Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Art of Questing

Each of us is on a quest in life seeking or searching for something we want. It may be a change in our circumstances – or it could be something we want to add to our life. Our quest from time to time can be for something material or it can be that intangible or essence we sense is missing within. There is also the quest seeking our spiritual self. The following is what I have learned and experienced. We are each different and to compare our successes, our lives, or our accomplishments to another is an obstacle to finding out what we are and the reason for our quest.

Shakespeare, in his play As You Like It, wrote All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; and one man (woman) in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.

The stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are about one or more knights going on a quest for the Holy Grail. These are of legend, and what was the Holy Grail they were seeking?

In 1937, Hal Foster at the request of Randolph Hearst created Prince Valiant, a syndicated adventure strip. This is set in the days of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and this adventure strip is still in existence today with the good having virtues and the bad having flaws.

There is also the story of Don Quixote, a supposedly comedy/satire by Miguel Cervantes. It speaks to many people—each with her or his own interpretation and sadly, there are those who think Don Quixote was mentally ill or insane. However, most of society thinks that when one thinks or behaves in a different way than what is socially accepted or not acceptable to family members that they are weird.

We also have a method of the American Indians called the Vision Quest where the quester goes out into the wilderness and contemplates for days until a vision is received and the quester is seeking spiritual empowerment and a guardian spirit in most cases.

A quest can be for a myriad of things. For many the first stages are to seek a satisfying relationship with a member of the opposite sex and in some cases, it is with one of the same sex. This relationship may be exactly what the quester has been seeking and for those who finds that their relationship has soured, they continue with their quest to seek another who will fulfill his or her needs. On the other hand, one can remain in an unhappy relationship that becomes bitter and play the role of the victim.

Others seek material things and think that all they need is a new house, a new car, a new wardrobe, a facelift or a nose job and perhaps a new job. There may come a time when the house is old or too small and there must be a new house. The same goes for an automobile and the wardrobe. The facelift or nose job may make the individual feel better about her or his looks, but it does not satisfy that unnamed need within and dissatisfaction sets in. The new job may be just great in the beginning and again it may not be. This is not to say that these are bad things. These could all be steps in questing. Nicholas Roerich, a famous artist and writer in the early part of the last century – 1924-1925, went to India, Tibet and the Himalayas and had this to say in his book Altai Mountain, Himalaya - Every obstacle must be the birth of possibilities.

There is the side effect and that is one can become anesthetized with television, entertainment, sports and other sidelines and the handicap is that one forgets to quest unless it is for material things.

There is another form of questing and this is alchemy, which comes from the Arabian phrase al-kima and its origin from the Egyptian Coptic kehm. There are many forms of alchemy, one being turning base metals into gold. There is also the alchemy of Nature that changes a seed into a plant or a tree. The alchemy I am writing about is the alchemy of the human mind. Physically we change over the years as we physically grow. Our maturation is nourished by our thoughts, our beliefs, our words and our actions.

In the alchemy of changing base lead into gold, there are stages. Books and stories are about this and there have been seekers over the hundreds of years who have strived to interpret the alchemical texts to change lead into gold – a metal. There are supposedly seven stages such as lead, iron, tin, mercury as well as sulfur, copper, silver and finally gold.

However, there is also another form of alchemy and this is what I am writing about. I can only share my experiences and my knowledge. Everything is according to interpretation and what I am writing about is personal transformation or personal evolution.

Most of us do not know what we are questing for. We only know there is a dissatisfaction or a longing for something unseen and unknown. For me it began with a prickle--a sense that there had to be more to life than what I was experiencing. It was very subtle in one sense. When I was forty a thought flitted through my mind, by the time you are fifty your life will be changed. Frankly, I did not know what that meant and let it go. Off and on for the next ten years, the thought would return and I still did not know what it meant.

My mother died in 1976 and when I reflected on her life, I came to my realization that her life appeared to be unfulfilled and I did not want my life to be that way. My children were of the age where they were leaving home and some would say I was experiencing the ‘empty nest’ syndrome. Perhaps, however there was a yearning within me to have more satisfaction with life. I was married and had a well-paying job, lived in a beautiful house and drove a late model automobile. My relationship with my husband was one of superficiality because there was no depth. There had never been any real communication on a deep personal level.

I began searching for some meaning to my life. A friend loaned me a book that talked about the intimacy of a relationship and it moved me tremendously. It was a Friday evening and I attempted to share with my husband the yearning I had for intimacy that we had never shared. He looked at me and asked, “Do you want a divorce?” I immediately said, “Yes” and that was the end of that marriage. This was my unexpected propulsion. When we parted, I never looked back.

The prickle followed by the propulsion was the beginning of my Quest for personal transformation although I did not call it at that time. I only knew that I felt propelled to seek something more in my life. I was seeking and questioning.

My childhood had been one being at the mercy of a verbally and psychological abusive father and a mother who also was the subject of his abuse. In retrospect, I learned something very important and that was to pretend. Pretend can be two sides of a coin. On the one side, we put forth a face that everything is just peaches and cream when beneath the veneer the foundation is of another sort.

The other side of pretend is what some people call a dream. This can lead to some wonderful changes in our lives. As a small little girl I played the make-believe game with others, which was actually pretending to be someone other than who I was. The idea of traveling the world began a dream. I began pouring over travel brochures while dreaming I was traveling. I call this practice. The next step utilized patience. I did not begin thinking that it would never happen and soon the dream slipped into a subconscious state and germinated. When I was age 23, a chance reading of a small article in a newspaper stating there were recruiters for the U.S. State Department interviewing for clerical help in the Foreign Service. Those selected would work in embassies and consulates around the world. This was an opportunity and I grabbed it. I went to work in the Foreign Service branch of the U.S. State Department and my first posting was the embassy in Paris followed by the embassy in Tokyo.

This was a major change for me and I accepted it wholeheartedly. Being born in Texas and growing up there during the time of segregation, I experienced that along with the bigotry and prejudice of my father. When I left Texas, I was what one might call a greenhorn and very naïve. Paris was my uncommon education and gave me the beginnings of my quest.

Shakespeare wrote that the world is a stage and we are the players on it. In our questing, we have choices. We can never change, or we can quest to seek something unknown. We may play many different roles. I have been a college student, a code clerk, a wife, mother, government worker, holistic center program director, minister and now a writer-author. From each of these roles, I gained experience and wisdom.

What I have learned about the art of questing is first there must be a propulsion—an urge or a dream to have or to experience something. The second stage is to pretend—plan--some call this 'make-believe.' The third stage is to live life with passion and not to let go of one's plan or dream. It may sit in the back of the closet of our mind and that is okay because it is incubating. The fourth stage is to persist in doing what you enjoy and the fifth stage is to participate in whatever brings you happiness. The sixth stage is to never give up. It is to have patience. The seventh stage is the manifestation of the dream and gives praise or gratitude. What happens after we have moved through the seven stages of questing? Begin another quest. It is a never-ending journey.

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