Open Desert, Open Mind: A Wilderness Program for Contemplatives


Oct 17th, 2020 - Oct 25th, 2020 | Eureka Valley | Scott Eberle, Silvia Talavera | Living the Practices

The very transparent, unfixed, yet alive quality of consciousness is its nature, a bit like air around us.  If you relax and allow this experience of unfixed knowing, you will discover what Buddhists writers call the clear open sky of awareness.  It is empty like space, but unlike space it is sentient; it knows experience.  In its true state, consciousness is simply this knowing—clear, open, awake, without color or form, containing all things, yet not limited by them.        

—Jack Kornfield, The Wise Heart

Eureka Valley is a vast open space that stretches on for miles. Here the scale of desolate earth and expansive sky is something to behold. “Clear, open, awake, without color or form, containing all things, yet not limited by them,” writes Jack Kornfield. What better container, what better mirror, for an expansive state of mind than the vast open space of Eureka Valley? 

Open Desert, Open Mind” draws upon the wilderness-based tradition of the School of Lost Borders and the spiritual practice of sitting meditation to create a unique program for desert contemplatives. This is neither a typical SOLB program nor a typical meditation retreat, but a blend of the two. The usual SOLB program invites participants to spend time alone on the land to access a deeper telling of their own story (while a wide-open desert setting naturally encourages an inner stillness that supports this deeper telling). A meditation retreat usually invites participants to move beyond the telling of stories in search of inner stillness (though often a deeper knowing of one’s own story is a gift found within that stillness). Here we will draw on both traditions.

While this program draws some from Buddhist teachings, no particular religious orientation or spiritual affiliation is asked of participants – nor is any excluded. That said, comfort with a regular meditation schedule is recommended. During the first four days together, we will weave together a tapestry of inner and outer exploration. Mornings will be a mix of sitting practice and council time for stories about what is coming up while sitting, with each successive morning becoming more silent than those before. Afternoons will start with several hours alone on the land to invite clear open awareness, inside and out. Late afternoons and evening will again be a mix of sitting and council, including time to have our stories mirrored by others. The morning of the fifth day, participants will be smudged out for a 24-hour solo fast in the desert. After a day of reentry, we’ll then spend two full days hearing everyone’s story, inviting a mirror of each story from both the desert expanse and the two guides.

Program information: Enrollment is limited to 12. We will rendezvous on Saturday, October 17th, at 11 a.m. in Big Pine, California, moving from there to our base-camp in the backcountry. We anticipate camping together the entire week, finishing by mid-morning on Sunday, October 25th. We will provide dinner the first night and the break-fast after the solo time. Otherwise we ask everyone to come prepared to live self-sufficiently, which means bringing your own camping equipment and food for the week. More detailed logistical information will be sent out prior to the program’s start.

A note to people with limited wilderness experience: Though we will be camping out for the entire week, activities undertaken will be non-strenuous and our emphasis will always be “safety first.” We will provide a list of personal equipment that each participant should bring and we will also provide some group equipment for our base-camp. We may be able to loan limited personal equipment as needed and if we are unable, we can provide advice about what to purchase or rent.

Meditation schedule: The program will include a regular meditation schedule, beginning with an optional sunrise sit, then group sits to start the morning and afternoon sessions, and an optional evening sit to close the day. Please bring whatever you prefer for your own sitting practice-be it a cushion, bench or chair.


TUITION: $950 - $1,675

We have a sliding scale for our programs in an effort to make them accessible. Please pay what you are able and know that your generosity supports the affordability of all our programs. If you need financial support or a payment plan check out our scholarship fund.

Pay program deposit

This deposit signifies your commitment to the program and is deducted from the tuition balance. This is a non-refundable, non-transferable deposit that is required for enrollment.

Submit enrollment form

Once you have paid the program deposit, please fill out and submit the enrollment form below. After your enrollment form is complete, please submit all health and liability forms.

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


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.