Foundations of a Soulmaking Dharma:
Re-evaluating Emptiness, Imagination, Sacredness and Desire
13 weeks of focused study and practice of Soulmaking Dharma guided by Catherine McGee and Yahel Avigur.
|Prerequisites include retreat practice and a working familiarity with key ideas and practices. Please click here for full details.
|13 weeks (including 3 digestion weeks)
|8 hours per week
|Sunday Program Meetings (11:30 AM - 1:30 PM ET)
|• Video Presentations
• Guided Meditations
• Self-Reflection Exercises
• Short Weekly Assignments
|• Live Meditation/Workshop Thursdays
• Affinity Spaces
• Connect and Digest
This online program is a contemplative and thoughtful look into the Soulmaking Dharma teachings.
What is Soulmaking Dharma?
Rooted in the Buddha's teaching of emptiness, ethics and meditative training, Soulmaking Dharma is a rich and resonant contemporary flowering of the Dharma.
Our Buddhist practice reveals to us that perception is empty and shapeable. We see that we inevitably participate in making the world through the ways we sense and see. Understanding this, the soulmaking practitioner learns to open and tune their heart, body, imagination, desire and intellect to form an instrument for soulful perception: sensing and seeing self, others, and world in ways that bring more beauty, dimensionality, and meaningfulness, and that restore, open, and expand senses of sacredness.
Here, the depths and subtleties of meditative practice, the particularities of the individual and their personal journeys, and the gifts, complexities, and sufferings of our time can all find their specific place in a responsive, intelligent, and soulful Dharma.
Soulmaking Dharma teachings rest upon practices of samatha, metta, emptiness, and the emotional/energy body. The Soulmaking teachings are laid out in several hundred hours of Dharma talks by Rob Burbea and Catherine McGee on Dharmaseed.org.
Choose From Two Program Formats
Applications Open: June 5th
Applications Close: July 24th
Initial Acceptance Notification: July 31st
Program Opening: September 10th
Catherine McGee has been teaching Insight Meditation retreats internationally since 1999. She is a member of the Gaia House teacher council, teaches yearly at IMS and BCBS and is a guiding teacher for One Earth Sangha – a web-based sangha exploring Buddhist responses to the climate and ecological crises. Between 2014-2020 she collaborated closely with Rob Burbea in shaping and teaching “A Soulmaking Dharma."
Yahel Avigur is a teacher in the Insight Meditation tradition. He completed his teacher-training in 2020 under the guidance of Rob Burbea, with a particular emphasis on Emptiness and Jhana practices. Currently he's in training for teaching "Soulmaking Dharma", guided by Catherine McGee. Yahel is also trained in Hakomi approach of assisted self study.
The Soulmaking curriculum includes a thoughtful and contemplative exploration of the following themes:
Tuning the Body Awareness for Soulful Perception
- different modes of mindfulness of the body
- “sensitive to the whole body” – some of the ways in which this can be experienced
- ‘energy/emotional body’ – the what, how and why of attending to the body in this way
- body as an instrument for soulful perception
- restoration of ways of knowing and your access to these possible ways of knowing: imaginative; emotional; conceptual; aesthetic; ethical; somatic; intuitive; instinct for soul
The Place of Imagination
- defining terms for a Soulmaking Dharma: ‘image’, ‘psyche’ and ‘imagination’
- suspicions of and restrictions on the use of imagination
- discerning what allows imagination to become a contemplative faculty
- recognizing how ‘image’ is already operating when you are devoted to something
- the necessity of imagination for soulmaking
- imaginal perception, including: sense of ‘dimensionality', 'unfathomable beyonds', ‘eternality’, ‘irreducibility to a single meaning', ‘meaningfulness’
Emptiness ‘Ways of Looking’ - the Implications for Soulfulness
- conceiving of practice as the development of flexibility and skill with a range of 'ways of looking'
- different understandings/realizations of emptiness within the Buddhist tradition, and their implications for the possibilities of soulmaking
- Kaccayanagotta sutta (SN 12.15) and the middle way between the assertion of ‘real’ and ‘not real’
- The 'spectrum of fabrication of perception' – papanca, bare attention, practices that significantly lessen fabricating, and skillful fabricating
- ‘less fabrication than one’s habitual center of gravity’
Relationality and the Necessity of Twoness
- roots in the Four Divine Abidings (the Brahmaviharas)
- the necessity of ‘twoness’ ‘differentiation’, ‘balance of attention’
- ‘loving and being loved’
- ‘seeing and being seen’
- ‘autonomy of self and other’
- 'humility’, ‘trust’, ‘reverence’, ‘grace’, ‘beauty’
Opening the Dharma of Desire
- the path of unbinding craving and clinging
- views and assumptions about desire in Dharma practice
- recognizing and working with views of self, and the energetic and emotional patternings that arise with desire, e.g. lack, fear, frustration, expectation, entitlement, despair, confusion, etc.
