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School of Lost Borders

Big Pine, California, US

Every summer, the School of Lost Borders offers wilderness-based rites of passage ceremonies for young men and women ready to confirm their entry into adulthood. A blending of ancient and modern practices and teachings, the vision fast ceremony requires a willingness to live alone in the wilderness for three days and nights without food. They come seeking their deepest inner truths, their strengths and weaknesses, and to ask the critical questions, “Who am I to be in the world? What do I have to offer as an adult?”

This “ordeal” is a valid confirmation of maturity for young people, a pivotal experience, in which profound bonds with nature, self, and community may be discovered. Each participant returns from the solo time with a story to share and have witnessed in an elders’ council. (Fasters may choose to invite their parents to take part in these incorporation ceremonies.) Over 11 days there is an experience of community that arises with others and with place, a seed to be carried forward for a life time.

In 2015 we will be offering two youth programs: the Young Adult Fast in June and Young Leaders Fast in July, both in California.


For more than thirty years the School of Lost Borders (SOLB) has offered youth and adult vision fasts and rites of passage trainings that cultivate self-trust, responsibility, and a personal understanding of one’s unique place in society and the natural world. Its programs provide guided opportunities, perspectives, teachings, and much needed self-reflection time in a non-judgmental yet challenging environment. In the beginning, Steven Foster and Meredith Little, its founders, focused on youth rites of passage and a vision that meaningful rites of passage would be available to all people everywhere.

With the support of friends and colleagues, Steven and Meredith apprenticed themselves to the pan-cultural wisdom of rites of passage ceremonies, seeking to craft a modern initiation appropriate to the challenges of today’s world. Significant teachers emerged including Heyemoyosts Storm, Sun Bear, Grandpa Raymond and Virginia Hine. With Hine’s background in cultural anthropology, they explored the common elements and bare bones of the ceremonies that have appeared across cultures and traditions the world over. They sought to understand the bare bones of the ceremony itself, and to offer faster the means to develop and create their own “self-generated” ceremonies within the context of the Vision Fast and their lives.

It was here that the very roots of the School’s “tradition” emerged: From the people themselves who dared to follow Steven and Meredith into the desert. These brave initiates brought their own diverse spiritual traditions, ethnic heritage, cultural background, prayers and dreams into the ancient and simple form that Lost Borders held for them. When they returned, they taught us all through their stories. In this way, Lost Borders learned directly from the ceremony, from the land itself, and from those willing to enter into it.

The work of SOLB has since become a cornerstone for modern rites of passage globally.

Lost Borders made a home base in the rugged and remote Owens Valley on the eastern side of California. The name “Lost Borders” comes from a Mary Austin poem entitled The Land of Lost Borders, deriving from the Paiute Native American term for this high and low desert land which stretches eastward beyond the horizon’s vanishing limits. SOLB has also grown over the years into new regions across the world.

Since its inception SOLB has focused on training, offering a variety of courses for people who want to carry on the practices as well as integrate the work into their communities and organizations. Currently we are focusing on our youth programs and developing training and networks to support new guides and elders. We are looking to grow our work with communities of all kinds: bio-regional communities, social profit and educational organizations, schools, youth initiatives, and eco-villages. We will expand our focus on bringing together young guides and elders, gathering them once a year and encouraging them to return carrying these ways of working together into their bio-regions and areas of work. We are working under a new grant to expand our offerings to schools. We will be training more guides and offering presentations about ROP to interested organizations. We see ourselves as part of serving and growing a network of communities engaged in this work, with a basis of a common understanding of rites of passage, council, community with nature, with the world.

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