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FAQs Video Series with Grace & Aaron
Silence is a source of great strength.
— Lao Tzu
Join Aaron (African Heritage) + Grace (northern European heritage) and your Grief to Action Team for 3 days of silence and nature to draw into your Self and your Source. This retreat will invite you to quiet your entire system in order to re-awaken your senses and re-attune towards your heart. Together we will unravel patterns in the body, energies and beliefs as we engage our bodies in practices of drawing inward and moving through.
Silent? Like not talking? That’s scary. I can’t imagine being silent for three days. I can’t even sit still for a few minutes without finding a distraction.
Right – which is why you may feel so wound up. It takes time to slow down and learn how to let go – of your past, of your worries, of what the future might look like. Trust me, you’re not alone. You’re one of millions of people searching for how to let go and become more present and accepting.
A silent retreat is a kickstart or reawakening to deep transformation, to slowing down and to learning how to enjoy more and more moments of life.
*It also takes dedication to silence and stillness to be able to sit with and integrate the realities of oppression and racism that are our everyday reality. The invitation in this retreat is to witness ourselves long enough to touch the narratives, pain points, grief and loss that may be underneath other emotional or societal reactions.
Our orientation begins in our personal journey of silence — with tools to be in relationship with the mind, body and heart — and progresses into the collective awareness of Black oppression and lynching. Practices offered will support you in sitting with what arises in this deep contemplation, like anger, grief, rage, sadness, discomfort and staying present on the edges of what you could historically hold.*
Held at Emerald Earth in Boonville, CA, these 3 days in silence will connect us to the elements, our ancestors on the land, and the parts of us underneath our conditioning for comfort. Paired with guided teachings and practices, participants will have ample time to breathe and dance in the natural surroundings of the desert. This is the perfect setting for you to remember your connection to the natural healing rhythms that live within and around you at all times.
Guided group sessions include movement, meditation and tools to release what is held, stuck and wanting to shift. You will leave with a blueprint for integrating a daily practice — a foundation for rewiring our nervous systems and feeling the parts of our selves and our collective consciousness that need to be felt. Come prepared to see and feel yourself, as we engage all systems in a conscious slowing down and reawaken our intuition to inwardly listen and heal.
The retreat will be held in a container of silence with opening and closing rituals. We ask all attendees to arrive and depart as one group (times below) to honor this container. You are also welcome to arrive one day early and stay one day later than the retreat container. (Meals will not be provided outside the retreat container.) You will be fully supported as we guide you to re-discover your inner healer in this uniquely created weekend of deep connection.
Please come with an understanding that our deep contemplation on unrested labor, lynching and dismantling oppression in America is a big topic that we will open the door to in our 3 days, but not resolve, fix or finish working on. We intend to open into this material during our silent retreat, not to get it or finish the work all in one weekend. We will hold both individual and collective awareness during our silent retreat, inviting an experience where we feel ‘centered,’ but can also ‘decenter our narratives’ to feel into a larger whole.
Due to the nature of this retreat and the care with which we desire to hold it, this retreat is primarily intended for white-identified participants. People of Global Majority are welcome to contact Aaron or Grace to chat about if this retreat would be supportive for them. Another retreat in August 2023 will be for PGM participants only. Our retreat container will be limited to 12 people. Please message email@example.com if you are interested in attending.
With gratitude, Aaron, Grace & The G2A Team
Aaron Johnson (he/him) is a facilitator, public speaker, and touch specialist who practices closeness as a way to break down barriers between people. As co-founder of both Holistic Resistance and Grief to Action, Aaron takes the time to hold the stories of black people around homophobia, transphobia, internalized racism, and those that are Chronically UnderTouched. Because the purchasing, selling, lynching, and commoditization of the sexual energy of black bodies is a part of historical and present American culture, the long term impact of those trauma stories should be acknowledged and held as a map for our collective healing.
Aaron has created the Chronically UnderTouched (CUT) Project, the basic strategies to bring a black body from being Chronically UnderTouched to a state of touch balance as part of the lifelong journey of interrupting oppressive systems that make touch balance a radical action. Some of the strategies that Aaron is using in his own journey of healing from being Chronically UnderTouched are sound through the human voice, working with earth in housing and altar building, and teaching others on how to skillfully normalize thoughtful and mindful platonic touch for cis black men and all black bodies.
