This page gives you more details about taking one of our Enlightenment Intensives in Bath. If you have not taken an Intensive before, you should read through this information before booking.
Being on an Enlightenment Intensive can be personally challenging at different levels and the decision to take one should not be made lightly. The following information tells you what to expect and gives a flavour of the inner process that people typically go through. It answers various basic questions, such as How does the process work? and Where are they held?
We are always delighted to a talk to people thinking of taking an Intensive with us. If you have any further questions - or if you simply want to get a better sense of us - do get in touch, we will be happy to hear from you.
Where do Enlightenment Intensives come from?
Enlightenment Intensives were devised by an American therapist and spiritual teacher named Charles Berner (1929-2007), also known as Yogeshwar Muni.
In the 1960s, Berner (right) had been developing processes for personal growth. But he noticed that some people tended not to make much progress because they were so identified with their false images or egos or personalities, unaware of their true inner being.
So he began to wonder how he could help people to discover who they really are -- how to experience self-realization.
He found that traditional techniques for experiencing self-realization, such as Zen meditation and Jnana Yoga, were too slow and too involved for the average busy Westerner seeking personal growth.
The inspiration for Enlightenment Intensives suddenly came to Berner one afternoon in 1968. He would combine
- the format of an intensive Zen retreat,
- the Yoga technique of contemplating 'Who am I?', and
- the modern therapeutic technique of sharing one's experiences with others in one-to-one communication.
He held the first, experimental Enlightenment Intensive in the Californian desert soon afterwards. It was incredibly successful. He then went on to run dozens of Intensives over the next few years, gradually refining the format, the rules, the technique and so on.
Berner's 99th and last Enlightenment Intensive was held in Berkeley in 1975. After that, he trained others to lead Enlightenment Intensives in the same manner.
How does the process work?
Many ingredients combine to make the process work:
- A contemplation technique
- A communication exercise
- Intensity of and immersion in the process
- The constant attention of the staff
At the start of the Intensive, you are taught a simple contemplation technique using the question: Who am I?
(For more experienced participants, the question may be What am I?, What is life?, or What is another?)
You will be contemplating this one question virtually every waking moment for three days. This is part of what makes the process so intense and well-focused.
As the lectures make clear, the aim is not for you to come up with a 'rational' or 'correct' answer to the question. Rather, your intention is to experience for yourself, within yourself, the actual truth of who you are ... whatever that may be.
Steady contemplation builds up an intensity of focus and energy. But instead of just holding you in continuous silent meditation, the Enlightenment Intensive technique combines this with communication exercises.
These 40-minute exercises are the main feature of the Intensive.
During the communication exercises, or "dyads", you pair up with another participant (a different one each time). Then, you and your partner take turns to say what you are experiencing as you contemplate.
So, while you ask yourself "Who am I?" and then describe whatever you experience, your partner simply looks and listens in silence.
After five minutes, you swap roles: you become the listening partner while your partner contemplates their question and tells you about their experiences.
Safety and Trust
Communicating in this way is not like having a normal conversation. You are listened to by your partners with full attention, but what you say is never commented on. No advice is given, no reactions expressed, no judgements made.
This provides a powerful foundation of safety within the group which promotes ever increasing openness. In particular, it gives you incredible freedom to safely explore and express your innermost truth without fearing what others might think or say about it.
The constant expression of one's immediate truth, and doing so with steadily deeper trust and openness, facilitates the ability to openly express one's ultimate Truth should the moment occur.
We often find that the uninhibited expression of Truth to a receptive individual is what most deepens the direct experience of it.
Intensity and Immersion
The process of sharing your inner journey - and listening to others share theirs - continually brings you into the present. It immerses you in the moment-by-moment awareness of your own experiences, but without letting you get lost in thoughts and feelings.
It is this special combination of focus and openness, of looking ever deeper into oneself and having ever deeper contact with others, that is responsible for the speed and intensity of the process. It is this which creates the conditions for enlightenment experiences to occur in a relatively short period of time -- three days.
We cannot guarantee that you will have an enlightenment experience. In fact, neither you nor we can make it happen. This is why enlightenment has often been described as an “accident” because people do not usually know how it has occurred.
But what we can do is maximise the conditions which enable it to occur. And everything about an Enlightenment Intensive is designed to do just that ... to make you “accident prone”.
What happens on a typical day?
