Finding Balance in A Vision Quest Self-Help Advice

Written by Paul Wolf

Balance the stress of everyday living with a vision quest to find out what your life is really about. Successful Americans head to the wild, forfeiting modern comforts (temporarily) in pursuit of spiritual growth. It's called a vision quest, and it's attracting new soul searchers every day.
They leave their high-powered jobs, shiny cars, heated homes and laptop computers and head for the wilderness to renounce all such trappings of modern life, temporarily, at least. They are people like you and me, accustomed more to the Great Indoors than the wild into which their vision quest will take them.

Rooted in Native American ritual, vision quests are soul-searching wilderness retreats that range from one-day outings to weeklong excursions. Questers chant, pray, fast, write in journals and contemplate nature, each from his or her own 10-foot-wide "medicine circle" home during the quest.

Over the past eight years, interest has surged in questing, according to Christine "Thunder Runner" Jones, who leads quests on public land in Central California.

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How much can I expect to pay for a vision quest, and what do I get for my money?
Prices and services vary from one quest leader to another.
The quest leaders we interviewed charge about $500 for a five-day quest.
What is a Vision Quest?
Fees cover expenses including the planning of the quest; a guided hike to the quest site; help choosing a medicine circle; water delivery and someone to check in on your well-being.
Quest leaders should also provide guidance in how to have the most productive vision quest. (For example: Don't bring a book, do bring a journal.)  
"The majority of these people come from mainstream America," she says. "Most have 9-to-5 jobs that enjoy higher pay. They don't have a defined spirituality. They are driven by crisis, and they hope this experience will help them resolve it."

Though they borrow from Native American tradition, Jones and other leaders are not always purists in their quest approach. Fasting is not mandatory, but most of the dozen or so people she takes along at a time do. A tent is OK if it gets too cold. And a cell phone is fine for emergencies.

Jones, whose quests draw everyone from devout Christians to Buddhists, doesn't insist her people treat questing as a religion. But all come seeking spiritual renewal.

Each quester is encouraged to choose his or her spiritual path. As Jones says, an 18-year-old adventure seeker may have a different reason for questing than a 45-year-old corporate manager.

Thea Sagen described the experience as "stopping the world and getting off." Her crisis was cancer, from which she has made a full recovery. She says questing nurtured her spiritual core, a priority in her post-chemotherapy life.

Some questers are simply busy people who are looking for personal growth and the insights that come from blotting out the world of deadlines and clock-watching.

"With nothing to do, everything slowed so much you notice the bugs dancing on the grass as it blows in the breeze," says Jody Stebben, who went on a five-day quest in 1999. "I am usually in too much of a rush to notice nature's fine, elegant details,

the sensuality of life."

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