CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A PDF OF THE FAQ
Recently I’ve been sharing with people that I’m on a No Woman Vision Quest – And I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what that is, why am I doing it, how does that work, and if I’m crazy.
So I thought it might be interesting for me to share some answers publicly. The danger of course is that I’m in the middle of this thing so my understanding of it, is a bit distorted by the fact that I’m in the middle of it, but so long as you and I can forgive myself that distortion I think this post will be just fine.
What is a No Woman Vision Quest?
This is a practice that has a variety of names, some people call it a feminine cleanse, a no woman diet, or a vow of abstinence or celibacy.
The basic idea is to eliminate or consciously choose the way you relate the feminine or women for a period of time. With a general aim to limit your interactions with the feminine in a way that reveals your habitual patterns and ways of thinking.
This practice is like other similar practices in that it’s a spiritual practice of removing something from your life in order to understand and recreate your relationship with it.
For a long time I’ve practiced with my relationship to different aspects of myself, money, coaching, truth, sex, you name it. I’ve done different aesthetic practices in order to understand who I am and how being a human works for me.
When I was at the monastery we spent long periods or time in silence to understand the mind, I’ve done short term fasts of social media, television, and even some types of food. Some have taught me a lot about myself others were more focused on trying to get somewhere, which also had a different value to them.
For me a No Woman Vision Quest is about understanding more deeply my relationship with the feminine, both in how I’ve related to women, my own inner feminine, and the divine feminine.
It’s also about understanding and being with all of the parts of myself I hide or avoid because I think other people but women in particular won’t find attractive. Things like my neediness, my anger, my darkness, my kink, etc.
I’m hoping to learn more about myself, to love myself more deeply, and to bring something new to my next romantic relationship, and hopefully to my children someday as well.
Why do you hate women? Why do you think women are toxic?
I want to address this one right way because it’s come up a lot. Early on I was calling this practice a feminine cleanse. Several women gave me the feedback that this title felt misogynistic and implied that it gave the impression I thought women were toxic.
I chose the title because that’s how it was offered to me, but I can see that for many people the concept of a cleanse carries a lot of baggage.
I don’t hate women or the feminine. Overall I have a deeply reverential and loving feeling towards women in my life. But that doesn’t mean that’s all there is. If I’m totally honest there is also some level of dysfunction or toxicity that exists in how I relate to women as well as a mix of neediness and anger.
In some ways this vision quest has forced me to come face to face with my own male toxicity (though I don’t love that term for many of the same reasons women didn’t like the term cleanse) But I have to be honest that there are parts of the way I’ve related to the feminine that have been funky and unclean.
For as trustworthy and loving as I’ve been as a partner I’ve also been dishonest, manipulative, greedy, jealous, resentful, power hungry, unskillfully dominant without consent, as well as not honoring of women’s bodies, consent, or sovereignty.
I could spend the next four pages defending myself as a man and telling you how loving and kind I’ve been, but I just want to own up to that I’ve been messy with women. I’ve caused suffering and probably some level of trauma or rewounding of old trauma in my relationships.
I have certainly been actively co-dependent and have fallen into the role of rescuer, victim, and persecutor over and over again. I saw this pattern very clearly in my last relationship and worked to step out of it, but ultimately I wasn’t able to do this with my former partner.
Which was part of the reason we chose to end our relationship because it was causing both of us tremendous pain.
It’s also part of the reason I took on this practice. I don’t want to keep creating relationship this way, I don’t want to continue to show up for the women in my life with an unclean masculine.
And while I have no illusions of ever being perfect as a man (those are being constantly dashed by my cleanse and by the incredible women in my life) I do have a desire to be different with myself, my own inner children, my own feminine, with the women in my life, and ultimately whomever I choose to be in relationship with.
Yeah but couldn’t you do all of that in relationship?
I think it’s totally possible to do this kind of work in relationship, in fact I fully expect to have to do more of this work when I choose to be in relationship again. But for me it felt important to consciously step out of relationship with women in a romantic and/or sexual context to really look at how I relate to women, the agenda my ego kept bringing to my relationships, and the parts of myself I wasn’t willing to be with.
It’s in this last part that I’ve actually discovered the most richness.
I’ve been amazed at the parts of myself that have waited until I’m out of relationship to show up, parts of myself with endless neediness, constant obsession over women, anger at women and the feminine, deep longing for connection, bottomless loneliness, indifference and boredom, and a baseline dissatisfaction with the present moment.
