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November 10, 2017

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Metamorphosis and Transformation

By: Danielle Zandbergen, Therapist

“If the fires that burn innately inside our youths are not intentionally and lovingly added to the hearth of community, the youth will burn down the structures of the culture, just to feel the warmth.”

-Michael Meade

Before transitioning into the clinical team as a primary therapist, I began my journey at Pacific Quest as a program guide. I worked many weeks in the rite of passage portion of the program, Huli Ka’e, where our students step into a “threshold” experience and begin to “end their old story” and “begin stepping into the new story.” I’ve always viewed this phase similar to a metamorphosis or transformation that we often see in nature.

PQ_therapist

Danielle Zandbergen, MA

During one of my shifts in Huli Ka’e, I was working in the plant nursery with a student.While we were planting seeds together, we both noticed a cocoon on one of our growing papaya trees. We then began to bear witness to the cocoon cracking and opening up to a new life, as we watched the once known caterpillar morph into a beautiful monarch butterfly. As the student and I watched in awe, there was an intense emotion that welled up between us, to the point where we looked at one another silently and began to smile and cry at the sight of this rarely seen transformation. In so many ways, it was much like a student’s experience when participating in a rite of passage.

In grade school I remember learning about metamorphosis through the lens of a physical transformation many animals experience, where a caterpillar hatches from larva, then stuffs itself with leaves, grows plump and through a series of molts sheds its own skin. The caterpillar stops eating, hangs from a twig or leaf and spins a silky cocoon around itself and sometimes molts into a shiny chrysalis. It is then that the caterpillar experiences a radical transformation and eventually emerges as a butterfly. Tadpoles go through a similar transformation, where an egg mass is laid, cells grow into a tadpole, and the organism lives completely underwater, while a hormone in the tadpole’s thyroid gland initiates their metamorphosis.  Then the tadpole develops into a frog, and all the organs and physical features transform in order for it to live outside of the water and learns how to adapt to a completely new environment.

Metamorphosis in the natural world is very much like the transformation our students experience as they embark on their own Rite of Passage, and in the grand scheme of things, what many of us experience throughout our lifetime. At Pacific Quest, we set the stage for a meaningful and transformative rite of passage that many teenagers never fully experience in their lives. Often named “liminality,” the threshold experience is paramount to the rite of passage and in a lot of ways, a student’s experience at Pacific Quest is seen as a “liminal” or threshold event. Liminality may involve a significant challenge, ambiguous features and sometimes disorientation between the “old and the new.” This often looks like a pattern that is no longer serving the individual, thus inducing a need to “sever from” and begin a transition into something new in order to get those needs met, or adapt to a new way of living.

Our students often “stand at the threshold,” between the two worlds, in which we hold ceremony and ritual spaces to represent severance and incorporation. However, oftentimes a student needs to fully sever from certain behaviors, thought patterns or addictions in order to step into their new intention. Without this significant threshold experience, many teenagers and young adults seek various alternatives to mark this transition. Some resort to substances, buy lottery tickets or cigarettes, some engage in sexual activity, where some may engage in all of the above in order to feel as if they are stepping into their adulthood, but may not engage in the important ceremony and ritual that creates a meaningful experience for their transition.

Although at first glance it may seem that these are unhealthy manifestations of a mental health issue, and subsequently may lead to even more unhealthy choices, there is also an element to these behaviors and choices that represent a child’s search for that threshold; signifying meaning and purpose in their lives. Our society tends to hold a lot of weight (and responsibility) over “ages,” such as turning 16 and being able to drive legally, or 18 when one is expected to move out, get a job, and continue college. Although all of these represent a form of rite of passage, over time they have come to be an expectation that has negated the entire meaning behind ceremony, ritual and celebration that is so much a part of a rite of passage.

One of our goals as a program is to facilitate and provide this experience to our adolescents and young adults. One of my goals as a therapist, guide, role model and caregiver, is to help our students find meaning in their life and recognize that what they are worth is only as much as they value themselves and their experiences in life. It is all of our jobs to celebrate these important marks of transition and develop intentional and positive ceremony around reaching these important life stages so the legacy can continue on.

