There is a ripple effect. When one person gains a firmer footing in their life’s purpose, the uplifting effect echoes through whatever they are a part of, including a company.
It goes beyond the company, into the lives of clients and coworkers, their businesses and goals, and into their personal lives. Then beyond that, into local communities. And beyond that...
The more people strengthening themselves, the louder the resonance.
We strive to make CoLab a place where each team member is supported in their path of personal and spiritual development, whatever that means to them. It is written in our core values and is the underpinning for our mission to make the world better. When our team member Joshua shared news of his upcoming departure for a vision quest, we were happy to support and grateful to know our collaborators took such deep interest in personal growth. So much so that one of our co-owners (we’re a coop), Rylan, followed Joshua in personal support. We were all so moved by this event, we asked Josh to share a little bit about his experience. We’d like to share it with you too.
What is a Vision Quest?
Joshua: A vision quest is an ancient rite-of-passage ceremony that has been practiced all over the world by many different cultures. Under the guidance of a medicine man or woman, the initiate goes into the wilderness and spends one to four days and nights alone fasting and praying.
My vision quest involved a fast that excluded food or water for three days and nights. I kept a fire going the whole time, without letting it go out until I walked off the mountain. It also involved carrying a sacred pipe about the length of my forearm; I was challenged to carry the heavy pipe during the three days without letting it touch the ground, even while sleeping.
Why did you go?
Joshua: On a personal level, I went because I was struggling with frustration and dissatisfaction and had a strong intuition that this ceremony could help me although I didn’t know exactly how. All I knew is that wanted to connect deeply with Nature, myself, and God, and that this was my way to do it. I think everyone has their own inner work to do in order to be happy and grow into the kind of person they want to be. I consider initiation ceremonies like the vision quest to be vital to this process.
The vision quest ceremony strips everything away — comforts, habits, opinions — and leaves you with nothing but your basic nature. This is something people in our culture often avoid, but I think it’s absolutely vital to mental and emotional health. Nature and the elements have a beautiful way of putting you in touch with what is universally human as well as forcing you to really evaluate what truly matters in life. I learned a lot about myself through undergoing the trial, and I’ve noticed the more I understand myself, the better my life becomes.
Can you tell me a little bit about what you learned?
Joshua: At a certain point in the ceremony, I was able to experience a sense of peace and awareness that was greater than thought. My mind wanted to understand it, reduce it to ideas or concepts, until I had a realization that this simply could not be done. I could not experience the sense of peace and aliveness that I was looking for through thinking. For so long I had been looking for peace, unconsciously thinking that if I just did the right thing or thought the right way, then I would find it. Now I know that as long as I pursue it that way, it will elude me.
How does an experience like this contribute to your professional success?
Joshua: For me, this was an experience of deep self-reliance. I was accountable for everything that happened during those three days. I often encountered frustration at not being able to ask someone for help. It was like there was a child inside me that felt cheated because no one told him how to make a fire, and there was no one else to do it for him. I couldn’t pull out my phone to Google how to keep the fire going. Ultimately this was empowering, strengthening my confidence and teaching me about accountability.
In a professional context, there is a huge benefit to pursuing your work with a strong sense of confidence, personal purpose, and accountability. Advocating for something that matters to you while not expecting anyone else to do it for you is a powerful combination. The people around you will feel it, and trust follows.
In business, good cooperation requires a balance of humility and assertiveness. Accept the things you can’t change, but pursue change in the spaces where need and ability meet. I learned this balance on the mountain. There is a lot of humility needed to get through that ceremony, so many forces one must surrender to: hunger, thirst, and weather to name just a few. And yet, there were those things that I could, and had to, effect. I had to gather firewood, tend the fire, stay warm, hold the pipe. I struck the balance on the mountain, and now I try to strike it everyday at my desk.
Will you reflect on what it meant to have a co-worker there supporting you?
Joshua: I am immensely grateful to Rylan. His presence showed me that I work with people who are honestly invested in walking their talk. I’ve always longed to work somewhere where I would be embraced as a whole person and seen for myself rather than a role, a list of tasks, or a job description. The support I received through this experience has shown me that I am not only seen at CoLab, but embraced and deeply supported by both my colleagues and clients.
There are plenty of people who will support you when it’s easy or when they get some benefit, but as we all know it’s when someone is asked to do something difficult for you that you learn who’s really interested in your well-being. I know that this was an immense effort for Rylan, a man with so much family and professional responsibility. He drove 6 hours each way, spent days away from his family, gracefully accepted the trials along the way (a flat tire and a GPS that took him to the wrong location, for instance). He did all that to do hard labor: gathering wood, tending a bonfire that needed to be kept going all the time I was on the mountain, and participating in intense sweat lodges all because he believed in the value of what I was doing. This experience drove home the fact that I’m working for an organization where the people have a deep spiritual grounding; most people that I have met and worked with don’t value these kinds of experiences so highly. Rylan’s action was more than that of a co-worker. It was something that family would do, and I would do the same for him.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do something like this?
Joshua: The best advice that I could give to anyone who was going to undertake something like this is: do it for yourself. Vision quests, retreats, self-inquiry are not things that you ever do for anybody else. It’s not a check-mark on a resume. It’s not something to brag to your friends about later. It’s a deeply personal thing, and should be approached that way. That’s the only way you’re ever going to get what you want out of it.