Tom's Lecture Before the Vision Quest
I tend to look at things from a spiritual standpoint. I see you people
standing at a place in your lives where a number of trails intersect, with
only one trail that's really right for you. It's who you really are. It's
what you really want to do. It contains the most power, the most peace,
the most love, and the most joy.
This is somewhat of a catch-22 situation. I already know where many of
you should be, but I can't tell you because you won't believe me. You've
got to find it for yourself. I have taken and guided many vision quests,
and I hope to use my knowledge to begin breaking down the barriers that
would normally stand in your way.
First of all, you're not living in the woods. Most of you are removed
from the soil. If you were a Native American, you would be living in a
tipi, or an earthen lodge, living with the landscape in a viable, dynamic
way. When the Native Americans went into their vision quests, they were
already three-quarters of the way there. When we go into a vision quest,
we come from traffic jams, war, pollution, eight-to-five jobs, deceit, and
a world that is so complicated and so full of bullshit that we don't even
know where we are to begin with.
Just to get you to the point where you can walk in is a tremendous
undertaking. But what I'm going to attempt to do is to show you the way
there. I'm going to attempt to get you to the point where the average
Native American would be when he walked into a vision quest. With this
talk, I'm going to arm you, tell you what to expect in terms of the modern
roadblocks, help you to hurdle them, and help you to see more clearly into
the visionary world. I'm also going to try to help you interpret what
happens to you.
First of all, the more you believe in the spiritual world, the more you
will get out of this vision quest. Certanily, if you're taking it strictly
on a physical level, you'll still get a tremendous amount out of it.
You'll know yourself better than ever before. You will know who you are
and, generally, where you want to go. But if you're a person who believes
in the spiritual realm, you're going to gain tremendous insights,
tremendous spiritual upliftment, and even great personal medicine power.
Whatever fear you're feeling right now is not the fear of dogs or
sickness or the dark. It's the fear of really knowing yourself. It's a
shocker to a lot of people when they find out who they really are. It can
cause a real disruption in their lives. That's because most people live a
life they don't really own. You're all searching for something. You all
have questions burning within you. Questions like, "Why am I living?
What should I be doing? Am I on the right path?"
What the world lacks now are people of Vision. People who know who they
are and where they are going. People who are no longer operating in the
shell of the physical, but in the underlying realms of the spiritual. You
are now standing at the edge of a huge ocean of spirituality. This ocean
contains all the power of living. It is over-flowing with love, peace,
joy, and all the beautiful things you ever dreamed you could experience.
But believe it or not, some people when they see this ocean will turn
around and run. The worst thing you can do in life is run from your
Why do people run from their Visions? Because they so often demand
change. And change is often painful. Three-quarters of you are going to go
through changes. Some of you are going to find that you've lived a lie for
so many years. So when you walk out of that circle, it's going to take
guts to live who you really are.
The worst thing you can do in life is run from your Vision. A man or
women not living their Vision might as well be dead, because all you are
when you're not living your Vision is living a life of mediocrity, waiting
The Native Americans called the Vision Quest "the little
death." One of their songs went, "I go now to die a little
death." This, however, is only the death of the self that you aren't.
The death of the self that other people have expected you to be. The death
of the self that dwells strictly in the physical world. The death of the
self that is working for the ego. That self is not going to give up
easily. It's going to fight you like you wouldn't believe.
Some of the most powerful visions come on the wings of the wind. From
the mice people. From a leaf falling down from a clear sky. From a bird
alighting on a pole. So much power is carried on the wings of the little
things. What you must look for are the subtle changes within yourself.
Changes in the way you see things. Changes in you attitudes. These are the
true power visions, and they come very silently in the visionary
Many of you will feel you're beating your head against a tree and not
getting anything. In fact, you're getting the world. NOBODY walks into the
sacred circle without having a vision.
Eventually, after a day or two in the circle, you people will get so
exhausted and tired and frustrated that finally your mind will just shut
down. The logical, thinking mind, the mind that we have trained since
kindergarten, shuts down and goes to sleep. Then something very wonderful
happens. A pair of heavy steel gates flies open and you walk to the other
side. When this happens, the deep inner self begins to speak to you. Your
thought is no longer your thought; it is who you are. It begins to move to
the spirit realm. It begins to move to a realm that is deep inside you.
