Consciousness Retreat 2023 – 2nd presentation!

Have you ever wondered what Consciousness is? Am I conscious? Right now? When I’m asleep? After I die? And who is this “I” that is conscious? Are animals conscious? Trees? Rocks? Atoms?

The first of edition of the Consciousness Retreat (3-6 March, 2023) was an incredible experience for all who participated – myself included. Many people had profound, life-changing experiences (see attached feedback). We will be repeating the Consciousness Retreat next Winter as a two part experience – 3 days each:  Jan 26-28th – Part I: Access Consciousness; Feb 23rd-25th – Part II: Deepen and broaden the experience. 

This will be a Hybrid Retreat. You can participate in person (in Rochester, NY, or with others in your own location) or via Zoom. Each day, we will meet on Zoom and/or in person (COVID permitting) from 9-5 (to allow for participants from California to Warsaw). We will meet together 9-11, 12-2, 3-5; each meeting will include an exercise and discussion period, followed by a break. We are also going to have homework and email questions and comments in-between Parts I and II.

In this retreat, we will use Heartwork – a practice that integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of our experience – to inquire together and alone into some of the most fundamental questions of being human. 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 really am? Using a sequence of meditations and Inquiry, you will have the opportunity to experience Consciousness directly, perhaps more precisely than you have ever experienced. This will also challenge many of your deeply held beliefs about who you are and what the universe is. Experiencing this Truth of Reality can be life-changing. We would love to have you with us for this journey.

Note: This retreat is intended for people with experience in doing inner work, and/or for those truly open to experiencing the truth that is beyond beliefs. If you are not sure this is for you, talk to us! We’ll have other events that can prepare you for this retreat.

The fee for the six-day Retreat is $1250, with a $300 discount for couples. A $150 dollar deposit is requested for There are discounts for those who attended the first Consciousness Retreat. Contact Annette at to apply and for payment methods. If you can’t afford this amount, but wish to attend, e-mail Annette and we can find something that works.

For more information, see below. Or apply now:

Testimonials from the 1st Consciousness Retreat:

“My experiences in the Retreat sliced to the heart of the matter, and I am yearning for more.” -Kim

“Every retreat offers a nugget of wisdom that I can retain.” -Alana

“This retreat will impact my life in a powerful way… It helped me to integrate everything that I contacted there, in a way that I actually don’t believe I will lose it!” -Rodney B

“[The retreat satisfied my expectations.] Over the four days with so many others working and sharing, my awareness deepened daily. […] It reinforced a knowing that only deep inner work can bring us to our full potential as humans and lessen the suffering of humanity” -Jan

“Having done many retreats with you over the years, I experienced the Consciousness Retreat as your magnum opus. It seemed to be the distillation of not only Heartwork, but also your more recent explorations of the nature of Consciousness. […] I’m so glad that your intention was to help us explore and experience it subjectively rather than try to conceptualize it objectively. This was perhaps your most “advanced” retreat, taking us to new ground. […] I would say that the quality of your presence with us was at least as healing and growth-producing as the process, which you had obviously poured your best skills and experience into. Because of that, it seemed to me that each participant received what they needed for their own journey towards wholeness. It was beautiful to be a part of that.” -Dave

“[Before the retreat] I was experiencing physical pain (chronic or otherwise), and was afraid of it “bringing me down”, stealing my joy of life. It was me and my physical pain, and the fear of it, separating and splitting myself off from others, and from the moment-to-moment experience of this life. Now I have remembered that there is room for “this too”, for all of life’s experiences, nothing excluded!!! Pain of all kinds (emotional, physical, mental) is part of living and doesn’t separate us from moment-to-moment experience, unless we avoid it, causing ourselves more suffering. But, when fully embraced, miraculously the fear drops away leaving just sensations! While the sensations can still be uncomfortable and “painful”, it is so much more bearable when “I” am not caught up in the fear and the future projections. After all, who is really there to “suffer”? Just being here now, just breathing, just sensations!” – Deborah

“The retreat WELL EXCEEDED my expectations! The methods, discussions, reading, and self-inquiry took me to profound depths of consciousness and Self that I had never experienced before. It was a transformational experience. I held off for a week before I did this evaluation to see if the effects of it would expand into my daily life and also remain with me at the depth that I had achieved. It has on both counts. It’s easy to generate energy in a workshop/retreat when everyone one is actively involved contributing and sharing energy. It is infinitely more difficult to have the substance of the experience take hold in your heart and continue to grow once you’ve left the retreat. I’m thrilled that this has been my experience.” -Bart

