Inspiring couples with a vision of a more loving relationship and the tools to use their difficulties in the service of greater harmony.
In our Awakening Together weekend workshops we teach the practical application of our central vision (see The Heart of Relationship, above) to the everyday lives of couples. We employ a mixture of activities, including talks, group sessions, and one-to-one counseling. Real interactions are encouraged rather than abstract discussions. The core work is done by partners together, assisted by facilitators, with witness and support from other couples. A crucial point: our approach is not aimed at sorting out the content of any couple's conflicts; what we teach is a way of communicating around all conflicts. We do, however, encourage partners to work with real issues that have emotional resonance in their lives; this is the best way to demonstrate that even the thorniest and most volatile conflicts can be worked with safely and productively.
On the practical level, we teach very specific skills. Among them are:
How to listen non-defensively to your partner (and possibly be heard yourself for the first time)
How to communicate without antagonism around charged issues (sex, money, children, housework, etc.)
How to create a safe environment in which painful feelings are acknowledged and accepted rather than judged
How to ask your partner for change in a way that isn't futile
A healthy balance is maintained throughout the weekend among the body, feelings, and intellect. Though work can be intense, there is also time to be silent, to take walks, or just relax. Some basic meditation practice is offered, both to foster calmness and to illustrate the importance of bringing awareness and compassion to our most difficult issues. There is ample time to practice communication techniques together, so that by the end each couple has had plenty of "hands-on" experience with their issues. Private help is offered throughout the weekend for those who desire it. Individual needs are respected; we try to keep away from rules or rigidity. Our goal is to provide a safe environment at every
The cost is $450 per person. The cost for includes the workshop, six gourmet meals, two night’s lodgings, a copy of Learning to Love, and a free follow-up session in person or by phone. Deposits (half the fee) are necessary in advance to secure a place. We also give workshops in other areas where there is sufficient interest. The cost for a workshop hosted at your location is $275 per person. Also consider our new option for private retreats.
For your peace of mind
Despite all we've said, it is not always easy to contemplate an adventure of this sort. For most of us the prospect of addressing our deepest and most intimate feelings in the presence of others is daunting. A few simple reassurances about the nature of the process may help alleviate anxieties.
Our work is not based on confrontation. There is no place for judgment or criticism of anyone in this workshop. No one is put on the spot or asked to defend their behavior. Nor is it important—ever—to resolve who is right or wrong on any issue. Again, our method deals not with the content of issues, but with ways of communicating around any and all issues. Each person is honored and respected in their being, including the ways they manifest conflict.
Privacy is absolutely respected. All offerings are voluntary; couples speak before the group only on matters they have agreed to share. A commitment to confidentiality is required. Anxieties over airing "dirty linen" in public are seldom justified, for the difficulties surrounding intimate partnership are, at their core, quite universal. Other couples' problems usually turn out to have much in common with one's own; hence sharing them inevitably proves more reassuring than threatening. From the process arises a bond of mutual understanding and support as we acknowledge our common experience.
There is no embarrassing forced intimacy. The workshop is not a "love-fest." Although we try to bring compassion to our work, we are not interested in cosmic or new-age sentimentality. Our job is to look clearly and directly at our feelings of anger, hurt, and fear, and to learn to see them without judgment. It takes courage and honesty to do this; falseness or pretense of any kind would detract from the process.
No spiritual dogma is offered. The practice of conscious relationship is in the profoundest sense a spiritual exercise. However, we adhere to no particular belief system, and try always to avoid jargon. Our perspective is based on a variety of teachings, on real-life experience, and on open-mindedness. We welcome couples of all persuasions and backgrounds, and strive to make our teaching accessible to all.
The workshop is not a mind exercise. The path we offer is not restricted to the intellectually sophisticated or the spiritually "advanced" (indeed, those with this kind of self-image may face special challenges). All it requires is a willingness to open ourselves to our partner's imperfections, and to see that they derive from the same place as our own. This comes from the heart and not the head.
The workshop is for all couples, regardless of the state of their relationship. It does not matter whether a couple is in the throes of marital bliss or on the brink of divorce. All of us wish to move toward greater peace, and no condition is viewed as any "better" than another. Nor is there any assumption that partners "must" stay together. The work is equally useful to couples in difficulty and to those seeking to enhance and deepen a harmonious relationship.
Regular workshops are given at our home in West Corinth, Vermont, located in the rural northeast part of the State. Travel time is approximately 3 hours from Boston or Montreal, 5 from New York City. Accommodations are simple but comfortable. Each couple is given a private bedroom in one of several nicely renovated old farmhouses. The property features 600 secluded acres with miles of trails, scenic views, woods interspersed with open meadows, plus a pond for swimming in summer. Activities begin Friday evening and end Sunday in the late afternoon. Quality meals are provided from Friday dinner through Sunday lunch.
Workshops in Ojai, California
Frequent workshops are presented in Southern California in the beautiful Ojai Valley, about ninety miles from Los Angeles, near Ventura and Santa Barbara. Don and Martha have a special connection to Ojai, as it was where the met their early teacher, Jidu Krishnamurti. We hold our weekend workshops at Spirit House Ojai, a retreat center that was Krishnamurti's first home in California.