Maureen Kelly, a 19 year old woman from Vancouver, Washington, set off on a ‘spiritual journey’ Sunday afternoon wearing only a fanny pack and has not been seen since. Sunday around midnight, friends from her camp called in a rescue team to try and find the girl in Gifford Pinchot National Forest where she is apparently wandering. This is both a news story as well as a life metaphor, for how often do our own ‘naked journeys’, the ones we become the most vulnerable for, lead to unknown outcomes?
In the case of this Vancouver woman, rescuers are off again this morning to search for her in hopes of finding the girl in good condition, having ‘completed’ her quest, and still in healthy physical condition (meaning, nothing ‘bad’ happened to her). In most incidences, it is probably wise to look for your naked teen hiker friend after such an act, though how many of us, on our own naked journeys, would not be anxious for a rescue, but rather, wish they would be supported in the decision to quest into the unknown without the armor of previous identities?
The bravest journeys we take are the ones we were seemingly unprepared for – on the outside – though something within us called us to go, naked to the protection of life’s garments, willing to risk danger and discover what the unknown had to offer. There is no way of knowing what the outcome will be in these instances, for the very act of stepping into the unknown comes without a view of where it will take you, and therefore leaves you naked for the journey.
In our story of the Washington woman, it is possible that she had no real intention of being gone over night, that she did in fact get lost or in danger and is in need of rescuing. It is also possible, however, when you announce to life that you are taking ‘a spiritual journey’ that opportunities will arise that look like danger, mishap and error in order to teach you the very things you need to know to advance yourself spiritually. For one who is familiar with the path of proclaiming such an intent, events tend to line up in order to test the very thing you have affirmed.
Historically(and even today), Native Americans and other tribal people set off, at certain times of their lives, on what is known as a vision quest, where the ‘initiate’ wishing for deeper insight does just as our Vancouver teen has done. The vision quest is a rite of passage where one chooses to spend between one and four nights in the wilderness communing with nature, alone, in hopes of connecting with inner wisdom about oneself and the world. In the Native American tradition, this quest is often done as an initiation into adulthood, and so was undertaken by many of teenage years such as our Maureen Kelly of Washington. Vision quests are usually done without food, in order to facilitate deeper inner communion. Often times, special dreams or visits from various animals would signify messages sent for direction about one’s life.
We don’t know if Kelly really intended to embark on such a quest as the Natives did, though it seems highly plausible. We do know the declaration to ‘find oneself’ can often lead to unknown outcomes and challenging situations which press us to do just that. Our individual ‘naked journey’s’ are usually not naked in the physical sense, as is the case with Maureen Kelly, but rather naked in other ways – ways that were previously meant to protect us – and therefore, their outcomes are unknown. We may choose to reveal emotions more freely, or get rid of a certain belief we have hidden behind, attempt a new life that seems foreign or make ourselves vulnerable in other ways. The common factor in all of these journeys is that risk is involved, and one never truly grows without taking a risk of some kind.
As for Maureen Kelly, the teen who has taken herself on a naked ‘spiritual journey’, let us be grateful for the insight her decision has afforded us this day and hold the intention – that she find her way, whatever that may be for her. May we not be fearful of unknown outcomes, for her or for ourselves, so that we may find the truth which has so long been hidden, long before our naked journeys began.
Written by: Stasia Bliss