Now that you know where the game came from, let’s talk about how to play the game and what makes the game work.
First of all, the basic divination principles used in the game have been used for centuries: the I-Ching, Tarot, Runes, they are all based on the idea that our Higher Selves can speak to us by influencing us to draw a card, throw a coin, or place our finger on a passage in a book that answers our question. In order for this process to really work, though, we have to make a sincere effort to set aside our preconceived ideas and honestly surrender to the Divine.
We have to be willing, in other words, to receive whatever answer is in our best interest (and in the best interest of others), even if it is something we don’t want to hear.
Being open and receptive to Spirit has been a central part of all divination tools. What makes this particular guidance tool different from other age-old systems is that it marries four principles that have emerged and merged during our particular time period: it combines the wisdom of diverse spiritual traditions; it draws upon the life experience, knowledge, and intuition of individual players (rather than shamans, religious authorities or specially trained experts); it evokes the power of group consciousness and prayer; and it encourages people to infuse the game with deeper meanings by creating their own game decks, rules and rituals.
At present, there are several versions of this game, all of which have variations in the way they are played. I’m going to focus on how the VisionQuest version is played. You can use these guidelines for your game or come up with an entirely new set of rules.
The VisionQuest Game is a mixture of handmade cards and store-bought cards. All together, I have about 20 different decks now, and am constantly updating them. Handmade decks are retired as better ones are created, while new, more well-designed and inspiring store-bought decks replace old ones.
Since The VisionQuest Game is designed to be played with 12 decks, the game begins by me and/or the people I am playing the game with, selecting 12 decks from the 20 that are available. These 12 decks are then set out around the game board.
Once the decks have been selected, everyone spends a few minutes praying and meditating together. During this quiet time, the players do their best to open their minds and hearts to whatever information the Universe, via the game and players, will be sharing with them.
Next, we pick who goes first by having everyone draw a bead. The person that picks the lowest number goes first. Once we’ve determined who goes first, the person on that person’s left goes next.
To be sure everyone has enough time to discuss their issues, and receive clear answers, I’ve discovered the optimum number of players is four to six people. If you have too many people, there is not enough time to give everyone the attention they need; if you have too few people, you miss out on the life experience, wisdom, intuitions, and prayer power that a larger, more diverse group brings to the game.
Let me pause here and add that the person who facilities the game is responsible for setting (and holding) a safe, thoughtful, respectful atmosphere. You want to be sure that people can share, deeply, about the issues they are concerned about without other people interrupting them and/or inappropriately giving them advice. The group has gathered to support one another on a journey where everyone is seeking help, and no one knows when, or how, or in what form that help will come. The task is to work together to discern what the Universe is trying to communicate.
OK, once the first person is picked, they begin by sharing with the group what they want to receive help with. The group, in turn, listens deeply, and asks questions to help the person get as clear as they can about what they want to receive help with. Then the person writes their question down on a piece of paper.
“The VisionQuest Game” is played with 13 beads instead of a 12-sided die. 12 of the beads are numbered from one to 12, while the 13th bead is blank. The 13th bead is called “The Hopping Bead”. If a person chooses a bead with a number on it, they prayerfully pick a card from the deck of cards that are sitting on that number. If, on the other hand, they draw The Hopping Bead, then they can pick a card from whichever deck they want to. In either case, the picking is done prayerfully — both by the person picking the card, as well as the rest of the group. Ideally, everyone in the group is quietly praying for the person — asking that they receive the guidance they need and that after a card has been chosen, that it is correctly understood and applied.
On rare occasions, a person may wish to ask a question that they don’t want to share with the rest of the group. That’s fine, as long as everyone understands that a huge part of the power of this game comes from the interaction of the members. Other divination games are designed to play alone; this game is primarily designed to be played with others.
Once a card has been chosen, the person who chooses it ponders what it means to them — and then shares that with the rest of the group. He/she does this before anyone else offers their input. Then the rest of the group can share any thoughts they might have. Almost always, someone in the group will see something about our card that we’ve overlooked. Discussing the various ideas that come up, is often very inspiring, especially when the meaning of the card becomes apparent.
On some occasions, the first card a person draws will make no sense. Its meaning will escape both the person who drew the card, along with the rest of the members of the group. In cases like this, it is best to allow the person to draw again. And again, if needed. Eventually the meaning will become apparent and the card(s) that made no sense in the beginning will make sense once the other cards are drawn and fill out the picture.
And so it goes. Everyone takes turns probing and asking questions, and supporting one another in finding answers.
Once the game begins, it is important to pay attention to whatever signs and synchronistic events might unfold. You may also notice that certain kinds of group themes, or messages begin to emerge in the game itself and that specific decks end up being picked from again and again. An important phone call might interrupt the game. Something may fall off the table. Perhaps a song will catch someone’s attention that is playing in the background. Maybe a neighbor will yell something outside. Pay attention to everything that happens — and view everything that happens as potential messages from the Universe.
The game will come to an end when people feel complete. Be sure that everyone leaves the game with some practical ideas about how they can apply the answers they’ve received. And end the game, like it began, with a few moments of quiet.
Once the game is finished, it is a good idea to make copies of the cards that everyone has drawn so they can take them home with them.
Here are a few helpful tips to be sure the game runs smoothly, and produces helpful, sometimes even life-changing, insights:
1. Choose a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted to play the game.
2. Have everyone turn of their cell phones before starting the game.
3. Create a special environment for the game — and for your friends. Light candles, play soft music, put out some fresh flowers, fill the air with aromatic oils.
4. Play the game with people who are really serious about getting answers, rather than just curious.
5. Keep the group small (4 or 6 people).
6. If you get into time problems (which is less likely to happen with small groups than large groups), you may find it helpful to allow each person a set amount of time to ask and answer their questions. Personally, I have found time keeping to be counterproductive though, as it tends to encourage a goal-oriented atmosphere of rushing along, rather than a process-oriented atmosphere aimed at helping people feel really loved, supported and understood.
7. It has been said “The first duty of love is to listen.” And this is especially true when playing the game. In order to foster a loving atmosphere, it is very important to encourage everyone to “really” listen to one another. Along with whatever insight and knowledge we bring to the game, our greatest gift will always be helping each other feel loved and listened to. Indeed, since all of us already possess all the answers we need deep down inside, the only real task is to find a way to allow this inner wisdom to surface.
8. Like dreams, the answers we receive from the game can have layers of meaning. One way the game reflects this to us is by the variety of interpretations our fellow game players offer. Listen carefully. Some interpretations will feel right, some will feel wrong, and some will feel like they are a mixture of the two. When the main message emerges, we often experience an “ah ha” moment. When that happens, it’s a sign that the main message has hit the bulls eye. That’s great. But stay alert for things that are said that have less impact in the moment, but may trigger deeper knowings afterwards.
9. Have pens and paper for players to write down their questions and answers. It is also a good idea to have a scanner nearby so you, if you are facilitating the game, can make copies of all the cards that are drawn by your players so they can take copies of the guidance they received home with them.
10. And, finally, before we show up to play the game, it is a good idea to spend a little time envisioning the kind of atmosphere and results you would like to achieve. Imagine everyone coming and receiving the help they need. See everyone, including yourself, leaving the game feeling more empowered and hopeful about their lives.
While “The VisionQuest Game” (and all earlier versions of the game) have been primarily used as a tool to help individuals and/or groups sort things out, it is also proving to be a surprisingly powerful tool for counseling situations. Like a normal counseling session, an individual or couple begins by exploring their particular hurts, needs, desires, concerns, and perspectives with a trusted friend or counselor. If an impasse or particularly muddy area is reached, the game can be used to help break the log jam.