July 27, 2017

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Family + Rites of Passage: A Unified Approach

By: Mike McGee, BS
Family Program Manager

For anyone who has participated in a Rites of Passage experience, structured or otherwise, one of the toughest tasks is explaining the significance to loved ones. The feeling of transformation or the significance of a falling leaf or animal encounter can be easily lost in translation. For students in wilderness therapy, the lack of words to express the significance can be frustrating. Having a Rites of Passage experience that includes an examination of the family unit and the family system itself allows for shared language, experience, and growth.

Rites of Passage at PQ

At Pacific Quest, our Family Program is an extension of our Rites of Passage experience. By examining our families through the lens of the Four Shields Model (an approach overviewed below), we are able to see the value and viewpoints of each phase of life. The Four Shields Model examines the joys and naiveté of childhood in the south shield, the identity formation and differentiation of adolescence in the west, the responsibility and drive found in adulthood in the north, and the simplicity and wisdom found in elder-hood in the east. Without a holistic view of the human experience, adolescent Rites of Passage can end up an extension of the unintended selfishness of childhood. And the true intent of a Rite of Passage is to not only benefit the individual but the community at large as well.

This is not just work for the adolescent. Our society often fails to see the value of viewpoints from our children, adolescents, and elders. Who hasn’t been moved by the joy and honesty found in children? Our music and art stems from the passion and pain found in our teenage years or the wisdom and strength of an elder who can listen and share from a place of experience. When we, as adults, fail to see the value of knowledge from the entirety of human existence, we can fall into the trap of monotony, money, and the mundane. One of my teachers shared that our primary purpose of adulthood is to show adolescents that being an adult is ‘worth it’. Adulthood and responsibility, when viewed through a nonlinear model are a choice, and why would anyone choose to be miserable?

Mike McGee, Family Program Manager

When I ask our students who the most impactful person in their life is, the most common response is a grandparent. They often see their parents as independent of their grandparents. Students often fail to see that their parents most likely had issues with their parents, and sought solace with their grandparents.

We work with our families to highlight the strengths and acknowledge the flaws in each generation’s way of thinking. I cannot count the amount of times a family has come back from their experience blown away by the newly articulated views of their children. Many parents and adults have lost the language of expression found in those tumultuous years. The rawness of feeling that has been tampered down to be polite and acceptable in all settings. And our students can walk away knowing that their voice has been heard and that the adults in their lives have their best interest in mind. Only by listening, are we able to finally hear the value in the other’s words.

June 28, 2017

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Kuleana Therapist Role: another layer of clinical support

By: Sharon Findlay, Admissions & Communication Manager

Pacific Quest is excited to announce enhanced clinical services in our young adult program! Based on the need and intensity during the Kuleana Phase, PQ has added another therapist to support students through this critical stage of the program. Students will continue to meet with their primary therapist and now will also engage with the Kuleana Therapist, resulting in field-based therapy four days per week during the Kuleana phase to target individualized treatment goals.


What is the Kuleana Phase in the Young Adult Program?

The second of six phases, Kuleana, or personal responsibility, is the foundation of the Young Adult Program at Pacific Quest. Most of the core themes and expectations are identified in this phase and then further developed and sustained throughout treatment. During Kuleana, young adults begin sharing their “story” while simultaneously taking on the responsibilities which help to maintain a functioning community. Kuleana is about exploring the interplay between who a person is, who he/she wants to become, and what he/she is willing to do to get there. Young adults in this phase are in a separate location from the Reeds Bay facility where they are immersed in land, wellness, and other vital aspects of Pacific Quest’s Rite of Passage model.


This immersion model of therapy is an exciting development for this important phase in our program! The Kuleana Therapist will coordinate directly with primary therapist and the field team, and will function as a field-based extension of the primary therapist while students are in Kuleana. Alex Stitt has been selected to pioneer this role.

