The Ballcourt Fast
Learning Reflections on a Field Trip
by Eve-lynn Civerolo
I have been studying with the SoLB for many years now, both as a participant and as an assistant/facilitator for those programs that I had already been involved in.
Having done the ‘Practice of Living and Dying’ plus the ‘Mirroring the Four Shield of Human Nature: The Art of Story Telling and Listening’, I wanted to do a Vision Fast, mainly ‘The BallCourt’. Loving nature as I do, I felt it would help me to get back in touch with my natural transition, moving me from one stage to another, at this time in my life.
The SOLB uses ceremonial rites of passage, mirrored by nature. As you step across the threshold into the unknown wilderness, boundaries begin to dissolve and our vision begins to expand. This thirteen-day program I attended called ‘The BallCourt’, was in Death Valley, California. The ceremony involved several days of preparation, four days of fasting alone in the wilderness, followed with a few days of incorporation.
We camped out in D.V. holding circles of communication with the help of nature, telling our stories to one another after spending time alone out on the land, using rituals learned from Scott and Meredith. Everything one expresses is held in confidence, as we are our own therapist, learning from our experiences in nature and thru the direction and loving support of our teachers, guides and one another.
Day after sacred day, you are held by the synergy of these excellent, competent and caring staff and assistants, while creating amazing bonds with each of the other 11 participants. Held in grace thru what nature has to teach us, each of us are propelled into our own deep ability to find our separate desires we came here to experience.
We were encouraged to read the book ‘Popol Vuh”, written before Cortez; I was glad I read it before my solo. In the book, there was a comment I felt rang true for me, “how man Lives In existence, Not At the Center of it”. There were two other observations that resonated with me, “leaving all prudence behind would be courting chaos, leaving all passion behind would be death of spirit”.
We were given time to meander about with intention to find our special solo camping spot. Prior to striding out on our own, we set our intention and voiced a simple prayer that fit for each of us. My prayer for myself was, “May I be at peace, may I be safe, and may I be free”. My Intention was, “to let go of all that does not serve me, other sentient beings or the universe”.
Insights and Objective:
The BallCourt, experience was one of the most powerful & meaningful lessons I have ever received.
From the first day, I asked for what it was that I hoped to attain and spoke aloud what my desires were. I asked for help from my ancestors and the ancestors’ of the land to achieve my goal, if the timing was right.
Coming into the program, I got physically ill the first night with N/V and diarrhea. Thinking it was food poisoning from the hotel I had stayed at the night prior to starting my program, was later disproved as it ran through about half of the people attending.
Starting out with this inner cleansing gave me challenges but I was able to handle them with help from the staff & my cohorts. The amazing thing is that it seemed to help me go deeper inside, really connecting, body, mind and spirit.
We all did much internal work prior to going out on our solos. We each had a “stone buddy” leaving a stone at different times each day, so it was assured that we were safe.
While searching for my solo spot, in my weakened, vulnerable condition, my lovely stone buddy helped me find the perfect spot for me only 20/30 minutes out of base camp (a kind deed that I will forever be grateful for).
The first three days of my solo were filled with me doing a walk-about, drumming, rattling, meditating, briefly writing my thoughts/experiences and mainly being one with nature. The nights were suffused with a serene peacefulness and a deep midnight blue sky filled with more stars then I have ever seen before. I felt the protection from the mountains, surrounding me on all sides. My amazing vantage points, where the sunrise & sunset, along with the moon rising and setting in full view of where I would sit in my rock circle, drumming during those occasions.
I did some real soul searching and wrote three letters of forgiveness. I felt the presence of several departed loved ones; I also said my own good-by’s to everyone.
I sent prayers to everyone I knew from this place of peace hoping to share this amazing sense of a deep love that engulfed my very soul.
The fasting was exceptional, using 4 gals of water with electrolyte tablets in it, gave me a sharp, clarity of mind that I do not normally experience, everyday. The use of my time, not shopping for, cooking, thinking about or eating was a gift I used to nurture my soul instead of my body.
The 3rd night I saw many animals and people in the clouds, and in the mountains. My spiritual contacts were very strong. There was a small dark cloud directly over my campsite and looking around there were no other dark clouds about. I felt no fear just happiness at being able to have everything come together to give me this gift of all my experiences. I felt that I could stay here forever. I had experienced some major insights and revelations within myself and outside of myself.
