By Alex Stitt, MS
The journey both to and through Pacific Quest is exactly that, a quest. A quest is a very specific journey. It’s a Hero’s Journey, and like so many hero’s journeys the adventure is so often the reward. As always, our intrepid explorer sets out on a mission to find an elixir of healing, the magic sword of power, or the ruby slippers home, only to discover that the yellow brick road was far more valuable. This is the true nature of a quest. In searching for something more than ourselves we find something that was always present: our true self.
Step 1 in the Hero’s Journey
The first step in the Hero’s Journey is The Call: That sense of beginning, of summoning, of need for change. In addictive behavior cycles, The Call is akin to the pre-contemplation and contemplation phase, where one begins to realize the story has already begun. The second step is The Refusal of the Call, that humbled, intimidated, reactionary rejection that says: “Oh! Not me! Not I!”
And that is where Pacific Quest begins.
As a horticultural therapy program, Pacific Quest uses mindfulness to connect its students with the world around them. After living in a literally growing environment, tending everything from lilikoi to self esteem, from purple sweet potatoes to self acceptance, the students enter a contemplative period wherein the students write and reflect on their life story, recounting their journey thus far. This is a crucial step, for while our story remains the same, the way we tell it will always change.
As the students progress through the program, they enter into a Rites of Passage phase called Huli Ka’e. During this time the students develop both a deeper understanding of self, and an intent statement claiming that which they have always known themselves to be.
A Transformational Hero’s Journey
Pacific Quest provides a beginning, middle, and end to one cycle of a transformational hero’s journey that is part of a much longer life story. The implementation of mindful self-awareness; connectivity to self, to others, and to the larger natural world; the identification and acceptance of core values; and the very comprehension of life as an exploration and not a goal, changes the narrative. We may begin as the lost innocent, or the victim, or the orphan, but we do not end there.
Over my years at Pacific Quest, as both a guide and a support therapist, I have personally witnessed several hundred young people answer the call. Stories told with shaky voices are retold, the content just the same, the tale just as harrowing, but this time? I hear thrive over survive, I hear passion over anger, and I hear courage— not as the absence of fear— but as the steps taken and the words uttered when we are most afraid.
Joseph Campbell, in The Hero’s Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life & Work, states:
“The ego is as you think of yourself. You in relation to all the commitments of your life, as you understand them. The self is the whole range of possibilities that you’ve never even thought of.”
It is a privilege to witness the authentic self revealed through the Hero’s Journey at Pacific Quest and the endless possibilities that flow from this experience.