Kuleana Therapist providing clinical support

“By having someone there more frequently to manage the steps incrementally, we’ll be able to take full advantage of this specific phase of the program,” shares Dr. Lorraine Freedle, Clinical Director. “Alex brings not only clinical expertise but field expertise from his extensive experience over the past three years at Pacific Quest. His keen understanding of the identity level work and how it ties into the land work makes him an ideal Kuleana Therapist.”

Alex Stitt, Kuleana Therapist, adds, “Given that Kuleana is about personal responsibility, the phase is spent doing a lot of depth work around one’s personal values, what one is accountable for, and their locus control and responsibility. Progressively, our students begin to take ownership of their life.”

With this added layer of clinical support, young adults will more effectively navigate Kuleana and develop a solid foundation for their treatment at Pacific Quest.

May 3, 2017

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A Letter to My Therapist: One Year After PQ

By: PQ Alumni

I was a student at PQ last year. I just received my letter from a year ago* and I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate what you did. Words cannot express my gratitude.

I know that not all of the students at PQ take the program completely to heart all the time, and many of them do return to old habits after they leave, but I was not one of those people. Pacific Quest was a turning point for me in my adolescent life, as corny as that may sound. Without it, I’m honestly not sure where I would be today.

The gardening, the nature, the outings, and Huli all made a significant difference in how I thought and approached what my life had to offer. And most of all I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations together.

I’m in the last quarter of my senior year in high school, and I’ll be graduating in June. When I started PQ, I was sure I was going to drop out of high school, and college didn’t even seem like an option back then. Now I’m choosing between multiple colleges to attend in the fall, and sometimes I wonder how I made it this far.

My relationship with my family has improved drastically. I still fight with my mom sometimes, but who doesn’t? I talk with my dad a lot, and we actually go do things together, like going to the gym, and taking road trips to Lake Tahoe. I love my dad, and I like spending time with him, which is something I didn’t think was ever possible a year ago. Pacific Quest helped me learn to appreciate everything my family has done for me, and I want to thank you for saving us. PQ was a wake up call if there ever was one, and I am so grateful to be lucky enough to have experienced it. Soon hopefully I’ll be starting a new chapter in my life at college, which will bring its own set of challenges. But I have the confidence that I’ll be able to work through them.

Finally, I want you to know that if you ever feel like the kids you work with don’t have any chance of bettering themselves or you feel like you haven’t done enough to help them, that that simply isn’t true. Because there is one kid from California out there in the world, and he is forever grateful.

Best,
PQ Alum

*The letter this alumni is referencing is a letter that students write to themselves that PQ then mails out a year later. It’s an incredible reminder of all the hard work and progress they made at Pacific Quest.

February 19, 2017

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Entering Nalu: Writing My Life Story

By: Janna Pate

To me, one of the best features of the Young Adult Program at Pacific Quest is the three-day period known as Nalu. In Hawaiian culture, nalu refers to ocean waves–specifically the calm spot on the backside of the wave from which you can see everything without getting swept up in it. But nalu can also mean “reflection” or “contemplation.” In this sense, nalu is not just a thing or an activity but a mindset, a mindful way of being in the world.

In the Young Adult Program at Pacific Quest, Nalu refers to the phase of the program where students write their life stories. While facts and events may be the basic “building blocks” of a life story, students are encouraged to focus their reflections on the feelings or “emotional glue” that hold a life story together. Nalu is a time and a space set aside for students to to contemplate their interior landscape and history.

When I became a guide, I decided that I would like to write my life story as well. After months trying and failing to cobble it together one piece at a time, I decided that the only way to finish was to do it the Pacific Quest way: to enter nalu.

In the Young Adult Program at Pacific Quest, Nalu is a time of solitude. Meals are served to students in their hales (Hawaiian for “homes”). Their schedules are their own, and they are exempted from chores. Writing their life story is the only major priority. While students can break up the day by exercising or working on the land, there are otherwise no distractions from the task at hand.

