Forces for Good: Challenging Emotions as Portals to Liberation

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Day 1    Day 2    Day 3    Day 4  

Day 5    Day 6    Day 7

What is a Home Retreat? (click to read)

Home Retreats can be tailored to your needs.

We provide:

  • Live Home Retreat events daily
  • Specially curated Dharma resources
  • A chance to catch up each day on the event sessions by video if you missed them – so you can do the retreat in your own time
  • Share your own inspiration and reflections on the private retreat Padlet space
  • A chance to connect with the retreat leader to ask questions about your practice

Whether you have the time to engage with a full-on, urban-retreat style week at home – or are super occupied already with kids or work and just want some useful structure to book-end your days with a little calm and inspiration: this is for you.

A Home Retreat Co-Led By Balajit, Singhashri and Viveka

🧘🏽‍♀️ 🧘🏽‍♂️ Seven days of meditation, soulful exploration, and strong, supportive friendship: a gently held space to go deeper into experience and practice.

You can access video recordings of all sessions below under each day’s resources. 

🎧 Listen to daily talks around the retreat theme

📖 Download a practice diary to use during the retreat

About the retreat
What if all emotions, including those we sometimes find challenging, had something important to tell us about ourselves, others, and the world? This retreat invites us to collectively flip the script on how we may habitually relate to some emotions as more valuable than others in our process of getting to know ourselves. What if we could break out of any thinking that simply pits the “better” parts of ourselves against the “worst”?

Through a deep dive into embodied experience, moment-by-moment, we’ll uncover the potential for integrity at the heart of emotions like fear, grief, and anger. Exploring what these emotions reveal to us when allowed to be fully known and felt in awareness– before our habits of identifying with, or banishing, kick in.

Together we’ll get curious about where challenging emotions come from as parts of us–and what they might need to liberate the energy usually bound up in them. We’ll investigate how connecting with our bodies of energy can support us as we learn to relate differently to our emotions and their impact on our lives.

In these challenging times we’ll also look at working with feeling together through conflict, leaning into the promise of this as a way to move towards creating a more liberated world.

What to expect
Join us for a co-created, emergent space that includes meditation, community agreements, friendship, somatic exercises, movement, reflections, small and large group discussions and enquiry, teaching input, guided practices, and creative ritual!

Balajit (he/him) has been leading retreats and events across the UK for around 15 years. For several years he lived and worked at Vajraloka Retreat Centre in North Wales.

He  is currently based in Birmingham, where he mixes Buddhist teaching responsibilities with work as a trauma therapist. He has studied the newly emerging psycho-biological approaches to trauma work- and is qualified in Somatic Experiencing, NARM therapy and SHEN Therapy.

In the past few years, Balajit has been exploring correspondences between these emerging approaches and  the canonical Dharma, as aids to becoming more embodied and the arising of the bodhicitta.

Singhashri (she/her or they/them) is a queer, Latinx-American dharma teacher and writer. They teach mindfulness and compassion as means to awakening to love, beauty and truth and have committed their life to supporting collective liberation for all and the joy and freedom found there. They teach at various retreat and urban centres across the UK, Europe and the USA, and support a number of projects aimed at creating greater diversity and inclusion within Buddhist sanghas and the secular mindfulness field. They currently live in London with their partner.

Viveka (she/they) has worked for social, racial, economic, environmental and gender justice and civil rights for 30 years as a consultant, facilitator, trainer, coach and somatic coach. She specializes in guiding leaders and organizations through transformational processes: race equity and liberation culture change and strategy, team building and coaching, vision and strategy, leading innovation and change and working with conflict, leadership transition, and alliance building.

Viveka was chair of the San Francisco Buddhist Center for 16 years. They are a senior meditation and Dharma teacher in Triratna, who leads retreats internationally. Their teaching is healing and trauma informed and creates an atmosphere of welcoming that holds a diversity of peoples.

The child of Chinese immigrants, Viveka resides on Ohlone Land, San Francisco with her spouse.

Download podcast episode

All our events are offered by donation. If you can, donate to allow others who can’t afford it to access these vital Dharma resources when they need them most. Thank you!

Suggested donation for the whole retreat:
£125 / $175 / €150 or £25 / $35 / €30 per day.