“[Before the retreat] I was uncertain, distracted, and anxious at what was to come. Also curious, hopeful, seeking. My question was so focused on past and present concerns it forgot the now. I didn’t know who I was well enough to ask a question that mattered. [Now] I am Dani, a little boy who thinks he’s masquerading as a man. I am happy, and present, and joyful. I am sad, and confused, and deficient. I am all the colors of the rainbow. In a moment, I just am. The retreat, and working with each of you precious beings, cracked me open. It took me a while to realize that I don’t need to pick up any of the pieces. That the mess can just be. That it’s not even a mess, when you look at it right. I have glimpsed through my fear and tasted a freedom I couldn’t imagine. […] I’m going to keep returning to now, to presence, to consciousness, to find that freedom again. From here to here. […] [This retreat will affect my life in] There has been an internal paradigm shift in the way I understand presence, and its power in my life. After the retreat I felt riddled with deficiency. I was trapped in comparison. I feel now though that I am on my path, and that my path is sacred, and beautiful. That I am beautiful, in all my imperfection. In all my stuckness, and resistance. When I invariably forget that, or need to be reminded of it, I will hold the moment for myself to return home to. I will follow the practices I have learned to dive deeper into the wonderful mystery of it all, and will turn toward things that are difficult, and not shy away from whatever I may find. Instead of anxiety, Presence will be my friend and guide.” -Dani M

“The retreat exceeded my expectations. I not only understood what consciousness is about, but got to experience it and learned ways to get in touch with it. I felt so many of my doubts and fears shed away, and I found a deeper sense of trust in myself and in the universe that has inspired and supported me in following my journey. […] Being in the group helped me feel more connected to everyone, feel like I am not alone in the journey of self growth, and find people with whom to find support and share this path with. It was also another experience of seeing how we all have our different paths and journeys, and of learning from these different paths. Sharing such a safe space, where we are open and vulnerable, also makes me feel very close to the other heartworkers. I feel I made soul friends that feel like a family. […] As a new insight from this experience, I could feel the ways in which consciousness presents infinite possibilities, and how we create our reality – either by limiting ourselves and/or expanding into new directions with the unfolding of life. I felt how I can expand my awareness way beyond the limits of my body, and reach a sense of ‘knowing’ from the openness of not knowing and being with what is. I also got a much deeper of knowing that there is no point in not being ourselves fully. That as a tiny piece of this big consciousness, my role is to be myself.” -Bruna



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 the approach of philosophy or science 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.” The observer, the observing and the observed are not three separate things –  consciousness is one undivided phenomenon. Consequently, you can’t experience Consciousness through beliefs, ideas, or thoughts.  It can only be “under-stood” by experiencing it directly.  It is an “inside job!”  As it is said, “Pointing at the moon is not the moon, itself.”


We all create our own reality. What is left when we stop creating reality? Who is the creator? 

This retreat means to shift our perception and reduce our suffering. 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 really 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 universe is.  Realizing this deeper Truth of Reality 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?  


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 wounds, but, because it never broke the attachment to the identities that were created and continued to create one’s suffering, did not free one from the grip of the ego.  Spiritual practice could give a glimpse of True Nature – Who we really are, beyond all identities – but “spiritually bypassed” the psychological issues that continued to create our suffering, allowing them to remain unconscious and “run the show” of our lives.  So, combining the psychological and spiritual into one complete system was the road to True Freedom.

In its evolution, Heartwork has given primary attention to working through the psychological knots in our psyche.  Currently, responding 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 is this Consciousness 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 those who wish to meet here with me, for everyone’s safety, we are requesting that you be up to date on your COVID immunizations, and get the appropriate COVID test the day before we begin the retreat (see Masks (pref. N95) are optional.  If you don’t want to meet these strict requirements but still meet in-person with others, you can also get together with a friend or friends wherever you live.  Please let us know when you register if you wish to meet here with me.

This will be a two-part retreat, 3 days at a time: Jan 26-28th and Feb 23-25th, 2024. We will meet together 9-11, 12-2, 3-5 EST; each meeting will include an exercise and discussion period, followed by a break.

The fee for the six-day Retreat is $1250, with a $300 discount for couples. There are discounts for those who attended the first Consciousness Retreat. If you can’t afford this amount, but wish to attend, e-mail Annette at and we can find something that works. Payments can be made via Venmo @Dale-Goldstein-3, PayPal, check sent to Heartwork at 882 Titus Ave., Rochester, NY 14617, or credit card (contact Annette at If you have some money to spare and would like to help support someone else who can’t afford the fee, please consider donating to the scholarship fund.  It is greatly appreciated!  Please email Annette with any administration questions you may have, and feel free to email me at with any questions you may have about the retreat itself.

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