Open Desert, Open Mind: A Wilderness Program for Contemplatives (Full with short waitlist)

Oct 17th, 2020 - Oct 25th, 2020
Eureka Valley


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.

Sliding-scale Tuition: $950-$1600 Please contact us if money is an impediment to your joining us.

Deposit: $300 The deposit is considered both a sign of as well as financial support for the School for the considerable work done in organizing and enrolling the course. For both these reasons, the deposit is non-refundable unless the program is cancelled. The full fee is due at start of the course.

Letter of Intent: We ask for a letter of intent describing what calls you to this unique desert program. This letter is an important part of your preparation and will serve as an introduction to us that we may best support you.


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The School of Lost Borders has created a sliding scale for all its programs and trainings in an effort to keep our courses affordable to a wide range of people. We set forth no criteria and trust that each individual will pay what they feel is appropriate.

Scholarships are available.

Tuition: $950 - $1675

Deposit: $300
(Non-refundable & non-transferrable unless seminar is cancelled)

Extra Fees: $45 camping fee


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