Philosophical retreat on the Middle Way
I am now putting this proposal on an indefinite time-scale. I have not had enough response for the moment (Dec 2010) to be confident about going ahead with this proposal for summer 2011, as initially proposed. However, I'm going to leave this proposal up and invite expressions of interest. When there is enough interest (whenever that may be) I will go ahead and organise it for the next feasible slot. If you are interested and would like this event to happen, please drop me an email at email@example.com. It won't happen unless you let me know you are interested! Also let me know if you have any alternative proposals or suggested modifications (for example, it might be possible to do this in the US, if there is more interest there than in the UK).
What will precisely be on offer is open to change in the light of feedback, but this is what I envisage at present:
- A seven-day retreat allowing in-depth discussion, and making it worthwhile for people to travel some distance
- Probably based in the countryside in Worcestershire, England
- An independently-run retreat, inspired by aspects of Buddhist retreats that I have experienced, but with more rigorous, open, and detailed philosophical discussion than is usual on Buddhist retreats.
- Philosophical talks and discussion will be combined with meditation, to support an atmosphere of reflectiveness and support inspiring and constructive discussion.
- Each day of the retreat will have a theme, such as : the nature of the Middle Way, eternalism, nihilism, moral responsibility, mind and brain, the political Middle Way. I will give talks to stimulate learning and discussion, which will help to give structure to the retreat, but I hope to also have talks by others, to bring in alternative viewpoints and stimulate real debate.
- Participants will need some experience of philosophical discussion, whether through academic qualifications or their own reading or study in other contexts.
- Those from all philosophical or religious backgrounds will be welcome, provided they are genuinely interested in exploring the Middle Way as promoted on this website (which does not mean you have to agree with everything!). There will be no culturally Buddhist trappings such as Buddha-figures, mantras etc.
- Those without experience of meditation will be offered basic meditation instruction, though this will not be the main focus of the retreat. Those who already have a meditation practice of whatever type will be able to engage with it individually.
- Cost should be under £300, based on single-sex dormitory accommodation with all meals. Some reductions will be available for unwaged. Retreatants will also be expected to give some help with cleaning, washing dishes etc.
- Food will be vegetarian/vegan, and we will also try and cultivate a retreat-like atmosphere by avoiding alcohol, TV, internet, phone calls etc.
- Retreatants will need to be 18 years old or over.
- The retreat will be run by me, Robert Ellis, on a non-profit basis, but I may have assistance from others. It will not be under the wing of any organisation beyond this, but if it works out well then some sort of organisation might emerge from it. I can draw on about 20 years experience of teaching philosophy and attending Buddhist retreats to support me.
The thinking behind having a week-long retreat rather than just a weekend, is that it will then make it worthwhile for people to travel some distance to attend. The Middle Way is also a subtle business, and requires time and space to engage with properly. It is not just a question of having a discussion and agreeing or disagreeing, but also of working with our mental states, examining our personal standpoints, and trying to move forward towards objectivity in response to what others are saying. There would not be much time to really engage with this in a day or a weekend.
If this sounds attractive, then please let me know you are interested by dropping an email to firstname.lastname@example.org . This does not commit you in any way at this stage. If most of the above sounds good, but you are put of by some particular point, then please let me know this as well! I will only use your email as an indication of how much interest there is so as to decide whether to go ahead or not, and to let you know if my proposals are firmed up.
Robert M. Ellis 20th September 2010