The Emptiness of the Self

A Retreat at the Alpine Club of Canada, Canmore

Friday May 3 – Sunday May 5

This retreat is a rare and wonderful opportunity for practitioners who have some small experience with “emptiness” to listen to and contemplate teachings on ultimate truth, the emptiness of all phenomena.

Our self-grasping ignorance binds us to samsara, the cycle of uncontrolled birth death and rebirth through which we suffer many kinds of problems and pain, endlessly. Only the light of wisdom illuminates the darkness of ignorance; and only the wisdom mind that directly realizes emptiness opposes the root ignorance of grasping at things as inherently existent, revealing the way in which things actually exist. This realization brings permanent liberation from suffering and supreme enlightenment.

We need to listen to or read Buddha’s teachings on emptiness again and again and contemplate them again and again to accomplish a correct conceptual view of emptiness. Then with perfect concentration, we hold this correct view of emptiness in single-pointed concentration until our mind mixes with its object and perceives ultimate truth directly.

If you’re thinking of attending, consider going to our Emptiness for Everyone class on Wednesday, April 24 (part of our Wisdom Wednesday series), for introductory teachings about emptiness.

In this retreat, we will focus on listening and contemplating the emptiness of our self without interruption from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon.

Because our stage of practicing emptiness meditation is listening and contemplating, each session will include teachings to help recognize our self-grasping ignorance, and then to negate that “self that we normally see” through contemplation. We will learn to search for it with wisdom and finding no actual self, meditate on its absence – the mere lack of the inherently existent self. Our real self inseparable from its emptiness will appear – the self that exists as mere name, mere imputation.

General Information

The retreat will take place at Alpine Club of Canada in Canmore (about a one-hour drive from NW Calgary). We’re staying in Bell’s Cabin, a mountain lodge with shared bedrooms and baths. Carpooling can be arranged.

Bedding and towels are provided. Please bring your personal items. It’s a good idea to have good shoes and layered clothing for exercise and fresh air between meditation sessions. We will bring our meditation cushions from the Centre, but if you prefer your own please bring it. The living room of the lodge will be used for meditation so many will probably sit in comfortable living room chairs and sofa.

Alpine Club of Canmore on Google Maps (useful for directions) →

Vegetarian meals will be prepared in advance by volunteers and served in our own kitchen. Please state your special dietary needs when registering and we will let you know the extent to which they can be accommodated. If you would like to join the volunteer meal team, please let us know well in advance.

When engaging in retreat it is beneficial for practitioners to place offerings on the shrine to Buddha and the Spiritual Guide, so bring them along with you if you like. On Saturday, we will keep silence between sessions, helping everyone to maintain mindfulness of the emptiness of everything during the whole day.  Hopefully, we will all choose to think and speak only of emptiness throughout the entire 43 hours of retreat.

All my appearances in dreams teach me
That all my appearances when awake do not exist;
Thus for me all my dream appearances
Are the supreme instructions of my Guru.

The phenomena that I normally see or perceive
Are deceptive – created by mistaken minds.
If I search for the reality of what I see,
There is nothing there that exists -I perceive only empty-like space.

When I search with my wisdom eye,
All the things that I normally see disappear
And only their mere name remains.
With this mere name I simply accept everything for the purpose of communicating with others.

The way phenomena exist is just this.
Guru Father Je Tsongkhapa clarified this following Nagarjuna’s intention.
Thus the correct view of emptiness free from the two extremes
Is extremely profound.

The Emptiness of the Self
Retreat at Canmore Alpine Club
Friday May 3-Sunday May 5
Everybody welcome!

We’ve extended the discounted registration!
$280 / $265 for Supporting Members


Friday, May 3

4–7pm: Arrival and check-in with light dinner available from at 5:30–7pm
7:30–9pm: Introduction and Session 1

Saturday, May 4

7:45–8:45am Session 2
9am: Breakfast
10:30am–12pm: Session 3
12:30pm: Lunch
2–3pm: Session 4
4:30–5:30pm: Session 5
6pm: Dinner
8–9:30pm: Session 6

Sunday May 5

7:45–8:45am: Session 7
9am: Breakfast
10:00am–12pm: Session 8 & 9 (with a break)
12–1pm: Lunch and departure