A Soulmaking Dharma:
Re-evaluating Emptiness, Imagination, Sacredness and Desire
An online study and practice course guided by Catherine McGee
Assisted by Yahel Avigur
11 weeks of practice and focused study of Soulmaking Dharma
Online Course Overview
|Application time frame||Applications open June 15- August 1, 2020|
|Course dates||September 6-November 21|
|Duration||11 Weeks (one week break, week of Oct 11)|
|Time commitment||10 hours per week|
|Prerequisite||4 week-long silent meditation retreats, or equivalent experience, additional prerequisites listed here|
|Self-Paced components||• Video presentations
• Guided meditations
• Self-reflection exercises
• A short weekly assignment
|Interactive components||• Weekly 90 minute small group practice meeting with facilitation
• 6 whole community practice gatherings
• Small group written forum for sharing assignments
• Whole community written forum for questions
This online course is a contemplative and thoughtful look into the Soulmaking Dharma teachings.
Completion of this online course is a prerequisite for the Soulmaking Dharma residential program at BCBS in January 2021 (subject to change depending on our re-opening schedule). Participants who wish to attend the residential course must have completed the online course in 2019 or 2020. However it is not necessary to attend the residential course if a student wishes to only participate in the online course.
What is Soulmaking Dharma?
Rooted in the Buddha's teaching of emptiness, ethics and meditative training, Soulmaking Dharma is emerging as one of the flowerings of the Dharma in our times.
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 a 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 currently scheduled for January 2021 (subject to change). Participants who wish to attend the residential course must complete the online course in 2020 (or have taken the 2019 course). It is not necessary to attend the residential course if a student wishes to only participate in the online course.
Testimonials from Our Previous Soulmaking Course:
"I had the pleasure of going on 2 soulmaking retreats with Catherine McGee and had opportunities to work with her one on one as well as in small groups. She is an amazing teacher. What she brings to this extraordinary practice is her passion, her wisdom, her integrity, her deep compassion and care as well as all of her previous years of mindfulness experience. I hope to have more opportunities to work with her again."
“I love how soulmaking dharma takes the Buddha’s teachings on emptiness not just as an endpoint in itself but as a basis for exploring how existence can be sensed with more blessedness and sacredness. I enjoy the experimental nature of the teachings and very much appreciate how body, heart, mind, intellect, imagination, suffering, desire, self and world are all welcome and serve as both organs of and raw material for soulmaking. The soulmaking paradigm establishes my feet even more firmly on this earth while simultaneously giving me wings.”
Catherine McGee has been teaching Insight Meditation retreats internationally since 1999, and since 2014 has been collaborating with Rob Burbea in shaping and teaching Soulmaking Dharma. She is a member of the Gaia House teacher council, teaches yearly at IMS, and is a guiding teacher for One Earth Sangha – a web-based sangha exploring Buddhist responses to the climate crisis.
Yahel Avigur has been a devoted practitioner of insight meditation since 2003, combining practices from other streams of Therevada Buddhism. Since 2013 he’s practiced with the guidance of Rob Burbea, and in 2020 completed his teacher-training under his guidance. For the last four years, Yahel has been teaching Dharma in Israel. He is also dedicated to educational work and social activism, and practices Hakomi, a meditative-dialogical approach to psychological healing.
This is an intensive, rigorous and demanding course and requires considerable commitment from participants. We require attendance at weekly online meetings, as well as completion of writing prompts and course assignments throughout the program. The required time commitment is roughly 10 hours per week. Each week includes:
- 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 small group sharing board
- A 90 minute live practice meeting in small groups -with guided peer inquiry exercises and activities, discussion and Q& A around the Soulmaking foundation of the week.
Small group time options can be found here and on the application. Applicants will select the times they are available for on the application, and will be assigned a small group time from those options.
In addition, there will be six 90-minute whole group meetings with Catherine McGee on Sundays Sept 6 and 20, Oct 4 and 18, Nov 1 and 15 at 10:00 am EST. These whole community gatherings with Catherine will be an opportunity for:
- Meeting and practicing with the whole group
- Diving deeper into the previous week’s topic
- Exploring your practice live with Catherine
- Sharing your own (or witnessing) sangha practice explorations in break out groups.
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.
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 and its Implications for Soulfulness
- 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’
- conceiving of practice as the development of flexibility and skill with a range of 'ways of looking'
- 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
Applications for Fall 2020 are now closed.
There are seven 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 see additional prerequisite details below.
Alternative options and pathways for preparation are presented on the prerequisite page.
A Diversity of Souls
Please watch this video for more on: barriers to participation, how identity and the particularity of self is held within this teaching, and the prerequisites.
Please contact us at email@example.com or 978-355-2347 ex. 16 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 15
Applications close: August 1
Initial acceptance notified by: August 15
Orientation and Enrollment: August 16- September 1
Course Opening: September 6