Grace Bryant (they/them) loves inviting people into the shadows, discomfort and fun of sex, sexuality & intimacy, community building, anti-oppression, and dismantling our inherited and created conditions. Grace has been a whole life educator for 2 decades, integrating drama, music, movement, meditation and yoga, mindful living, creative play, teamwork, conscious collaboration, anti-oppression, community building and leadership. They have been leading retreats since 2009, silent retreats since 2016. Grace offers intimacy, relationship, spirituality and life coaching through touch & bodywork, energy work, emotional awareness and mindfulness. They are exceptionally grateful for all of the communities, colleagues and badass people in their life who inspire creativity in the chaos and have taught them so many tools of radical acceptance, and personal and societal dismantling.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT IN THIS SILENT RETREAT?
Every silent meditation retreat is different – even if you attend the same retreat multiple times. The most important attitude to have in a silent retreat is to let go of expectations. A spirit of openness to what unfolds is essential to welcoming a retreat experience.
Your hosts, Grace & Aaron, have over a decade of experience leading people through their personal transformation of trauma-informed practices, meditation and silent retreats. We start with the basics of orienting towards our physical bodies, emotions and mental patterns, build a context for staying centered in these embodied awareness throughout the retreat. Practices are accessible for most, and include gentle movement, walking and sitting/lying down meditation practices.
Our silent retreat atmosphere is a safe space for you to try out different practices and somatic unwinding which invite a holistic experience of yourself. There’s no expectation that you do anything “right” or that you can even sit still. We practice together and increase our stamina in the practice with the support of our silent community. Your humanness is welcome – exactly as you are.
We’ll have several hours to share, reflect on and integrate your retreat experience on the last day, and we highly encourage everyone to witness each other's process and share your experience. This is sometimes the most profound session of the whole retreat after being in silence with fellow students.
WHAT WILL WE DO IN THIS SILENT RETREAT?
In addition to practices of how we relate to ourselves in silence, the theme of our retreat is a deep contemplation on unrested labor, lynching and dismantling oppression in America. One of our modalities to explore this expansive topic is with large visual images of the erased history of lynching. We want to do this collectively (in community/village) to create a thoughtful interruption to the historical white look-away from culture shaping terror that lynching has perpetuated and still continues in 2023.
Please note that this is not an intro to racism event. If you have not already done a course on racism in America or started looking at your own responses to whiteness, you may want to invest time into those practices first before embarking on our silent container.
There will be a few short pre-recorded prerequisites to attending this retreat that we’d love everyone to participate in from home. There are many ways to navigate the waters of how racism impacts your body, heart and mind. You’re welcome to let us know if you’ve already done these events live or feel you need to opt out of our prerequisites.
There is an incubation in silence that brings surprisingly loud echoes and multi-faceted awareness. This container of silence is offered to provide an uninterrupted 3 days of being with your own material in an undistracted container. In contrast, we usually drop into workshops for a few hours, or perhaps read a book or listen to a podcast for a limited period of time, and then go back to our filtered societal gaze. Whereas white-bodied folks may have been able to pause or opt-out from the reality of Black carnage in America in other settings, our weekend together will offer an extended period of time to just be with what is, what arises, and how we feel. Again, without fixing or doing, just being.
Our Grief to Action Retreat is created to intimately experience what integrated practice is and to feel the inner transformation it can bring when combined with inner and outer silence. We offer trauma-informed practices centered on connecting with the energies that move through and around us. Practices may come from a variety of traditions, some spiritual or therapeutic, but without any dogma or belief or faith. All religious and spiritual backgrounds, faiths and lifestyles are welcome. The atmosphere is one of love and strong spiritual support.
No previous meditation experience is necessary as this silent retreat is designed to be accessible for all.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE SILENT?
Silence starts with not talking…but it’s so much more.
We start with the intention to not talk or communicate once we set our container and begin the retreat. You are welcome to write notes to retreat leaders or support staff when you have questions or need assistance. Otherwise, we ask there to be no communication between guests, including not looking at other people’s faces, not making eye contact and not touching others. This may seem strict, but it opens the gateway to really focus internally, the whole point of a silent retreat. Once you get into the rhythm, you’ll be grateful for the space away from pleasing people or worrying about how they’ll react to you.
