Last summer, I started learning more about indigenous cultures and some of the rites of passage that they went through to help guide them into different points of their life. I realized through these teachings that our current culture and society does not promote or support conscious "rites of passage". Being the curious person that I am, I decided to experience one for myself. I signed up for a "vision quest" run by a well-established and respected group called the Animas Valley Foundation.
For the quest, I spent the majority of two weeks up at 12,000 feet on a mountain in southern Colorado with a group of 12 people and a few guides. Towards the end of our time up there, we all split up and found a small location to stay in for three days and three nights completely by ourselves. We each had a tarp for shelter, the clothes on our back and water. That was it. No food. No distractions.
I basically sat around for three days by myself out in the wild. There was nothing to do, but all the time in the world to just be and listen. This is something that we rarely give ourselves the space to do in our crazy, frenetic lives. There were times when it felt like the most amazing experience of my life and others that it felt like torture.
Trust me...I know you are probably thinking that I am out of my mind for signing up for this! But, I had a few real important goals in going through this experience. My first intention in going on this trip was to find out what is really important to me in life. When I was out in nature with nothing, it seemed to break it down quite easily for me. My other intention was to find out what I really wanted to do with my life and I was lucky to realize some answers.
Ironically, the most important thing that I realized from this trip was that my main purpose in life is to learn how athletics can be a rite of passage for our youth, high school and college aged players and share those findings with others. In fact, one of the first things that I did when I got back from my quest was to start this blog.
The reason that rites of passage are important is that they help usher us from one stage in life to the next. They allow us to view our different stages in life as equally important and allow us to grow and learn in a healthy manner, so we are prepared for our next stage in life.
So, in the case of this blog and audience, athletics are an important rite of passage for boys because they can teach them how to become mature, healthy, conscious and productive young men. This is so much more important than winning any championship or trophy and is so much more exciting!
If you are curious in learning more about rites of passage and different stages in life, there is a great book by Bill Plotkin entitled "Nature and the Human Soul", which you can find on Amazon. I will be writing more in the next year about the different traits that I believe can be learned through athletics when we utilize them as a rite of passage. I introduced 12 character traits in an Inside Lacrosse article that I wrote last spring called "Modern Day Warrior Training".
Finally, this week on our TIER podcast, John Davie and I talk about this topic, my experience with rites of passage and how we can start to frame athletics in a new way.