The Experience of Retreat
Since ancient times, retreats have been experiences where seekers could delve deeply into the mysteries of life and death. The N.A.T.U.R.E. Center will offer practitioners from all walks of life a refuge from a culture of distraction and a way to become immersed in a variety of meditation teachings and practice.
Our retreats will offer practical instruction and support for reconnection with your inner power, knowledge of self and freedom. These semi-silent retreats provide an absorptive experience. Practitioners stay in our sustainable lodging and eat organic plant-based cuisine from our eco-farm in the dining lodge. We will offer retreats lasting from 5 days to two months. There are program options for both new and more experienced practitioners of meditation.
Guest will stay in lodges with a capacity of only 2 persons per lodge. This level of privacy and seclusion adds to the reflective experience that a retreat offers.
Bodhidharma, an Indian monk who shared Kung Fu and Zen Buddhism with China, called meditation “a direct transmission outside the scriptures with no reliance on words or letters.” Residential retreat training, with its emphasis on lived experience rather than theoretical knowledge, is a uniquely powerful way to study and practice meditation.
Mindfulness for Everyone – 6 nights
Mindfulness can be defined as paying attention to our present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is. Through the practice of mindfulness, we learn tools to regulate emotions, develop attention, and cultivate states of compassion, even-mindedness, and greater well-being. When we attend to the present moment over a sustained period of time, practitioners report deeper connection to themselves, more self-compassion, and greater insights into their lives.
In this 6-night retreat, we will practice mindfulness meditation through sitting and walking meditation as well as lectures and opportunity to meet with teachers who will guide our practice. This retreat will focus on the practical applications of mindfulness, and is open to people of all backgrounds and experience, especially those interested in secular mindfulness. An excellent retreat for beginners, but open to all levels.
Insight Meditation- 9 nights
The Insight Meditation retreat is a special opportunity to be in like-minded company surrounded by the peace of the surrounding landscape. Join us to reflect on the deeper truths, joys and sorrows we collectively share, in order to hone our spirit, nourish our lives, and strengthen our capacity to meet challenging times. This retreat will emphasize quieting the mind, opening the heart, and developing clarity and depth of practice. Traditional meditation instruction will be combined with a spirit of loving-kindness and silent sitting and walking meditation, dharma talks and practice meetings with teachers.
Loving Awareness – 4 nights
Loving Awareness, practiced as mindfulness, is the gateway to liberation. During this meditation retreat, as experienced practitioners, we will join together to quiet the mind, open the heart, and see our human life with the eyes of wisdom. We will continue our traditional alternating periods of sitting, walking, guided meditations; and add in daily periods of dialogue where we are engaged in Q & A sessions with the teachers and the group of practitioners attending the retreat.
Awakening Through Illness, Aging and Death – 5 nights
The Buddha called sickness, aging, and death “heavenly messengers” because they can powerfully guide us toward awakening. At this retreat we’ll learn to open our hearts and minds to all aspects of life, including the heavenly messengers. This opening cultivates the awareness, acceptance, and nourishing wisdom needed to meet life’s inevitable changes with more ease. Learning to embrace impermanence helps us embody the awakened heart-mind that holds our fears, vulnerabilities, and sorrows in wisdom, compassion, and peace. Mindfulness and loving-kindness meditations will be taught daily. This “workshop style” retreat will be held in morning and evening silence, with interactive exercises each afternoon.
Waking Up Together: Couples Retreat – 6 nights
As social beings, our lives are inextricably interwoven. The Buddha emphasized the immense power of social harmony and spiritual friendship as factors conducive to awakening. In this retreat, we will explore relational Dharma teachings that foster peace, both internally and externally. The integral part of this six-day retreat will be the practice of Wise Speech, a skillful vehicle for expressing the Dharma fully into our whole lives. We will study, contemplate and practice the Buddha’s teachings using Insight Dialogue and the contemporary discipline of Nonviolent Communication. These interpersonal Dharma practices bring the insight and tranquility of traditional Buddhist meditation into our interactions with others. Through an attentive weaving of meditative dialogue practice, silent mindfulness and kindness meditation, mindful movement, and time in nature, we will deepen the essential meditative qualities that support the possibility of awakening together.
HEALING SOUNDS AND INNER ALCHEMY
We will offer an intense practicum into the healing effects of the vibration of self-initiated sound. The ancients knew the power of sound vibrations, in particular the vowel sounds, which is why they were not included in ancient Kemetic/Egyptian language. These sounds, when voiced properly, provide a resonate frequency that our bodies’ organs and tissues can use to rejuvenate themselves. In modern times, the Chinese Daoist practice of Qi Gong is the most notable survivor of these teachings.
The N.A.T.U.R.E. Center fuses practices of traditional Indian and Tibetan Yoga with Chinese Daoism, finding a middle ground between the renunciation of the body and the inner alchemy teachings of ‘immortality’. Traditional yogic practices see value in making the body strong solely for the purposes of acquiring the ability to sit in meditation for long periods of time, with the focus on liberation or transcendence of the soul. The internal alchemy of Daoism/Qigong focuses on dissolving blockages in all the meridians, core channels, and dan tiens as well as clearing the vital organs, nervous, lymphatic, bone marrow and blood circulatory systems – separating your shen/soul, your qi, and your jing/body essence for the purpose of refining and recombining them back together into a pure spiritual essence. The basic premise is that your consciousness has a substance or essence that can be refined. Inner Alchemy speeds up the natural evolution of your essence.
DARK ROOM MEDITATION
The purpose of dark room meditation is to become accustomed to being outside of the body so you will know how to guide the spirit at the point of death. Being light and sound-proof, the dark room environment activates the glands of the ‘Crystal Palace’ (pineal gland, hypothamus gland and the pituitary gland). This stimulates the release of the hormones they secrete, activating their spiritual abilities and opening the way back to Source. When the Crystal Palace is open, it becomes illuminated like millions of shining crystals. It can give and receive light and awaken our inner knowledge and deepest potentials. It receives light and knowledge from the universe and reflects it to the various organs and glands to enhance them.
The dark room environment dramatically alters the chemistry of the brain, manifesting especially in neuro-endocrine systems, which govern consciousness and regulate body functions. An important neurotransmitter involved in waking consciousness (seratonin) converts into a regulatory hormone (melatonin) that shuts down the organ systems, quieting the body in preparation for the finer and subtler realities of higher consciousness. The pineal gland initiates a cascade of inhibitory reactions, permitting visions and dream-states to emerge in waking life. Eventually, the brain synthesizes the “spirit molecules” 5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) and dimethyltryptamine (DMT), facilitating the transcendental experiences of universal love and compassion.