We ask all guests to maintain this noble silence throughout the retreat, which includes: no books, no electronics, no music, no phones or devices or other distractions. Again, this might feel extreme. The point is to not let yourself go to any distraction from what you’re really experiencing in the present moment. If taking a few days away from social media scares you, then you’re very ready for this journey.
We do encourage journaling to assist in the processing of your experience.
If you’ve never experienced the intimacy of silence – especially in today’s fast-paced, notification pinging, constant news driven, social media addicted, instant gratification world – you’ll never forget the spaciousness it brings. You’ll leave with more inner and outer love, tools to calm and center yourself, an understanding of what it means to let go, practices for deeper connection with other people, and the ability to be more present, conscious and to let go.
You will be given a retreat emergency contact number to share with loved ones should an emergent need arise.
READY TO KNOW MORE OR REGISTER?
If you have more questions, please contact us and ask! We’re happy to chat about your upcoming retreat experience and how you can feel the most comfortable and confident walking into a silent meditation retreat. It’s totally normal to be nervous, fearful or confused about a silent retreat and we’re happy to answer your questions and put your mind at ease.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your interest in attending.
A sliding scale of $1100-$700 is invited for the 3 days, including accommodations, meals and snacks, teachings, and contribution to a BIPOC/PGM scholarship fund for PGM centered retreats. Contact us with any questions about this sliding scale, payments plans, or other financial options.
Retreat Cost: $1100-700 sliding scale
Deposit (due upon registration): $250
Due to COVID-19, we ask anyone with symptoms or illness to not attend this retreat. You will receive a FULL refund in that case.
Registration fees include a partially refundable administration fee of $200 (for cancellations other than COVID-19 related).
Retreat fees will be refunded less the admin fee as follows (except COVID-19 related cancellations):
Please contact us if you have any questions about cancellation needs. We do our best to be flexible and want to honor individual needs.
What is noble silence?
Noble Silence is a common practice in retreats which offers a rare and precious opportunity to simplify one's daily routine, quiet the mind and cultivate an inward focus of attention. There is also the opportunity to go deep in our internal world and not be distracted by the social conventions that usually turn the wheels of our mind constantly.
By observing outer silence and temporarily renouncing our usual habits of conversation, we provide a support for the cultivation of a deep inner silence. You will be asked to refrain not only from speaking, but also from using electronic devices. We will explain more and provide an opportunity for asking questions before going into silence. Be assured you will always have the opportunity to communicate by writing messages to Aaron, Grace or other team members, should the need arise. There will also be a daily Q&A session.
I’ve never meditated before. Is this retreat right for me?
Absolutely! Many new to meditation begin by attending a retreat. Retreats provide a wonderful opportunity to learn skills and to dive directly into the process, building momentum and faith in meditation.
I’m an advanced meditator. Will I get something out of this retreat?
As an experienced meditator, you have the opportunity to go very deep in this retreat and start from your level of practice. The retreat is designed to give you the gift of leaving the busy-ness of life behind and concentrating for an extended period of time. You’ll also gain new meditation techniques and practices focused on the Spiritual Heart and insights to deepen your existing practice.
Where is the retreat located? What are accommodations like?
Emerald Earth is location outside of Boonville, California in Mendocino County. The closest major airport is Santa Rosa. There are some narrow and windy roads as you approach Boonville and Emerald Earth. We are hoping to be able to offer designated airport pickups from Santa Rosa if you are not bringing a vehicle. Please contact us for more information.
There are a few accommodation options at Emerald Earth, which includes 180 acres of wilderness, a main gathering house and kitchen, 4 earthen cottages, a bathouse with shower and bath, and composting toilets. This is a ‘back to the land’ environment where you will be invited to connect with nature, not in a few moments but as a throughline of the retreat.
Earthen cottages have 2 beds, one upstairs and one downstairs. The downstairs beds can accommodate most abilities. The upstairs beds will be given to those in bodies able to easily go up and down stairs. Guests staying in cottages will either be assigned a housemate or can bring a partner to share their cottage with. Beds can also be shared, if coming with a friend or partner--being aware that the invitation is for silence at all times during the 3-days of the retreat, including in your accommodations.
The other option is bringing your own tent or vehicle for sleeping. Note: we do not recommend large RV’s as the roads are quite narrow and windy, and there are no RV hookups. Vans or SUV’s would be fine.
