Circles of Air, Circles of Stone provides the opportunity to apprentice to the vision fasting process. The emphasis is on developing the skills and personal qualities necessary to safely and successfully lead small groups of people through modern day rites of passage; to bring forms and processes that are both universal and ancient, and rooted in the most basic fact of our existence, into a contemporary context.
An apprenticeship to the vision fasting process involves the mastery of a body of knowledge: the myths and the traditions, the applications and processes of passage rites and the search for vision that have been developed and adapted over the millennia. Although this training may, and should, include academic pursuit and study, the heart of it lies in experience, the encounter with Spirit and the experience of facing our gods, goddesses, our stories and our Self, alone upon the earth.
Enrollment is open to all, but limited in number. Desire and experience does not guarantee an opening, and a wait may sometimes be required.
This experience, although universal, is also unique to each of us, and it is that unique gift, that we must bring to those who follow us. Accordingly, the training will address your specific needs and abilities. This includes developing, affirming, and empowering one’s special gifts and “medicine;” the clarification and articulation of your values and myths and the implications and relevance to various ritual processes; the adaptation and/or application of wilderness processes to your specific position or profession; developing or honing specific counseling skills; and your personal fast or medicine walk to address the question, “How am I to give my gifts to my people?”
Training in this area includes participation in a fasting quest. When one enters the wilderness, one makes a choice to face and discover the unknown. Good preparation and good intent are our strongest allies. We enter, fully responsible for our efforts, but the outcome is beyond our control. Our good intent may lead us to certainty or to a deeper awareness and appreciation of the Great Mystery. This training, undertaken for whatever intent or conscious motivation, involves being open to discovery, to entering the wilderness within ourselves.
It is our intent and vision that this training contribute to the greater healing of the earth and her children. Apprenticing is designed to contribute not only to your personal and professional growth, but to allow you to leave here better able to help heal individuals and a culture experiencing the personal and collective suffering from rootlessness, poverty of vision, and lack of a compelling or sustaining mythology. We believe in the modern day making of medicine, medicine being that which brings us back to a condition of health or wholeness. Contemporary society lacks any unifying myth or tradition, so we must start with our common root: being alive on this earth. We begin with the experience of wilderness and draw our sustenance there, reaching toward the Source as expressed in the soul and the Spirit, that we might, through our many branches, bring it to light, and flower.
Program of Study
A structure in which apprenticeships can, and often do, take place is outlined below. You may fall in-between or outside the categories. Many people do. You may have studied shamanism for 20 years and great deal of counseling experience, but never camped out in your life; or the opposite: intimately familiar with wilderness, nature, and ecology and a novice at ritual. The program is meant to adapt to fit your needs, to create the conditions where you can find your calling, develop into who you are meant to be, and make a difference in healing your people and all our relations born from this sacred earth.
Apprenticeships may vary from 11 days (beginning and intermediate) up to much longer periods. Beginning and intermediate training is focused around an already scheduled fasting quest (see schedule), starting one day before and running one day beyond. More advanced training is arranged on a case-by-case basis, with the cost varying according to the length of stay and intensity of concentration.
BEGINNING TRAINING: 11 DAYS, COST: $1395.
The trainee is both participant and on staff in a fasting quest. You will take the question of how and whether this work is appropriate for you, “to the mountain.” As a trainee, you are expected to listen, with the intent to absorb and master the material; participate and give feedback in counseling sessions; and prepare by doing assigned readings. Each meeting, group and individual, is followed by an appraisal, in which instructor and trainee discuss the issues presented, possible ways of addressing them; appropriate and inappropriate roles for a guide, etc. At the end of the program, your experience will be discussed and evaluated.
INTERMEDIATE TRAINING: 11 DAYS, COST: $1395.
Building on the beginning training, the apprentice functions as an supporting staff member responsible for the teaching and welfare of a vision fast group. You will assume specific tasks and responsibilities for all phases of the vision quest experience, including presenting teachings, the performance of ceremony, setting up and maintaining base camp, and contributing to the emotional and physical preparation of the vision fast participants. We will also focus on the further development of skill and professionalism, confidence building and empowerment of the trainee; evaluation and maturation of your leadership style; and a deeper immersion into the forms, issues, and processes of the wilderness vision quest.
Advanced training requires previous participation in two wilderness quests, one as participant-trainee, one as apprenticed staff member. Building on these experiences, advanced training includes daily meetings focusing on all of the subjects listed in Areas of Study below. It may take place over longer periods of time and include participation and training in other workshops and trainings offered by Circles of Air and Stone, with cost negotiated on a case-by-case basis.
Themes and Skill Areas
The use and relevance of ritual in contemporary society.
PASSAGES, TRANSITIONS, AND CRISES IN HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
The landscape of the modern world is far different from ancient times. Circles of Air and Stone was founded by a vision to bring the ancient teachings into the contemporary world. This is a sacred trust, but it is also a challenge and a creative act.
