We live with ourselves everyday. But how well do we really know ourselves?
A vision quest is a journey into the self. It is a spiritual quest where one leaves their normal environment and goes into the wild with the barest of necessities.
Originating as a Native American tradition, it is a rite of passage. It is a test of getting out of our comfort zone in quest of a deeper understanding of life’s purpose. Who am I? What is my purpose in life? What is my gift that I can give to the world?
Vision quests are solitary journeys into the desert or the mountains or the forest, or onto an island, typically for 3 – 4 days. The participant goes into the wilderness with an emergency water supply, a tent or tarp for a shelter and something to sleep on. No food is brought on a vision quest and the goal is to live without food while on the journey. No cell phones, no TV, no computer, no music, no books, none of life’s daily distractions are brought on the vision quest.
There is plenty of time for introspection, and to watch nature – the movement of the clouds, the insects, the birds, the sun, the moon, the stars. One should prepare for the vision quest mentally by setting an intention and physically by eating and drinking lightly and eliminating processed foods. Once on the quest, each person is on their own to discover their connection with nature, with Spirit, with themselves.
In a sense, every time we practice yoga it is a kind of vision quest. We are asked to withdraw our senses from the outer world and go inward. We are asked to focus on our breath, on a pose, on an action within a pose, on finding our edge and finding our center. We are asked to be truthful and respectful in our practice with ourselves.
The practice of yoga is led with our breath. We breath in to fill up with life and we breath out to let go of junk, toxins, whatever is not good for us. In yoga we can go deep inside ourselves physically and learn more about our bodies. Where do we hold tension? Where is there pain? Where are we tight? Where do we feel relaxed?
As we become more experienced with our yoga practice, we learn to let go of the fluctuations of the mind and find a place of balance where the mind and body move together. We can begin to feel the poses have a life of their own and the movement between poses happens with grace and fluidity. The breath and the movement and the mind become one – equal partners.
Sitting quietly in meditation takes us on an inward journey. Quieting the mind and fully experiencing each breath can be challenging. When we surrender attachment to the business of life. we create opportunities to connect with Spirit or God or whatever you call the essence of life.
Breathing and being breathed, moving and being moved, holding and being held is the essence of yoga. Experiencing the mysterious as real and the real as mysterious is the vision quest.