Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Silent Retreat with Michael Hall & Francis Bennett: Discover Direct Awareness

Sky Lake   Windsor, New York
Friday, Saturday and Sunday
December 6, 7 and 8, 2013

“Our goal is nothing less than to realize our full potential as human beings by disappearing to who and what we have always thought we are”

Why a silent retreat?

The purpose of maintaining external silence is to encourage the development of internal silence.  When we are quiet in our body and our attitude, and focus on the workings of our own mind, we inevitably become aware of the noise and chaos of our personal mental narration.

Time dedicated to silence, especially in the setting of a spiritual retreat, creates a profound opportunity to observe and experience the triviality of our own thoughts.  Very little of what we call “thinking” has any value in our moment-to- moment experience.  Thinking required for planning and action are really the only thinking we need to do.

By careful self-observation and self-inquiry we begin to sense a space between our thoughts and the self.  We clearly see that we are not our thoughts.  Then what are we?  This is the question to be answered by remaining in stillness until a spiritual transformation occurs.  Meditation in daily life affords us some time to dedicate to this practice, but a silent retreat offers a unique opportunity to discover who we really are through Direct Awareness.

Retreat Focus

A silent retreat is a rare and wonderful opportunity to dive deeply into awareness.  True awareness is enduring and unchanging.  This “substrata” of existence is always with you, never abandons you, and yet rarely is noticed.  Anything we say about “it” is superfluous and indirect.  It is best communicated by pure physical presence.

The best art, music and poetry reveal it to us.  External and internal silence helps us to recognize this subtle yet continuous undercurrent of the real awareness of what is.  Natural settings facilitate our ability to notice the world instead of our mental constructions of the world.  A shared group intent formed as individuals practice attunement to reality together raises everyone’s ability to pay attention.  This group-generated energy is very real, almost palpable.  In the previous retreats the emergence of this group energy arises predictably within 24 hours.  Silence, concentration, lack of distractions and seriousness of purpose facilitate this flow of chi-like energy.

Metaphor, allusion and simile are the spiritual teachers’ forte.  In the Gospel of Matthew 13:2 it is noted:  “Then he told them many things in parables, saying ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed…’”.  The best spiritual teaching always occurs in a format that is relevant and understandable to the audience at hand.

Shakyamuni Buddha, Jesus Christ, Moses, Abraham, Ramana Maharshi and countless others have taught those with eyes to see and ears to hear in a similar manner.  Narrative and storytelling often bypass the ordinary defense structures and are utilized freely.  The deepest truths are communicated through a kind of energetic resonance that is difficult to describe yet strangely familiar.  This different way of learning requires a letting go of our ordinary death-grip on the illusion of personal control.  Slipping into this open awareness is effortless for some, difficult for others.  Some relaxation of our hyper-focused attention to data, logic, and reason is necessary for all who wish to recognize who and what we really are, always have been and can’t not be.

About Sky Lake
Set at the top of Tuscarora Mountain, located outside Windsor, NY, Sky Lake is a retreat center offering a lovely natural setting for contemplation and meditation for spiritual seekers of all persuasions.  The center is one of six United Methodist Church camp and retreat sites in New York State and boasts 900 acres of woods and walking trails surrounding a large lake.  http://skylakecenter.org/

About Francis Bennett
Francis Bennett lived as a Roman Catholic Trappist monk for many years at a monastery in Montreal.  It was here, during a church service, that he experienced a sudden “radical perceptual shift in consciousness” and discovered the spaciousness of pure awareness.  He came to understand that this awareness is actually the unchanging essence of who he really is and has always been: the Supreme Self, described by many sages and saints from multiple traditions down through the ages.  He also came to see that this vast, infinite sense of presence at the center of his being, and everyone’s in fact, is actually not at all separate from the presence of God, which he had been seeking all those years in devoted prayer as a monk.

Francis is now living a “new incarnation” as a spiritual teacher in the contemporary, Nondual spiritual Tradition.  Francis offers the wealth of his knowledge as an educated theologian having studied Buddhist Traditions, the Christian mystical tradition, as well as the Hindu Advaita-Vedanta teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, who has been a profound influence on Francis for the last 12 years.
Nonduality Press recently published his first book,
“I Am That I Am.”

About Michael Hall
Michael is a clinical psychologist with a full-time psychotherapy practice for over 35 years.  In the past 11 years he has worked to apply the perspective and realizations that arise from the clear seeing of what is real to the ordinary problems of daily living.  This perspective is shared on his blog:Awakentotruth.blogspot.com and website: Waybeyondpsychotherapy.com.


Friday, December 6

4-6             Arrival and check-in
6:00           Dinner: Silence begins after dinner
7:15           Silent Meditation
7:45           Break
8:00           Talk/Discussion with Francis
9:30           Free time/Bed

Saturday, December 7

7:30           Optional Meditation
8:00           Breakfast
8:30           Free time
10:00        Talk/Discussion with Michael
11:45         Break
Noon          Lunch
12:30         Free time
1-3             Brief individual meetings with Francis or Michael Damian
1-1:30        Meditation
1:30-2        Shakti dance with Sara Avtar
2-2:45        Talk with Michael Damian
3-5:30        Talk and demonstration of constellation work with Margot Ridler
6:00           Dinner
7:00           Meditation
8:00           Talk/discussion with Francis
9:00           Bonfire

Sunday, December 8

7:30           Optional meditation
8:00           Breakfast
8:30           Free time
9:00           Meditation
9:45           Talk/Discussion with Michael, Margot, and Michael Damian
12:00         Lunch/talking resumes

The schedule is subject to change depending on group needs
Retreat ends after lunch


Cost of Retreat:  $300; or $275 for those who register by November 15. This includes 6 meals and overnight accommodations for two nights, as well as all other retreat activities. This fee has been kept as low as possible and covers the cost of the meals, accommodations, and rental fees, as well as transportation and a small remuneration for Francis. You can register by emailing Michael that you would like to attend: perceptionisall@gmail.com.

Make checks out to: Michael Hall, PhD and mail to: 46 Riverside Drive, Binghamton, New York 13905.

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