Are we all on a quest?

September 9, 2012

“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony

 which once existed between man and the universe.”

Anatole France

Spiritual or physical wandering brings us closer to something. Something we may not be able to define. Or prove.

I think we all are on a quest or pilgrimage. Some of us know it and some of us don’t. Some know it more deeply and more personally than others.

We all venture into the unknown. It doesn’t matter if it is a new job or a dream that is so vivid we begin to do research on it’s content. We all confront things: difficulties, anger, disappointment, pain. And we return to ourselves, home, with a new understanding of ourselves, others and the world.

Are you on a quest or a pilgrimage? Are you aware that you may be traveling along one path or the other? Or both?

Traditional thinking of a quest is a hero trying to obtain something, or someone. S/he then returns home. It may be something that fills a void in his/her life. Or perhaps it is something old that was stolen.

Sometimes the hero doesn’t want to return home and this causes it’s own set of complications. Maybe s/he cannot return. And, if the hero does return, s/he may face rejection.

Questers venture into the unknown, confront difficulties and return home with a new understanding of themselves and the world.

A few familiar stories that could be interpreted as quests: The Wizard of Oz, Lord of The Rings, and The Catcher In The Rye.

A pilgrimage is a journey or a search for something of moral or spiritual significance. Often there is a relationship to one’s spiritual or religious beliefs. Or, it could even be a metaphorical journey. Wallace and Jean Clift have even suggested that as a common human experience, the pilgrimage might be proposed as a Jungian archetype.

A pilgrimage is part trip and part ritual. It is for those seeking healing and renewal. It may be a desire to explore spiritual roots, to pay homage, to ask for forgiveness, or to find an answer to a question.

Phil Cousineau in his book The Art of  Pilgrimage writes: ” ….the outer journey reflects the inner journey. The examples range from a pilgrimage to the oldest baseball park in America, to walking the labyrinth, to the art of hiking.”

In Heaven Begins With You: Wisdom From Our Desert Fathers , Greun Anslem writes, “….(the monks) believe we can work on ourselves. We aren’t completely at the mercy of our predisposition and upbringing….”, and ” they don’t try to find excuses for themselves in an education gone wrong; they don’t put the blame for their lives on other people. They don’t feel helplessly abandoned to their desires…..they trust in a power by which we can liberate ourselves from the obstacles that might hold us back from ourselves.”

ARE we our own heroes? Aren’t we all seeking something or the answers to something? When we do return will we be the same as we were or are we changed forever? When you experience  something that creates a profound response in you, ARE you changed forever? When we do return changed, are there now new obstacle? Is there rejection, or a questioning of what we have done? Do others miss our old self?

Whether you are already on a quest or pilgrimage, or have not yet started, you have to leave “home”.  If you haven’t knowingly started, you don’t have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles. Maybe this will be an inward journey, but one where you have to leave a certain comfort and familiarity. Or chances are there is a “special” or “sacred” place near you. A place where there is some kind of history or significance. Research the history. Go there. Ask the silent questions. Sit. Experience. Are there traditions or rituals associated with this place? A prayer or a blessing, or a story? Write in your journal. Take a picture, makea sketch. Look for answers where you least expect to find them. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. You may stumble, but you will find a “gift”, or an insight to bring home with you.

Pema Chodrom wrote: “Embarking on the spiritual journey is like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands. With wholehearted practice comes inspiration, but sooner or later we will also encounter fear. For all we know, when we get to the horizon, we are going to drop off the edge of the world. Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what’s waiting out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it.”

I think we do have the courage . I think  we have the potential to be our own heroes.