The Initiatory Nature of Illness, Old age and Death

Date: 
Sep 8th, 2019 - Sep 14th, 2019

Every human encounters illness, old age and death. No exceptions. We might be cracked open in sudden ways, through a life threatening illness, an accident or the loss of a loved one. Or we encounter the break-down of our body more gradually, in what is called the aging process. No matter your individual constitution, your heritage, your social standing or genetic make-up, no one escapes the vulnerability that comes with inhabiting a temporal body.

In today’s world, illness, old age and death are made as invisible as possible. As a largely uninitiated culture, we are terrified of the ‘cup half empty’, of the fertile darkness of the outbreath and the quicksands of transformation. In modern life, illness, old age and death have become the enemy. We are in constant search of easy fixes, and obsessed with staying eternally young and forever fit, no matter the cost. As long as we possibly can, we turn away from any notion of death, small or big. With that though, we also deprive ourselves of what naturally arises from death, which is birth, and the inequitable beauty of new beginnings.

It wasn’t always so. Those who have gone before us, knew. Rite of passage ceremonies in cultures around the world speak very clearly to the need to initiate humans into the seriousness of a life containing a wide range of reality - from blessed moments of ecstasy, expansion, and interconnectedness to the sharp edge of suffering, loss and inescapable pain.

The nature of life is change. From the moment we are born we are subject to change. Over the course of our lives we are asked to let go, leave behind, and die to all that is no longer truly true for us, so we can step into, and be birthed into all that is yet to be. Life initiates us every day, in small or big ways.

In many of the ancient societies, before becoming a full adult member of a community, one had to undergo a kind of ordeal, a challenge of sorts. There was a knowing in the collective that enduring physical hardship, and emotional darkness was vital in cultivating the maturity needed for an individual to weather life’s inevitable storms and become a reliable member of the adult community. Rite of Passage ceremonies put people into a posture as close to death as possible, while maintaining a ceremonial container for them to safeguard their return. Here the initiate is literally threshed, cracked open, and challenged to find their way through the underworld. By this trial of fire, individuals are changed irrevocably. The connection forged at the core of their being, and the retrieval of their unique gifts that helped them survive the ordeal will guide them through all other life changes to come and ultimately into death.

Illness and old age are undercover agents of initiation. They have secrets to tell us. In the discomfort of their threshing, they also invite us to shed all that no longer serves. Illness, and old age relentlessly help us practice our dying. Their tight embrace flushes us out of the thicket of our habitual patterns, and dares us to live in the moment with unprecedented presence. We may feel ourselves more open to surrender old beliefs, and limitations and harness new perspectives and insights.

In this program, we will investigate the ‘dark side of the moon’, the nature of illness, old age and death and cyclical nature of living and dying We will use the four shields as a road map, to track our individual experiences as it pertains to the theme, through the lense of body, soul, mind and spirit.

Schedule: Mornings will be spent together in circle with the group, and afternoons are time for solo experiences on the land.

Place: Big Pine is nestled in the wide embrace of the Owens valley, with quick access into the rugged Sierra Nevada on one side and the soft rounded hillsides of the Inyo Mountains on the other. The ancient bristlecone forest is home to the some of the oldest trees on earth.

Venue: The program will be held at Baker Creek Campground in Big Pine, CA. We will reserve a group campsite for those who want to camp. Participants who prefer indoor accommodations, are welcome to make independent reservations in Big Pine (several motels and Airb&b rentals).

Equipment: We will provide a list of personal equipment that each participant should bring, and we will also provide some group equipment for the group kitchen on the campground.

Starting and Ending times: We will meet at 10am on September 8 at Baker Creek Campground, in Big Pine, CA. The program will conclude by noon on September 14 at Baker Creek Campground.

A note to people with limited wilderness experience: Activities undertaken will be self-directed and may contain a wide range of different levels and strenuousness. Participants are encouraged to honor their individual needs. Our emphasis will always be “safety first.”

The School of Lost Borders has created a sliding scale for all its fast and trainings in an effort to keep our courses affordable to a wide range of people. We set forth no criteria and trust that each individual will pay what they feel is appropriate.

Tuition: $750 - $1300

Deposit: $300
(Non-refundable & non-transferrable unless seminar is cancelled)

Extra Fees: Camping Fees $30-40

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