More and more my cleanse has been about loving and being with these parts of myself.
A dear friend gave me the language of the vision quest before I started this process and that for me captures the essence of this and it’s why I chose to change the name.
I’m not stepping out of romantic or sexual connection with women because of anything women have done. I’ve been incredibly blessed with kind patient women who have loved me and been gentle with me through my own insecurity, anger, and delusion.
I owe it to them and to myself to work on seeing the fullness of my suffering and then if I’m able (buddha willing) to step back into relationship with a deeper understanding and love of myself.
I still don’t like the name, you should pick a new one.
This is a bit of feedback I’ve gotten a lot. So I’ll try to explain why I settled on the name that I did.
When I was first introduced to this practice it was offered to me as a feminine cleanse. So that’s what I started calling it. But as I shared my practice with more and more people I got the feedback from a lot of people that the name cleanse or no woman diet was a bit off to them. It implied that women were bad and needed to be avoided. This wasn’t my intention but I took the feedback to heart.
I settled on the name the No Woman Vision Quest for a few reasons.
1) It is actually about limiting or restricting my interaction with women for a period of time. Unlike abstinence or celibacy practices which to me at least are more about limiting sexual energy this isn’t the main focus of my practice. My practice is focused on shifting my relationship with the feminine more broadly and women in particular. So to exclude No Woman from the name had me feel like something was really lost.
2) It is a vision quest: My purpose is to more deeply understand myself, my relationship with women and the feminine, and to develop a deeper connection with the divine feminine.
In a traditional vision quest someone goes out into nature and limits what they consume, food and water, as well as taking on ceratin practices or even potentially substances in order to invoke clarity or resolve an open question in their heart. This is close to the intention of my practice.
I’m restricting the feminine in my life not because it’s toxic, but to understand the feminine and my relationship to the feminine more fully.
I also have a certain amount of surrender I’m bringing into this process. While I know what I’m aiming for, I continue to practice trusting the container and practice to reveal what it is I need to see and what I need to do in order to complete my quest.
In fact I’ve already seen many things that have surprised me about myself and the nature of reality. Much like a vision quest there is both a clear intention and a mysterious creating that’s happening at once.
This is why I chose the name the No Woman Vision Quest, though to be honest sometimes I still think of it as a feminine cleanse. I do think there’s something potent about the idea of washing or cleanses a part of our lives, not because the thing we’re cleansing is bad, but because it acknowledges the focus of the practice. But I also really appreciate and honor the feedback I’ve gotten. I want to honor my practice while also honoring the pain women have experienced and this name resonates with my deepest truth around these two.
So what are the rules of your cleanse? Like what does it actually mean?
There’s no right way to do a No Woman Vision Quest. I’m basing my practice off a few conversations I’ve had with teachers in my life. Specifically my former Coach Jeff Riddle, men’s work teacher John Wineland, my friend Kendra Cunov’s No Man Diet, and my friend Nicholette Routhier’s Sacred Masculine Vision Quest among others.
Here’s the container I’m using:
My cleanse will last from February 2nd (my birthday) until November 2nd. Essentially 9 months
Why this time period?
Well partly because this is what Jeff Riddle invited me to take on. There’s also something poetic about 9 months being a period of rebirth, but mostly it’s because he offered it and I vowed to take it on, and then broke it the first time around (more on that later)
The Rules or Boundaries:
No romantic or sexual contact or interaction with earthly women or the embodied feminine, while I develop and deepen my relationship with myself, the divine feminine, my inner loving parent, and all of my wild and shadowy inner children and monsters.
Specifically, my No list includes:
- No dating
- No flirting
- No engaging in relationships where polarity is apparent (even if I only feel it on my side)
- No ogling or looking at women for gratification
- No pornography
- No visual feminine or porn substitutes (attractive women on instagram, looking at girls pics on fb, watching shows specifically because they have attractive women or sexual content in them)
- No sexual contact with women
- No fantasizing about women during self-pleasure
- No holding on to any claims of women in my life (this is one I added in the midst of my cleanse)
My YES list includes:
- Getting support from men in my life (two men in particular)
- Creating specific containers of support for my vision quest
- Writing daily letters to the divine feminine
- Cultivating artistic practice (Poetry and rock painting)
- Being honest about where I break my container and recommitting
- Developing a relationship with the divine feminine
- Self pleasure practices that focus on sensation and the divine feminine
- Taking care of my body, mind, and soul
- Eating healthy food
- Developing loving-kindness towards myself
- Sitting in groundlessness
- Parenting my inner parts and shadow selves
- Trusting the container
- Keeping my heart open
- Being kind but transactional with the women I interact with
Why these rules?