The gates are flung open, and your true self begins to emerge.
Now, I hope that the following will allow you to see into your
visionary experience without much counseling. There are two sides to
everybody. First, there's the logical mind, which is physically oriented.
This is only one to five percent of who we are. Then there's something
inside us, a greater self, that is connected to the
spirit-that-moves-through-all-things and to the Creator. We are all given
great medicine power, but in most people it's blocked by the logical mind.
The way to tap into that power is to get rid of the logical mind.
Once those doors are cast open, then the inner or spiritual self begins
to get in touch with you. It will often first come across as gut feeling
or instinct. It's also called the superconscious. It is the whole realm of
creation and the voice of the Creator. But it does not speak to you in
words. The true self does not have any language as we know it. It's a
spirit language, a language of dreams and symbols.
There are both waking and sleeping dreams. But be careful. There are
medicine dreams, communication dreams, and static dreams. You can tell the
difference right away. You know the feeling when you wake up in the
morning and the dream is not very interesting or you can't remember it.
That's just a static dream. Then there are the dreams that you have lived.
You wake up in the morning and you go, "Wow!" Dreams don't have
to make logical sense. They deal in symbolism.
The Great Spirit also uses nature to communicate with you. Let's face
it, your self is nature. Who you are is nature. You are as much a part of
this stick as you are you. And since you are a part of all things, any
part of nature will be used to contact your self. Isn't it crazy? It's
almost like two different people. In fact, it is!
Nature is a profound teacher. You know the difference between a bird
that comes into your area where you don't think much about it and a bird
that speaks to you. You know it instinctively. Nature will try to contact
you that way. Lightning, thunder, wind, birds, animals, plants. A leaf you
may have looked at for two days will suddenly have tremendous significance
for you. You'll know instinctively what it means. It moves your whole
Another way of communicating with the inner self is through the
spirits. Other spirits will try to contact you. There's a person in last
year's vision quest who actually had Stalking Wolf walk up to her. She
described him and they way he wore his braids exactly. I've had things
like this happen so often they can't be coincidence. There are lots of
spirits her right now. They're smiling at you. They know what you're going
to expericence. They know that fifty more people are going to start seeing
them and talking to them.
Finally, the biggest kind of communication is the Vision. Visions can
come on the chatter of a squirrel, or they can come as a white winged
buffalo spitting smoke and fire with lightning come out of his nose and a
nude nymphette with long blond hair on his back. People usually think of
these huge, intricate visions full of rapture. Well, in some of the most
powerful visions people have been spoken to by an ant. By an ant! No big
deal, an ant just walked across their circle. But it told them something.
It communicated with them in a profound way that changed their life from
that point on.
So be looking for the internal change. Realize that it's not going to
be clearly defined. Interpretation is always subject to your uniqueness of
spirit. That's why I can't do it for you. Also remember that every day,
every moment, whether you're in a traffic jam in New York or in the
pristine wilderness, this spirit world is talking to you. You just blot it
out because of your logical mind.
OK, how do you interpret a vision or a dream? Picture this. You're
packing for a plane trip. Visualize youself putting in you clothing, your
knife, your sleeping bag, other articles. Feel the excitement. But now
there's a problem. You feel deep down that you're forgetting something.
That feeling is located in your diaphragm. It's a tightness there. You all
know the feeling.
So you continue packing, but that gnawing feeling persists. You put
your pack in your friend's car, and on the way to the airport the feeling
disappears. Then at the airport it comes back again. You ask yourself,
"Damn it, what am I forgetting?" You still don't know, and it's
getting really intense, beginning to pound at you.
Now you pick up your ticket, get on the plane, and feel it lift off.
The excitement's there, but still there's that damn gnawing feeling. Feel
that tightness and frustration for a moment. Really capture that, because
that's the key. Close your eyes and visualize it.
Now, here's the trick. You've got this feeling inside. You're up in the
plane. You've left something at home. You don't know what it is. Now, all
of a sudden you see a light in the cabin and you realize: "It's
...my...flashlight!" All of a sudden there's a release. That
tightness, that frustration, that anger, suddenly dissipate. It's like
taking a deep breath.
