You can seek visions, looking for deeper meaning, many times in your life. But once you have an answer, you can no longer claim ignorance. To receive a vision is to be responsible for that vision. You can bless a new born baby and give her a name, and try to help those first steps walk a path that will be straight and true, but the greatest work will occur through the choices she makes along the way.
Fulfillment of spiritual purpose received through vision is rarely an easy or a straightforward path. Very often it will mean a change in a living situation because inconsistency is a form of dishonesty. If you have a vision of personal wholeness, but your investments support practices that are destructive or your relationships fail to communicate and share your wholeness, you are not being true, nor doing honor to the visions you have received.
The universe exists in its own unimaginably complex rhythm and balance, contributing freely to our spirituality and requiring balance as its only return. What that means in practical terms is that those who participate in a traditional Ojibwe vision fast never pray for themselves alone, but for the People, the tribe, the nation, the animals, the plants and the blessed spirits. Though the specific nature of the vision might be a secret, its practical use is likely to aid the life of the people.
We have access to everything the world has known, if we can learn to listen to the stones and the stories they have to tell, if we hear the winds speak who have been everywhere and heard everything since the beginning of time. The world will always provide vision, if we allow ourselves to be alone, then open our eyes and look, as if for the first time, at what has been around us all along.
From: A Voice From The Earth
Learning to listen means distinguishing real Vision from your own dream voices of fear and memory and desire. Belief in the inevitability of nuclear destruction is a dream of this type, felt by people who can sense that the world they have known is no longer working, but who have not turned far enough to seek a vision beyond war.
Even when you get beyond your fears, sometimes your expectations will get in the way. Somehow you expect your Vision to be spelled in lightning across the sky. But while you watch the sky, you may miss the tiny drama of butterfly upon leaf happening at your feet.
The Vision itself can come in many forms, through a clear visual impression or visitation of spirit, physical contact and communication from an animal, a song or a dream.
Very often in completely unexpected fashion, out of the darkness of a Vision Quest will come an awareness of a Guardian Spirit, a force or energy that provides a clear channel for greater wisdom. Many cultures have believed that such guardians, like saints or angels, protect and guide us even when we are unaware of them. Conscious acknowledgment of a Guardian Spirit offers the possibility of communication and a ready source of strength and counsel.
Awareness of the guardian could come when you see a hawk fly and are uplifted by a sense of strength and freedom, when an oak tree drops its leaves at your feet, when the Northern Lights dance overhead, when you hear words whispered by the wind. Or a guardian might communicate itself as an intellectual concept, a particular energy that is understood to be a source of strength and direction, such as innocence or bravery, or love.
From: A Voice From The Earth
Once you are alone upon the land there is no longer anything to do. But the process of being still may be the greatest challenge of the quest. Praying, chanting, singing and burning incense or kinnickinnic, a mixture of herbs and tobacco, are all ways of focusing into the present, of encouraging yourself to look within.
As you become more open to the spirit world and to your inner self, you may begin to look at yourself without the masks and self-deceptions that help you perform properly in the world. If you don’t define yourself by your work, your relationships or your reflections in other people’s eyes, not by how you dress, how you walk or how you speak, you may be surprised at what you see.
It may be uncomfortable and you may not recognize yourself without your masks, but if you sit still long enough, unmoving through all fear, boredom and cynicism, you might catch a glimpse of your real self coming out of hiding, cautiously, like some wild animal.
The process is simple, but powerful, if you can allow yourself to be alone for a few hours or a few days, to talk, and for once listen to all that you have to say, to cry and not be ashamed, to be cold, alone, hungry and afraid, but not to run away.
The Earth will listen to every word you say. After a while when you wonder why no one is answering, you might realize that you haven’t stopped talking. A hundred spirits of the Earth could be imparting their wisdom except that your own thoughts are so loud and incessant there isn’t silence enough for another sound to come. The reason you don’t hear anything is that you haven’t begun to listen.
From: A Voice From the Earth
The path to Vision is simple, if you can take a few hours or a few days to spend in an isolated spot upon the land. Fasting and sitting are useful and common ways to help open yourself to spiritual reality. It is important to find a place to be alone, where you won’t be disturbed.
It may be a good idea to have a non-judgmental friend nearby who can be trusted for whatever support you feel ou need, from checking on you at regular intervals, to listening to your stories and helping you to interpret what you have experienced.