When I set out to write my life story, I didn’t exactly have my own hale at Pacific Quest to retreat to, but I did turn off my phone, pack my camping gear, and walk out into nature with a journal and a pen. Young adults at Pacific Quest spend a bit more time than this preparing for Nalu. They meditate. They create an outline for their life story, share it with guides, and receive suggestions and feedback. And when they are ready, they hold a group where they request and receive advice from their community of peers.

Some of the advice young adults receive before entering Nalu is personalized to the needs of the individual student, and some is more generic. Over time as a guide, I developed quite a laundry list of general recommendations.

First and foremost, I advise students to write their stories from an emotional core. The point of writing your life story is not to recount facts but to unpack the emotional baggage we all inevitably carry. I give students a detailed list of emotional vocabulary words and suggest that they use it to brainstorm, to sift through the waters of memory by using emotion words as a sieve. Pan for “elated” memories and see what comes up. Pan for “bleak” memories. Pan for “contentment.”

My second favorite piece of advice to students is to turn off their internal editor, the voice that criticizes everything they write, the voice of the perfectionist and the voice of the procrastinator. “Is this good?” is no longer a relevant question.

When you are writing your life story, the relevant question is: “Is this true?” So my third piece of advice to students is that they tell the truth–and not just the truth as they already remember it, but the re-examined truth. In Nalu, you must re-interpret your history. You must be willing to see and understand yourself and your world in ways you haven’t before. You must discover your truth.

This is still the best advice I can think of with regard to life story writing–and it goes against pretty much everything I was taught as a graduate student in creative writing. A life story is not the kind of text you manipulate for marketing purposes in the hopes of landing a book deal. It is the kind of text most publishing houses would dismiss as “sentimental.” It is a story told from the heart.

On a theoretical level, I knew very well how to write my life story. Plus, my childhood was relatively untroubled, and my adulthood so far has been largely successful. And I think I know myself well. So figured that writing my life story would be pretty simple.

It was definitely pretty simple to watch. As a Nalu guide, I had the privilege of being a witness, the first person to hear the full version of students’ life stories—hopefully, if possible, while sitting around a campfire on a clear night. The next day, students would read their stories aloud to their whole Ohana, or family, the group of peers and guides who would form their community in the next phase of the program. And there would be a ceremony.

For the reading of my own life story, I wanted a ceremony too. So I planned ahead and scheduled the end of my nalu time to coincide with 30th birthday and invited a group of friends and co-workers to come to the beach to celebrate with me and to listen.

But the day before my birthday, as I continued to sit and stare at my journal, struggling to encapsulate 30 years of life experience in a roughly 8-page document that I would soon read aloud to a group of people whose respect I valued, I began to fully empathize with the struggles of a Pacific Quest student and to wish I had a guide of my own to assist with the process. What I forced myself to do instead was even better: I trusted myself, and I finished.

My ceremony was a powerful moment for me. There were flowers and candles and nalu, the ocean waves rolling in, mixed with the sound of my voice and the attention of my friends. I could not have asked for a better 30th birthday.

Even more powerful, though, have been the moments when I have been able to share this story with others, especially students at Pacific Quest, but also anyone else who wants to ride the wave. Reflect on your life. Reflect on your feelings. Trust your heart and speak your truth. You are all invited to enter nalu.

January 15, 2017

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Rites of Passage Video: Tying the Threads of the Past to the Future

By: Darcy Ottey

Meaningful, intentional rites of passage have been a critical part of raising healthy adults for tens of thousands of years, and are no less relevant today. At Pacific Quest, rites of passage have been part of our program since our very first client. The speaker in this TEDx Talk, Darcy Ottey, helped design Pacific Quest’s innovative rite of passage programming, and continues to provide support and training for our staff. The talk shares the story of why rites of passage are so important, both for young people and for their communities.

 

Pacific Quest is part of an Youth Passageways, an international effort to bring rites of passage back into the lives of young people. For more information on Darcy Ottey and her work, please visit: www.darcyottey.com.