The Intensive has a full daily schedule from early morning to late evening.
Your time is spent alternating between the communication exercises and periods of silent contemplation.
There are walking periods, meals, a working period and a rest period. These periods are silent other than if you are asking for information or guidance from the staff.
"I found myself, like everybody else, going through all manner of stuff during the three days—anxiety, amusement, boredom, frustration, happiness, grief. On the first day I was mostly affected by the orderliness of the situation—the lack of everyday distractions, like TV."
Barry - an extract from My First Intensive. (A first-hand account of participating on an Intensive.)
The schedule is designed to build up a focus of attention and energy on contemplating your question.
To reinforce this, the Intensive also has a set of rules which apply to all participants. These include
- No smoking, alcohol, coffee or other drugs.
- No food other than that served.
- No TV, radio, phone, etc.
These rules are designed to facilitate constant contemplation and to remove all distractions from the process, both for you and for everyone else. One of the biggest distractions is having to make choices, so as far as possible the element of decision-making is removed. For instance, all participants are served exactly the same meals and must eat only the food we serve. The rules also leave less room for the ego to cling to any bad habits or "specialness" trips.
There are also rules which ensure that each participant is free to follow their own truth in safety. These include no touching and no commenting on any other participant in any way.
The food, by the way, is light, nutritious and vegetarian. There are three main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) plus two light snacks and some herbal/fruit tea.
Where are the Intensives held?
Enlightenment Intensives are now held in several countries all around the world. Our Enlightenment Intensives are held on the outskirts of Bath, England (accessible by public transport).
The venue is a large, comfortable, house. Accommodation is in shared rooms with beds.
The group communication periods, along with lectures and silent sitting periods, takes place in the group room. There are plenty of cushions and a variety of chairs available to help you sit comfortably.
The house is just a few minutes' walk from countryside and farmland, ideal for the twice-daily outdoor walking contemplations.
Bath itself is a small, beautiful city in the South West of England, renowned for its natural hot spa waters, Roman baths and Georgian crescents.
Bath is easily accessed by train from London. The nearest airports are Bristol International and London Heathrow.
Who runs the Intensives?
All our Intensives in Bath are led by one of us, Emma or Barry. Emma is by far the more experienced, having led at least 30 Enlightenment Intesives to date.
We both trained to run Enlightenment Intensives in 1992 and have the knowledge and skills needed to help you in your efforts to seek, experience and assimilate a direct experience of Truth on an EI.
Note that the leader's role is called master — not as in master/slave or master/student, but as we see it more like the "master of the ship".
We provide information, support and encouragement, both to the group as a whole and to individuals. We consider it a privilege to support people in their quest for Truth.
We normally have one or two other staff, known as monitors, who help organise the environment and monitor the dyad exercises, plus a cook. The support staff are usually people who have taken Intensives themselves and as a result want to serve others on this journey. All the staff will give of their best in supporting you.
There is a reason why they are called "intensive"
Although this process can work many times faster than traditional enlightenment methods, it is not a short-cut. All genuine pursuit of greater spiritual awareness involves meeting one's personal inner barriers. Enlightenment Intensives simply accelerate this meeting. They encapsulate both the grace and the grit of true seeking and true finding.
In her book What We Ache For (HarperCollins, 2005), Oriah Mountain Dreamer describes her experience of participating on an Enlightenment Intensive in the US:
"As a student and teacher of spiritual practices for many years, I began by giving what I thought were pretty insightful, lucid, erudite answers. Then I moved through a vast range of responses: boredom, annoyance and irritation, ... the desire to entertain, trying to reach for profound insight (usually followed by increased boredom and irritation). Finally I simply had to give up wanting to look or sound like anything in particular. Eventually I just didn't care anymore whether or not I was sounding profound or stupid, attentive or bored, polite or rude. All the ideas I have about who I am, all the stories I tell myself, had been told, and they all rang pretty hollow."
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
If you give yourself whole-heartedly to the process it will challenge you. Your fears about yourself, old ideas you have taken on, preconceived ideas about reality - these are likely to come to the surface.
We do recognise that Enlightenment Intensives are not for everybody. They are indeed challenging and intense. But this is part of what makes them so powerful and effective.
For many, an Enlightenment Intensive has been exactly the right thing at the right time.
