The Skillful Meditation Project offers several residential retreats a year, mainly in California, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, and in various locations in Canada and Australia.
Ordinarily retreats include as few as 10 participants or as many as 30. Our aim is to keep retreats small enough to give students the attention they require, while at the same time making enough spaces available to respond to the needs of the meditation community. On retreat, students are assisted in the work of becoming more aware of their inner world in meditation.
Participants are encouraged to attend Dharma talks and three meditation sittings in the meditation hall a day. At other times, students may choose to meditate in their rooms, outdoors or in any suitable spot. While mostly silent, retreats include talking when students meet for private interviews, group interviews and discussion periods. On some retreats participants may choose to talk with others if these conversations are held outside and away from other students
We provide vegetarian food at all retreats and in most cases we can accommodate special dietary needs. We offer three meals a day, with lunch as the main meal
Participants may read and write during the retreat and take time out for walks, hikes and other exercise.
When designing retreats we look to meet the needs of those participating, while at the same time providing an appropriate atmosphere for the practice and study of meditation..
We offer introductory meditation workshops for beginning and experienced meditators. People new to meditation will receive initial instructions and guidance, while those with a meditation practice are invited to look more deeply into their own meditative process.
Teachers offer day-long seminars on various aspects of Buddhism for interested students and professionals, including psychotherapists, acupuncturists, social workers and others.
Jason has been offering seminars for over a decade based on his translations of the Pali Canon. These seminars are primarily for meditation students who would like to deepen their understanding of Early Buddhism, especially as the teachings apply directly to meditation practice and the cultivation the Eightfold Path. Seminars on meditation-related topics, as well as serious study of the psychology and philosophy of Early Buddhism are also available.
Peer Groups consist of meditators from various meditation traditions who have attended a workshop or retreat taught by Jason or any of the other SMP teachers, who meet regularly to explore their sittings with other students. Within these groups, members can deepen their meditation practice as they talk about their sittings and engage each other in a supportive process of recollection.
Several years ago, when Jason was writing "Unlearning Meditation" he had meditation students keep journals and send them to him. This process of keeping a meditation journal for a short time (5 to 7 days) proved to be extremely insightful and rewarding for a majority of those who participated in it. In 2002 the Skillful Meditation Project launched the Journal Project by printing out journals and distributing them for free. People have also participated in the Journal Project from long distances through e-mail and our web site.
The Journal Project allows students who find it difficult to attend retreats to learn more about this approach to meditation as they explore their own sitting experience. Students who have attended retreats or already have a relationship with a teacher may also participate. The Journal Project begins with a student keeping a meditation journal for a short time - five to seven days - which he or she e-mails to an SMP teacher, who reads the journal closely and sets up a time for a phone call. This 30-minute phone interview can allow the student to see aspects of her meditation sittings that have gone unnoticed but come to light because of writing the journal and the ensuing dialogue with the SMP teacher. Phone sessions can help a meditator start a meditation practice, emerge from a stuck period in her or his practice and in general bring more awareness to what happens when we meditate.