Feb 26th, 2017 - Mar 9th, 2017
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 in Death Valley at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, February 26, with our last meeting finishing by mid-day on Thursday, March 9. The morning we rendezvous we will caravan to a backcountry site for the 4 days of preparation, the 4 days of the solo fast, and the final 3½ days of incorporation. The School makes no provisions for meals or equipment, though we will offer a communal meal the first night of your arrival and 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.
Please note: The deposit is considered a sign of commitment from the participant as well as financial support for the School for the considerable work done organizing and enrolling the course. For these reasons, the deposit is non-refundable unless the program is cancelled. To confirm commitment, half of the remaining balance will be due 4 months before the course starts and the remainder of the fee is payable at the time of the program.