Thursday, January 25, 2007

another visionquest

Originally written for the USC Triathlon Newsletter 01-26-07:

Training is ramping up, and by now you have probably begun to wonder just what in the world you are doing, and just what in the world you have taken on, and just why in the world are you doing what you are doing.

Ah yes. Who am I? What am I doing? Why am I here? The classic existential questions that have permeated the spirit of humanity since its primordial awakening of consciousness out of the great void of cosmic existence.

Never fear. You are not alone. And never have been.

The Native Americans of the Great Plains--the Lakota Sioux most notable among them--had a name for the phenomenon you are experiencing. The labeled it one of the 7 sacred rites every person must go through at least once in their lives. In the Lakota language they called it hanblecheyapi, or in English, visionquest.

In the visionquest a person subjected themselves to great physical trials--for the Lakota, this meant 4 days in a circle without food or sleep and just 1 flask of water. The trials were designed to induce them into a deeply reflective state, wherein they were forced to look inward, abandoning all reference to the things they knew or the world around them. The point was to reach a state in which the perception of existence was reduced to the most basic, most fundamental, and most profound components of life and human perception of life. It was in this state that the Native Americans believed that a person would become receptive to the truths of the universe, and better understand themselves, their relationship with the whole of creation, and what it was that they were meant to do.

For the tribes of the Great Plains, the visionquest was of paramount importance to human life. Because they believed in something that so many in the modern world seemed to have forgotten in the chaos of bills and paychecks and deadlines and demands: we must all have a vision in our lives.

A vision of what it is that we should be. A vision of what we should do. A vision of why it means what to us it means. So that we can become something more than what we are. So that we can begin to live the way we were meant to live. Because otherwise we are nothing more than just animals. Because otherwise we're not human.

Without a vision, there is no direction, and without direction, we are lost.

And that is why you are here.

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