Great Pain, Great Zeal and a Whole-Life Path

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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?” However, 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. When we experience a traumatic event or loss, such as the death of a child, when chronic pain presses in on us, or when the losses are great and the stresses extreme, we can sometimes fall into what might feel like a bottomless pit of pain. Yet, we can also feel that gates have been opened into a deeper awareness during these times. Then, there is a unique opportunity to turn toward the Noble Eightfold Path as a whole life engagement.

Our daylong will be all about repurposing our pain, putting it to work as path motivation. It helps us remember the path. 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, is 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. We hope that, following this retreat, you will be inspired to continue 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 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. A wide understanding of the eight path factors is simply a means to help us do that.

At this retreat, we will be maintaining noble silence except for the times we are practicing Insight Dialogue. This retreat is for people who have experienced at least two, week-long meditation retreats. It is designed for those sharing an intention to meet great life disruptions with Dhamma practice in their own lives. You may self-assess on this, but examples of life disruptions could include a diagnosis of terminal disease, the unexpected, untimely death of a loved one, severe chronic pain, or another very significant life challenge. Please do not register for this retreat unless you believe it fits your life circumstance, you feel called to its purpose, and feel capable of participating fully. While this retreat is designed to invite difficult experiences into direct contact with the wisdom and compassion of the Buddhadhamma, this retreat cannot and will not provide the resources and support of a formal therapeutic relationship. Therefore, it is not designed for individuals currently overwhelmed by crisis. We ask each of you to reflect upon your individual resources, resilience, and readiness for genuine confrontation with the acute and chronic challenges in your actual life. Before registering for this retreat, ensure that you can access your therapist, personal support person, or group as needed during or after this retreat.