This may seem like a lot of rules and that might be true. I’m not doing this perfectly. Even writing it out I see places where I’ve either cheated or pushed the boundary on many of the no’s and not fully been invested or committed to my yesses. I’m holding these boundaries both firmly and with gentleness.
Overall these are the rules that have me experience myself as more trustable.
I’ve been able to hold this container in spirit the whole time and have slowly gotten better at finding the places where there are cracks and sealing them as I go along. I’m still not perfect, I still feel tempted, I find places where I wonder if I had ulterior motives for something I did, watched, or engaged with. I continue to bring these rules to my mascualine support system and listen to feedback from my female teachers.
The point isn’t to be perfect but to keep practicing.
My What For:
I believe we’re always better off if when we have a clear what for what we’re doing.
I’ve written a longer document that more fully expresses my what for What I’m Creating (So I Remember)
But to keep things brief here’s the reason
1) To more deeply love and understand myself and all my parts. To heal my relationship with the feminine and learn to be ok with living a life alone if that’s what I decide I want to do. 2) To create the foundation for a truly deep, powerful, and transformative romantic relationship. One that creates ripple effects in the world and becomes the foundation for raising children in as loving and wise way as possible.
In some ways I’m doing this practice both for myself and for my future partner. What’s interesting to me is that the more deeply I go into this practice the more I see how these two intentions sit side by side with one another instead of being entangled in one another.
It’s not simply that I’m doing this to be more comfortable with myself so I can be better in relationship. It’s that I’m doing this to be more comfortable with myself so I can create a truthful life by myself. And in a separate space I’m doing this so I can create something incredible with a partner.
If that’s confusing I get it, because it confuses me too, and I’ve also learned to accept the paradoxes that continue to arise in this practice. They in many ways mirror the paradoxes that arise in relationships as well.
This seems kind of intense and extreme doesn’t it?
I’m not sure if this is extreme or not, but I’m not one to shy away from extreme practices. I mean I lived at a Zen monastery for over two years and we meditated four hours a day and woke up at 4 am. I’ve done triathlons and have run a marathon. Extreme to me is a matter of perspective.
There some ways in which it’s extreme and some ways in which it’s rather ordinary. Many people have talked about a period of active singlehood, or have taken monastic or religious vows around celibacy or abstinence even if it’s only in their youth. And we often practice removing things from our lives that don’t serve us.
To me it’s more extreme to just keep engaging in relationships from my old stance and way of being and hoping things will just magically get better.
I’ve certainly had moments where this practice has felt extreme or intense, but I can easily say I’ve had plenty of moments in relationships where my practice felt extreme or hard as well.
The practice to me feels aligned and balanced and I’m holding it gently which is what feels right for me.
Does this mean you can’t talk to ANY women in your life? What do you do when you do run into a woman? Do you hide your face and run away?
No, I can still talk to women. I have female clients. I lived with a woman and her partner for part of this cleanse. And I still talk to my mother.
When I interact with women I try to be transactional and be very conscious of my intent with them. In the relationships where I experience myself as not fully trustable I have chosen to step out of those relationships when possible.
Generally, I try to practice noticing the energy I’m bringing. If I say a joke is it to get a laugh or a smile? Or am I just being myself? If I say something nice is it to get some energy in return or to offer something.
This is the key for me, to be attentive to these hooks in my energy, speaking, and being. When I can I simply try to be transactional, when there’s an existing relationship I work to be as clean as possible in my interactions.
Some men may choose to be even more limited in their interactions with women on a vision quest like this, but it’s not what I’m practicing. Based on the feedback I’ve gotten from my masculine center’s of support they find me trustable in this practice and I find it gives me more opportunities to learn about my relationship with the feminine through this process.
Why can’t you just do that from dating?
