The Nature of Illness, Loss and Death


Sep 12th, 2021 - Sep 19th, 2021 | Big Pine, California | Petra Lentz-Snow, Angelo Joseph Lazenka | Living & Dying

The pandemic has recently brought the nature of illness, loss and death sharply into our collective consciousness reminding us that no human, no matter how healthy or resourced, is immune to drastic and traumatic change. Some of us are cracked open in sudden ways, through a life threatening illness, an accident or the loss of a loved one, others encounter the break-down of our body in a more gradual 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.

As a largely uninitiated culture, we are terrified of the fertile darkness of the outbreath and the quicksands of transformation. In modern life, illness, loss and death have become the enemy. In today’s world, 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.

At the core of this defensive stance is the fear of separation, the modern perception of life as a straight-line progression of birth-life-death where one is birthed from nothingness and dies into the void. We have forgotten that we belong, that we are born into a circle we were already part of, since before we were even conceived. A circle we will continue to nurture, long after our bodies have returned to the mycelial network from which they arose. Life is cyclical and forever becoming. When did we forget that?

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.

Significant illness, traumatic loss and brush ups with death, no matter how painful, are also invitations of initiation. Illness, and loss relentlessly help us practice our living and our dying, their tight embrace flushing us out of the thicket of our habitual patterns, and daring us to live in the moment with unprecedented presence. We may suddenly feel ourselves more open to surrender old beliefs, and limitations and harness new perspectives and insights.  Notwithstanding the suffering we endure, we may surprise ourselves with a courage, a tenderness, a clarity we didn’t know we had.  We may find that in these fault lines of our living a mysterious kind of aliveness is wildly awake.

Schedule: Mornings will be spent together in circle with the group, and afternoons are time for contemplative walks and time alone on the earth. We will use the four shields as a road map, to track our individual experiences, and mark life change as it pertains to the theme, through the lense of body, soul, mind and spirit. A day long solo with fasting (optional) begins on the morning of day 6. During your time of fasting and aloneness, your guides will maintain a safe perimeter around the area, and another person will be nearby. Individual modifications to the solo are made based on medical and personal needs. 

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.  Payahüünadü, the indigenous name off this valley is the ancestral, and contemparory home of the Nüümü/Newe people. 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 but participants who prefer or need indoor accommodations, are welcome to make independent reservations in Big Pine (several motels and Airb&b rentals).

Financial Hardship:  General scholarships are available through the school – and, aware of the disparity of income caused by racial, and social inequities, as well as the financial burden of many health conditions, for this program we are offering two spaces covering up to 80-90% of total tuition, based on need.  Please contact Petra for more info.

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 12 at Baker Creek Campground, in Big Pine, CA. The program will conclude by noon on September 19 at Baker Creek Campground.

Program Questions Contact: Petra Lentz-Snow at [email protected]


TUITION: $750 - $1,350

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. Before you pay the deposit, please read deposit section below, all deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable. 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


We will meet at 10am on September 12 at Baker Creek Campground, in Big Pine, CA. The program will conclude by noon on September 19 at Baker Creek Campground.


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. 

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.

There is no required reading for this program.

We live and work on lands that have been for thousands of years and still very much are inhabited by the Nüümü (Paiute), Newe (Shoshone) and Timbisha peoples. Like so many places, the Owens Valley was named after a settler who apparently never set foot here. It's true name is Payahüünadü or Panawe, given by the Nüümü and Newe peoples, respectively. This land acknowledgement is a recognition of the original inhabitants of the Eastern Sierra, and is intended as a show of respect for Native peoples and to surface the often-suppressed colonial history of our country. We encourage you to learn more about the indigenous culture and history of this land that you will be venturing out on while you are with us. visit for a great interactive story map of the history of this valley. More information on this topic is available upon registration.

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