Activities

Philosophical Self-Inquiry Discussion Group
Activities

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  • Discussion Meetings

    Those curious to learn more about themselves are invited to air their views and hear what others have to say on the discussion topic in an atmosphere of friendly investigation. Please read Meeting Guidelines below for a preview of the meeting structure.

    Insight Workshops

    We meet on occasional weekends, at varying times depending on participants' schedules, to strengthen the bonds of friendship and stimulate self-inquiry. We employ a variety of techniques including writing, meditation, and questioning each other regarding the previous Monday discussion and other topics. Other activities include viewing and discussing videotapes and going on outings. A meal and socializing often precede or follow the informally-structured sessions.

     

    2016 November Intensive Retreat
    A Seeker's Dream
    Sunday-Friday, November 13-18

    Contemplative - Rippl Merengo c. 1892 Objective: Solve the existential riddle (and big problem) of life and death.
    Direction: Inquire into the core of being.

    "A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'Universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind." ~ Albert Einstein, 1950 correspondence

    Location: Eagle Eyrie, Lynchburg, VA
    for more information.

     

    2016 June Intensive Retreat
    What Shapes Your Future?
    Sunday-Friday, June 12-17

    Aaspere windmill, Estonia Objective: Solve the existential riddle (and big problem) of life and death.
    Direction: Inquire into the core of being.

    Nothing adds up to something. Something subtracts to Nothing

    How does one "go within" to find one's true identity?

    We'll have a variety of active sessions and free time to investigate ways and means of self-realization.

    Location: Grand Vue Park, Moundsville, WV
    for more information.

     

    2016 February Intensive Retreat
    Looking Back
    Friday-Sunday, Feb. 19-21

    Objective: Solve the existential riddle (and big problem) of life and death.
    Direction: Inquire into the core of being.

    road sign: <= history | future =>

    • "The desire to trace our way back to the very beginning has lead to unprecedented discoveries." ~ Radiolab.org, season 13, episode 7
    • "We're so wrapped up with egotistical things, career, family, having enough money, meeting the mortgage, getting a new car, fixing the radiator when it breaks – we're involved in trillions of little acts just to keep going. So we don't get into the habit of standing back and looking at our lives and saying, Is this all? Is this all I want? Is something missing?" ~ Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie
    • "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." ~ Matthew 18:3
    • "To enter the Kingdom, you have to become as an autistic little child." ~ Richard Rose

    Location: Horseshoe Lake Park, Fort McCoy, FL
    for more information.

     

    2015 December Intensive Retreat
    Deep-Down Scared
    Friday-Sunday, Dec. 4-6

    Kali - 19th Century lithograph of Kali by R. Varma. Public Domain. Objective: Solve the existential riddle (and big problem) of life and death.
    Direction: Inquire into the core of being.

    "I am afraid much of the time. Deep-down scared. Afraid so long and continually that it becomes normal and I don't ever realize I'm scared."

    Bosnia: "Season by season, the dead sank deeper into the soil – each enduring the severe and exacting labor of leaves and rain and sun in their compression of mineral and stone, there within the worm-driven kingdom of hunger, phyla of the blind."
    - Brian Turner, My Life as a Foreign Country - memoir of a young soldier, poet and teacher.

    Location: Horseshoe Lake Park, Fort McCoy, FL
    for more information.

     

    2015 November Intensive Retreat
    Discernment
    Sunday-Friday, Nov. 15-20

    labyrinth maze Objective: Solve the existential riddle (and big problem) of life and death.
    Direction: Inquire into the core of being.

    "If the Truth is within us, and we do not see it, it can only be that we see through the glass darkly, – at this stage of the game." ~ Richard Rose, The Albigen Papers, from chapter 7, "Discernment."

    The mind is our tool, our worksite, and our playground in the search for Truth. We capitalize truth to indicate that what we're looking for needs to provide an absolute answer to our core identity in order to be fully satisfying. Of course there's no way to know if that's possible unless we "find it," "go there," or "become it" (highly paradoxical implications).

    Location: Grand Vue Park, Moundsville, WV
    for more information.

     

    2015 October Men's Intensive Retreat
    Discernment
    Sunday-Friday, Oct. 20-25

    imprisoned Objective: Solve the existential riddle (and big problem) of life and death.
    Direction: Inquire into the core of being.

    Discernment means separating the wheat from the chaff, the more true from the less true.

    In spiritual work, discernment relates to the truth of being: Who or what are we at the core of our beingness? In religious terms we might say that the goal is becoming one with God or All. In psychological terms we might call it self-realization or -recognition.

    If discernment is the answer, what's the question?

    How to get over yourself!

    Location: County Clare, Ireland
    for more information.

     

    2015 January Intensive Retreat
    Reaching the Source of Mind
    Friday-Sunday, Jan. 23-25

    zen garden Objective: Solve the existential riddle (and big problem) of life and death.
    Direction: Inquire into the core of being.