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Balajit, Singhashri and Viveka join us to discuss the opportunities and challenges of engaging with the gnarlier bits of our emotional lives, amid so much pressure of so many kinds in the world. A sparkling exchange about ways into integrating embodied practice where our guests collectively flip the script on how we might habitually relate to some emotions as more valuable than others in the process of getting to know ourselves. What if we could uncover the potential for integrity at the heart of emotions like fear, grief, and anger?

It’s a strong invitation, one to be met at your own pace. And a chance to get curious about where challenging emotions come from as parts of us–and what they might need to liberate the energy usually bound up in them in some direct relationship to the wish for a more liberated world.

We also get an excellent practical sense of this kind of heart work. How do you do an online retreat? Will I find a genuine sense of community? Will it be too hard to let difficult emotions in? These and other excellent questions are engaged with in a beautifully thoughtful way, from Dharma teachers holding the experience of many years of Buddhist practice, including online-first contexts.

The most important thing to know is: you are trusted, you are welcome! Come take part and be with whatever arises in a kindly, gracious space, looking at what it is to be simply a human being with a body and an emotional life.

This podcast ends with a short guided practice to help us imagine what it is like to be truly supported.

Welcome to the retreat

Day 1

watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

The home retreat begins with a friendly welcome and with embodied arrival. Following some brief breakout groups, Balajit, Singhashri, and Viveka talk about what emotion is & why it is important in our current context. Then, there is a grounding and sourcing practice

Next, the team presents an overview of the home retreat and provides guidance on how to participate best and benefit from it. Singhashri leads a brief visualisation exercise to consider what promotes group safety and a sense of belonging.

The session starts with a short arriving practice, followed by sharing and exploring the community agreement for the home retreat. Viveka guides everyone with some excersises of embodimient through mantras and chakras. Balajit closes this session with a body scan.

Day 2

watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

The retreat starts with a quick reminder of the community agreements, then followed by Balajit leading a lying down body scan. After a quick break, Singhashri guides us on a gentle breath awareness meditation practice, followed by enquiry with fellow retreatants.

This session starts with an arriving practice led by Balajit. Afterwards, Viveka talks about the different Buddhist approaches to working with disturbing emotion. She starts by pointing what about when they intense in the sense of disturbing and talking about the five kleshas. She then introduces three approaches of working with emotions: mindfulness (let it be), applying antidotes (do something to it), deeper engagement with the emotion (turn towards it). With each approach she guides on a brief practice or reflection exercise, exploring our emotions through the lens of each approach.

This day’s last session. It starts with Balajit leading a brief arriving practice. Then Viveka gives a summary of the three methods of approaching emotions from a Buddhist perspective mentioned on last session. Then she opens the room for people to share their experience with emotions and what is resonating with them and reading from Padlet how people are engaging with emotions.

Belajit leads some movement exercises and later on Viveka guides us on a meditation. The session ends with an intention-setting practice, leading with mantras and offering such intentions in a ritual context.

Day 3

watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

The retreat today starts with a short Qijong practice, then Singhashri leads us in a warm, open space of awareness with a mettā bhavana practice. Afterwards, Balajit leads us into a body and breath enqiry practice, focusing on what is the body in direct practice and how we are creating suffering by not seeing things as they are.

The session starts with Viveka guiding an arriving exercise. Then, Singhashri introduces four questions to enquire about our experience and bringing awareness to what is present at this time: what’s actually happening? how is it? how am I with that? what else is possible? Viveka then welcomes everyone with groups, closing the sesion with short remarks and ending with a short practice.

Balajit starts the session with a brief arriving practice, followed by a small group harvesting from Singhashri, obtaining responses and reactions from fellow retreatants as shared on Padlet. Viveka then leads a practice of meditation focused on body sensations, particularly in the belly and heart, following by some movements and going into a ritual space with chanting Padmasambhava mantra.

Day 4

watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

The retreat starts today with Balajit’s talking on ‘neuroception’, which explores how our nervous systems constantly scan our surroundings through the six senses, even when we are unaware of it. Balajit then reminded us of the four questions based on the four foundations of mindfulness. He subsequently guides us in a mindfulness of breathing practice while considering these questions. Singhashri followed Balajit’s session with a mettā bhavana practice, also incorporating these four questions into the practice.

