Foundations of a Soulmaking Dharma:
Re-evaluating Emptiness, Imagination, Sacredness and Desire
An online study and practice course guided by Catherine McGee
Assisted by Yahel Avigur
September 10 - December 10, 2023
13 weeks of practice and focused study of Soulmaking Dharma
Online Course Overview
|Application time frame||June 5 - July 24, 2023|
|Course dates||September 10 - December 10, 2023|
|Duration||13 Weeks (with 3 digestion weeks)
|Time commitment||8 hours per week|
|Participation expectation|| Sunday Course Meeting-11:30-1:30 PM ET
Sept. 10, 17, 24, Oct. 1, 15, 22, Nov. 5, 12, 26, Dec. 3
|Self-Paced components||• Video presentations
• Guided meditations
• Self-reflection exercises
• A short weekly assignment
|Optional offerings||• Live Meditation/Workshop Thursdays
• Affinity Spaces
• Connect and Digest
|Prerequisites||Multiple prerequisites include: retreat practice, a working familiarity with some key ideas and practices. Please click here for full details|
This online course 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.
Two Paths to choose from
Online Course Only
Online and Residential
Completion of this online course is a prerequisite for the Soulmaking Dharma residential program at BCBS scheduled for January 2024. Participants who wish to attend the residential course must complete the online course in 2023 (or have taken the intensive course).
It is not necessary to attend the residential course if a student wishes to only participate in the online course.
Registration for the residential program will open in August.
Testimonials from Soulmaking practitioners:
"This gorgeous body of soulmaking teachings has spoken to my vulnerability to beauty, my longing for justice, my love of ideas, my desire to be in deepening conversation with the earth in this time of unravelling, and my eagerness to participate in new ways of perceiving who we are and what we find ourselves charged with in these times.”
“I trust these teachings deeply. Rooted in the safety of the Buddha's brilliant dharma, they have given me the permission and the capacity to say yes to the soul's deeper desires and to learn to sense myself and all things as wholly sacred. This has enormous implications not only on my work in the world right now, but also on my understanding of what is possible on the path towards awakening.”
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.
This is an intensive, rigorous, and demanding course and requires considerable commitment from participants. We require attendance at the Sunday Course meeting and the home group that meets during this meeting, as well as completion of writing prompts and course assignments throughout the program. The minimum required time commitment is 8 hours per week.
- 2hr. Sunday Course 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 alone and together, and an atmosphere care for, and discernment of your particular learning styles will be supported.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The Barre Center for Buddhist Studies acknowledges that many people face barriers to participating in our work due to biases and social structures based on race, class, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, ability, religion and other factors. Thus, in accord with Buddhist teachings as we understand them, BCBS takes a proactive approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and is engaged in ongoing initiatives to promote these three values throughout our work.
A Diversity of Souls
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
There are eight prerequisites for this online course, including: four week-long silent Insight meditation led retreats; confidence working with whole body awareness for emotional navigation, for loosening clinging, and for metta practice; and an understanding of emptiness and dependent origination.
Please contact us at email@example.com to share any feedback regarding ways that we could make the application process or participation in the course more accessible for you or others.
This online course will follow the Buddha's principle of ethics as the foundation for Soulmaking practice. Participation in this course 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, Teacher Dāna and Scholarships
The course 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 at the end of the program.
We are committed to making this program accessible to all.
Financial assistance is available to help supplement the course fee.
Requests for financial assistance may be made in the registration process. If accepted into the course, a 30%, 40% or 50% scholarship can be selected on the registration page, and it will be applied directly. If the financial assistance need is over 50% of the course fee, there is a space to indicate what amount of the course fee would be affordable, and we will offer what we can to accommodate the request.
We generally only offer financial assistance one time per person per year so as to make this support available to as many students as possible.
Applications open: June 5th
Applications close: July 24th
Initial acceptance notified by: July 31st
Course Opening: September 10th