- skills with the arising of desire – including 'opening to the current of desire’
- the necessity of ‘eros’ for soulmaking
- discriminating and uncoupling ‘eros’ from craving and clinging
The Necessity of Ideas
- acknowledging the power of ideas, and recognizing that concepts and conceptual frameworks are inevitably operating in the forming of any perception and in the shaping of our sense of self, other and world in any moment
- recognizing how concepts operate in meditation practice; artful use of concepts in meditation
- recognizing and loosening attachment to ideas to which we unconsciously default
- knowing the issues that arise for you when working with ideas and intellect
Working with Images
- inquiring into the kinds of ideas and conceptual frameworks that can support soulful perception in meditation and in sensing the world with soul
- discerning which of the 28 elements of 'sensing with soul' you can access and which are less available
- working with images
- discriminating along the spectra of: soulless - soulful, universal - personal, less fabricated – more fabricated
A Soulful Relationship with Dukkha
- ideas about dukkha on the path of practice
- narratives of healing
- ensouling dukkha
- developing the range of skills for working with dukkha
- approaching emotions via the ‘energy body’
- agency and surrender, doing and not doing, ‘create/discover’
Ensouling the World
- reflection on the gifts, sensibilities, perspectives, and dukkhas of all your lineages, human and more than human
- What calls you? ‘duty’, ‘fullness of intention’
- Between Eden and the Abyss- ensouling the full spectrum
- ‘beauty’, ‘ justice’, ‘truth’
- soulful activism
Caring for the Vessel
- what do you need to develop to become an instrument for soulful perception?
- reflecting, recapping, consolidating, celebrating, and exploring what is next for your practice
This is an intensive, rigorous, and demanding program and requires considerable commitment from participants. We require attendance at the Sunday program meeting and the home group that meets during this meeting, as well as completion of writing prompts and program assignments. The minimum required time commitment is 8 hours per week.
Weekly individual participation includes:
- 2 hour Sunday program meetings to meet together and dive deeper into the themes-11:30 AM ET
- 50 minutes of video presentation by Catherine McGee introducing the theme of the week
- 45 minutes of daily practice with guided meditations or instructions
- Completion of a self-reflection exercise
- Weekly assignment to contribute to your group sharing board
- Optional live meditation/workshop
- Optional affinity group spaces
- Optional connect and digest
A spirit of playfulness and enjoyment will be invited in all of the practices, both individually and together, and an atmosphere of care for and discernment of your particular learning styles will be supported.
This online program will follow the Buddha's principle of ethics as the foundation for Soulmaking practice. Participation in this program is supported by group commitment to respect and non-harming, applying to both communication with others and also to one's personal relationship with the practice.
Program Fee and Teacher Dāna
The program fee is $450. This does not include financial support for Catherine or Yahel. As is customary at BCBS, there will be an opportunity to offer dāna to the teachers at the end of the program.
We are committed to making this program accessible to all. Financial assistance is available to help supplement the program fee. Requests for financial assistance can be made during the registration process. If accepted into the program, financial assistance of 30%, 40% or 50% of the program fee can be selected and immediately applied during registration. If the need for financial assistance is greater than 50% of the program fee, please indicate what amount of the program fee feels affordable to you and we will do what we can to accommodate your request.
In order to be accepted into the program, you must meet 8 prerequisites encompassing the following:
- four week-long silent guided insight meditation retreats
- confidence working with whole body awareness for emotional navigation, for loosening clinging, and for metta practice
- understanding of emptiness and dependent origination
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The Barre Center for Buddhist Studies is committed to providing a a spiritual home and resource for all on the path to awakening. We at BCBS do our best to ensure that everyone who comes here feels truly welcome, respected, and safe, whatever their age, race, ethnicity, sex (including gender identity and expression), sexual orientation, body type, disability, religion, or political viewpoint. We recognize this is ongoing work and invite you to reach out to us at email@example.com with suggestions and feedback as to how we can more fully embody our aspiration to be a refuge for all.