The retreat starts with Viveka welcoming everyone and opening a space of bringing attention to what we are grateful for. Balajit then shares some reflections around emotional dynamics. Balajit talks about how the dynamics of inner conflict around emotion can happen, for example, in the mindfulness of breathing practice as distraction or even self-rejection. He then invites us to distinguish between experiencing and behaviour, also talking about a window of tolerance compared to overwhelming. He then talks about a personal story about the difficulty on feeling some emotions and suggesting we ask ourselves the question “What do I fear would happen if I allowed myself to feel this?” and the openness to ‘not just this life’.

Singhashri starts the last session of the day with an arriving practice. Balajit then starts with a groups harvest, engaging with some comments from fellow retreatants on Padlet and also live in the session. Viveka then leads a Tonglen practice followed by a ritual practice focused on compassion, bringing together our healing wishes.

Day 5

watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

On this session, Singhashri introduced the “just sitting” practice and read a beautiful passage from Padmasambhava’s “Self-liberation through Seeing with Naked Awareness.” She led the practice and allowed time for inquiry. Later, Balajit discussed anger in relation to the “just sitting” practice and explained the concept of sky-like awareness, where experiences come and go like fireworks in the night sky. Balajit then led a “just sitting” meditation and asked for feedback on what was noticed during the practice.

“What’s Going On”, a song by American singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye sets the stage for Viveka to explore our response to difficult emotions in relation to our world. When facing the unfamiliar, what supports you to “get used to it”? How can you “dial up” your curiosity? How can our actions be an expression of our deepest longing? How can we be centered in the message of the emotion without indulging in it?

The last session for the day starts with Balajit leading a short arriving practice, with an invitation to dial up the curiosity, feeling the body resourced. Balajit shares two regulation techniques to do this. Afterwards, Viveka starts harvesting comments from Padlet about reflections from fellow retreatants. Singhashri ends the last session with a ritual session with requests to Padmasambhava, with a space of mantra chanting and making offerings.

Day 6

watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

Balajit starts the home retreat today by focusing in on the first stage of the mettā bhavana. He invites us into reflection of reasons why do we often find this stage challenging, and what even is the self that we are wishing to be well. He also introduces the concept of adult and child consciousness, looking at ways that we might identify our child consciousness, and how that might be fueling many of the hindrances we experience in meditation. In the second half, Singhashri leads the mindfulness of breathing, with an emphasis on the importance of allowing ourselves to experience joy and pleasure in our meditation practice. Looking for where the sense of freedom and expansion is in our awareness at the present moment.

The session starts with Balajit leading a short arriving practice with two self regulation techniques. Viveka then explores how we may tremble with the suffering world as we also sync up with the possibility for freedom. Learning how to come home to our true nature. Can we learn to welcome those parts that we habitually banish? What follows is a led Tonglen Practice.

The session starts with a quick arriving practice with Singhashri, followed by Viveka harvesting comments and questions from retreatants shared on Padlet and also live comments from people on the session. Then Balajit leads a meditation with Avalokiteshvara mantra in the background. Then he leads the Avatamsaka Puja, including a reading. The puja ends with the Shakyamuni mantra, and making offerings and quietly ending the session.

Day 7

watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

As we near the end of the retreat, Singhashri provides some final thoughts and guides us through a Mettā Bhavana practice, inviting us to put into practice all we have been cultivating over the last 7 days. Later, Balajit leads us in a mindful movement session and Mahasukha’s Shakyamuni mantra, followed by a period of practicing mindfulness of breathing.

The session starts with Balajit leading a short arriving practice. Then, Viveka, Singhashri and Balajit each share some important headlines and reflections about what was covered on the retreat, followed by some questions and responses. After breakout groups, the team shares some suggested next steps and the session ends with a dedication of merit.

The final session of the retreat begins with Viveka leading a brief arrival practice. Afterwards, there is time for participants to express gratitude towards each other, rejoicing in their merits for their experience at the retreat. The session concludes with a closing ritual that includes chanting the Vajrasattva mantra and transferring merit, as well as a joyful celebration with three loud “sadhus” to mark the end of the retreat.

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We hope you find the Home Retreat helpful.
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May you be well!

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With deep thanks to Balajit, Singhashri, Viveka, and the Dharmachakra team for their generosity in setting up the conditions for this retreat, as well as leading live events each day.

Cave photo by Joshua Sortino
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