Discovering Your Path- Vision Quest

I happen to be one of those people that believe we are all here for a reason.  I regularly ask myself the question, “How can I best use my unique gifts and talents to make a meaningful difference in the world?”  I’m not only interested in this topic at a personal level, but as a systems worker I’m intrigued with how to support others in discovering their own life’s passion.  Now, I’m aware that not everyone has this same interest, and some of you may find it odd to know the lengths one goes to ensure they are on the right path, and at a fast enough clip to fulfill their destiny.  I know some would be appalled at the number of certifications, assessments, workshops, and books that I have devoured on this topic.  I’m aware some think I’m obsessed; I’ve experienced the “look” first hand.  I have friends that roll their eyes when I tell them about my next adventure on this never ending search for greater understanding.  I take solace in knowing that I’m not alone in my vigorous pursuit for meaning.  I recently read, The Hero’s Journey where Campbell says, “find your life’s true passion and follow it, follow the path that is not a path.”  We’ve heard this theme in Emerson’s The Road Less Traveled.  Both allude to finding your way by living a life that is based on who you are and what you love most.  The challenge for me is slowing down in the midst of this frantic pace, to make sure I don’t get lost among the weeds or tripped up on the rocks that litter the unmarked trail.  So recently, I decided to embark on a new adventure in self-discovery by exploring the ancient ritual known as a Vision Quest.

Discovering Your Path

Vision Quests have long been practiced as a right of passage in Native American cultures.  In part, it is symbolic of stepping into a new and bigger place in your life.  I have felt for some time that I have been on the threshold of taking my life’s work to the next level.  Toward that end, I have spent months reworking the company’s business plan and contemplating Xponents’ Values, Vision, Purpose, and Mission.  As a result of that focus, new creativity has pointed me in some interesting new directions related to product and service offerings.  The more I focused on the concept of a bigger vision, the more I knew I wanted to take this next step very seriously.  I began to wonder what would need to be different in me as a leader to make the next leap.  So two months ago, I signed up for an eight-day back country Quest in Death Valley, California.  Ten of us, each with thirty-five pounds of gear on our backs, would trek in to the desert seeking a new vision.  At the center of the week would be 3 days of isolation, fasting only on water and nature’s wonder.  In preparation, it was recommended that a Day Walk be completed one month in advance of the actual Quest.  This Day Walk would be a symbolic beginning of the Quest.  I was to leave before dawn, alone, and spend the day in nature with only water for nourishment.  I was supposed to wander, to follow nature’s lead.  I headed to a place called Golden Gate Canyon, about forty minutes into the mountains, and felt I was headed to exactly the right place.

I have to preface this by saying while I love the outdoors, I have never hiked alone in the wilderness and it felt a bit odd arriving at the visitor center as the sun was coming up, with not another soul in sight.  I drove down the canyon and pulled off in the parking area of one of the main trail heads.  As I got out of my car, I realized I had never felt so out of my element.  What gripped me was a fear beyond what I can describe.  My legs felt wobbly, and every nerve in my body seemed alive and alert.  I told myself that if I just got started on my way I would feel better, more relaxed.  I poked around a bit, got out my gear, took a drink from my water bottle, and still I could not overcome my intense fear.  I thought to myself, how will I spend three days alone in the wilderness if I can’t even move away from the car?  Finally, I put everything back in the car and headed back down the canyon.  As I drove through the park, I found a small lake and pulled in to watch the mist rising off the water.  I took out my journal to write a bit, and noticed a parking area on the other side of the lake that hosted a few vehicles.  Curiosity got the best of me, and I drove over to explore what was there, and found a road that led to many hiking trails that meandered down the canyon.  I parked near picnic tables and trails heading out in all directions.  It felt perfect.  I spent the day hanging out with me and highly recommend it, even if you aren’t planning a Vision Quest.

What stood out most from that day is how seldom I find the time to just be me, and how much I enjoyed it.  There was no one to talk to, nothing to do. I allowed myself the freedom to wander where the spirit moved me and to let my intuition be my guide.  I sat on a log near where deer or elk had recently bed down, and then about a half mile up the trail saw where they had stopped to drink where the stream ran quickly and clearly.  Golden aspen leaves called to me in the wind, and I was delighted to discover they speak in a way that is distinctly theirs.  I followed an overgrown path to a meadow where an uprooted dragon-stump guarded the entrance to an enchanted grove. I gathered treasures: fall leaves, rocks, and pine cones.  I climbed onto a rock and sat with the sun on my face and felt a peace I could not recall. I recognized that when I let my fears win, I lose.

How many times have I pulled back, rather than stepped forward?  What price have I paid for those choices?  What lost moments of magic have slipped through fingers clasped too tightly in fear?  And so, tomorrow my next great adventure begins.  I will remember the great lesson of the Day Walk, and how fear is the door to a new horizon.  I’m off to follow the path where there is none.  I give thanks for this rainbow hued road I travel on the way to discovering my place in the world.