This is a question I’ve gotten a lot from men (and I sort of covered this before.) I think you could do this from inside a relationship, I mean I’m not sure you could do this exact practice but you could do something like this. You could certainly do the work of healing and changing your relationship to the feminine.
And yet there’s something about truly stepping outside of something so you can see if more clearly. That’s why we cloister ourselves when we go on a Zen retreat. Not to avoid the outside world or to live permanently as a monk, but to get outside of our normal lives to bring in to stark contrast the working of our minds.
Overall I find this question a bit disingenuous from the men that ask. Behind it, I notice an unwillingness to look at why this matters and what might be available to them outside of relationship and not wanting to look at or consider letting go of this connection to women.
I have no doubt I’ll have plenty of work to do when and if I get back into relationship. So that work will still be there, but I think you’re fooling yourself if you think doing work alone can be done in relationship.
In general, I invite men (or women) to consider when the work comes to them. When this work came to me in my last relationship I did the work inside that container, but when I found myself out of relationship this work arose in a new way.
If you’re single it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to dive back into relationship (likely from your old patterns) in order to try to work on those patterns. It’s sort of like I need to go get sick so I can learn how to get healthy, or I need to go get drunk so I can learn how to get sober.
If you’re single or in an unhappy coupling really consider stepping outside of it to learn/discover what’s next.
Are you mad at women?
No I’m not mad at women. Or at least I’m not committed to being mad at women.
I admit I have frustration with the feminine, but I think that’s pretty normal. And I’m certainly not doing this because I feel fundamentally like the feminine or women have done anything wrong to me.
The process has revealed some of the hooks I have on/in women and the frustrations those hooks can sometimes cause.
One of those hooks is being nice. On some level I realized that I thought if I was nice to women, they owed me something. Love. Attention. Appreciation. Something.
And then when I didn’t get it I would get upset. Most of the time I didn’t even know I was getting upset. I just got upset or felt sad or rejected.
So in that sense, from that pattern, yes I guess I was and at times still am mad at women.
But I’m not taking this practice on because I’m mad at them or I think removing them from my life or focus will fix anything. Rather I hope that it reveals something about where I’m mad or hooky with women, so I can be less of that. Or at the very least be responsible for it.
How did you do this while also going through a break up, quarantine, running a business?
Well to be honest I’m not sure. I mean I only ever took this practice on once before and I didn’t really fully take it on last time.
So this is sort of the only context I know to do it in.
The break up did make it especially hard at first. Because I wasn’t just grieving women in general. I was grieving my partner who I loved and lived with for 3 years. I would say the first two months of the Vision Quest was mostly about dealing with that grief.
Which means it’s a bit hard to separate one from the other. And to be honest it still comes up from time to time.
My ex is an incredible woman and we hurt each other a lot in our relationship. At times I miss her terribly especially when I’m feeling super lonely. And some level of fantasy and anger arises. About her about myself and about our relationship.
It also provides some level of motivation because I don’t want to create that kind of relationship again. One where I hurt myself and someone I love so much. I think we did the best we could, for the people we were at that time in our lives and with each other. But it wasn’t always pretty.
And I’ve gotten to take a good LONG look at the part I played in that. How I created it. How I treated her. How I treated myself. That’s all been really powerful material for this process.
I think I could spend the rest of my life apologizing to her and to myself. BUt that’s true of a lot of my exes. I’ve tried to take responsibility, to make amends, to be different. And I still did what I did. I still was who I was. There’s no getting around it.
So being fresh off a break up was hard, but it also felt important because in the past I’ve just dived into the next relationship or to sleeping with someone and done more damage and I was prtetty committed to not doing that again.
As for the Quarantine, well I didn’t plan or anticipate that, no one did. It just happened.
What’s interesting is how much people think it makes this easier. And I guess I see their point. I mean sure I can’t go out and meet someone.
But in all honesty, I think it made things a lot harder.
At first, I was isolated a lot. And that meant I could hide a lot of stuff. I could jerk off to porn. I could go look at pictures on Facebook. I just had my own discipline to rely on and I was in a lot of pain. So I had to keep re-empowering my container.
Luckily I had some great guy friends I could confide in. And I used them to hold me accountable.
The grief was super hard and just when I was starting to feel better lock down happened. It sort of pushed me back into the grief and made it super hard. But again I learned a lot through the process and it helped me tighten my container and find the places I was cheating a lot faster.
