My Path Led To the Vision Quest
by Derek Lucchese
Once upon a time I read a book called The Vision, by Tom Brown, Jr. After what seemed like a lifetime of drinking murky water, it felt like someone had finally placed on my tongue a drop of the clear, pure stuff. Far-ranging and wild, the book retells Tom’s experiences and training with his teacher, Grandfather, in the ways of the Vision Quest. (The next book Tom published, The Quest, is The Vision’s companion – in fact, you can consider them parts one and two of the same work)
Having quested several times since my first reading of the book, I really appreciate how its pages don’t just focus on the highlights of the journey of the Vision Quest – the vivid visionary experiences, encounters with spirit guides, symbolic messages from creation… No, Tom doesn’t spare the reader the more unsavoury and unattractive details – the discomforts, the heat and cold, the boredom, the tears.
Anything we read, hear, or see about the Vision Quest is going to give us some ideas of what it’s about – and I was fortunate to get a well-rounded introduction to such a powerful ceremony, not merely the highlights. Later on, those ideas inevitably turn into expectations, which sometimes can end up becoming challenges if we do decide to quest. But most of us grow up in a culture without purposeful rights of passage woven into our upbringing – we have to learn about powerful ceremonies like the Vision Quest some other way. For me, reading about Tom’s experiences lit a fire inside, inspired a certainty that I knew I would quest, that I had to. Consciously and unconsciously, I had been searching for just this path since I was a kid. Even so, it took me ten years to get there – ten years from knowing I needed it, to actually getting myself out to participate in a Vision Quest ceremony in this lineage.
For me, the seed was planted fairly early in my adult life, and books like The Vision watered and nurtured that seed. For others it will be hearing Malcolm Ringwalt talk about the Vision Quest at a Philosophy 1 workshop, or hearing about a friend’s experience with the Vision Quest, a story told around a camp fire. Or maybe stumbling across the Hearts of Fire website, or something that comes through in a dream, or some other communication from spirit.
For many of us, the Vision Quest was, or will be, our personal experiential doorway into the spiritual aspect of Grandfather Stalking Wolf’s tradition. There are other ways to be introduced to this lineage, primarily Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracker School Philosophy classes, held in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, but the Vision Quest is where it comes home to you, specifically – where you dive deeply into learning about yourself, your birthright, your vision.
In terms of its physical structure, there could hardly be a simpler ceremony: 4 days, by yourself in the woods, restricted to a 10-foot circle, with minimal distractions.
But don’t be fooled! It’s that very simplicity that allows the power of the Vision Quest to impact you, unimpeded. I personally have witnessed many times (I’m sure other Protectors have had similar experiences) how even those who have walked a spiritual path for many years and then find their way to the Vision Quest, end up coming out of their first Quest humbled and reeling from the insight, the power, the purification they’ve experienced. The Vision Quest doesn’t discriminate – it is a sacred ceremony available to everyone.
The Quest has an intelligence, and will spontaneously bring up the specific issues and blocks you have which are ready to be faced, examined, dissolved, healed. In a way, you don’t have to ‘do’ anything. Commit to Vision Quest, show up, prepare with the other questers and your Protectors, and spend 4 days in your circle — you participate in a sacred dance between your spirit, the silence, your thoughts and feelings, and all of creation.
Once completed, your Protectors help you reintegrate and learn from your quest experiences. They will provide a comfortable space for you to recover from the rigours of the quest so you can document ‘what happened’, and they’ll give you tools to begin the process of developing a deeper understanding of the true value of what you received. With the ceremony completed, you must then take on the task of integrating what you’ve learned into your life, making it real. ‘Manifesting’ is a common term used these days, but for me, this is what manifesting actually means – living your vision.
Eventually, questing will lead you to a purpose beyond the self. And once you anchor this commitment deep in your heart, everything you do in your life will be in service to that vision. Spirit will begin to work through you, and you’ll learn how to actively cooperate with it.
I first came to study at the Tracker School because Tom expressed what was in my heart. Once I read about the Vision Quest, I knew it was something I needed to do, that it was right for me. I kept Questing because even though I couldn’t always explain or understand it, I knew the Vision Quest was forging me into something unknown to me before. I started protecting Quests because I knew others needed access to this. I kept doing it because it was one way to keep the quest perpetually alive in my life. All are welcome to the Vision Quest and can touch its power. I sincerely hope its power touches you.