    The path is not revealed only after explanation and direction; it is inherently always out in the open. Explanation and direction are expedient methods, used to get you to realize enlightenment; they are also temporary byroads. Some attain realization through explanation, some attain realization through direction, some attain by spontaneous awakening; ultimately there is nothing different, no separate attainment. It is simply a matter of reaching the source of mind.
    - Foyan (12th century Ch'an master)

    Location: Horseshoe Lake Park, Fort McCoy, FL
    for more information.

     

    2014 Annual Fall Intensive Retreat
    "Deeper than Love?"
    Sunday-Friday, Nov. 2-7

    star magnolia Objective: Solve the existential riddle (and big problem) of life and death
    Direction: Within
    Objection: Yes, but ... how do I go, sink or dive within?

    There is love, and it is a deep thing
    but there are deeper things than love.
    First and last, man is alone.
    He is born alone, and alone he dies
    and alone he is while he lives, in his deepest self.
    From "Deeper than Love" by D.H. Lawrence

    Let us gather for a few days away from the world, to seek with friends, and to advance towards our true desire.

    Location: Grand Vue Park, Moundsville, WV
    for more information.

     

    2014 April Intensive Retreat
    "The One Thing...."
    Sunday-Friday, Apr. 6-11

    sphinx Objective: Solve the existential riddle (and big problem) of life and death.
    Direction: Inquire into the core of being.

    "The master said there is one thing in this world which must never be forgotten. If you were to forget everything else, there would be no cause for worry, while if you remembered, performed and attended to everything else but forgot that one thing, you would in fact have done nothing whatsoever. It is as if a king had sent you to a country and you perform a hundred tasks, but if you have not performed the task you were sent for, it is as if you have performed nothing at all. So man has come into the world for a particular task, and that is his purpose. If he doesn't perform it, he will have done nothing." ~ Rumi, Table Talk

    Location: Grand Vue Park, Moundsville, WV
    for more information.

     

    2014 January Intensive Retreat
    "All Who Live on Earth...."
    Friday-Sunday, Jan. 17-19

    zen garden Objective: Solve the existential riddle (and big problem) of life and death.
    Direction: Inquire into the core of being.

    All who live on earth are doomed to die.

    Is there something to be done?

    Die while you're alive
    and be absolutely dead.
    Then do what ever you want:
    it's all good.
    - Bunan (1603-1676)
    Location: Horseshoe Lake Park, Fort McCoy, FL
    for more information.

     

    2013 Annual Fall Intensive Retreat
    "The Core of Resistance: Yes, but...."
    Sunday-Friday, Nov. 3-8

    resistor Objective: Solve the existential riddle (and big problem) of life and death
    Direction: Within
    Objection: Yes, but ... how do I go, sink or dive within?
    Cf: The Answer to How is Yes, by Peter Block

    There is "yes" and there is "no," then there is "yes, but...." As the Yoda Buddha once said, "Do or do not. There is no try." You've seen it in others when they nod their head in agreement as you speak, but are really just encouraging you to finish so they can raise their objections. You've seen it in your self: that internal resistance that says "not today." You have felt agreement with an idea overpowered by a refusal to act upon it. What is behind this core of resistance?

    Let us gather for a few days away from the world, to seek with friends, and to advance towards our true desire.

    for more information.

     

    2012 Annual Fall Intensive Retreat
    "What Is the Real Problem?"
    Sunday-Friday, Nov. 4-9

    Objective: Find complete & permanent X (Truth, Love, Security, Satisfaction, Reality, Being, etc.)
    Direction: Within
    Objection: Yes, but ... how do I go, sink or dive within?

    Grand Vue Park cabin The very nature of our inner, personal world is a system of images from our memory arranged according to our individual psychosomatic structures into compensations. By structuring a universe in our mind that is centered on us, these compensations keep us from feeling that we're not the center of the universe.

    What do these compensations compensate for? Our illusory belief that we're an individual something separated from Reality, from Truth, from our Source, our Maker. This feeling is captured poignantly in the opening lines of a poem by Richard Rose, "A Worm Beneath a Highway":

      I was an earthworm yesterday
      And all my life I lived in clay
      And did aspire the light....
    To understand our compensations, the starting point is to look at our values. There's a table at Benoit Zen recap showing how our values map into 3 pairs of compensations categories, namely:
      EGO {BEING ACTED ON BY / ACTING ON} THE OUTSIDE WORLD
      EGO {BEING PERCEIVED BY / PERCEIVING} THE OUTSIDE WORLD
      EGO AS CREATOR {IN THE OUTSIDE WORLD / WITHIN THE SELF}
    "What the compensations compensate is the absence of the eternal Divine Beatitude [beatitude: supreme blessedness or happiness], and nothing can menace that. That is the profound nostalgia of all people. ~ Hubert Benoit, The Supreme Doctrine: Psychological Studies in Zen Thought

    for more information.

     

    2012 Annual Summer Intensive Retreat
    "Horsing Around"
    Sunday-Friday, Jun. 10-15

    horsing around

    Have you been horsing around with your spiritual development?

    We'll be doing something a bit different this summer.

