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Between Eden and the Abyss

On this retreat, for experienced Insight Meditation practitioners, we will explore together some of the central themes and aspects of Soulmaking Dharma practice, and in particular those that engender and support our poiesis, our moving freely and sensitively to create and discover – across the span of the light and the dark, of emptiness and of form, of pleasure and of pain – soul, sacredness, and beauty.

As part of the process to join this retreat please write brief answers to the following questions which will be reviewed by the teachers:

1) Please list four weeks of led silent Insight Mediation retreats you have completed, including where and with whom.

2) With regard to Soulmaking Dharma: what is it that attracts you or that you love? What do you feel is well-developed, and what do you wish to develop?

3) Have you listened to and/or read the designated study material on the emptiness and the ‘Ways of Looking’ paradigm? (Approaching the Dharma, part 1 & part 2; and/or Rob’s book ‘Seeing That Frees’.)

4) Please tell us a little about your experience with the energy/emotional body, as it is taught in the Soulmaking Dharma teachings.

5) What are your intentions for the retreat?

If you are new to Soulmaking Dharma but feel you might like to attend this retreat, please listen first – as well as to the material linked in question 3) above – to all of the talks and work with the practices from:

If you find then that you have an affinity with and understanding of this work then please do feel welcome to apply.

Deadlines for submission of applications to join this retreat will be Tuesday 21 January and the teachers will be in touch to confirm if you are able to join the retreat or not by Friday 31 January. Applications/emails sent after this date can expect to hear within two weeks if they have been approved or not by the teachers. If approved, you will then be added to the waiting list or offered a place as appropriate.

To submit your responses to the questions above please click here to open an email in your default email browser or email smdretreatapplications@gmail.com. Your emails will be sent to an external administrator who will process them on behalf of the teachers. Please be aware that the information you give will be handled outside of the Gaia House email and privacy systems, which means the information you have disclosed will be seen by the administrator as well as the teachers and is not sent through an encrypted system.

Special criteria and experience required:
Please see the retreat description.

A note about Rob’s health

Some of you may be wondering whether Rob will be teaching the retreat. At present he very clearly intends to teach the retreat with Catherine, but of course, just as with past retreats since he has been ill, there is some possibility that he will not be able to. He very much hopes, though, that he will be able to teach it. At present, Rob and Catherine will be assisted in the teaching by Monica Antunes, one of Rob’s teacher trainees. If it turns out that Rob is not able to teach the retreat, then both Yahel Avigur, who recently completed his teacher training under Rob, and Juha Penttila, one of Rob’s senior teacher trainees, will also assist Catherine in teaching the retreat.

Building work at Gaia House during 2020

We are excited to be getting started on our new Dartmoor Wing, thanks to the open-hearted and generous support of our sangha. The new two-storey building at the back of the Hermitage Wing on the site of the crumbling garages will enable us to double the number of single rooms we can offer to group retreatants, as well as provide badly-needed extra bathrooms.

We will take all possible care to minimise noise and schedule works to take place between group retreats, when our personal and work retreatants will have use of the main meditation hall, farthest from the building work. However, there may occasionally be some disruption at Gaia House in 2020 and we intend and hope that this does not cause disturbance during your retreat.

ROB BURBEA has been practising and studying the Dharma since 1985. He has been teaching since 2004 and is a Guiding Teacher of Freely Given Retreats. He is a co-founder of SanghaSeva, an organisation dedicated to exploring the Dharma through service work internationally, and also a co-initiator of DANCE (Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement). He is the author of Seeing that Frees: Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising.

Listen to one of Rob Burbea's Talks at Gaia House on 31.12.2011: This Matter of Emptiness (Duration 50:33)


CATHERINE McGEE has been teaching Insight Meditation at Gaia House and internationally since 1997. Her teaching emphasises working with perceptions of the body on the path of awakening and in the healing of the individual and collective crises of our times. She is an advisor to One Earth Sangha and a long term student of the Diamond Approach and collaborates with Rob Burbea in shaping and teaching a Soulmaking Dharma.

Listen to Catherine McGee's Talks on Dharmaseed. This talks was given at Gaia House on 23.06.19: Healing the crisis of embodiment (Duration 58:10).


The teachers will be assisted by:

MONICA ANTUNES has practised Buddhist meditation in Asia and the West since 2008 completing a total of 3 years of silent practice and has been invited to teach in 2017 under the guidance of Rob Burbea. She also teaches mindfulness in the context of humanitarian interventions for child protection, works as an MBCT-Ca (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for Cancer) trainer at OTIUM Cancer Centre in Geneva, Switzerland and supports clinical research at different biomedical organisations.


Retreat Code = 20147

C = special criteria, please read the retreat description carefully
E = experienced

Well-being guidelines - please click here to read before booking

Before you book, please read these guidelines about mental well-being and silent retreats:

Meditation retreats can be very nourishing; however, as they require sustained meditation practice, they also need some stability of psychological health. If you have recently (within the past year or so) experienced significant trauma or psychiatric illness, or if you are currently experiencing acute emotional distress such as serious depression or anxiety, it may not be the best time for you to participate in a retreat. The teachers might not be able to give you the kind of individual psychological care you need at this time. A setting with more opportunities for interpersonal engagement may be more appropriate.

  • If you are currently under the care of a mental health professional, please discuss your attendance with them. You should be in a relatively stable period of mental well-being and have adequate psychological resilience.
  • If you have any questions about this, please contact Susanne using the email address, retreatmanager@gaiahouse.co.uk

Wednesday 10 June – Wednesday 17 June 2020 (7 nights)

Standard Rate:    £427 - Please pay this rate if you can
Sponsor Rate:        £512 - A benefactor rate, which helps others to come here on the Supported Rate
Supported Rate:     £363 - Available if the Standard Rate is too high for you
FAB Fund Rate:      £214 - For more details please see the Financial Assistance page
Young Persons Rate: £128 - For more details please see the Financial Assistance page

Extending Your Retreat = £56 per night – Conditions apply – please see box

Arrival & Departure:
  • Arrive for registration between 2-5pm on the opening day.
  • Depart after 12.30pm on the final day (or 1.30pm if staying for lunch).
  • Please only make travel bookings to fit with these times.
  • These conditions apply even if you've been to Gaia House before.
Please only book if you are able to commit to the entire retreat:
  • The teachers and staff at Gaia House require this commitment in order to respect the retreat environment and minimise disruption to others.
  • We are not able to accept bookings from people who want to arrive and/or depart outside of these times.