Consciousness Retreat 2023

The Heart of the Matter

A Hybrid (in person or via Zoom) Heartwork Retreat
March 3-6, 2023

There is nothing but water in the holy pools.
I know, I have been swimming in them.
All the gods sculpted of wood or ivory can’t say a word.
I know, I have been crying out to them.
The Sacred Books of the East are nothing but words.
I looked through their covers one day sideways.
What Kabir talks of is only what he has lived through.
If you have not lived through something, it is not true.


Have you ever wondered what Consciousness is?  What is conscious?  Am I conscious?  (Right now?  When I’m asleep?  After I die?)  (And who is this “I” that is conscious?)  Is a dog conscious?  A bird?  An ant?  An amoeba?  A tree?  A rock?  An atom?

Throughout history, human beings have struggled to understand what Consciousness is.  Scientists refer to it as “The Hard Problem of Consciousness,” and have never been able to resolve it using the methods of cognitive science, whereby phenomena are explained in terms of computational or neural mechanisms.  Philosophers have been trying to explain it in many ways, but throughout the ages there has never been agreement about what Consciousness is. 

Neither of these approaches will ever be able to truly understand Consciousness because both approaches are dualistic.  That is, there is an observer (the scientist or philosopher) and an observed (Consciousness).  But Consciousness is a non-dual “phenomenon,” where the observer, observing and the observed are not separate.  Consciousness is one undivided phenomenon.  Consequently, you can’t experience Consciousness through beliefs/ideas/thoughts.  It can only be “under-stood” by experiencing it directly.  It is an “inside job!”

In this retreat, we will explore questions like: What is Consciousness?  How does it “work?”  How is it related to True Nature?  How is it related to who I am?  Using a sequence of meditations and Inquiry, you will have an opportunity to experience Consciousness directly, more precisely than perhaps you have ever previously experienced.  It will also challenge many of your deeply held beliefs about who you are and what the world is.  Realizing this deeper Truth of Reality/ Being/ True Nature is a life-changing experience; it will alter your perspective on life thereafter.

We will inquire together and alone into some of the most fundamental questions of being human that will give us the opportunity to experience directly what Consciousness is!  For example, in the Awareness Meditation, we pay close attention to sensations and sounds, but have you ever paid attention to the sensing and the listening?  Where do sensations and sounds ultimately come from?  Who is sensing and listening?  Who/what is aware of being aware?  Who is asking the question?  Who is conscious?  What is Consciousness?  Who am I?  What is this?  When is this?  All this in four days and nights!

Heartwork is a synthesis of psychotherapy and spiritual practice.  I created Heartwork in 1981 out of a need I saw for the merging of the two approaches into one path.  Having done psychotherapy, both as a client and as a practitioner for 13 years and Zen practice for 11, I saw that neither of them alone led to the Freedom that we all are looking for.  Therapy helped to heal psychological barriers, but, because it never broke the attachment to the identities that continued to create one’s suffering.  Spiritual practice gave one a glimpse of True Nature – Who we really are, beyond all identities – but didn’t work through the psychological blocks we have developed over a lifetime.  The two combined were the complete package!

In its evolution, Heartwork has given primary attention to working through the psychological knots in our psyche.  Currently, I believe in response to the rapid evolution of spiritual seekers, we are shifting the emphasis to a deeper exploration of our True Nature.  In the recent Soul Retreat, we defined “Soul” as “Consciousness in a particular location.”  We differentiated and worked with the two principal aspects of the Soul – the Ego Soul and the True Nature Soul, but we didn’t inquire into Consciousness, which is the fundamental “substance” of the Soul.  The Soul Retreat was a significant step forward, and now I’m offering what I see as the next step in the process.  The Consciousness Retreat, goes one step further into True Nature and gives us an opportunity to Know what this Consciousness is that informs everything.

This will be a “hybrid Retreat.”  That means you will be able to participate in person or via Zoom, or a combination of the two modes – whatever works best for you at any given time.  For everyone’s safety, we are requesting all in-person participants be up to date on their COVID immunizations, and get the appropriate COVID test the day before we begin the retreat (see Masks are optional.  You can also get together with a friend or friends wherever you live.  Please let us know when you register which mode you choose, so we can make sure there’s enough room for those who wish to meet in person.

We will meet from 8 am to 7 pm ET, Friday through Sunday, and 8 am to 5 pm Monday. You are free to come and go as you please.  We only ask that you do the work you will miss on your own, so that you stay current with where the retreat is going.

The fee for the four-day Retreat is $950. There is a $200 discount for couples, and another $100 for early registration, where we receive a deposit of 50% by November 22nd.  Please Venmo your payment to Venmo@Dale-Goldstein-3, charge it (contact Annette at, or mail it to the address below.  If you can’t afford the Retreat, but wish to attend, please email Annette to find out about a reduced fee, and any other administration questions. If you have some money to spare and would like to help support someone else, please consider donating to the scholarship fund.  It is greatly appreciated!  Feel free to email me any questions you may have about the retreat at

Heartwork Institute, 882 Titus Avenue, Rochester, NY 14617 585-739-8884