Exploring the Heart of Freedom

An IMS/BCBS Intensive Study and Practice Program

March 2022 – July 2023
with Dawn Scott, Jill Shepherd, William Edelglass, Nicola Redfern, Roxanne Dault and Vance Pryor

Exploring the Heart of Freedom is a sixteen-month program designed to cultivate our understanding of the core teachings of the Buddha, deepen our meditation practice, and help us to embody the dharma in spiritual friendship and community.

Jointly offered by the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies (BCBS), the program consists of five residential retreats in Barre, MA, which will include meditation practice, dharma study, and relational practices such as small group inquiry and contemplative sharing. Between retreats, participants will engage in ongoing study and practice, with bi-weekly teacher-facilitated online meetings in small groups. The small groups will consist of approximately ten participants who will together find a time for their online meetings that can work for all of them.

The curriculum is structured to gradually deepen an embodied understanding and practice of the foundational teachings in the Pāli canon in a way that is responsive to the diverse and, at times, challenging conditions of contemporary life.

The prerequisite for this program is having participated in residential meditation retreats that together add up to at least thirty days.

The program will explore the following teachings and practices as the foundation for a Buddhist path.

Meditation Practices

  1. Meditation practices to develop insight:

    Satipaṭṭhāna meditation, especially as taught in The Four Establishments of Mindfulness, the key discourse for insight meditation practice
  2. Meditation practices to develop calm and tranquility:

    Samatha meditation and mindfulness of breathing as taught in the Anapanasati Sutta
  3. Meditation practices to cultivate the heart-mind:
 the four brahmavihāra meditations of kindness (mettā), compassion (karuṇā), appreciative joy (muditā), and equanimity (upekkhā)
  4. Relational meditation practices:
 grounded in mindful speaking and listening, we will explore a range of interpersonal meditation methods to strengthen our collective wisdom and compassion

Foundational Teachings

  1. The First Noble Truth: an exploration of dukkha in its many forms and the ways it can serve as a wake-up call in our own lives
  2. The Second Noble Truth: investigating the cause of dukkha, including the three core afflictive energies of greed, aversion, and delusion
  3. The Third Noble Truth: Awakenings: expressions of Nibbāna within the Pāli Canon and later Buddhist teachings, and their relevance for our own practice here and now
  4. The Fourth Noble Truth: the Eightfold Path to awakening, of ethics and moral restraint (sīla), meditation (samādhi, bhāvanā), and transformative wisdom (paññā)
  5. Foundational Buddhist insights: impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), not-self (anattā), emptiness, dependent origination, karma
  6. The Three Refuges: Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha including the role of dāna, faith, spiritual friendship, and community as supports for the path

Buddhist Practice in a Contemporary Context

  1. Sutta study: engaging classical texts in ways that illuminate their relevance for contemporary lay practitioners
  2. Socially-engaged Buddhism and the cultivation of bodhicitta: practicing for the benefit of all beings; addressing the environmental crisis, social injustice, and other contemporary challenges
  3. Reflecting on the broader conditions of our own practice: understanding contemporary practice in its cultural and historical contexts
  4. Appreciating the multiplicity of Buddhist lives: exploring the many ways we can live a Dharma-centered life

Retreat Schedule

Retreat I (IMS)

Embarking on the Path: Foundations and Frameworks

March 20 to March 27, 2022

Dawn Scott, Jill Shepherd, William Edelglass, Nicola Redfern, Roxanne Dault, Vance Pryor

Retreat II (BCBS) (Same group assignment as Retreat V)

Exploring the Terrain: Developing a Skillful Relationship with Dukkha

Group assignments will be maintained throughout the full program and cannot be changed. Availability for small groups will be selected on the application and assigned during the application review process.

Group 1

Roxanne Dault, Dawn Scott, Jill Shepherd, William Edelglass

July 22-27, 2022

Group 2

Vance Pryor, Dawn Scott, Jill Shepherd, William Edelglass

July 29-August 3, 2022

Group 3

Nicola Redfern, Dawn Scott, Jill Shepherd, William Edelglass

August 5-10, 2022

Retreat III (IMS)

Nourishment for the Journey: Cultivating Resources on the Path to Freedom

December 15 to December 22, 2022

Dawn Scott, Jill Shepherd, William Edelglass, Nicola Redfern, Roxanne Dault, Vance Pryor

Retreat IV (IMS)

Touching Freedom: Resting in Release

April 30 to May 7, 2023

Dawn Scott, Jill Shepherd, William Edelglass, Nicola Redfern, Roxanne Dault, Vance Pryor

Retreat V (BCBS) (Same group assignment as Retreat II)

Home: The Heart of Freedom in our Daily Lives

Group assignments will be maintained throughout the full program and cannot be changed. Availability for small groups will be selected on the application and assigned during the application review process.

Group 1

Roxanne Dault, Dawn Scott, Jill Shepherd, William Edelglass

July 7-12, 2023

Group 2

Vance Pryor, Dawn Scott, Jill Shepherd, William Edelglass

July 14-19, 2023

Group 3

Nicola Redfern, Dawn Scott, Jill Shepherd, William Edelglass

July 21 – 26, 2023

Choose one group for the BCBS portion of retreats.

During IMS retreats, all participants will be housed in single rooms. At BCBS, a small number of participants will be housed in double rooms. Being flexible with your housing preferences increases the likelihood that we will have a space to offer you.

For questions about registration, pricing, scholarships, and payment please email registration@dharma.org

For questions about the program application and BCBS housing please email contact@buddhistinquiry.org

Applications Open: July 27th
Applications Close: October 1st
Initial Accepted Applicants Notified: October 15th
Waitlist spaces offered on a rolling basis
Deadline to Pay Deposit: One week from receiving acceptance letter

Sliding Scale Pricing for the Full Program:

Base: $3,990
Mid: $4,750
Sustainer: $5,800
Benefactor: $9,000

A limited number of scholarships are available.

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