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Compassionate Living Intensive (19-27 Apr 2019)


What: Intensive workshop-retreat (residential)

Topic: Designing a life of compassion in action, integrating personal and professional development with a lifestyle of sustainable thriving

When: 19-27 April 2019 (must attend from the start and stay for the duration)

Language: English (with Hindi translation if requested)

Facilitators: Mark Moore and other members of the Dharmalaya faculty and community

Description: Nine-day residential workshop-retreat focused on creating a more compassionate life, through opening the heart, informing the mind, developing our innate qualities of sensitivity and compassion, and putting that compassion into practice by reducing our harm footprints and increasing our help footprints in all spheres of life. The primary emphasis in this programme is on identifying areas of our lives where we need to change and grow in order to become more compassionate citizens of the world and more effective agents of positive change. Thus, the main requirement for this workshop is deep self-honesty and willingness to examine our life choices to see the ways in which we cause harm, to discuss these issues in a group context, and to make commitments to transform ourselves and our lives for the betterment of ourselves and the world. On a practical level, the workshop will combine explorations of outer practices (such as organic gardening, earthen building, solar cooking, and rainwater harvesting) with inner practices (such as mindfulness, deep listening, meditation, and conscious movement, e.g. yoga/chi kung/nature walks). 

“I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It is the ultimate source of success in life.” — The Dalai Lama

Overview: What is this all about, and why?

Are you a person who aspires strongly to live your life with compassion and kindness, to live sustainably in harmony with nature, and to develop your full potential as a catalyst for bringing positive change to the world? If so, this intensive workshop-retreat is designed especially for you.

The Compassionate Living Intensive is a hybrid of a contemplative retreat and a training workshop, in which we will explore the core principles and practices of a life of informed and engaged compassion: to understand, to care, and to act. This includes both the inner and outer aspects, providing a broad conceptual overview and deeper topical explorations supported by hands-on practice.

The inner practices and qualities to be explored include:

  • Opening the heart: heart-centered awareness, allowing ourselves to feel, living from the heart
  • Mindfulness: cultivating deeper and steadier awareness of self, others, and our surroundings
  • Sensitivity: developing balanced sensitivity toward self and others, living more gently
  • Joy and peace: finding true and lasting joy and inner tranquility
  • Wisdom: moving beyond our limted conditioned perceptions and learning to see self, others, and the world more as they truly are, and thereby learning to navigate life more skillfully and effectively
  • Personal development: looking honestly at ourselves to see where we need to grow and evolve, and learning to become the best people we can be — amplifying our virtuous qualities while overcoming our shortcomings and limitations.

On the outer level, topics will include:

  • Food: how we grow, prepare, and consume our food, and how that affects us and our world
  • Water: understanding water and watershed issues, and how we can preserve this vital resource
  • Shelter: exploring different approaches to sustainable housing, and their benefits
  • Energy: how we can power our lives on our world in more sustainable and compassionate ways
  • Consumption and waste: examinging our consumption patterns and their consquences, and exploring more sustainable and compassionate alternatives

And important skills and qualities that require successful integration of the inner and outer aspects include:

  • Communication: Deep listening, healthy debate, giving constructive feedback, and more
  • Leadership: Developing the qualities that enable us to inspire and empower others
  • Changemaking: Exploring the most effective ways to effect meangingful and lasting change, starting with ourselves and leading by example (“be the change you wish to see in the world”), collaborating more effectively with others, and identifying the best strategies for impacting society in positive ways.

The overarching goal is to rise above our social conditioning and develop our full potential as compassionately engaged global citizens and changemakers leading the world toward a state of what we call ‘sustainable thriving.’

› What is ‘sustainable thriving’ and why should I care? See this page for an introduction.

Overview of the Workshop-Retreat Structure

This programme is a workshop-retreat. The “retreat” part means that we’ll be coming together for a focused experience, turning off our phones and devices, and turning on our awareness to the present moment in everything we do. The “workshop” part means we’ll be using hands-on activities as a way to gain deeper understanding of the topics we’re learning about, and also (even more importantly) as a way to strengthen our practice of mindfulness and compassion during our ordinary daily activities, thereby integrating our inner and outer practices. The ideal is that every moment becomes meditation, every act becomes yoga.

After the introductions, orientation, and general overview of the programme, we will begin with a big-picture exploration of the theory and practice of compassionate living, with hands-on sessions during the day and conceptual/philosophical explorations in the evening (including presentations and discussions).

The hands-on sessions will include various projects around the Dharmalaya campus, including organic gardening, work on our earthen structures that are in various stages of construction, and more. We will provide very basic training in various techniques, and then step back and give everyone time and space to practice them by working alongside our local team. The point of these hands on activities is not so much about learning new skills or getting a job done as it is about paying closer attention to who we are when we’re working, how we engage with our work and with those around us, and how we can approach all of this more compassionately and effectively.