Do you know what caused that? That's your all-knowing self. That's your
spiritual self that never forgets anything, that's part of all things,
that is one with all things. It's screaming at you, but you can't hear it
because your logic is going, "Is it my book? Is it my underwear? Is
it this? Is it that?" Your logical mind is squelching it. But you sit
on the plane and relax, you open up, and all of a sudden this screaming
self that can't communicate in words comes through.
Now, once you know the difference between that tightness and that
release, do you know what you've go in your hands? It's as simple as night
and day. What feels right to you? You've got it right in your hands, the
answer to every question. You just have to know how to ask that inner
self. "Does the bird on my north pole have a message for me? Is it an
omen? Or, is it just a bird sitting on my north pole?" Tight or
Loose? "What does this symbol mean to me?" You've got to put it
that way. You'll learn how to ask if you practice.
If that's one thing you do in life, learn how to cultivate that. That's
why you constantly hear me say, "Does it feel good?" Eventually
you won't have to ask, because you'll just know. There will be a direct
communication link built. And eventually that link will become part of you
forever. There will be no separation, no inner or outer dimension.
Eventually any question you could possibly ask will have an answer. In
time you may even begin to hear words, or just have them given to you. But
be very careful. Your logic will grab hold of this feeling and distort it
at will. You have to get rid of your logical self before the answers can
One other thing before you go out. Never ask for a Vision just for
yourself. Ask for a Vision for all people. Ask, "How can I help
humankind?" That's what visions are for. In your hands now rests the
future of the world. See the signs on these trees---"Tree Farm"?
You are the seeds that are going to be planted. Within you are the seeds.
Have the guts to watch them grow. Out there you will find
everything--everything--if you will just let that old self die.
After the Vision Quest
There are a number of you who believe you have had no vision. That's
not true. I remember my first vision quest. I walked out and I swore
nothing had happened. Stalking Wolf just smiled and said,
"Bullshit." Out of all the vision quests I've had, that first
vision quest has been the one that has repeatedly taught me throughout my
life. In fact, two weeks ago I just realized something about that vision
quest that was finally hammered home.
The other night I picked up a letter from a guy I had through here two
years ago. He had walked out of his area thinking he'd gotten nothing. You
should see the letter. All of a sudden the vision quest was hammered home.
When it will hit I don't know. Some of them will hit right away. But I
will tell you something. From where I stand, you are totally different
people. Many of you are too close to see it right now. The changes are
almost imperceptible. Even you people who feel you've had tremendous
visions are in for a surprise. There's more than you can imagine right
now. You almost have to back off and look at yourself later. Then you'll
be saying, "My God, I've never done that before. I've never felt that
The most powerful visions are not the white-winged buffaloes. They are
the imperceptible changes that occur within a person. Those are the
visions with the longest range impacts. That's why I smile at everybody
here who thinks they got nothing. You will, find in time, that you have
had a truly powerful vision. Because, with time, it will change your life
and the lives of those around you.
Some of you have told me you are close to knowing your vision. You say
you know who you are and where you want to go, but that your trail is
obscured. Your trail isn't obscured. The truth is that you are afraid to
live your vision. There's a fear inside you. That's why it's not going to
manifest yet. Cerrtainly, you had a vision. But your fear is holding you
Fear of living your vision is just another form of death. When you can
say, "I don't care what it takes, I don't care what I have to do, I
don't care what agony I have to go through, I'm going to live that
vision," all of a sudden it's going to open up to you. Fear of living
that path is strangulation. Some of you have had some awesome experiences.
Others of you have come to the brink of that abyss and you're afraid to
jump. Something is holding you back. Usually, it's fear.
Look at you. Most of you have lived half of your lifetimes. You've come
to this point in time and you're at a fork in the road. One path leads to
mediocrity, to a place where your medicine will never be known. The other
path, the path of your heart, leads to profound medicine, to service to
humanity. You're at that fork. even you who have been blessed with very
clear visions are still at that fork. I challenge you -- do you have the
guts to follow your vision? If you don't follow it, you'll be living a lie
the rest of your lives. Do you realize that?