July 28, 2016

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The Intent Council Door: Part IV

In this four part series, Janna Pate explores the Rites of Passage work at Pacific Quest. From “Huli Ka’e,” the Rites of Passage experience that students participate in, to the “Staff Vision Fast,” a unique opportunity for staff to gain personal and professional development and a deeper understanding of this important component of the Pacific Quest curriculum. Part I discusses Rites of Passage at Pacific Quest and Part II introduces what we call “Intent Statements “. Part III looks at the development of Janna’s own intent statement. 

By: Janna Pate,  Academic Coordinator

As hard as it was to arrive at this conclusion and craft my Intent Statement, the hardest part by far has been living it—not just on the Staff Vision Fast, but every day of my life after that. I’ve been working on living my intent for over a year—sometimes joyfully and sometimes with great discomfort. There have been many ups and downs, many successes and many failures.

What helps tremendously is to know that there is a community of students and staff that are going through this experience together and can support each other throughout the process. When I go to work and look at the walls full of student intent statements, I can’t help but feel camaraderie with them and wonder what some of these students are doing now and how they are living their intents.

For me, some days after the Staff Vision Fast have been terrific. On those days, I feel like I have fully embodied my intent. I have created, accomplished, accepted, shared, given, forgiven, and loved in ways that I never thought I could. Who I am, and the way I am able to see myself in the world, has expanded as a direct result of my intent.

At the same time, there are other days when I haven’t even remembered my intent. It’s as if I have been sleepwalking, simply going through the motions. On those days, I haven’t appreciated the beauty and the inspiration in the world around me, or taken the chance to live and learn and grow.

And on the worst days, I’ve been aware of my intent and simply failed to live it. I’ve fallen into many of the same thought and behavior patterns that I’ve been struggling with for years. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve clung to some things that I should have let go, and I’ve let go of some things that I should have held close. I’ve shut down when I should have spoken up. Some days are tough.

Life is just that way. But experiencing Pacific Quest has taught me that I can get myself through the hard times by pulling on my Intent Statement like a lifeline: “I am whole-hearted.” It’s funny how complicated and painful it was to arrive at such a simple statement and how such a simple statement can continue to expand and unfold. I think it means something new to me almost every day.

Janna Pate intent

My hope and my belief is that every student who comes through Pacific Quest can continue on their journey with their own story to tell, their own Intent Statement, their own lifeline. This is an open door.

When we step through this door, we become new people, different people, yet more of ourselves. Our eyelids flutter up as if from a lingering kiss, or an unexpected daydream. We have touched something, started something, something new and old simultaneously—something precious, something fragile, something real. Perhaps we have planted a seed, or even birthed something: a possibility, an opportunity, a vision, a dream, a purpose, an intention, a goal. When we wake up in this way, we allow ourselves to be reimagined, rediscovered, and reinvented. We also see the world anew. In these moments, we are alive as never before.

July 21, 2016

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The Intent Council Door: Part III

In this four part series, Janna Pate explores the Rites of Passage work at Pacific Quest. From “Huli Ka’e,” the Rites of Passage experience that students participate in, to the “Staff Vision Fast,” a unique opportunity for staff to gain personal and professional development and a deeper understanding of this important component of the Pacific Quest curriculum. Part I discusses Rites of Passage at Pacific Quest and Part II introduces what we call “Intent Statements “.

By: Janna Pate,  Academic Coordinator

When I entered the fast, the Intent Statement I began with was: “I am unafraid of who I am and how I love this world.” This was the statement I brought with me to the group for feedback in a process called Intent Council.

Students at Pacific Quest also participate in Intent Council. This happens during their experience on Huli Ka’e. As a guide and later as a program supervisor, Intent Council was always my favorite group to witness and participate in. It takes a lot of courage to engage in this process.

PQ_00518 (1)

During Intent Council, students are asked to follow a set of guidelines developed through the work of The Ojai Foundation, called the Guidelines of Council:

  1. Speak from the heart.
  2. Listen from the heart.
  3. Be lean in your speech.
  4. Speak spontaneously.

It is always inspiring to hear students bravely voicing their intents to the group, receiving feedback from peers and staff, and wading through the waters of revision.

