What is the True Heart True Mind Enlightenment Intensive?
On the journey of wanting to know the truth about yourself and wanting to learn to not get caught up in the tangles of the mind, the THTM Intensive is a very valuable process. On the journey to wanting to be seen, heard, and understood and wanting to practice connecting with another on a deep level, the THTM Intensive is an invaluable process. On the journey to accepting oneself exactly as you are and expressing yourself fully while accepting others exactly as they are without judgment, the THTM Intensive is priceless.
The True Heart True Mind Enlightenment Intensive is a 3 ½ day highly structured retreat that combines a deep inner inquiry (contemplation of Who am I? or What am I?) with a communication technique that asks us to turn toward another with real interest, deep listening and honest communication. Each participant inquires into the actual nature of Self and then communicates the result of his/her investigation to a partner. This unique combination of practices, turning in to contemplate and turning out to communicate, is highly effective for freeing one from the usual perception of self and life and opening a window into another way of knowing, offering a fresh view into the nature of reality. It has been a sound, supportive, and challenging doorway into spiritual growth and awakening for over four decades. The intention is to know directly the truth of the Self, who or what the “I” is.
Participating in the Intensive develops:
- the capacity to be aware of what is happening in the moment
- the ability to communicate it fully and honestly
- the capacity to accept and be present for another without judging
- ability to own and take responsibility for ourselves and what we carry
- and ultimately the ability to let go of what really does not matter and live life aligned with what does matter.
Everyone figures that out for him or herself. The beauty of the Intensive is that there is no teaching and no teacher – what you find comes out of your own inquiry and experience. The eyes of the soul, the eyes into the spirit can be opened. There are no guarantees what will open – in the end it is in the hands of Grace.
Together we create a sacred space by our intentions and by the communication and contact that builds between people over time. More and more we relax and open. We find that we can be exactly as we are, and we can let be whatever is. Understanding, insight, compassion, trust and safety grow. In this atmosphere of acceptance and openness new seeing and an expanded sense of Self is possible. It is a supremely integrative and non-dualistic process founded in both love and awareness, and goes to the unadorned heart of all spiritual practice. For many it is a life changing experience.
In my first Enlightenment Intensive in 1987, I opened to a place of light and spaciousness inside, a place of knowing beyond the mind that gave me a taste of deep peace and pristine clear joy. In this space of knowing, I understood directly the words and ideas of spiritual masters. There was no pondering or ‘thinking about’ – there was direct knowing, direct being. My contact and connection to the others in the room was direct, relaxed and simple. It was as if the sense of a solid barrier between me and others was removed, and any familiar holding myself separate temporarily fell away. It was a temporary opening but the essence of it has lived with me and has formed the base of my experience of myself and life.
More about the True Heart /True Mind Enlightenment Intensive…
What is our true or original nature? We say or think “I” and “I am” many times a day. Do we ever pause long enough to let the fullness of the “I am” blossom in our soul? How often do we stand in wonder and complete openness before the impossible quest to know directly and nakedly the truth of the ‘I AM’? Even when this question is awakened in us, how often do we devote our undivided attention to this inquiry: ‘Who am I – in Truth, in Reality?’ This is the purpose of a retreat.
The True Heart /True Mind Meditation Retreat was created to provide a space and structure where fearless souls may gather to bow before this mystery with the willingness to struggle and fail so that perhaps grace may find a thin crack of opening in the hard shell of our being to enter and bless us with a glimpse of understanding, with a taste of the true joy of being.
The original name of this retreat and the name that still most people who offer it call it, is the Enlightenment Intensive. This is the name given it by its originator, Charles Berner, back in 1968. I first experienced the process in 1985 at a retreat offered by my friend Paul Weiss, in Maine. It is he who began calling his retreats True Heart /True Mind, and with his permission and blessing I call the retreats I lead the same.
The way the story goes is that Charles had been contemplating how to bring about a shift in radical insight, how to help people to accelerate the process of self-discovery. He had noticed in his many years of personal growth work that people who had a sense of who they are made more progress than those who were confused or unconscious as to who they are (those who were stuck in personality traits or inauthentic behavior). Was it possible to help to facilitate this sense of the true nature of oneself? One day while on vacation, sitting quietly in the mountains, amongst the trees, musing, “How can we help people accelerate this process of self-discovery?” the complete form of the process which was to become the Enlightenment Intensive came to him in a flash of insight. When a short time later he invited 26 of his friends and students to experience the process even he was amazed at the success of the retreat in giving birth to direct experiences of the truth of one’s being. Almost a third of the participants had what could be called enlightenment experiences.
Since 1985 I have been involved either as a participant, monitor, or facilitator in over 60 Enlightenment Intensive Retreats. I have experienced and been witness to some very beautiful openings. The shifting of one’s consciousness to a more open and loving state almost always happens.
What came to Charles was to have people focus on one of life’s essential questions – Who am I? What am I? What is another? What is life? What is love? for a full 3 days from early in the morning until late in the evening. And to combine this contemplation with a dyad communication process he’d been using for years. He had seen that honest communication was powerful for freeing the mind of tension and chatter and for deepening the awareness of oneself and others.