Your guts have screamed at you. You know. Sure, your logical mind wants
to bullshit you and say, "No, I don't really know." Cut the
crap! You've died back there for four days! I could take each one of you
aside and ask you, "What do you want in life more than anything
else?" Well, tell me this: Are you willing to die for it? Yeah,
sometimes that's how much you've got to give up for a vision.
Don't turn that challenge away. Forty years from now most of us will be
gone. Our grandchildren are going to take over. What legacy will we leave
them? People who have run from their vision are causing the destruction
the world is going through now. The people who haven't run are trying to
save it. I guarantee that if you have had a true vision, it has to do with
working for something greater than self.
The first place to start is working on you own medicine, your own path,
separated from every other path but working for a common goal. That's the
initial move. I've seen doctors and lawyers quit their professions. I've
seen people go through divorces -- because they've realized they were
living a lie. Everybody here has their own private torment they've got to
But then there are other ways. You don't have to change the path you're
on, you just have to re-evaluate it. You've got to go about it in a
differnt way. And it's all so simple! It's not hard to have a vision. I
could walk back there and in four days have a vision--easily. It all comes
down to one thing: How bad do you want it? And directly contingent on that
is, can you live it?
Many people get visions. Most will not be lived because of fear.
Imagine if I had buckled to my parents' pressures. Oh, I hurt my parents.
I hurt my brother. I hurt my relatives. But I knew my path. Broke,
wandering. In one jail, out of the next, in one storm, out of the next. It
was tough to hike around the country in the hippie generation. But
now...sometimes the end justifies the means. I had to develop my personal
medicine power before I could work for a greater vision. But all the way
along I was in essence working for that vision. If I hadn't, you would not
be here right now. At least, not with me. Think about that.
Also think about this: What lives in the future are you going to f--k
up because you're afraid to follow your visions? What children are going
to be lying dead someday because you haven't got the guts to follow you
vision? How much more of the earth is going to be destroyed? When you can
say, "I'll give up everything, including my life, to live my
vision," that's when you'll be smashed with a vision. You can dance
until your ass falls off. But you've got to prove to the big-guy up
upstairs that you can handle it, that you'll walk that vision until the
day you die. Then you've got it. And from then on, you'd better live with
All the excuses in the world are not going to work. You can use any one
you want: "Oh, I'll hurt my family." "But I'll
starve!" "But, I'll this. But, I'll that." Screw it! Living
your vision is not sh-tting in your family's teepee, it's enhancing it.
Just think how they feel on a spiritual level--and there is that spiritual
communication which we can't deny-- they will know that they are causing
you to live a lie. Better for you to live the truth. You know what you
want in your hearts.
Your vision and mine are different. I work my vision my way, you do it
your way. But you know something? We're all headed for the same end. We're
going to be very important to each other in the coming years. We're all in
this boat together.
Please don't call me. I have so little time in life it's incredible.
Write me, and I will answer you when the time is right. I have many of the
answers right now, but I'm not going to give them to you that easily. You
see, if a butterfly landed on your north pole, you could say, "Tom,
what does that mean?" And I could say, "Well, to me it
means..." But to you it means something different. So in order to get
that meaning, I have to go in your head, in your spirit, and look at
things with your perception--which is a very difficult process.
I would rather have you find out what it means. Ask yourself, "How
does it feel to me? What is the word that best describes this?" Love,
peace, tranquility, hate, whatever. Only when you hit that wall do I want
you to ask me for help. And don't expect an answer immediately. I sit on
those letters. I mull them over. I put them away. Then all of a sudden
I'll get a feeling and I'll have to write you. But first it's got to stew
You can do the same thing I do. It's simple. You just have to learn to
listen with your spirit. Your heart. Same difference. Everything is so
simple. People try to complicate the piss out of it. Modern man believes
that the more you pay, the more it's got to be worth. That's silly.
Some of you I'll never hear from. You won't need it. You already know
where you're going and how to get there. See, once you open the vision
quest doors, you're constantly on a vision quest the rest of your life.
There is not a day that will pass that you won't learn something new.