Intention and the Vision Fast

 We live in a time of quick fixes and spiritual tourism, with organisations beginning to provide a short Vision Quest process with little time for thorough preparation. At Wild Rites the preparation phase at base camp is four days long.

We have heard from some that a lack of guided preparation results in a “disappointing” or “un-meaningful” solo experience because they didn’t have time to clarify and gain deep insight into what was calling them to quest.

Our experience has taught us that a four-day preparation benefits both a meaningful quest and the ability to translate that meaning into evident every day doing.  Or to put it another way, fruitful incorporation begins with thorough preparation.

The recipe for an effective preparation includes:

  • Building community. A safe container to provide a mirror during preparation and to support and nourish questers as they rebirth during the quest time and afterwards - many questing communities are supporting each other post quest.

  • Refining questers ability to recognise and listen to the mirror of Nature. To develop an I-Thou relationship to Nature, which was previously a given in indigenous questing cultures.

  • Identification with Soul. Wild Rites describes soul as the experience/ experiencer of being an unlimited spiritual being in a limited world. The ego experiences fasting simply as suffering, the Soul experiences meaning in the suffering.

  • Self-generated ceremony. Learning about the ceremonies that are in our bones.

  • Tarp craft and physical aspects of the quest.

  • Intent, or the inner tension, which will be discussed next.


Intention; to be in-tension

Vision Quest is a surrender to the Will of Self. This is very different from giving up. Surrender is about knowing that something greater than the personality is holding you and therefore an act of faith and conviction, an act full of personal will. Giving up is an act of apathy, an act devoid of personal will.

Intention is of paramount importance for a meaningful and fruitful quest. Mahatma Gandhi, a long-time practitioner of fasting retreats writes “The mere fast of the body is nothing without the will behind it. It must be an irrepressible longing to express truth and nothing but truth… All fasting, if it is a spiritual act, is an intense prayer or preparation for it. It is a yearning of the soul to merge in the divine essence.” (Fasting in Satyagraha, 1965.)

We will now gradually unpack Gandhi’s words to better understand the necessity and practice of a well-formed intent.

The word intention comes from the Latin word intentionem which means a purposeful stretching out, exertion or effort, particularly towards a goal or objective. We could say that to have an intention for a Vision Quest is to create an inner tension where the goal of that inner tension is Self-realisation

To develop greater Self-realisation is often why folk quest (although they may not use these words explicitly). To stretch towards the goal of Self-realisation, the stretch needs to be one of body, emotions and mind towards our spiritual Self.

This is both incredibly sophisticated and at the same time very simple! The first stage is to begin to relate to our personal body, emotions and mind to recognise where and who we are in the present. Let’s consider the body, emotions and mind as three horses pulling a chariot. The charioteer is our unique spark of spirit-in-matter and our centre of awareness and will. We call this our “I”.

The days preceding the intent ceremony are spent supporting questers to come into relationship with these aspects of themselves by using a map of the human psyche called a Medicine Wheel. The Medicine Wheel is a map of Wholeness which enables us to see ourselves reflected through the mirror of Nature.

Some questers can be overly identified with one of the three horses, commonly the mind or emotions, or they may be unaware that one horse is pulling them off course. This is not simply about imposing one’s strong will over the horses, we must first befriend and love them.

Once aware of our horses (body, emotions, mind) we can dis-identify from them by identifying with the charioteer, or the ‘I’ and experience our personal will. Ultimately, Will is the energy that radiates from the spiritual Self (Spirit) and at this level we would call it Transpersonal Will because it is beyond our personal sense of self. We also have our personal will, for example, ‘I will do the washing up’ and ‘I will live a meaningful life that expresses my true nature and essential gifts’.

Our personal will includes an aspect of the Transpersonal Will because Transpersonal Will is the energy that animates all of creation. Nevertheless, we have ‘free will’ and are able to choose - consciously or more often unconsciously - to either live a life out of alignment with our spiritual Self or in alignment. Much of our suffering and dis-ease comes from misalignment between the personal and Transpersonal Will. Think of a person who at heart has an unrefined talent for music and yet because of their beliefs that musicians don’t make any money becomes an unhappy investment banker!

A thorough preparation and well-crafted intent ceremony brings the personal will into greater alignment with the Transpersonal Will, as Gandhi calls it ‘the expression of truth’. It is essential for the guides we train and those who wish to live a sacred life to understand that the intent of the Vision Quest is a process of bringing an individual into alignment with what is seeking to emerge in and through them. “What you seek is also seeking you.” Rumi.

