Opening to Pure Awareness: a Foundational Retreat
The Buddhist path for cultivating the conditions for recognition and stabilization of this awareness is a science of the mind. The Theravada teachings of the mindfulness meditation tradition will provide a basis for the teachings in this retreat, while the heart of the retreat will draw primarily on the Indo-Tibetan essence traditions that point directly to the mind’s nature. By emphasizing concentration early in the retreat, we can use the stability of the mind to explore how the mind constructs inner and outer experience. Nonduality meditations help us further to set the conditions for the mind to settle into openness. The emphasis is on cultivating direct meditative experience of what is being taught. The explanations aim to adapt these teachings to the modern western culture, including some discussion of similarities and differences between western psychology and the Buddhist approach to cultivating freedom from suffering.
From the time of the earliest teaching by the Buddha himself, the emphasis was on individualized instruction, which can get lost when people are taught in large groups, as is often the case in contemporary Buddhist teaching. This retreat will include guided meditations, group discussion of meditation experience, and individualized instruction within the group setting. The group discussion allows participants to learn from each other. The group will be no larger than 25 people.
Susan Mickel, M.D., Ph.D. Susan has been meditating for over twenty-five years, first in the Christian tradition, then in the Burmese mindfulness tradition, and since 2003 in the Tibetan Mahamudra and Dzogchen traditions. She was authorized to teach Vipassana meditation by Mary Jo Meadow, PhD. Susan first taught Theravada Vipassana retreats with Resources for Ecumenical Spirituality, which offers Christian-Buddhist retreats. In 2001 she completed a certificate in ecumenically oriented Christian spiritual guidance from Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. In 2005 she was authorized by Daniel Brown, PhD to teach Indo-Tibetan Mahamudra. She taught Mahamudra meditation retreats with Pointing Out the Great Way for ten years. Currently Susan’s main teachers are Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche, Rahob Rinpoche Thubten Kalsang, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, and Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche.
Interested in the mind since she can remember, Susan’s college major was comparative religions, her primary teacher being a student of Mircea Eliade. After medical school at Emory University, she worked as a behavioral neurologist and directed a memory disorders clinic for 22 years at a large nonprofit multispecialty clinic. In 2004 she returned to school for a clinical psychology Ph.D. and in 2013 became a licensed psychologist. She has wide interests in psychology including attachment, geriatrics, trauma, and integrative assessment of persons with potentially neurologically-based behavior problems. Her guiding interest in all her work is how one can influence people to help them decrease their suffering and increase happiness.
Currently Susan’s main activity is a three-year Nyingma Dzogchen meditation retreat, which she began in January 2015. The retreat is unconventional in that she is based in her home and continues to work about two days a month; Rahob Rinpoche Thubten Kalsang, Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche, and Tulku Dawa Gyalpo are supporting the retreat.