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Great Pain, Great Zeal, and a Whole Life Path
Dates: Sep 28, 2021 - Oct 04, 2021
Days: Tue - Mon (6 Nights)

Instructor(s): Gregory Kramer, Mary Aubry, Mary S. Burns

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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. 

Noble Silence: 

At this retreat we will be maintaining noble silence except for the times we are practicing Insight Dialogue.

Experience Level:

Prerequisite required

  • Gregory Kramer has been teaching vipassanā since 1980, having been trained by Ven. Ananda Maitreya Mahanayaka Thera, Punnaji Maha Thera, Achan Sobin Namto, and Anagarika Dhammadina. He is the co-creator and developer of Insight Dialogue and teaches this practice and Dharma Contemplation worldwide. He is the founder-director of Metta Foundation and the author of Insight Dialogue: The Interpersonal Path to Freedom. He’s just completed a new book, A Whole Life Path: A Layperson’s Guide to a Dhamma-Infused Life. Formerly a National Endowment for the Arts Composition Fellow and founder of the Electronic Art Ensemble, Gregory still composes and improvises.

  • Mary Aubry leads meditation retreats on insight, the jhānas, abiding in emptiness, and the brahmavihārās.  In addition, she has taught for programs that support mindfully meeting aging, illness, and dying, as well as training meditation companions for the aging, ill, and dying and those who love and care for them.  Mary also offers meditative support to parents of deceased children, having lost her son to cancer in 2015.  Additionally, Mary is one of the facilitating teachers for Bhikkhu Anālayo’s online Satipaṭṭhāna course offered by the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.  Prior to becoming a full-time meditation teacher, Mary worked as a lawyer at the U.S. Justice Department for 24 years.

  • Mary S. Burns teaches Insight Dialogue retreats internationally and offers ID practice online. She works as a clinical social worker, and engages actively in the Insight Dialogue Community by participating in the Teachers Council, Guiding Sangha, Awakening White Awareness cohort, and by mentoring facilitators and teachers in development. For more than four decades Mary has been drawn to the intersection of Eastern and Western healing practices and has had the good fortune to study with many gifted meditation teachers including in-depth study with Gregory Kramer since 2004.


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