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.