Waking up to our Elemental Nature
Practicing Mindfulness with the Six Elements
A Six Night Silent Meditation Retreat
at the Won Dharma Center, NY
Led by Jon Aaron and Upayadhi
August 13th to 19th, 2023
Sunday evening to Saturday lunchtime
In the full glory of late Summer, and on the gorgeous campus of the Won Dharma Center with its big skies and rolling hills, we invite you to join us for contemplative and spacious meditation retreat.
We will anchor ourselves in the ancient and transformational practices of mindfulness of the Elements. Practicing with the Elements is a core component of mindfulness of the body in Early Buddhism, and continued to develop with more symbolic and mythic dimensions in later expressions of the tradition. Initially understood to be four (Earth, Water, Fire and Air), the Elements soon became known as a list of six, with the addition of Space and Consciousness. Practicing with and through the elements, we can gain direct experience of the continually changing nature of all phenomena. We can touch into a deeper peace, as the separation between “my” body and everything surrounding us starts to soften. We can peer through the veil between the internal and external worlds and gain glimpses of the true nature of reality.
The expansive grounds and vistas of the Won Dharma Center provide an ideal setting to work with these practices and allow for our minds and hearts to open into a greater spaciousness, a richer potential. Weather permitting, significant parts of the retreat will be held outside in both formal and informal practices. With its sheltered meditation decks, gentle walking trails, open vistas, and friendly residential community, the Center offers a unique set of conditions to deepen our meditation practice.
The retreat will include
• A spacious schedule, including unstructured time for rest, walks and just being.
• A range of meditation practices rooted in the Buddhist tradition.
• Weather permitting, sessions of outdoor seated and walking meditation.
• Dharma talks exploring the themes of the retreat.
• Mindful movement sessions.
• Opportunities for Buddhist chanting and ritual.
• Meditation interviews with the teachers.
• A closing listening circle.
• Non-silent meals at the start and end of the retreat, to ease in and out of silence.
Jon Aaron’s Dharma home is New York Insight Meditation Center, where he teaches Buddhism and MBSR. He is also the co-guiding teacher of the Makom Havurah at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. Jon is a Certified MBSR Teacher Trainer, supporting and mentoring MBSR teachers-in-training across the US, Europe, and Asia. As a Somatic Experience Practitioner®, he has a particular interest in somatic approaches and healing trauma. You can find Jon in weekly conversation with his friend Doug Smith over on the Diggin’ the Dharma podcast.
Upayadhi is a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order, to which she was ordained in 2018. She entered Union Theological Seminary in New York to study Buddhism and Interreligious Engagement, and her scholarship is focused on transnational Buddhist movements in modern times. She co-founded Awareness is Revolutionary, a collective of Buddhists committing to cultivating Beloved Community and accelerating racial literacy within a Dharmic framework. Upayadhi also teaches in secular contexts as a Certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher, and has practiced as an interfaith chaplain in healthcare settings.
When the pandemic hit New York City, Jon and Upayadhi co-founded Space2Meditate, which offers online meditation sessions six days a week and is still going strong. It has grown organically into a non-denominational mindfulness community, with a taste for poetry as an aid to practice.
Who is the retreat for?
The retreat assumes prior meditation experience and some degree of regular practice. Thus, it is suitable as a first silent meditation retreat, as well as for those with extensive “time on the cushion” and knowledge of the teachings. We will explore the themes in ways that are meaningful for all, whether anchored in the Buddhist tradition, in other traditions, or no tradition at all.
Note: This retreat is a qualifying retreat for participants planning to pursue MBSR teacher training and other teacher training pathways.
The Won Dharma Center and transportation
The beautiful Won Dharma Center is a 2-hour train ride from New York City. From the Hudson Amtrak station, cabs can be shared to the center, which is in Claverack. Further information on transportation can be found on the Won Dharma Center site. Below the registration section on this page, we have listed recommended train options for arriving and departing.
Optional Work meditation
The Won Dharma Center is not just a retreat center, but a living residential Buddhist community, devoted to the Dharmalife. To support the residential community in running the center, there will be opportunities to sign up on a volunteer basis for light jobs in the kitchen.
Room and Board
The Won Dharma Center offers beautiful clean and well-appointed accommodations at different price levels: single rooms, double rooms, quad rooms and even a camping option. Rooms have ceiling fans but no A/C. There are many bathrooms in each building, which are adjacent to rooms.
The fees includes all delicious vegetarian meals. The cuisine is mostly Asian, as the Won Dharma community is a Korean lineage. Upon registration you will be asked about any food allergies or special diets and the team will do its best to accommodate you.
Supporting the Teachers
Our organizing and teaching of the retreat are not integrated into the Room and Board fees, which go entirely to the Won Dharma Center. To be able to hold this retreat, we are asking for support based on a sliding scale ($320/375/450). Please take into consideration your financial circumstances when deciding at which level to make a contribution. We were not able to make this retreat entirely dana-based (donations only), as we have to incur a significant financial risk in fronting the deposit to reserve the entire center for this retreat.
We do depend on the generosity of the sangha as a right livelihood and a means by which we can teach, and continue to teach. Thank you for your support.
Supporting Each Other
When you book your housing option and choose your level of contribution to the teachers, you will also be able to make a contribution to our scholarship fund. This is optional, but vital to the spirit of this retreat. The scholarship fund will be used to help fellow practitioners attend the retreat who are otherwise unable to cover the cost on their own. Thank you in advance for your generosity. It is our intention to turn no one away for lack of funds, but we do need you help to make that possible.
A note on silence
A willingness to explore the practice of collective silence is expected, as the retreat will be held in noble silence. This includes the temporary renunciation of electronic devices – some call this “detox”! We will have wake-up bells for morning meditation. Such silence and the lessening of input allow for our meditation to deepen, and our nervous systems to unwind in ways that are typically impossible in our busy lives. Silence is a rare and nourishing gift we can offer each other. Teachers will be offering instruction and talks, and there will be opportunities for Q&A as well as meditation interviews.
We will request that all attendees be fully vaccinated, in order to minimize risks. Masks indoors will be encouraged but optional, and we will ask for a rapid home test prior to departing to the retreat center. We will also be following any Won Dharma Center protocols which you can read in more detail closer to the start of the retreat, as they may evolve. Of course, if you suddenly become ill or have a Covid positive test result we will fully refund your registration and teacher contribution.
Find out more at www.space2meditate.com/august-2023-retreat