Intent is very different to “I want”. Intent is a deeply energetic process and we hold an intent ceremony at the culmination of 4 days preparation. The ceremony focuses on energetical alignment as one component, with the second component being the right amount of inner-tension (IN-TENTsion) to bridge the gap between who we are today and who we are emerging as. Too much tension and we see a vertical splitting and disconnect from either matter or spirit. Too little and individuals can remain solely identified with ego and spend four days suffering hunger or enduring without meaning.

Our intent ceremonies are conducted with the other seven questers as witness, holding a circle with open hearts. This open-hearted witnessing requires first building a community and supporting the community to develop heart-sight. During the intent ceremony, when the inner-tension between the personal self and the spiritual Self is just right, we see the individual fill with Transpersonal-Will. This can be a deeply somatic experience such as shaking, filling with colour, dropping to knees, roaring or tears of joy. This is accompanied by an ‘I am …..’ statement that anchors the energy and provides a thread or bridge to the emergent Spiritual Self.  This “I am” statement then acts as a personal mantra.

The bridge and alignment created by intent is essential for a meaningful quest. When fasting for four days the psychological structures and membranes that we associate with our identity are stressed and become more porous. A clear intent ensures that we are focused on the spiritual Self, rather than only visiting the ‘attic’ and ‘basement’ of our psyche and opening up to the collective unconscious.

At Wild Rites we posit that to become a guide of the vision quest requires Heart-sight; the ability to perceive an individual’s spiritual essence.  This sight then needs to be combined with a deep understanding of a human psychology that recognises where an individual is currently at in their psychospiritual journey. These two combined enable a guide to see the gap between who a quester is in their current life and what is emerging in their potential. When this gap is held with compassion the quester begins to see, and more importantly, articulate their own gap and can begin the Vision Quest working aligned with Mother/ Father Nature to bridge their gap and ultimately occupy a their place in Creation.

About the Author:

Jon Keen is a co-founder of Wild Rites. Jon’s journey to become a vision quest guide includes an 8-year apprenticeship to the metis-Cheyenne medicine man Stone Sitting. He was adopted as the Spiritual Grandson and taught by the medicine man and author of Seven Arrows, Hymeshosts Storm. Jon then trained for 6 years in Psychosynthesis psychology, a psychology of spirit, as a guide, coach and therapist.

He has also completed shorter trainings in the USA such as with the School of Lost Borders month long on guiding Vision Quest. Jon wrote his psychology M.A. thesis on the vision quest from a psycho-spiritual perspective because he had seen too many people experience luminous experiences without incorporating them into their lives (including himself, until integrating by training with the Institute of Psychosynthesis in London).

Today he guides quests and Soulmaking programmes in Nature. He trains guides over long-term apprenticeships and helps organisations (modern communities) to come into greater alignment with Spirit.


Next Wild Rites Events:

Autumn Vision Quest, Sept 12th-22nd, Lake District

Wild Nature Soulmaking Intensive, Sept 27th-30th, Lake District

The Soul-footed Wild Woman

There’s a woman who’s body is the pristine wilderness of our planet. She knows the less-trodden paths that lead to no-where, because she made them. From the wild wood she inhabits the minds and hearts of us all, craftily watching and waiting for the moment when she can pounce, take off our shoes and reveal to us the paw, hoof and claw hidden underneath our feet. Then she invites us to walk and find our soul-footing in the world.

This is the Wild Woman archetype. Not an out-of-control, hysterical being. A being who is full of Soul with a keen sensing, playful spirit, a heightened capacity for devotion, relational by nature, inquiring and possessed of great endurance, strength and a deep intuition. Some call her the Woman who lives at the edge of the world, or She who knows. Let’s call her the Wild Woman in all of us.

There are times when we experience the Wild Woman in tasting something delicious and juicy. Or through the great beauty, sights and images nature provides; an amazing sunset or sunrise, a woodland seemingly untouched by human feet, a river’s narrow passage when the waters push through a gorge like a being in the birthing canal.

For some, the words wild and woman are a figurative knock on the door of our feminine psyche, summoning up a portal or passageway. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, “No matter where a woman is from or her cultural heritage, she somehow knows these words wild and woman, and that they belong together.” They are causal in recollecting who we are and what we are about.

