2022 Spring Great Ballcourt Initiation Fast (Full with waitlist)

Mar 12th, 2022 - Mar 23rd, 2022
Death Valley

Great Ballcourt Initiation Fast

An Advanced Program in

"The Practice of Living and Dying"

Death is the ultimate agent of transformation—be it a physical death or “the little deaths” encountered throughout life.  Indigenous cultures developed rituals to aid and guide people through these stages of change and renewal, utilizing the power of death to enhance and intensify these experiences.  For the Mayan people this ceremony was played out on the Great Ballcourt.  The court, and the ritual game played upon it, were an enactment of the great transformations: from life to death, from the middleworld to the underworld, from humanity to divinity.   

Ballplayers would risk their lives so that spirit, light and hope might be renewed—for themselves, yet most of all for their people and community.  The Mayans had faith that, through discipline and sacrifice, spirit was renewed, just as winter births new spring.  What we can know is that each day of our lives we play on the Great Ballcourt.  Each day we die some, each day we are reborn.


And you? Are you willing to risk everything (which ultimately we all must do) that your rebirth might bring you a life purpose strong enough to carry you all the way to your final dance with Death? 



We invite you to step onto "the Great Ballcourt," poised for a time between Death and Life, journeying into the ceremonial Underworld where you will leave behind what you have known, to perform your own dance of purpose, passion and renewal. Dying to your old name, your rules, your belief system, your truths and lies, you will dance alone “between the worlds”, calling in a new life more authentically your own. 


We will come together for 12 days: beginning with a final Severance from the old world, stepping across the Threshold into 4 days and nights of fasting and solitude, then returning for our stories of Incorporation, each filled with understanding and insight.  The metaphors we will explore include Decision Road, Death Lodge, Purpose Circle, and the Ballcourt. Our explorations together will be informed both by Mayan teachings that spread to native tribes in the plains of North America and by the lessons of modern-day hospice, learned directly at the bedside of the sick and the dying.


The Ballcourt ceremony is considered an "advanced program" in the Practice of Living & Dying (PLD). We ask that people have already completed a full-length PLD course, or that they have already done a 3-day or 4-day guided solo wilderness fast. We discourage people coming who are simply wanting to "try this out." The living-and-dying metaphor evoked by the Ballcourt allegory is strong, so it's important that the theme be right for you. Based on our experience we'd like to emphasize how important it is that people properly prepare for this fast. We encourage people to commit to the ceremony 6 to 12 months in advance, allowing adequate gestation time for their inner and outer preparation.


Time and Location: We will rendezvous at Furnace Creek in Death Valley at 8:30 a.m. on March 13th, with our last meeting finishing by mid-day on March 24th. The morning we rendezvous we will caravan to a backcountry site for the 4 days of preparation, the 4 days of the solo fast, and the final 3½ days of incorporation.  The School makes no provisions for meals or equipment, though we will offer a communal meal the first night of your arrival and the morning you emerge from the threshold.  We will also provide a simple group kitchen.  We ask everyone to come prepared to live self-sufficiently.  More detailed logistical information will be sent out a few months before the course begins.


Maximum Enrollment: 10


In an intricate story from the Mayan Popul Vuh, the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xablanque, are playing ball when they annoy Death with their noisiness. The Lords of Death invite them to a series of games on the Great Ballcourt in Xibalba, the Mayan Underworld. After playing on the ballcourt each day, at night the Hero Twins must survive a series of tests in six different houses: Bat House, Razor House, Dark House, Jaguar House, Fire House, and Cold House.      

The School of Lost Borders has created a sliding scale for all its programs 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.

Scholarships are available.

Tuition: $1000 - $1750

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

Extra Fees: Camping fees and $30 Park entrance free


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