At 8:00am, on the last day of our solo, I awoke and prepared to go to base camp for a ceremony, and then come back for my final night alone. Having everything already set up for my trek back to base camp; I stood up and bent over like I always do (with hip precautions) and POW, I heard and felt a POP, then my legs gave out and I fell on my face into my sleeping bag.
I was organized enough that I was able to prop myself up onto my large backpack and use the whistle 3 times till a fellow camping cohort going down the road was able to find me. A lovely friend stayed with me while six other staff/campers showed up with a cot and trekked me out to base camp. Dr. Scott and one of his kind assistants put me into the back of his truck & drove me out of D.V. to a Pahrump Hospital.
The ER staff in Pahrump was lovely to me, where the MD tried 4 times, with the help of many other big men, to do a closed reduction of my hip, without positive results. I was then transferred by ambulance to a hospital in L.V. Nevada where they tried once again to put my hip back into place, without good results.
Surgery was set for the next morning and it was decided it was the only way they would be able to put my hip back into the socket. An open reduction was then the only possibility and it went well. The surgical MD told me that, “it was a freak accident and should never have happened because the hip implant went out at the top of my socket”.
Through out this trauma, I was in my most vulnerable state, having been blessed all my life with a strong body and ability to handle most anything that came my way. Now I could do nothing but allow myself to be taken care of by all these wonderful people from the SOLB. Two of whom stayed in LV the first night and then my dear cohort & friend, Don, from Maui, who stayed two more nights in LV with me, sacrificing his own time out in the wilderness.
Because I had worked in a few hospitals as a RN and also assisted in keeping my sister & brother alive, during several hospital stays, along with having my father and mother die in hospitals when they were young, I had a great dislike of hospitals. What I realized thru this experience is that I became aware of the fact that I had an abnormal fear & abhorrence of all hospitals. My fear of being in one myself, especially on the other side of the bed was beyond reasonable.
I feel gratitude that I do not have many fears but I really did not account for how strong my aversion was to hospitals. Being alone out in the middle of the desert for 4 days is a retreat for me, while being confined to a hospital bed and having people taking care of you was my worst nightmare.
How wonderful it was then for me to not have a choice as to what happened to me. I was able to relax and let go into the capable and loving hands of all the beautiful SOLB staff, assistants and my cohorts. By allowing myself to let go of all my preconceptions while in the hospital, truly not knowing if I would be able to finish this lovely program or to make it to my Upaya commitment in just 5 days, I was also released from my great hospital phobia. The blessing side effects in all of this was that I also needed no pain meds after the initial two post op surgical days, being free from any pain upon my ambulation and the entire healing process.
I went into the hospital on March 3rd, had surgery on March 4th and was discharged on March 6th, going back to D.V. to meet with everyone and tell my story, along with hearing Don’s. We all went back outside on March 7th and held our last circle together in the embrace of Death Valley.
I did not have to use a w/c, walker or cane and was pain free, walking in the dessert as if nothing had happened. I flew to Albuquerque on March 8th and arrived in Santa Fe on March 10th, where I started the two-year Chaplaincy Intensive. I stayed in residence, studying and meditating, also pain free without pain medication, for 11 days, for that I am so grateful.
When I say “as if nothing happened”, that is an unbelievable understatement, since I was truly “reborn”. I did experience a rebirth and it has changed me in so many ways that I am still experiencing.
Application to Hospice and Personal Work:
My work at the bedside of dying patients is with even less anxiety, where I am truly able to hold the sacred space with an inner strength and peacefulness, serving those patients and loved ones with a sense of a calm presence, allowing feelings of safety and trust to spontaneously appear.
I also find I have an even better sense of compassion for all the losses that we are faced with at the end of life. Control is an illusion and when we are free to let go of our need for it, wonderful things happen. I find I am filled with more gratitude & humility in my day-to-day life, as well as for this amazing experience. I would not change this blessed event in anyway what so ever.
when we face the sunset
when we come singing
the last song, may it be
without shame, singing
‘it is finished in beauty,
it is finished in beauty!
I Send a Voice
Thank you A.S. for this beautiful poem, while out in D.V.