And all those who have had a direct experience of Truth say the same thing -- that no matter what it took to get there, it was worth it.
You don't have to be perfect...
For many people the most powerful barrier to having an enlightenment experience is that they think they are unworthy or somehow undeserving.
This is similar to the notion that one has to be perfect, or have resolved all of one’s hang-ups and neuroses, before enlightenment can occur.
This is simply not the case.
Thousands of ordinary people, young and old, from every background, have discovered who and what they are without first solving all their life problems and personality issues. Indeed, it is often the case that by experiencing truth directly you are able to see more clearly how problems can be solved.
Many find that facing their own inner challenges on an Intensive strengthens their ability to face them in life.
The process of sharing your inner journey with other participants lends a tremendous amount of support and encouragement. The closeness and camaraderie which develops within the group is one of the striking features of an Enlightenment Intensive.
"Then, out of the absence of expectation that repetition had created, something else began to happen--a new freedom, a real and deeper willingness to start from the place of not knowing who I was, of being genuinely curious, of wondering right along with the questioner, Who is this being sitting here? ...
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
Integration and Afterwards
On a typical Intensive a proportion of the group will have an enlightenment experience. But just taking part in an Enlightenment Intensive in itself produces a wealth of insights, awareness and new perspectives on you and your life. This is so irrespective of whether you have an enlightenment experience or not.
Our Enlightenment Intensives finish with a period of integration work which is designed to enable you to take what you have learned and experienced during the Intensive into your everyday life.
The communication element of an Enlightenment Intensive ensures that the process is very grounded. This means that much of the progress made in terms of insights and breakthroughs can be carried over into your everyday life.
The final part of our Intensives are designed to enhance this process. The schedule becomes lighter and the focus turns specifically to making use of your insights and new perspectives. There is time to reflect on your journey and any changes you may want to make in your life.
The benefits of taking an Enlightenment Intensive are not limited to what occurs during the actual process. Most people find that during the week after the Intensive more insights are gained and it becomes clearer how to make further progress in one’s life.
For this reason we advise you to allow one whole day of rest after the Intensive. It can be a mistake to rush back into a hectic lifestyle.
How can I best prepare for an Intensive?
There are things that you can do in preparation for an Enlightenment Intensive.
The first is to take steps to ensure that you arrive relatively fit and healthy and well rested. Contemplating and communicating for around 16 hours a day is arduous and you will find it an advantage to be physically prepared.
If you normally smoke, or take a lot of caffeine or alcohol, or do other drugs, you should wean yourself off prior to coming to the Intensive. Try to have a couple of days clean beforehand. In this way you will avoid the discomfort of sudden withdrawal (coffee withdrawal can cause a particularly nasty headache).
If you want to read something that will give you an idea of what the three days are like, you can read Tell Me Who You Are , a semi-fictional account by Jake Chapman (PDF copy).
You can also prepare by starting to contemplate your question. If you have not taken an Intensive before, it will be “Who am I?”
But the most important preparation you can do is to make an unbending commitment to seek your truth, no matter what it takes or where it takes you.
An enlightenment experience is beyond price...
Enlightenment Intensves have enabled thousands of ordinary people around the world to discover who they really are - to experience a moment of enlightenment.
Exactly what is experienced and how it affects you is unique to each person. Nevertheless, there is a strong theme running through many reports of enlightenment:
- For many people, knowing who and what they are brings a deep sense of relief and peace.
- Other people are surprised at the obviousness of it all, or amazed, or laugh hysterically at the cosmic joke involved.
- Some experience feelings of bliss; some a release of joy and energy that had been held back for years.
- It is not uncommon for people to recognise that this is what they always wanted but did not realise until they experienced it.
And all would say that no matter what it took to get there, it was worth it.
How can I book onto an Enlightement Intensive?
- To book onto one of our Enlightenment Intensives in Bath, you should first complete the online Registration Form.
- Then pay a deposit (non-refundable) either using the simple online Payment link or - if you prefer - by sending a cheque to the address given on registration.
- This deposit will be deducted from the full fee; the remainder is to be paid on arrival at the Intensive.
- The full fee for one of our 3-day Intensives is currently £350, or £300 if you register by the relevant early bird date (as shown on the Dates page).
- If you are on low income, please contact us about concessionary rates.
- We are always happy to talk to people considering taking an Enlightenment Intensive, so do feel free to contact us.