But I really wouldn’t recommend it as a support for practice. Being able to be around people, especially if you’re a social person can help you stay honest and also keeps you from spinning out.
Finally for the business, I don’t think that much really changed. I run a business where I mostly work alone anyway. I mean I took more space to write, to meditate, and I started waking up earlier. I simplified things.
But the business thing I’ve had to do through a lot of emotional upheaval. I’ve learned to scale back when I have to and so this was no different.
How hard is it? It’s super hard for periods and also super easy, but overall anyone who tells you any different hasn’t really done it.
What’s weird is actually how it’s hard.
It’s not hard like training for a marathon or even starting a business, both of which I’ve done and which are pretty hard.
It’s hard in a very personal and tender way. Sort of the way meditation is hard.
You just keep running into yourself again and again. You keep finding new ways that you try to get energy from the feminine. You keep discovering new ways you drift off into fantasy.
All things to avoid being here, with yourself, with your loneliness, boredom, fear, sadness, heartbreak, and fear of death.
My former teacher John Wineland described it as a death facing practice.
And that’s pretty accurate.
Your mind has 1000 ways to run away from what’s going on. Which means you have to come up with 1001 ways to bring it back. This is a challenging practice and I’ve found myself on the ground crying for no reason, or incredibly horny and not knowing what to do about it, I’ve felt obsessed with women, I’ve thrown myself into work, I’ve felt super hopeless.
I’ve also experienced incredible joy, insights, satisfaction, and depth.
It’s worth it, but it’s also hard.
How often do you find yourself outside the rules of your cleanse?
All the time. I’d say I’ve held the major tenants with incredible integrity.
I haven’t dated, flirted, done anything sexual with women, or gotten involved in romantic relationships.
But the more subtle stuff has been harder.
I still jerked off to porn in the first month or two, but I haven’t done it since. Looking at women’s pictures on Facebook is slippery, but I’ve gotten much better. It’s hard in the world of social media not to look and to hide why you’re looking, but in general, I don’t do it and if I catch myself I stop.
Women in public I’m good with. I don’t look or linger or ogle. For some reason, that’s easier for me.
Probably the hardest thing has been no fantasizing about women. It just pops up all the time. I do my best to let it go, but it’s hard to. And I often don’t notice that I’m doing it. Or I will and I let it go and then it comes back.
I try to be gentle and I try not to invest energy into it. I focus on the sensations in my body. I remind myself their lives have nothing to do with me. It’s a practice. I’m committed to letting them go and in general I’m just a little bit more committed to that than the fantasy and that works.
The second hardest thing is not trying to get hits of energy from the feminine. It’s just insidious.
I like it when women comment on my Facebook posts, even when they like them. I could probably not look at all but it’s hard. I’ve started practicing not looking at likes, but I still read comments. Generally, I don’t get a lot of energy from them and I’ve thought about letting that go to.
I’m not trying to be perfect. I am living in the world and I am going to find places to try and get a hit of energy. I simply notice and do my best to let it go.
What do you hope to be the outcome?
My hope is that the outcome will benefit myself and all beings. That may sound grandiose but in some ways isn’t that the point of personal development work?
I do hope that if I’m lucky enough to end up in a long term relationship again that it will help me be a better partner and companion for that person as well as help me understand and respect myself more as well.
I hope it will help me be a better parent if I’m lucky enough to become one and that the patience and understanding I gain will help me guide and nurture another human life.
I hope it will help me do a better job choosing romantic partners and creating a foundation for a more solid and sustainable relationship.
I hope it will help me be a better leader in the work that I do and a better coach for my clients.
More and more though the deeper I get into this the more unclear I am about what the outcome looks like. I think at first I hoped that it would mean that I would meet my ideal partner or a partner who’s well suited to me.
I know men who have told me stories about doing this practice and having that result. But more and more I’ve learned to let go of that.
I hope to become a man beyond all considerations content in purpose and in singleness, who is loving, kind, wise, and human.
And the practice continues to be a mystery.
Anything else to say?
No, thank you for your interest in the vision quest. I’ve been happy to do it and challenged by it. And I’m glad to share my experience when possible with people who are genuinely interested.
If you’ve got any questions feel free to shoot me an email and I’m happy to answer them toku (at) unexecutive.com
This is a sacred practice and a powerful one that I think most people would benefit from taking on at some point in their lives if they can.