This marks the beginning of my 30th year leading vision quests. During this time, I’ve witnessed remarkable changes in many people. But beyond the particular individuals, I’ve seen how life and lives can be transformed by a sense of purpose and direction… transformed in ways that can seem almost unimaginable, ways that can make all the difference in the world.
Purpose: Do you feel like you have a sense of purpose? Studies at Dominican University, Virginia Tech report 80% of Americans don’t have a purpose or goals, yet virtually all the research about success and satisfaction in life shows the importance of – in small ways and large — having a sense of direction. Purpose is a core theme in the vision quest work I’ve done for three decades,
It’s easy to forget that – not the way it is. Modern physics will tell you quite clearly . The world we perceive results from the attention we give it, the lens we view it through. Having direction and purpose – an internally-generated order of values and commitments — provides a lens that can remain constant through the shifting winds and fads of the day. To the extent this focus is there, the odds of being fueled rather than extinguished by the approaching storms becomes much greater.
Imagine there’s a board 6-8 inches wide lying on the ground. You stand on one end of the board. At the other end, about 50 feet away, sits a $100 bill, and you’re told that if you can walk the length of that board without stepping off into the grass, you can have the $100. Almost everyone reading this could do it easily. But now the piece of lumber is raised up, suspended 100 feet in the air, and you are given the same challenge or task. What happens? Most will lose balance, start shaking, and pin-wheel off the board because .
On the ground the concern was almost wholly on that $100, but now we think, “What if I fall?” and imagine the pain and broken limbs. Energy flows where attention goes… and now the attention, the focus, has been moved to the fall, pain, and danger. It’s no longer on the goal. As we think about approaching times and challenges in our lives — relationships, work situations, the political climate – where do we want our focus to be? Seeing the source of our problems – and therefore the solutions – as “out there,” and needing external circumstances or other people to change, takes the focus off work we can and need to do, right here and right now.
In a Harvard experiment in the 1950’s, rats were put into high-sided buckets that contained swirling water to see how long they could swim. (PS: I don’t like animal testing either) On average, a rat would swim for 15 minutes before it gave up and succumbed. Then, right before drowning, some rats were rescued, dried off, and given a short rest before being placed back into the bucket… where they proceeded to swim for an average of 60 hours!!
Looking at the stars in the night sky – two to three thousand on a clear night – the stars are facts. They exist outside us and can’t be changed. But the constellations we see are created by our imaginations — no lines connect the dots — and therefore somewhat arbitrary. Whether we see a sleek ocean vessel, Daffy Duck, or Darth Vader has to do with and not the sky. The same is true with the state of the world. The “facts,” like stars in the sky,are numerous enough to create many pictures, pictures that could be described as depressing, an exciting challenge, or totally irrelevant to our lives. The lens we are looking through will define our “reality,” and be crucial in terms of how we respond to whatever we’re observing.
For 30 years I’ve been privileged to guide and witness people who’ve chosen to do something difficult, going without food, distractions, and human interactions for four days and nights while plumbing the depths of their joys and sorrows. I’ve regularly witnessed the resulting fire and passion when people claim their gifts, authentic voice, and purpose.
Sparrow Hart — January 16, 2017
For a post on a closely-related theme, click on the link, “Ancient Wisdom for Our Current Crisis” below.
For an examination of many and more of these themes as they apply to cultural healing, see Letters to the River: A Guide to a Dream Worth Living….