As a guide, I enjoyed seeing which suggestions students would take and which ones they would not. I loved learning what was most important to them about their own identities and watching them make new self-discoveries in the process. Their intents inspired me.

Like students on Huli Ka’e, everyone participating in the Staff Vision Fast is asked to present their Intent Statement at Intent Council. Going in, I felt good about the time I had spent in drafting my Intent Statement and volunteered to go first.

The questions that came back to me immediately were, of course, “So who are you? And how do you love?” And so the mumbling and fumbling began. I could think of plenty of ways to define myself, but none that I wanted to be defined by. For example:

“Well, I’m a Texan.” Where flowers are purchased from grocery store refrigerators and are systematically chopped off at the roots.

“And I’m queer.” More than anything, though, I believe that love and identity transcend gender and sexual orientation.

“I’m also a writer. And a philosopher. And a teacher. And a student. And an athlete. And a musician. And a sister. And a daughter. And a friend. And a lover. I don’t want to be just one thing.”

“Of course if I had to pick one, I’d pick lover. But that choice has been problematic for me in the past . . .”

I was quiet for a while after that. I didn’t know what else to say. I didn’t have the answer. So I went to my personal tool kit and selected: poetry.

“I’m thinking of a line from Mary Oliver: ‘You do not have to be good.’ I want to believe that line. But I grew up believing that I was a sinner. That I was broken, fundamentally.”

Everyone was waiting on me to say something else, to reach some conclusion. But the only things I felt confident in claiming were the things I am not: I am not perfect; I am not straight; I am not religious; I am not connected to where I am from.

I knew that I did not want to be defined in only negative terms, or as a reaction against other things. But I also didn’t want to claim something that I couldn’t know, couldn’t do, or couldn’t be.

As the group sat in a circle, watching me, I began to think that creating an intent statement was one of those things that I just couldn’t do. It was so much harder to be in the spotlight than in the shadows, to be the one seeking guidance rather than the one giving it. My respect for students at Pacific Quest grew by the second. The silence felt crushing. By this point, I was crying.

“When I was introduced to Eastern philosophy, it was a revelation to me. The idea that humans are fundamentally whole—that changed everything. But I guess I’m realizing that I’m still working on really believing that, on believing that I am fundamentally whole, and on living that way.”

It was a short leap from there to my intent: “I am whole-hearted.” I knew that I had severed from my old paradigm of brokenness years before, but I hadn’t found a way to articulate what my new paradigm was, and I wasn’t really doing much about it.

On the one hand, I felt ashamed that I hadn’t realized this about myself sooner. On the other hand, I knew I was not alone. What brings every student to Pacific Quest and every staff to the fast is essentially the same: the need to change.

 

Check in next week for the final post in this series!

July 14, 2016

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The Intent Council Door: Part II

In this four part series, Janna Pate explores the Rites of Passage work at Pacific Quest. From “Huli Ka’e,” the Rites of Passage experience that students participate in, to the “Staff Vision Fast,” a unique opportunity for staff to gain personal and professional development and a deeper understanding of this important component of the Pacific Quest curriculum. Read Part I of the series here

By: Janna Pate,  Academic Coordinator

One thing that I have cultivated at Pacific Quest, one thing that has stayed with me, and grown with me, is my Intent Statement. From the moment I stepped through the doors of Pacific Quest, from the moment I saw the Intent Statements of former Pacific Quest students tattooed on the walls, I knew that I wanted to write one, even when the question was still “one what?”

intent statement

When I began working at Pacific Quest, I was lucky enough to be placed in the Huli Ka’e stage of the program. (“Huli Ka’e” means “to search the edge,” roughly translated from Hawaiian.) This is the most intensive Rites of Passage experience that we offer to students. Before going on Huli Ka’e, students are asked to spend time preparing for the journey. Part of the preparation involves crafting an Intent Statement.

