave the site, be sure to pick up all trash, and carry it out with you. Make sure you leave the place as you found it—or cleaner. Leave no trace.