We do not live in small villages. The vision questing process is not limited to those one knows, to boys or girls of a certain age, or to people with common beliefs, stories and mythologies. Society includes atheists, pagans, and fundamentalists; people who are healthy and severely wounded; those without beliefs and those imprisoned by them. To effectively help this diverse population may require skills, exercises, and elements that were unknown and unnecessary 100 years ago and in some parts of the world today.
We are called to serve our people. Knowledge of your “people” — who they are and the issues they face — will somewhat determine skills and areas of study important to you. If you are working primarily with adolescents, with people in recovery, with women, trauma survivors, or people confronting death, some areas listed below may be crucial while others almost irrelevant. But the core elements, the heart and soul of the vision quest, is the same today as it was in millennia past: respect, honor, and humility before our Creator, Mother Earth and the Spirit-in-all-Things; our willingness to shrink our arrogance and self-importance and open our eyes, ears, and heart to be taught; gratitude for the gift of life on this earth, and the recognition and respect for all our relations here with us.
THE USES OF WILDERNESS RITES OF PASSAGE IN CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY
Predictable and unpredictable passages, transitions, and crises in human development; the three phases of a rite of passage; evoking mythic elements; prayer and creating “sacred space”; personal and transpersonal dimensions of a passage rite; confirmatory vs. transformative rites.
THE MEANING OF VISION
The creation of “reality” and the elements influencing perception; exercises of dreaming, rituals and practices for altering reality and perception; the relationship of “self” to “world;” worldviews as dreams: the cultural dream and the dream of daily life; open vs. fear-based dreaming; the relationship of ego to the known and unknown.
WORKING WITH PEOPLE
Counseling skills. The guide as teacher, mirror, trickster, parent, comrade, catalyst, model. The powers and limitations of the role of “helper.” Clarification of one’s personal values and their relationship to the “goals” of therapeutic ritual and the fasting quest. Projection and the shadow.
MYTHOLOGY IN A CONTEMPORARY CONTEXT
The nature of myths and their traditional functions; myth as creator of “reality”; contemporary and cultural myths, family and personal myths; how to evoke, recognize, work with, or change mythologies; addressing mythological dimensions of a participant’s quest; the use of fairy tales, stories, and symbolic or imaginative constructs.
MYTHS AND ALLEGORIES OF THE VISION/FASTING QUEST
The heroic journey. The quest as sacred dream. The mirroring as aspect of nature: quests for guidance or divination; the metaphors and practice of birth and dying; the quest as meditation, as hologram, as the search for the lost self. The use of myth as a controlling metaphor. Masks of God.
Preparation in the pre-threshold phase: Correspondence, readings, group meetings; screening of participants, focusing of intent, recognition of monsters (fears, blocks) and allies. Ceremonies and rituals of severance (group and solitary): the death lodge, medicine walk, burial ground, and other rituals of purification. Archetypal and self-generated acts of severance. Preparation for fasting; allegorical acts of severance in the “mundane world.” The last supper.
CREATING EFFECTIVE RITUAL
Prayer. Bridges between the known and unknown. The meaning and elements of ritual; metaphors, archetypes, and symbols of the sacred world. Specific rituals: crossing the threshold; the purpose circle, power spot; sacred fire; receiving a name. The use and interpretation of power animals and songs; the meaning of “medicine”; the use and gathering of intent in ceremony. Rituals of attunement; fasting, sacred objects; dreams, dreaming, and asking for dreams.
Issues of reintegration into daily life, ceremonies of incorporation: the feast, elder‚s council, etc.; practices and difficulties of the return. Methods for grounding the sacred experience; witnessing, mirroring, and incorporation counseling. Myths and stories of the return. Life as a worthy opponent, as a test, as a continuation of the vision fast.
SAFETY IN THE FIELD
The choice of a fasting area; avoidable and unavoidable risks of the threshold passage; the stone-pile, the buddy system; assessing safety in various locations and terrain. Logistics, base camp requirements, and low-impact camping; medical and first aid planning and procedures. Physical preparation, knowledge of fasting, flora, and fauna.
WORKING WITH SPECIFIC GROUPS AND POPULATIONS
Youth; men or women, the elderly; “adult children”, incest/abuse survivors, etc. Creating, adapting, modifying programs or rites for specific populations and situations.
Personal, professional and wilderness ethics; business practices, insurance, professional organizations and support; location and use of various resources; related skills, organizations, publications, and trainings; rules and regulations in National Forests and Parks; questions of authority; mixing the sacred and the profane: the money issue.
RELATED BODIES OF KNOWLEDGE AND TEACHING
Other forms of quests and passage rites; medicine wheel and four shields teachings; the sacred tree; council of law; council of all beings; the dance of death; etc.