Questing: The Challenge of Finding Self
Vision Quest – the search for vision through testing one’s self. There are many forms, many rules, many traditions, some referred to by the name of vision quest, journey to the soul, some by other names, and yet others with no names. The Vision Quest I participated in, last year, over Labor Day, was held in CO, in the mountains, and under the supervision of a man trained in the Lakota tradition. The quest lasted four days and three nights with no food or water, alone on a mountain, praying for the vision, or until each quester felt “complete”. The preparations began almost a year previous, consisting of meditations, prayers, gathering of gifts, making prayer ties, prayer flags, all to get ready for the time on the hill.
When on site, further preparations consisted of gathering sage and cedar boughs for marking each person’s space. I was one in a group of 17, and we all were surrounded with our supporters, as well as other leaders, past questors, and others who were there for prayers and guidance. Much thought and prayer goes into each quest, and only those who are called to do so take up the challenge.
Other quests or soul journeys exist in a myriad of ways. Some religions feature retreats, silent or not, away from family or friends, encouraging prayer and meditation as a person seeks out answers. It may be a “test” to search deeper inside. It may be a challenge to clarify one’s purpose in life. It may just be an opportunity to experience oneself on a deeper soul level. Churches have sanctuaries or places available to spend days, weeks, or months soul searching, going within, connecting with self on a deeper level. A quest can simply be a retreat, away from people, from noise, a time of solitude and prayer, to go within.
For some, a quest may be a solitary hiking experience, as in Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. She felt broken and lost, so planned a trip hiking more than a 1000 miles, 3 months, by herself, using the experience to find and heal herself. (Strayed, 2013) She wrote during the journey and the writing became her book, then made into a movie. People may choose various ways to test themselves, to remove themselves from the busy-ness of life, to allow for greater introspection.
For some, the quest might be a solo sailboat expedition, rock climbing, or a canoe trip down wilderness rivers. The quest might just be renting a cabin in the mountains and writing or enjoying nature, or just sitting in meditation. It might be a trip to a ruins, reconnecting with ancestral spirit. It might be just tests of bravery, accepting new challenges that push people to new heights.
Others have created ways to “quest”, to search out one’s truth, or even to return to one’s self. In our busy lives, we can get distracted, lose sight of what is important, or even harden our hearts. With a quest, time is created to return to self, to really love and nurture self, to connect and get in contact with the deepest part: the part we may have shunned or turned away from. We are often hard on ourselves, expecting more from ourselves than we expect of others. We often can set ourselves up for failure, especially if the expectation is of perfection. In a quest, we can return to a greater love of self, an opening to self-forgiveness and self-acceptance.
Not all are called to do a month-long silent retreat or a four day quest without food and water, but I do think that most of us reach a point in our lives where we create some sort of “quest”, some challenge to reconnect with ourselves on a deeper level. When we stop trying to please others, we can take the time to look inside, re-discover the beauty in our hearts, recommit to accepting ourselves as we are, really embracing the special person inside.
In my work, I often see people at the beginning of that search, tired and disillusioned, questioning their purpose, wanting more, ready to discover once again the beauty within. The search often begins with silent prayer, or meditation, honoring the voice within. The first step of any quest begins with the act of loving self enough to move forward, in whatever way that looks like, being open and welcoming, even asking for some guidance, ultimately embracing the courage to take that first step, which is glorious in itself.
Strayed, Cheryl. Wild: from lost to found on the Pacific Crest trail. (2013) Random House, NY, NY.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
Licensed Professional Counselor
Advanced Clinical HypnoTherapist
- Deb England began working part-time for Wholeness Healing Center in September 2004 and began full-time in May 2005. Deb practices primarily in the Broken Bow office and one day a week in the Grand Island office. Previously she had completed her practicum and internship at Morning Star Alliance, working in the Broken Bow and Grand Island offices.
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