Spirituality & Theology, Society & Culture

Going Inside, Through the Outdoors

By Kate Starr, Director of Adult Programs –

A Spirit Quest has been described as a forced march through a rocky canyon so narrow, you can’t take your baggage with you. It takes great courage, because it involves great risk – sometimes even a – at least perceived – brush with death, for only then do we discover within us what is beyond our self-described limitations.

           Ancient cultures created this spiritual practice as a rite of passage to initiate boys into men, girls into women. As part of these rituals, youth were sent out into the wilderness to look within, to discover who they are and what they are meant to be. Guided by elders who had participated in the same custom, these traditional ceremonies marked the death of an old life, movement through the unknown, and a return to the world reborn.

            During my decade-long tenure as youth director, I created two similar rites of passage that still bookend the youth program today – a VisionqUUest Campout during the Coming of Age Program, and a high adventure SpiritqUUest for seniors.

            And if I heard once, I heard dozens of times, “Why don’t the adults get to do these things?” After all, developmental phases don’t end at 15 or 18 or 21 or even 25. We are all constantly growing, learning, evolving, dying to old ways of life, moving through the unknown, and being reborn.

            So this year over Halloween weekend, Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 2015 several intrepid adults will take their masks off and doing something really scary – become the inaugural class for the Adult SpiritqUUest.

This is a spiritual journey chock full of spiritual practices – from sunrise and sunset solo journaling, to fireside worships, and from communing with nature to communal living.

 Our SpiritqUUest will enhance our awareness the impermanence of life. Certainly climbing a rock face, descending on a rope into the bowels of the earth, or riding a 1,000 pound horse can get us out of our comfort zones and remind us of the precariousness of our lives. But it is the thousands of tiny, everyday deaths – the end of a relationship, a change in career, loss of perceived power and position, aging – that is the focus of these adventures.

We are always on a journey from the known through the unknown and back to the known. And sometimes the awareness is more acute than at other times. Throughout our long lives, if we’re lucky, we will have many opportunities to face our fears and continue to move forward in life. We will have many opportunities to learn to let go of what’s comfortable and familiar to evolve and grow.

Let this ancient ritual help teach us to die to our old ways so we can be free to live anew.

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