Bearing Witness Retreats

During Bearing Witness Retreats, we open to the joy and suffering of the world.

Embracing the Journey of Awareness and Compassion

In life, we encounter social, historical, and cultural experiences that demand our attention and understanding. To navigate these with wisdom, we blend the practice of “not knowing” with the practice of “bearing witness.” This approach helps us to engage deeply with the complexity of each situation, and to open up pathways to compassionate, wise action.

The Role of Meditation

Zen meditation (zazen) is a key tool in this journey. It enhances our awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations, allowing them to arise and pass while our backs remain strong and upright, and our hearts remain soft and open. This leads to a sense of openness and stability, which, in turn, allows us to see our reactivity, helps us to build our capacity for receiving the perspectives of others and to share our own, gives us the flexibility to wisely shift our mindsets, and empowers us to choose our responses thoughtfully.

Learning to Bear Witness

As we bear witness, we learn to approach all of life with curiosity and compassion, acknowledging our emotions without being overwhelmed by them. This practice does not involve suppression or avoidance, but rather a conscious choice in how we engage with our inner experiences. We begin to see ourselves as other and other as ourselves.

Transformative Power of Bearing Witness

Bearing witness is a practice that can help us navigate even the most challenging life circumstances. We can transform difficult emotions and circumstances into opportunities for peacemaking. It’s a practice of engagement and embodiment, where we actively participate in each experience.

Beyond Spiritual Neutrality

Our spiritual practices aim to enliven, not dampen, our emotional experiences. Embracing our humanity means living fully engaged with the world, not in a state of emotional suppression or spiritual bypass.

Participating in Healing and Peacemaking

By bearing witness, we recognize the interconnectedness of all lives. Our Bearing Witness retreats are held in places marked by deep human and environmental suffering, aiming to contribute to healing, understanding, and bending the arc of history toward a healed, compassionate, and awakened society.

Not knowing is most intimate.
-Book of Serenity, Case 20

The Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers

  1. Not Knowing: Letting go of fixed ideas to open up to new perspectives.
  2. Bearing Witness: Acknowledging both joy and suffering in the world.
  3. Healing Action: Engaging in healing practices that come from the intimacy experienced by not knowing and bearing witness.

These tenets guide our bearing witness retreats, fostering a powerful and responsive way of living.

Our Retreat Experience

During our retreats, we create a shared space of intention and awareness. This involves participating in communal activities, adhering to schedules, and maintaining presence. We support each other through various practices like meditation, prayer, and Council practice, especially in confronting strong emotions that often arise in places of profound trauma.

Join Our Journey

We invite you to email if you are interesting in learning about future Bearing Witness Retreats. Prepare to embark on this transformative journey with an open heart and mind.