There are no rules for a Vision Quest you create for yourself. Whether you spend your time inside a tent, in the open woods, on a beach or mountain top, it is only necessary to let your intuition draw you to a place where it seems that you are meant to be. It is crucial, however, to have direct, physical contact with the elements and to allow yourself to be affected by the natural world. Experiences on the land are often powerful because you are vulnerable there, willing to look at what you see, instead of just seeing what you expect to see.
The Earth is a mirror reflecting your real self. Cities, which were created by humanity, will more readily reflect the faces that you also created. The Earth cannot discern borders between nations, races, species and life-forms, between animate and inanimate, between form and spirit.
It is when you forget these distinctions that you begin to open yourself to Vision. Releasing your judgments of yourself, your purpose and your identity, you reach past familiar explanations of reality towards a higher comprehension.
From: A Voice From The Earth
In their traditional system, Ojibwa children are guarded by a spiritual vision they acquire after their births. Their first names are taken from a vision or dream their mothers have during pregnancy, some event of spiritual significance that happens during their early lives or through a medicine person’s intercession with the spirits who seeks a vision and a name on their behalf.
But at adolescence, children are free to search on their own for a vision and a name to serve them through their adult lives. All boys are urged to quest for their names and girls are free to do so as well, though it is not required.
Children are separated from their people for a period of time and left alone upon the land, very often fasting, sometimes journeying, sometimes lying still, but all praying and waiting for a touch from spirit. They seek to learn what dogma cannot tell them, what not even the wisest one among their people can give them: an understanding of their innermost self and an awareness of the greater purpose for which they were born.
Girls may, if they choose, accept the vision of the Earth mother as Guardian Spirit and take their power from her through their capacity to bring forth life. The occasion of their first menstruation would then be an important rite of passage.
Both boys and girls who choose to seek their own visions are isolated from their people, consciously entering the world of the spirits with a willingness to release what they have believed about themselves in the past, while they fast and pray. At the end of three or four days, the elders or medicine people help to translate the visions.
Those who have returned from their fasts very often are named for the Guardian Spirit which revealed itself through their vision, some energy or spirit of nature that is believed to be each person’s personal access to strength and wisdom. The Ojibwa believe that every animal and plant has both a physical and a spiritual purpose in the Earthly ecology. The guardian is often closely associated with purpose, so those whose guardians are involved with healing might become aware of their own healing gifts through the contact.
The name and the vision are shared or kept secret, depending on the nature of the individual vision. But the acquisition of a name from the spirits is a cause for public celebration. Traditionally, this ritual made sure that all adolescents entered adulthood with some vision or purpose to which they were responsible. This was practical psychology, helping to ease the transition period for the young from the dependency of childhood to the responsibility of adult life.
Out of the context of its significance as a specific cultural drama, the ritual of the Vision Quest is a potent reflection of the rite of passage into spiritual maturity that can come at any physiological age.
When we were children, along with the protection and sustenance that we required, we allowed the world to create our contexts and our environments. We were given identities by our parents, our religions and our schools and we tried to match what we had been given. We were rarely encouraged to question or outgrow the visions that had been bequeathed to us, often being rewarded for accepting and staying within the structures, censored for our opposition.
But for many of us these visions just don’t work and we fall into confusion or despair. The moment we begin to grow is the one in which we question the identities we have been given and wonder who we are apart from our relationships with others and the work we do, and what our purpose is for being on the Earth at all.
The first impulse in seeking vision is thus an admission of ignorance. Whenever we release a definition of ourselves which served us for one period of our lives in search of a deeper, more powerful understanding, whenever we question the majority view or leave a group with which we have been an active part, we are beginning a Vision Quest.
With the release of the past and the willingness to leave the people behind and to go on alone, we lose both security and certainty. Fear, depression and confusion are all emotions evoked by the beginning of the quest, symbolized by going alone into the woods and into the night.
~From: A Voice From The Earth
In many ways the Earth is like True-Hearted Woman and humanity the husband who neglects her. Still she provides for us, she feeds us, clothes us and keeps us warm, though we neither recognize nor appreciate her gifts. Our eyes are turned to the objects of our desire which we will attain no matter what the cost. In most cases this price is also paid by the Earth.
But even abandoned, even hurt in some ways beyond renewal, the Earth leaves us a child, the possibility of change and hope for the future – if we can choose to live in a different way.
When we begin to view the Earth and its animals, plants and ecosystems as sacred, we will protect and defend the land because our spirituality depends on it. By our own choice and our willingness to listen to the land, we can become native again, even in our cities whose concrete can cover but not destroy the Earth that lies beneath.
But when we cease to uphold the separation between ourselves and the land, refinding our reverence and respect for it, allowing it to become as intrinsic to our spirituality as our compassion for other human beings, we may find ourselves short of the tools necessary for what that means.
