Safety and the vision fast

Next vision fast: July 5 – 11, 2009 at Monkey Valley

This week I had the great Wyoming fast, 2005pleasure of giving a presentation on the vision fast to the Vancouver chapter of the Society for Technical Communication. Our March STC program was a Pecha Kucha event, in which speakers each discuss 20 slides for 20 seconds, making the presentations a short and informative 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

People are curious about the vision fast or vision quest, and intrigued by the idea of it. One of the things that deters people from trying it is fear of being alone in the wilderness, and particularly fear of wild animals. This is something I too had to face, and have since come to terms with, both as a participant and as a guide. I have had encounters with bears in the wilderness, and even saw a cougar in the distance once. As I have discussed elsewhere in this blog, I have come to realize that it is a rare privilege to encounter a magnificent wild animal like a cougar or a bear.

But, more importantly for the faster who has concerns about such encounters, these animals are very aware of humans and will avoid them if at all possible. The danger of attack from a wild animal is miniscule. My co-guide, Kim Ashley, and I thoroughly prepare fasters at Monkey Valley so that they know how to behave if an encounter happens. With some common sense and a little bit of advice it is easy to make sure an encounter with a wild animal is a blessing and not a danger. As guides, it is very important for us to make sure that each faster returns safely to her or his people. We are confident in our ability to teach you what you need to know to do that.

Vision fast Colorado 2006Another question people have about the vision fast is about the “no shelter” prohibition. The modern-day fast is adapted for city folks in a northern climate, and, again, making sure the faster returns safely is of primary importance. So the vision fast as taught by the School of Lost Borders and at Monkey Valley provides for temporary shelter in the form of a tarp, or even a tent if the faster feels this would be necessary. We teach tarp craft before the fasters go out, so that you learn how to put up a tarp that will keep out all the elements. Believe me, I have huddled under a tarp in the most frightening of storms and managed to stay warm and dry!

We also use a buddy system, in which each Women\'s Fast in California, 2008person leaves a sign at a buddy pile once a day, so that we know everyone is safe. If something should happen, help will be on the way in less than 24 hours. Much of the time in the first two days of preparation before the fast is spent in teaching fasters what they need to know to stay safe on their fasts, and during this time we teach the buddy system as well. We also provide materials to help you prepare when you register to do a fast at Monkey Valley. If you would like to read more about the vision fast and surviving alone for three days and three nights in the wilderness, I recommend The Trail to the Sacred Mountain—A Vision Fast Handbook for Adults. This is required reading before doing a fast at Monkey Valley.

I hope these photos of groups of people who have survived their fasts will inspire you to try it yourself! The Programs page has more information about the upcoming fasts at Monkey Valley. Check it out.