The Great Ballcourt Initiation – Fall Fast

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Oct 21st, 2020 - Nov 1st, 2020 | Death Valley | Meredith Little, Angelo Joseph Lazenka

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?  This allegory invites us to walk in the footsteps of the archetypal Hero, learning to sustain life and to face death. We are confronted with the great questions of mortality—questions both wrenching yet life-giving, questions leading us on to our ultimate Giveaway.

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) and is the only one in the series that has a prerequisite.  We ask that people have already completed a full-length PLD course, or that they have already done a 3-day or 4-day solo wilderness fast.  Based on our experience we’d like to emphasize how important it is that people properly prepare for this fast.  One way that works well is for people to come to one of the other PLD courses during the time leading up to the 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.  We encourage people to commit to the ceremony 6 to 12 months in advance, allowing adequate gestation time for the activated intent that will guide their inner and outer preparation.

Time and Location:   We will rendezvous at Panamint Springs Resort at 8:30 a.m. on October 23rd, with our last meeting finishing by mid-day on November 4th.   The morning we rendezvous we will caravan to a backcountry site for the 4 days of preparation and the 4 days of the solo fast. For the final 3½ days of incorporation we will be in a group campsite at Panamint Springs Resort. The School makes no provisions for meals or equipment, though we will offer a communal meal the morning you emerge from the threshold. 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

Contact:  [email protected], [email protected]

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TUITION: $1,000 - $1,750
DEPOSIT: $300

Sliding Scale: To honor the vast difference of financial resources among us, all of our program tuition is based on a sliding scale. We set forth no criteria and ask that you pay what is appropriate for your circumstances and access to financial resources. You can see recommendations on using the sliding scale here. If the low end of the sliding scale is still too much, scholarship assistance is available , please reach out to the office for more info.

Cancellations: Cancellations are hard on the participant, the School, and the guides. We respect the unpredictability of life, and we are diligent about running an organization sustainably.

-If you cancel 60 or more days prior to the start date of your program, you will receive a full refund of any tuition paid, minus any deposits.

-If you cancel 59 days or less prior to the start date of your program, and we can fill your spot, then you will receive a full refund of any tuition paid, minus any deposits.

-If we cannot fill your spot, and you cancel within 59 days of the start of your program, then we hold you accountable for paying the tuition at the lowest end of the sliding scale.

Submit enrollment form

 Please fill out and submit the enrollment form and then pay the program deposit below. After your enrollment form is complete, please submit all health and liability forms.

Pay program deposit

Deposits: This deposit signifies your commitment to the program and is deducted from the tuition balance. All deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable. They cover the work of the specific course you signed up for, including all communication involved as well as the fee that guides pay to the school administration for the course accounting. 

Additional Deposit: Some programs require a second deposit to help us affirm commitments. Last minute cancellations make it hard to fill openings and incur a loss of income to the School and the guides.

Tuition Balance: Balance of tuition can be paid before or upon arrival. Simply deduct any deposits made from the amount you’ve chosen on the sliding scale.

Submit Waitlist form

This program is full; however, you may add your name to the Waitlist by clicking the Waitlist button below.

Additional course details & Materials

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You will be responsible for bringing your own food and equipment, though we can provide some gear if needed. We ask everyone to come prepared to live self-sufficiently. You will need to bring shelter and clothing suitable for a full range of inclement weather. 

To address safety concerns during the pandemic, please contact us regarding our current Coronavirus protocols as well as any current travel restrictions. These protocols may affect how you are able to travel to the program. Please note: As of November 2021, unvaccinated international travelers are not currently permitted entry to the USA as per current CDC Guidelines.

All participants must submit the required health questionnaire and liability form.

If you have questions about the enrollment process contact us at [email protected] or call 760-938-3333.

To learn more about our commitment to regenerative relationships please visit Cultural Relations.