No matter what these words conjure up, there is a longing that comes with them. A knowing that “I too have this in me and it needs to be let out!” One hears it loudest perhaps, when one has given little time to the mystical life; little time to wandering aimlessly in nature, or not enough time over to exploring the dreamlife. We hear it when one’s creative life has been paid too little of our attention or our true love’s such as dance, music, story, artistry and craft have been put off, let go, disregarded because we are too busy.

Without the Wild Woman, we women can easily loose the sureness of our soul-feet. She is the soulful heart of a woman, so maybe it’s time to let her in.

Author: Alexandra Hatfield, Feb 2019

If you would like to join a very special 9-month long journey with the Wild Woman Archetype and a diverse and rich group of women visit  (1 place remains for 2019, we start in April).

Incorporation: Building Bridges and Crossing Oceans

“Many there are who have visions. Few there are who make their visions real.” (Steven Foster)

It was a still and crisp sunny April morning in SW England, the sun had not long risen and the birds were singing. I had just emerged from my first vision quest, which had included a sweat lodge, a four-day dry fast and then another sweat from which we had just surfaced. I am told the final sweat was incredibly hot, yet it was the easiest and most pleasant sweat I had known- I was in a very altered state.

I stood in the centre of a wheel with eight men holding the directions and my mentor leading the ceremony. I had a profound sense of inter-connection to everything around me, I felt deep love for those gathered- I felt love for all creation. The men were testing me to see if they deemed me worthy to be called a “man”, somehow, I intuitively knew the answer to each test. The words that spontaneously came from my mouth were exquisite, I did not think, each one surprised me as I witnessed wisdom flow from my 27-year-old mouth.

Eventually I stopped answering their questions and began spontaneously praying, until my prayer ended with “… from now on my footsteps will be my prayers.” My mentor said to me “In this moment you are a holy man.” Those words went deep and I believed myself to have been magically transformed into a modern day holy man, a wizard.

My quest was part of an apprenticeship to a medicine man/ shamanic practitioner. We had been working together for several years yet I was still unprepared for such an awakening. Previously I had lived a life of un-integrated extremes with periods of smoking marijuana all day and an addiction to falling in love, alternating with periods of spiritual athleticism, to include a sattvic diet and practicing yoga several hours a day. Both had enabled an avoidance of suffering and the inevitable tension that comes with living a life of purpose.

Having not heard of Van Gennep’s three phases, or the word Incorporation, I imagined myself to be magically transformed. I had no context to understand incorporation and I was blissfully unaware that a transmutation of my personality would be required if I was to live the vision received. Two days after my quest, I simply got on an aeroplane and flew back to the Caribbean where I worked as the captain of a luxury sailing yacht.

My life as a yacht captain serving the whims of charter guests became no longer satisfying, I was ready for another type of service. At this stage I was very identified with my ego and movement towards expressing my vision was relatively unconscious. I fell back into addictive behaviours and flip flopped between gratifying egoic drives and spiritual purity. The gap between vision and reality seemed too wide to bridge.

Nevertheless, eighteen months post quest after considering studying psychology and having this decision mirrored to me by a trusted elder I returned to England and began a master’s in Psychosynthesis Psychology and training to be a psychotherapist.

Psychosynthesis psychotherapy is psycho-spiritual and best suited to supporting healthy neurotics (like you and me) to further Self-realise and actualise. It’s founder Roberto Assagioli, an analyst and esoteriscist, was a contemporary of Freud and Jung. He first published papers on spiritual emergence and emergency in the 1930’s.

Psychosynthesis training involved participating in group work and individual psychotherapy for four years. I began noticing the impact I had on others and the disparity between who I believed myself to be and the reactions I received. This was a painful mirror and I would flip flop between hiding in spirit and denying my vision. Nevertheless, I knew both to be real/ true and this created tension within me. Fortunately, Psychosynthesis provides a context for this and I was held by a community specialising in integrating spiritual awakenings.

The mythic return of the hero, when considered psycho-spiritually, is the building of a bridge between who you have been and your innate potential/ True Self. There are many different levels to realise our True Self, ultimately they move towards the same source- a Universal Self, hence actualising one’s vision serves the people, planet and all of creation.

During the vision quest, we commune with the External Unifying Centre of Nature - our truest mirror. Doing so creates within us a new Internal Unifying Centre, which is like a new star for the planets of our personality to orbit, yet we still have the gravitational pull of the old star- hence we experience tension.