For many non-Western cultures a Vision Quest is one method of direct communication with the Earth. Specific details of the experience vary widely but the basic purpose seems to be universal.
The Vision Quest is a ritual which we have all experienced without even being aware of it, right within the context of our own lives, even in our cities. A passing conversation with a stranger, a sentence in a book, an idle musing on a bus, any of these can provide moments of vision if we have the openness to allow ourselves to understand what is really happening around us.
The city-dwelling unconscious Vision Quester who is unhappy with his job, the state of the world and his relationships, but who can’t put his finger on why he isn’t happy or “what it’s all for,” takes off from work for an afternoon and goes for a walk in a park, alone.
He is startled when he comes upon a huge spider’s web which crosses his path. It has been raining intermittently but suddenly a ray of sunlight pierces through the trees. The tiny drops of water, which hang like diamonds from the web, turn into flames. Now within the complexity and confusion he can see order, a delicate beauty, a shadowy sense of purpose.
He goes home, more sure of his ability to move through his conflict, to make decisions of positive change and to allow greater intimacy in his relationships. Without even being aware of it, he has successfully completed an ancient ritual and received the healing inherent within it.
We have access to everything the world has known, if we can learn to listen to the stones and the stories they have to tell, if we hear the winds speak who have been everywhere and heard everything since the beginning of time. The world will always provide vision, if we allow ourselves to be alone, then open our eyes and look as if for the first time, at what has been around us all along.
From: A Voice From The Earth
A vision quest is a rite of passage, similar to an initiation, in some Native American cultures. In traditional Lakota culture the Hanblecheyapi (vision quest, literally “crying for a vision”) is one of seven main rites.
Vision quest preparations involve a time of fasting, the guidance of a tribal Medicine Man and sometimes ingestion of natural entheogens; this quest is undertaken for the first time in the early teenage years.
The quest itself is usually a journey alone into the wilderness seeking personal growth and spiritual guidance from the spirit, sometimes Wakan Tanka.
Traditionally, the seeker finds a place that they feel is special, and sits in a 10 foot circle and brings nothing in from society with the exception of water.
A normal Vision Quest usually lasts two to four days within this circle, in which time the seeker is forced to look into his soul.
It is said that a strong urge to leave the Quest area will come to the seeker and a feeling of insanity may set in. However, the seeker normally overcomes this by reminding him or herself of the overall outcome of the quest, causing the mind to stop wandering on random thoughts. The individual can generally find solace in the fact that he or she will not die in just two to four days.
Some have claimed grand visions on their first Vision Quest while others have not. It is an individual experience and often subject to the emotional, spiritual, and physical make-up of the person.
Native American totems are said to be capable of speaking through all things, including messages or instructions in the form of an animal or bird.
Generally a physical representation of the vision or message such as a feather, fur or a rock is collected and placed in the seeker’s medicine bag to ensure the power of the vision will stay with the individual to remind, protect or guide him.
Since the beginning of this cycle of time, humanity has returned to nature to connect with spirit and to seek answers to problems of the physical realms, especially in this timeline when the messages of prophecy reveal themselves to the seeker.
There is something about being alone in the wilderness that brings us closer and more aware of the 4 elements and our connection to a creational source. We go to seek truths and divine realization, just as many of the ancient prophets did in their time.
In its own way – the vision quest is an Initiation not unlike the days of the ancient mystery school teachings where one learns about themselves and the mysteries of the universe are often revealed to them. It is a time of internal transformation and renewal.
- Who am I?
- Why am I here?
In a vision quest, conditions are set up that allow the soul to move beyond the illusions of the little self and enter the unity of the inner whole. It is a time of fasting – praying – and being in nature.
It is a period of solitude in which we seek an inner revelation – a vision -which grants profound meaning and direction to our life.
This initiation leads to maturity and an understanding of our responsibility to ourselves, our society, our natural environment, and our soul.
Though the Vision Quest is associated with Native Americans traditions – it is practiced all over the world.
As an expression of the archetypal “Heroic Journey,” the vision quest has been enacted in religious pilgrimages, mythological tales (including the story of the search for the Holy Grail), and our own daily pursuit of truth and purpose.
Today, there are companies which sponsor vision quests. They provide a wilderness area in which it is to occur, and they give instructions and guidance before and after the event.
In Native American traditions these times of inner trial are marked liked passages. Time is set aside to honor them. It might take a day, a week, a month – whatever is necessary to complete the transformation and get the answer one seeks.
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