Great suffering and pain can lead us to ask, as we read in the suttas, “Does anyone have a word or two that can help relieve this suffering.” Great suffering and pain can do more than look for kind words of support and relief: it can wake us up to our condition and all our potential. And even sustained pain can help keep us aware of our condition and our potential. When we experience a traumatic event or loss, such as the death of a child; when chronic pain presses in on us; when the losses are great and the stresses extreme; we can sometimes fall into what might feel like a bottomless pit of pain. During these times, we can also feel that gates have been opened into a deeper awareness. Then, there is a unique opportunity to turn toward the Noble Eightfold Path as a whole life engagement.
Our retreat will be all about repurposing our pain, putting it to work as path motivation. We will learn particular approaches to each path factor, and the Path as a whole, that guide and empower us in crafting and living a whole life path: no teaching, no moment, no experience, however difficult, left out. Our foundations of formal practice will be vipassana, Insight Dialogue, sangha, noble silence, and time in nature.
Our primary learning process will unfold in meditation and in the power of spiritual friendship guided by Gregory Kramer’s book, A Whole Life Path. The interpersonal practice of Insight Dialogue will support insight and promote the experience of deep and abiding relationships guided by the Dhamma. It is our hope that, following this retreat, you will be inspired to continued engagement with this community of practice or start your own whole life practice group. An ongoing practice cohort can provide mutual support for times of great suffering. The repeated experience of turning toward suffering with others helps us to see more clearly that from great pain comes great zeal, and with great zeal, a whole life path is the most natural and joyful way to live.
At this retreat we will be maintaining noble silence except for the times we are practicing Insight Dialogue.