The ego experiences this tension as suffering and avoids it at all costs. It is not until we begin to awaken at Soul level that suffering has meaning and symptoms become messengers of the Self. By ego I mean the structure that has been built based on the past and how we have learned to deal with these experiences. By soul I refer to the experiencer and experience of Spirit / Self in matter.

“The project of the soul is not to annihilate the ego but to allow the soul to use the ego as the ego uses the hand.” (Thompson 1995).


I would like to discuss two factors important to Incorporation:

1.      Separation of levels between the True Self and the ego.

2.      “I” development.


In my personal example, I had attributed qualities of Self to my ego and believed myself to be an idealised image. I had developed a transpersonal identification.

An incapacity of the mind to stand the illumination, may cause the experience to be wrongly interpreted and there results, so to speak, a “confusion of levels.” The distinction between absolute and relative truths, between the Self and the “I” is blurred and the inflowing spiritual energies may have the unfortunate effect of feeding and inflating the personal ego.” (Assagioli)

Questers who differentiate levels of experience prior to fasting are less likely to attribute transpersonal qualities to the ego. As guides, during preparation, we can include experiential learning on differentiating between ego, soul and Self. It provides reassurance to know about stages of incorporation and spiritual awakening prior to experiencing them.  Assagioli’s four stages of spiritual awakening provide one such roadmap. (Psychosynthesis 1970).

The key to incorporation is recognising that both our ego and our vision of Self in potential are simultaneously true, just at different levels. In Psychosynthesis terms, this is called “bifocal vision” which is to see the other as both Self in potential, and how they behave and act now.


To see oneself in this way creates tension and requires compassion. When we cannot bear this tension, we hide things from ourselves. E.g. we may reduce the vision or runaway in spiritual flight and the world benefits less from our questing.

As an incorporation coach, I often find myself holding the larger tension and compassion for a coachee whilst supporting them to identify a third point within the “gap” (R Evans, Trifocal Vison). This third point is the place where there is most willingness/readiness to step towards their vision and begin to bridge the gap. For the coachee's Will to be engaged it is crucial the step is big enough to be meaningful yet not overwhelming. It is like helping someone walk a flight of steps or climb a mountain.

“It is as though he had made a superb flight to the summit of a mountain top, realized it’s glory...but had been brought back to it’s starting point with rueful recognition that the steep path leading to it’s heights must be climbed step by step.” (Assagioli 1970).

As the vision received is more often a direction than a destination, Incorporation Coaching has a different context to many forms of coaching. The work is about supporting the coachee to develop their own centre of “awareness and will” so they can hold themselves in the creative tension. In Psychosynthesis this centre is referred to as the ‘I’. The ‘I’ is pure awareness and will and the unique spark of Self/Spirit in matter.


Once the coachee has sufficiently developed their ‘I’ they can bring their vision into the world and may no longer need coaching. They will still face fears and need to overcome challenging mindsets but they can choose not to be controlled by them - this is the art of dis-identification.

 Well supported incorporation begins in the preparation/ severance phase. I consider it important to ascertain if a quester has a sufficient level of ‘I’ development prior to questing and if not offer pre-work or an adapted or different ceremony.

As this article ends, I am left with the image of a ship, ‘I’ stands at the helm steering the ship towards the beacon of vision. The Will emanating from Self fills the sails and the ship weathers the sometimes stormy, sometimes tranquil mysterious Ocean. Every now and then the ego attempts yet another mutiny…

My thesis “Rites of Passage through a Psychosynthetic Lens” is freely available at

Life Crisis - Breakdown or Breakthrough?

Life Crisis - Breakdown or Breakthrough?

For too long our spiritual awakenings have been dismissed or reduced to breakdowns by those who do not how to facilitate the soul. Within theses breakdowns there is also the potential to break through to the truth who you are. If we listen carefully to the still quiet voice within us, often we can realign our lives before the situation becomes too painful.  In fact, many crises are often a Crisis of Meaning and the mythic call to the adventure that we call the Hero/Heroine’s journey.

The Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice

The shortest day of the year approaches. A time when the darkness dominates and the land slumbers under a coat of fallen leaves. The earth deepens into a silent frozen stillness, growth slows down, the plants and trees withdraw. The wind is chilly and fog clings to the hills like a veil of frozen vapour. This is the solstice, a death point, a still point before the rebirth of the Sun. In the northern hemisphere, the Earth rests.