These are the Intent Statement guidelines given to students:

  1. Your intent is a statement about the most important things for you to claim about yourself right now.
  2. Your intent will change over time, as the circumstances and challenges of your life change.
  3. Your intent should feel risky.
  4. Your intent, while something that you are always working toward, is also something you already know you are, inherently, at your core. Your intent highlights aspects of your best self that you are ready for the world to see.
  5. Your intent should be direct and to the point. It is the essence of you.
  6. You do not have to feel like your intent is attainable all the time. Sometimes it will feel very far away, buried once again under all of the challenges of life. However, it is something that you can always return to, an anchor that reminds you of who you are.

It was with these same guidelines in mind that I began trying to craft my own Intent Statement. For almost a year, I tinkered with my statement. I also began applying for the Staff Vision Fast.

This vision fast, led by experienced, internationally-respected guides, is a truly amazing, all-expenses-paid opportunity for a small group of Pacific Quest staff each year, and I definitely wanted to be among them.

intent statementTo me, the Staff Vision Fast is an opportunity to experience what our students experience, to put ourselves in their shoes, and to prove to ourselves that our program is powerful, worthwhile, and effective. It is an opportunity to experience the integrity of our program.

Most staff at Pacific Quest seem to be equally enthusiastic about the fast because there are always more applicants than spots, and almost no one gets selected on the first try. My first application was no exception. When my second application was accepted, I began the necessary preparations. As with students going on Huli Ka’e, one of the main things I had to do to prepare for the Staff Vision Fast was to draft my Intent Statement. Even though I had been working on my intent for a nearly year already, I knew that I had more work to do, writing draft after draft in my journal.

Check back next week for Part III!

July 7, 2016

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The Intent Council Door: Part I

In this four part series, Janna Pate explores the Rites of Passage work at Pacific Quest. From “Huli Ka’e,” the Rites of Passage experience that students participate in, to the “Staff Vision Fast,” a unique opportunity for staff to gain personal and professional development and a deeper understanding of this important component of the Pacific Quest curriculum. 

By: Janna Pate,  Academic Coordinator

The room I stepped into was the interior design equivalent of a full-body tattoo. Every wall surface and even the ceiling were hand-painted with colorful images, statements and signature markings: suns, moons, and stars, handprints and portraits, full hearts and open eyes, mountains and oceans, intricate mandalas, names and dates, branching trees and budding flowers, ships with sails and birds taking wing. Every entry had its own message: “I am an invincible huntress,” “I am an intrepid captain,” “I am a captivating creator,” “I am a brave and influential man.”

vision questThat was my introduction to Hawaii, to Pacific Quest, and to Rites of Passage. Later, I would come to know the writings on the wall as Intent Statements. But in the moment, what mattered about that scene was this: curiosity and amazement, those powerful feelings of wonder and awe, sparking in my chest like the kindling of the earth’s first fire. It was the same feeling I had when I read the poetry of Mary Oliver for the first time: “The fish leaps, all rainbow and mouth, from the dark water,” and my own mouth fell open. The same feeling I had when I took my first wind-kissed boatride. Or when I saw snow for the first time and danced for what seemed like hours under the starlit sky, wearing only a nightgown and bare feet.

Of course not all transformative moments are beautiful moments. Some are staggeringly sad, others outrageous. Some are tragic or even traumatizing. Some are deeply depressing. Some transformative moments are wedded to grief, some to suffering, and others to pain. The death of a loved one. A difficult and damaging childhood. The loss of a job. Sickness of the body. Sickness of the mind. A spiritual crisis. Broken relationships. Broken families. A fight with our very own demons.

Our most difficult moments are often our greatest teachers—or they can be, if we are prepared to learn from, to appreciate, and to respond to them to the best of our ability. Everyone must prepare his or her own tool kit—the carpetbag of things that carry a person throughout the day. Some people seem to be a bit of a Mary Poppins in this regard, able to reach for just about anything and call it to their aid.

vision quest

My own tool kit has developed a bit more slowly and feebly over time, and on the whole, I suspect that I have tossed out at least as many resources as I have allowed in. Some things are constants for me, like music, writing, and exercise. Other things have come and gone, been outgrown, replaced, or simply forgotten—morning coffee, for example, or even my baby blanket.

 

 

 

Read on for Part II of this series!