The evening sessions will focus primarily on deepening our understandings of ourselves and our world, particularly with regard to recognizing how we can make more compassionate choices in each of the major spheres of life. Every evening, we’ll reflect on our experiences of the day. Some of the evenings sessions will include presentations on a variety of concepts related to compassionate living, including sustainability issues, food and water issues, earthen building, consumption and waste management, etc. But the main focus will not be on facts, but rather on examining our own choices to understand their harmful or helpful consquences, and identifying ways we can make more compassionate choices in the future. This will require courageous self-honesty — because we have to be willing to recognize the harm we cause before we can change it — and also the willingness to share openly with the group about all of these issues, so that we can find connection, inspiration and support in one another’s journeys.

“The heart is the perfection of the whole organism. The soul’s ability to nourish itself lies in the heart.” — Aristotle


Specific activities will include the following (depending on weather and circumstances):

  • Group meditation sessions in the mornings and evenings
  • Conscious movement (e.g. yoga or chi kung) in the mornings
  • Hands-on education in the neo-traditional earthen architecture of the Himalayas, which might include (depending on weather and the needs on site at the time):
    • Making adobe bricks (sun-dried earthen bricks)
    • Earthen renders (making and applying mud plasters)
    • Fine finishing work (e.g. polishing, burnishing, painting and varnishing)
    • Other natural building materials and methods
  • Natural landscaping and organic gardening, which may include aspects of permaculture design
  • Water works: rainwater harvesting systems, water storage, and irrigation
  • Solar cooking (weather permitting)
  • Lifestyle design and personal development work, including:
    • Exploring our strengths, weaknesses, and skill sets, with a view to enhancing our capacity to serve as effective agents of change
    • Explorations of personality, leadership, and communication, etc.
    • Examining our lives in terms of our overall ‘harm footprint’ and ‘help footprint’
    • Identifying areas where our lives can be made more sustainable and compassionate, and using the support of the facilitators and the group to find solutions for those areas.
  • Possibly one outing to explore the local village life
  • Other activities that vary with each programme

What to expect

  • Rustic forested setting with a clean and simple ashram lifestyle in which everyone contributes to the running of the place, including cooking, cleaning, washing dishes and toilets, etc.
  • The days will be completely full: On most days, you’ll wake up early, work in a focused way untill 5:00pm, and then the evenings will be occupied with presentations and discussions.
  • You won’t have much personal time during the workshop (with some exceptions), and you’ll spend the whole time at the Dharmalaya Institute without leaving, in order to make the most of our short time together. So, prepare yourself mentally for being focused and squeezing the maximum learning out of every moment.
  • You will be working with your hands and body (including plenty of honest hard work!) for approximately six hours per day on most days of the programme, so it is strongly recommended to be in reasonably good physical fitness when you arrive, and you should bring work clothes.
  • There will be regular periods of silence, to create an environment conducive to deep reflection.

Special note for those seeking training in natural building or organic gardening: It’s important to understand that this workshop is not designed primarily for training, but rather for reflection, contemplation, and integration. Though there will be hands-on work almost every day, we approach this work as ‘meditation in action’ and provide support for staying mindful and relaxed while working in a focused and productive way. Accordingly, you will gain a very basic, introductory level of practical training in this workshop, but that isn’t the main goal and should not be your primary motivation. For those who are serious about learning and practicing the techniques of earthen building and/or organic gardening, we recommend attending one of our other workshops that is more specifically focused on skill development (or one of our Volunteer Work Periods), so that you can deepen your understanding and improve your skills by doing real-world, hands-on work here on the Dharmalaya campus. Please specify in your application whether you might be interested in this opportunity.


The fee for the workshop is Rs 15,000/-, inclusive of tuition, healthy meals, and comfortable accommodation in shared dormitories or tents (and sometimes a private room may be available at additional cost). Transportation costs are not included. For low-income participants, a limited number of work-study positions are available (please contact us for details).

Important Information

Before you pack for your trip to Dharmalaya Institute, please read the very important information on our Visitor Info page and our FAQ. If you have a specific question that is not answered there, contact us here and we’ll be happy to answer.

Application, Registration & Deposit

Enrolment in this workshop is by application only and space limited, so advance registration and 50% nonrefundable deposit (Rs. 7500) are required. Registrations are confirmed only after receiving the deposit, on a first-come-first-served basis. To apply, use this form. If your application is accepted, we will reply with further instructions and information. The remaining balance of Rs 7500 will be payable upon arrival at Dharmalaya Institute (so be sure to bring enough cash with you).

For Participants with Indian Rupee Bank Accounts

You can make your nonrefundable 50% deposit either by in-person deposit at any HDFC branch, or electronically by bank transfer (intra-bank transfer for HDFC accounts, or NEFT for non-HDFC accounts). We will send bank details after your application is approved.

For Participants without Indian Rupee Bank Accounts

After we have approved your application and requested you to make the deposit, you can make your non-refundable 50% deposit securely by credit card, debit card, eCheck, or Payal. Just click the button below:

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