The way we work is to have 11 or 12 40-minute sessions sitting across from a partner. People work with a new partner every session. One person gives their partner an instruction: ‘Tell me who you are.’ And then his job is to listen as fully and attentively as possible; become an open chalice of listening. He maintains eye contact with his partner. He remembers that this person is a divine being and he strives to listen for the one who speaks in her. The person who receives the instruction, takes it in and contemplates – ‘Who am I?’ ‘Who is this one?’ Her intention is to directly know herself. Whatever arises in her consciousness as a result of intending to directly know herself, she communicates to her partner. After communicating she returns again to her contemplation. When something else arises, she communicates that. And so it goes. Receiving, contemplating, communicating, listening. Striving to understand and to be understood. There are three key elements in the process: the sincere intention to experience things as they are; the openness to whatever arises in one’s experience; and the willingness to honestly communicate to another the full reality of your experience. This communication is a crucial element that gives True Heart True Mind much of its power and ability to facilitate internal shifts and openings.
We work from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. We are served 3 delicious meals a day plus two snacks, have two periods of walking contemplation, a rest, and silent sitting. Except for the dyad exercises, the rest of the time we maintain silence. Each hour the contemplation deepens, the contact deepens.
For some the process stimulates all kinds of emotional states and helps to teach one to be present for whatever arises without being swept away by it and without having to suppress or change it. The development of the ‘witness’ is strengthened. For others it is a slow deepening and opening to a natural joy and spaciousness. Also strengthened is the capacity to listen deeply, to receive and accept the other just as they are without judgment or criticism; and the ability to reveal and express whatever thoughts, feelings and will impulses that may arise to another without the need to censor or hold back; the willingness to present yourself full just as you are in this moment. What a relief, how scary, how freeing!
For many it is one of the most difficult things they have ever done and the most rewarding. One participant (a man in his late 60’s) said the weekend was a “waste of time and one of the most valuable things he has ever done!” I have found these retreats invaluable in my work as a counselor and in my life as a husband, father, colleague and friend. What is real right now? Who am I being in this moment?
The process is difficult because there you are face to face with the old familiar struggles of your mind. You cannot avoid or run away. The mind is being asked to function in a new way. If you stick with it and continue to do the process, something will shift. The retreat is demanding without a doubt. And there are gifts. There are insights and breakthroughs, there is a contact with others and with yourself that may be deeper than you have ever known and the resulting love and openness is a pure blessing, a certain taste of the deeper truth of your being.
Whatever level of opening happens, most people will experience a greater sense of integration, authenticity and lightness of being, and an increased capacity for relatedness, authentic communication, spontaneity and openness to the reality of others. The great sage Hillel said, “If I am not for me, who will be? And if I am not for you, what am I? And if not now, when?”
These retreats bring out the basic and fundamental happiness and joy in people:
“Usually, I’m quite talkative and living in my head. Recently, I’ve found myself being the listener more often and I’ve been feeling a great sense of connectedness with others. It’s hard to define the experience we were a part of- I do know that the LOVE I experienced with and from each of your beautiful beings is still with me and brings me great joy. I hope I was able to give to all of you in some way as well. THANK YOU for BEING with me and allowing me to BE. “
Laura (singer/song writer/social worker), Bangor, Maine
I have wanted to write to all who participated in sharing the truth, love, tears, and silence with me. There is an overflowing well of gratitude, and an immense amount of love in my heart for each one I shared the truth with. As I was sitting in front of each individual at the retreat I realized that I was looking into the eyes of every person I cross paths with. That each one I share a glance with has a light that is brighter than I will ever be able to see, but staying aware of that light and remaining open to how I may nurture and nourish whatever is stirring inside of me, and others is my intention, and it feels so good!
Also, things have been good, life is happening but I’m taking time to stop. I am feeling at times like I may be becoming more graceful than I was before, and this gift of grace is so nice to experience. Thank you so much for all that you do. This light inside of me is brighter than it ever has been, and there is no way of dimming it. There is only one direction for me to go, and that is towards the light.
Nikki (Nurse in training), Portland, Maine
“A long weekend with True Heart/True Mind felt similar in many ways to the intensity and realization I encountered on a three week silent retreat in India. If you are looking for an experience that will create a shift in the way you view yourself, your relationship to Life and to the Path, I highly recommend this process.”
Theresa (teacher), Mariposa, California
“The gentle presence of the divine first day turned into a roar and declaration by the last day. The walls of the prison of psyche (thoughts, belief, patterns and programming) had no strength in front of it and kept dissolving. Each dyad there was more and more dissolution and weakening of mind’s cage (groans, grunts, frustrations-each time the wall was hit there was a reaction) Divine shining bright within and without. Seeping in gently or like a vortex of tornado taking away every last bit of grime and dirt, making the luminous being brighter and brighter. Dissolving even the entity which seemed to be receiving it to an extent that there was no surface to shine the light — there was only the light”.
Chander (doctor), Colleyville, Texas
“My experience was so profound, it has moved me deeply. I have never made such progress in so little time in my life! I met a part of me that allows intimacy. I had to get past the goofy part of me that wants to avoid that real connection. Then I saw the honesty and desire for truth and met it. It was the most amazing, deep loving connection that I know. I was understanding myself. I get it now and all I did was take the risk of being completely honest with another. It’s up to me to show up fully present, connect and be authentic. Speak my truth and I will be rewarded far beyond my dreams. I feel the juice. I am yummied up. I feel unconditional love. In deep gratitude.”
Tara – (artist and parent), San Diego, California