Group sessions will be outside (unless very inclement weather), so please be prepared to be outside with layered clothing, sun hat, sunscreen and bug repellent. Bring a water bottle and reusable thermos/tea cup so you can stay hydrated as well.
There will be walking or moving through the land required in this retreat, over hills, grass, dirt and rocks. If you need specific accessibility options, please contact us to see if this location will be a good fit for you. We will do our best to accommodate different abilities as well as we can.
A few more things to be aware of:
Restrooms - Toilets at Emerald Earth are all composting. There is a composting toilet in each individual cottage, as well as an outdoor compost toilet about 50 feet from the main house.
Showers - There is one bath house with 1 shower and 1 bathtub. There is sufficient hot water for guests to bathe as needed. The bath house is down a slope from the main house (where meals will be served)
Earthen Sauna - There is an earthen sauna that we hope to have available in the evenings. Guests will be asked to bring a cover up of a towel, sarong or bathing suit so that all bodies can be comfortable in our container of silence.
All Power is Solar - Cottages and the main house have electrical outlets and lights. If power is insufficient, there is a generator that will turn on. We ask guests to be aware of their electricity consumption.
Do we have to sit on the floor?
Group sessions will be outside (unless very inclement weather) where there are wooden benches and tree stumps to sit on, in addition to the ground. We invite you to bring what you need to sit comfortably for 3 days (blankets, cushions, meditation bench, etc.) A lot of our practice will be moving, too.
What is the movement like? Do I need to be flexible?
We will offer daily movement as a meditative practice focused on orienting inward through the energy and movements of the body. It is accessible for most bodies and modifiable for any injuries or conditions. Don’t worry about whether you’re experienced at different movement modalities or flexible.
What about the food?
Our onsite cook will lovingly prepare three meals a day, plus a variety of snacks. Guest cottages also have small kitchenettes, if you would like to bring any of your own foods or snacks. Our meals will include sustainably sourced meat, vegetables, fruit, grains, and dairy options on the side. We'll do our best to accommodate restricted diets, including vegan and gluten free – please let us know your food needs and preferences on your registration form. For highly restricted diets you may need to supplement your own meals. We do ask that everyone bring snacks, as needed.
What should I bring?
A list will be provided after registration. You don’t need to bring anything to “do,” just the things that support you in being.
What should I wear?
Comfortable, layered clothing is best. Northern California can be both hot and cool this time of year. Bring clothes you can sit, move and walk in. We will most likely be practicing outside, so prepare for all climates and for sun, bugs, and wind.
TENTATIVE DAILY SCHEDULE
Arrive by noon
12:00-1:00 Soft lunch provided
1:00-2:30 Orientation & Silence Begins
2:45-3:45 Session #1
4:45-6:15 Session #2
7:30-8:45 Q&A + Session #3
7:30-9:30 Session #1
11:00-1:00 Session #2
1:00-4:00 Lunch & Break
4:00-6:00 Session #3
6:00-7:30 Dinner & Break
7:30-8:45 Q&A + Session #4
7:30-9:30 Session #1
11:00-12:30 Session #2
1:15-3:00 End Silence & Integration Practices
Session topics may include: body tutorial; emotional and mental preparations for being in silence; walking meditation; compassion; staying with discomfort with somatic awareness; meditations on lynching; relating with shame and reactivity; sounding in silence; being seen in silence; integration practices
HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS AND AGREEMENTS
(These are subject to change as events unfold in the world.)
As the world is ever changing with restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize that there is still a need to take precautions. We will do everything reasonably possible to mitigate this risk. We also trust that you, as a participant of this retreat and community, will do all you can to reduce your exposure risk to yourself and others before, during and after the event.
Before signing up and arriving, we ask that you do a deep and honest self-assessment and only attend if you can comply with the basic health and safety protocols and agreements (see below) for at least 7 days before the first day of the retreat.
If you are not able to attend the retreat due to COVID-19, we will be happy to refund you according to our refund policy above.
THE COVID-19 SAFETY PROTOCOLS
You are welcome to join this retreat if you…
All guests are welcome to contact the organizers about our COVID-19 safety requests and practices. Please note we will not be requesting masks at the retreat, which is why testing and safe practices before the retreat are imperative. Due to the intimate nature of the retreat, that no one will be coming or going after we’ve begun, we feel safe with these requests.
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