By Nick Jankel

Author, Keynote Speaker, Leadership Theorist, Transformational Coach, Wisdom Teacher, Co-Creator of Bio-Transformation Theory & Practice®

Rites of Passage at Times of Transition

Vision quests or solo quests into nature are a powerful way to mark big life changes and shift us into a place of big self-knowledge and more idea about our purpose in life. A vision quest involves going into nature alone, often with the support of a community to which you return, and seeking the truth as it relates to you (and your community). Ceremony and fasting are used to connect with a state of emptiness that makes space for your hero’s journey to be birthed. Vision quests and other rites-of-passage have been found in nearly every tradition, culture and religion worldwide – and are now part of the path of many Western people today who want to live more passionate, authentic lives.

Switching off the Stimulation Button & Connecting with Spirit Guides, Animal totems and Your Dreams

We can’t thrive if we don’t know who we are or how we want to be in life. If you’re at a crossroads in your life, or just want to connect deeply with nature, vision quests might be the answer. A vision quest can help you tap into the unseen wisdom all around and inside you – spirit guides and your own intuition – by turning off the ‘stimulation’ button for 3-4 days and soaking up the healing, sacred vibes of the natural world, best done in solitude. Solo quests open us up to answers about our life purpose and how to move on from old, difficult or traumatic experiences or patterns.  But it doesn’t just start there – you need to prepare properly for the experience on all levels. If you do a vision quest with a group, this will be part of the package. If you’re doing it alone, you need to make sure you cover those bases – see the next section.  In going into the wilderness alone, you will need to face your fears and practice a high degree of trust and self-reliance. Being alone with the elements for several days is one hell of a trip –  but every vision quest is different. One thing is sure, you will face your demons – but that’s all part of the experience of becoming stronger in yourself, letting go of what no longer serves you, and getting clearer on who you are. You can call for a vision actively by asking Great Spirit, spirit guides, angels, ancestors or allies. You’ll observe everything with a receptive mind and be open to whatever comes – both in waking life and in your dreams, recording it for later. In the Native American tradition, you’ll be on the lookout for visions in the form of animal totems. After you return from the vision quest, you should have a ceremony dedicated to incorporating the insights you’ve received (provided on an organized quest), and the process of integrating the experience can take a few days. Sharing your vision quest stories with others who’ve also gone through this experience is important, and your guides in an organized quest will help you to draw out the lessons of what you’ve gone through – and encourage you to live these revelations in your life.


Sign up to our regular newsletter.

Insightful articles, practical wisdom, and nourishing content on how to transform yourself, your organizations, and our world.




Finding Vision Quest Guides and Coaches, Preparing for a Vision Quest and Creating a Medicine Wheel

First decide if you want to a vision quest with a group – such as a Vision quest coaching company – or alone, or informally with friends. If you do a vision quest with a group, you might do a purification ceremony called a sweat lodge, to prepare and let go of your urban life so you’re ready to commune with nature. Intent is crucial – connecting with the spiritual world through a vision quest is not something to take lightly. Be clear on your intention before you venture out, and connect with it sincerely. Do you want an answer about your purpose in life? What you can do to serve your highest purpose and serve the world better? Do you want healing for an illness or issue that is keeping you stuck? Or maybe you want to re-kindle your love of life. Before you go off into the wild, take 4 days to 4 weeks to prepare: connect to your purpose and your emotions, taking some time for quiet meditation, eat and drink lightly (to prepare for fasting, which can be a bit hardcore), keep a clear mind and stay conscious of your thoughts.  Bring with you a prayer stick or power stick, which you can make yourself; a tobacco offering; everything you need to keep warm and dry; and of course a note-pad and pen to record your visions and reflections.  Make sure you’ve chosen the site for your vision quest, and that at least one person knows where you will be. Fasting helps you to connect with a sense of lightness and emptiness, clearing your head and helping you to become more receptive to wisdom. Cross-culturally fasting has been used as a practice to open the mind and heart – essential for a vision quest. And of course, unplugging from technology – bringing a phone for emergencies but keeping it switched off so you can go deeply into your silence without distraction. If you’re doing a Native American vision quest, you will create a sacred space with a special circle of stones called a medicine wheel, honoring the four elements (earth, air, fire and water) and sitting inside to absorb their wisdom. You will spend time meditating and listening to the elements, perhaps doing a review of your life up to now and all the relationships in it, being open to seeing your journey differently. This book excerpt tells you more about the preparation and experience of a vision quest.

Communicating with the Natural World & Initiating Ourselves

For our ancestors, the natural world was a direct communication from spirit: they received communication from every leaf and stone, and were so intimately connected to the earth that there was no separation between human and nature. This is what we have lost, and try to recover through vision quests: to re-cognize our place in the big scheme of things, rising above the day-to-day niggly details like paying bills and managing our social calendar, to find and remember who we are and what we came here for. Vision quests are a way of initiating ourselves into the next stage, and into the people we want to become – our best selves. A lot of the problems in our society with drugs, alcohol, violence and reckless sexual behavior amongst young people have been linked to lack of initiation and guidance. More tribal-based cultures have always initiated young men and women into adulthood through ceremonies such as vision quests, which help the new adult to find a sense of belonging and purpose in their community – so they’re less likely to turn to anti-social behavior to symbolize their new adulthood and independence. Wherever you’re at in your life right now, a vision quest is a hero’s journey in which you can discover the myths and archetypes you are living out. It’s a kind of shamanic death experience too, where you die to your old self so that a new self can be re-born.

Native American Vision Quests & into the 21st Century

Back in the 19th Century, anthropologists were fascinated to discover rite-of-passage ceremonies called vision quests in certain Native American cultures. These marked significant life transitions and were community ceremonies in which the whole community supported the person to find a vision that would benefit them all. For example, honoring the passage of adolescents into adulthood and preparing them for their new role in the community. But vision quests are common to cultures and religions across the world and throughout time. In some groups, vision questing was reserved for males only, because females were seen as having initiatory experiences through first menstruation and childbirth. Some groups such as those in South America, only allowed vision quests for shamans. Preparation for a vision quest could include the use of hallucinogens as well as fasting and prayer. Despite Christian missionaries and colonial governments attempting to root them out, vision quests persisted into the 21st Century. ‘Vision quest’ now refers to these kinds of rituals from all kinds of other cultures too – and you don’t have to be a shaman to have this experience. Several vision quest coaching companies have sprung up offering vision quests in beautiful locations like Mexico.

How will this help you to transform your problems and pain?

Vision quests re-connect us to our inner wisdom and the support of nature and the spirit world, helping us to find a juicier sense of purpose and belonging in our lives.


Transform your pain and make change happen fast by working with Alison McAulay as your coach.

For Change Agents: Conscious Entrepreneurs. Mumpreneurs. Heart-Led Professionals. Culture Makers. Climate Pioneers. Progressive Activists.





Leave a Reply