    The retreat will be held on a friend's horse farm.

    Individual presentations, group discussions, and workshops … combined with some farm work and time for silent contemplation.

    for more information.

     

    2011 Annual Fall Intensive Retreat
    "Casting off Illusion"
    Sunday-Friday, Nov. 13-18

    Objective: Find complete & permanent X (Truth, Love, Security, Satisfaction, Reality, Being, etc.)
    Direction: Within
    Objection: Yes, but ... how do I go, sink or dive within?

    tiger jumps off boat

          The tiger's in a cage...
          An opportunity arises, and he jumps
          Headlong into freedom,
          Only to find himself trapped again
          By limitation.

          The tiger or the mouse
          Discovers there's always been a means of egress
          Behind him, back through the projection
          Of self and other, into
          True Freedom.

    for more information.

     

    2011 Annual Summer Men's Intensive Retreat
    "The Next Step"
    Sunday-Friday, Jun. 19-24

    the next step "Group Retreat"

    Like a bus ride …
    Waiting for the bus, it finally appears
    We're carried along faster & farther than our own energy would carry us
    It offers certain comforts, maybe also some interpersonal frictions
    But the ride ends, becomes a memory
    It may be the last bus ride …
    All experience disappoints, leaves us unfulfilled.

    • How did life's bus ride get you to where you find yourself?
    • What is your life-objective?
    • How would you evaluate your progress-to-date?
    • What is your next step?
    Individual presentations, group discussions, and workshops … combined with plenty of time for silent contemplation and nature walks....

    FELT DIMLY in the soul, by world-man unconceived;
    Unknown Goal of all yearning;
    The Fullness that fills the inner void,
    Completing the half-forms of outer life;
    The Eternal Beloved, veiled in the objects of human desire;
    Undying, Timeless, Everlasting;
    Old as Infinity, yet ever new as upspringing youth;
    Pearl beyond price, Peace all-enveloping;
    Divinity spreading through all.
    "Blown-out" in the grand conflagration of Eternity,
    Death destroyed as a dream no longer remembered.
    Life below but a living death,
    Nirvana the ever-living Reality....
    ~ From Franklin Merrell-Wolff's "Nirvana"

    for more information.

     
    Tied Up In Knots?

    Once an earnest beginner in the pursuit of Tao came to visit Lao Tzu. As soon as Lao Tzu saw him, he asked, "Who are all those people whom you have brought with you?" The disciple whirled around to look. Nothing there. Panic! Lao Tzu said, "Don't you understand?" This only added confusion to his panic. Lao Tzu then pressed him to tell him what was ailing him. The disciple said (to use the version of Thomas Merton):

    "When I don't know, people treat me like a fool. When I do know, the knowledge gets me into trouble. When I fail to do good, I hurt others. When I do good, I hurt myself. If I avoid my duty, I am remiss, but if I do it I am ruined. How can I get out of these contradictions? That is what I came to ask you."

    Lao Tzu replied: "A moment ago I looked into your eyes. I saw you were hemmed in by contradictions. Your words confirm this. You are scared to death, like a child who has lost father and mother. You are trying to sound the middle of the ocean with a six-foot pole. You have got lost, and are trying to find your way back to your own true self. You find nothing but illegible signposts pointing in all directions. I pity you."

    The disciple asked for admittance, took a cell, and there meditated, trying to cultivate qualities he thought desirable and get rid of others which he disliked. Ten days of that! Despair!

    "Miserable!" said Lao. "All blocked up! Tied in knots! Try to get untied! If your obstructions are on the outside, do not attempt to grasp them one by one and thrust them away. Impossible! Learn to ignore them. If they are within yourself, you cannot destroy them piecemeal, but you can refuse to let them take effect. If they are both inside and outside, do not try to hold on to Tao – just hope that Tao will keep hold of you!"

    John C.H. Wu, The Golden Age of Zen


    Meeting Guidelines

    The meetings serve as forums for discussing issues related to self-inquiry and self-definition. This is a tricky proposition – using the mind to understand the mind. To expedite the process, a facilitator directs the discussion.

    Typical meeting formats are round-robin style, where participants have an equal amount of time to air their views. The object of this airing is to help each person clarify contradictions, tracing them back to prides and fears that cloud our mental processes. One of the ways of doing this is a friendly mode of challenging, or confrontation, not of the person but of his or her assumptions, beliefs, values and ethics. The facilitator is not to be confronted, as this disrupts the flow of the meeting.

    A successful interchange relies on the cooperation of all participants and their willingness to "play the game." No one should preach or be subject to preaching. As much as is humanly possible we should try to:

    • Listen actively, without interrupting, maintaining a felt connection with the speaker.
    • Keep the focus on each participant in turn, avoiding the temptation to shift the attention to ourselves – either out of a desire to rescue the person from tension or a desire to be the center of attention ourselves. When such a shift occurs, the facilitator or other participant should point it out.
    • Try to understand the speaker's point of view and challenge him to question his own thinking, not argue with him or try to sell our views.

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