by Sarah Brown
Four days and nights alone in the California desert without food or shelter is not everyone’s idea of a good time, but for the vision questers of the School of Lost Borders, the gruelling ceremony is spirituality off-grid, an ancient rite for modern times, which generates a powerful experience of self and spirit, carried out far beyond the reach of organised religion.
The School of Lost Borders, based in the Eastern Californian Sierra in the “land of little rain” has offered rites of initiation for over 30 years to thousands of spiritual adventurers whose lives are in transition. Their blurb invites those struggling to progress from child to adult, adult to elder, married to divorced, healthy to ailing, to “write to Lost Borders or just forget that such a wild idea ever came into your head” and warns, “Do not attend the School of Lost Borders if you plan to remain the same person. You come here to lose your borders, your boundaries, your limitations”.
The vision questers who turn up to spend time alone in the desert seeking a vision are often preoccupied by the privation of going without food, perhaps for longer than they have in their lives before, but in practice their experience of the natural world around them, the discovery of their own place within it and the way it informs their ability to mark or make the transition they seek is usually far more powerful.
Upon their return to the community from solitude, vision questers are asked to tell the story of their time apart, of insights and encounters with animals, insects and spirits, and to hear their story “mirrored” back to them. In this way the vision quester is initiated into his or her own life, becomes the hero of his or her own story and becomes acquaintedwith the allies and guardians who will provide help and protection on the journey.