Since 2012, I have been organizing and co-guiding the month-long training at the School of Lost
Borders. Pointing the month-long requires a great deal of work, and every year at the beginning
of the guiding season, I ask myself if it is all worth it. And every year, in the end, the answer is
always the same. Yes, of course, it is.
Sitting in ceremony for thirty-three days with four to five rotating guides, two assistants, and
twelve participants (many of who are international) creates unique alchemy. Sometimes easy,
sometimes challenging, but always transformative. Living together in the high
desert, we co-create a community where our longings, fears, and joys can be held and expressed,
where our shared passion for bringing wilderness rites of passage to the world can take on flesh.
There are many perks to guiding this training. But mostly, for me, the month-long has been my
teacher, a petri dish in which I can observe the value of our barebone teachings while watching
for the new storylines that are asking to be integrated into our practices.
Reflecting on these many month-longs, here are some pearls that come to mind:
• At the School of Lost Borders, we don’t certify people as wilderness rites of passage
guides. We don’t have a formal curriculum. There is no point of completion in becoming a
guide. Instead, to be a guide is to continually live into the calling, always learning, stretching,
and deepening. When the apprentice is ready, we say, the people will show up.
• We don’t trademark our teachings. Instead, we encourage all participants to take the
teachings and “make them your own.” So often, people ask if they can work for the School of
Lost Borders. While we honor the desire, we encourage people to take the teachings into their
own communities, whomever this entails, to fully make them their own offering, and that we, at
the School, will do what we can to support their efforts. It has been inspiring to watch so many
of our trainees sprout their beautiful offerings across the globe. It is like watching a forest grow
with a mycelium network connecting us in ways known and unknown.
• Ultimately, all the School’s programs are geared toward training. Whether doing a
personal vision fast, a week-long program, or extended training, the School has traditionally
emphasized the “giveaway.” While personal growth and healing are essential, they are not
enough on their own. Healing becomes stuck within a closed system if it stays with the
individual. Rather, personal healing is reciprocal with the healing of the world. This is the
meaning of incorporation, perhaps the most critical stage of a rite of passage. Bringing the vision
home and making it real by giving it away.
• Finally, on a personal note, one of the most significant realizations I have taken from
these years of guiding the month-long is that I am just as much an apprentice as a seasoned
guide. This feels especially true as I grow older while witnessing younger guides (not necessarily
in biological age) stepping into the work. I am in constant awe. The world looks very different to these younger guides than it did when I first started guiding in my thirties (I just turned 60). I am humbled by their eagerness to show up fully, their creative responses to a world dressed up in disaster, their questioning of firmly held societal assumptions, and their dedication to the call for justice and equity and for right practice in relationship with the ceremony. So often, during a
training, I think, “These trainees don’t need me. They got it!” And yet, to be an elder(ing)
witness, to continue to hold the ceremony in the spirit of the barebones, to listen deeply with
love, and to do my hard work, is what I can offer; it is what is being asked of me, and it stretches
me. This is my training. And for this, I am grateful beyond words.
Image credits Ken Crocker