"When one thought ends, right before the next thought begins,
there is a tiny gap called 'now.' Over time we learn to expand that gap."

– Spring Washam

Advanced Practitioners Program (APP1) - Spring 2016

The application period for this program has passed. Applicants will be notified of acceptance by the end of 2015.

“This is peaceful, this is excellent, namely the stilling of all formations, the relinquishing of all attachments, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbāna.” MN 64.9

Spirit Rock is pleased to announce our newly developed Advanced Practitioners Program (APP) beginning in the Spring of 2016. APP1 is intended for senior students of the Dhamma who want to explore the liberation teachings of the Buddha through practice, study, inquiry, and interactive exercises.  It is a year-long program consisting of three retreats and is intended for those who have completed programs like Spirit Rock’s Dedicated Practitioners Program (DPP), Community Dharma Leader Program (CDL), Heavenly Messengers (HM), or an equivalent. Please Note: If you are currently in DPP5 which ends in May 2016, you are welcome to apply for this program. The retreats are:

  • Emptiness and Liberation, April 23 - May 1, 2016 (8 nights), at Spirit Rock
  • Nature of Awareness, November 7 - 15, 2016 (8 nights), at Spirit Rock
  • Radiant Mind, Peaceful Heart, April 21 - 29, 2017 (8 nights), in Yucca Valley

The purpose of this program is to bring to life the liberating teachings of the Buddha both on retreat and in our daily practice. The first two retreats will focus more on silent, intensive practice than DPP or CDL, but each retreat will include regular interactive and study sessions. 

The Buddha said that he teaches just suffering and the end of suffering. These retreats will focus on the ending of suffering – Nibbana - and the practices and insights that lead to this ending. The first retreat of the program, Emptiness and Liberation, will be held at Spirit Rock from April 23 - May 1, 2016, taught by Gil Fronsdal, Guy Armstrong, and Sally Armstrong. This retreat is a further development of a senior students retreat on Emptiness previously held at Spirit Rock. While retaining the teachings on emptiness, this retreat will add more direct pointing to the steps toward liberation as described by the Buddha as well as ancient and contemporary meditation masters. We will introduce and explore teachings and practices that lead to awakening through talks, readings, reflections, guided meditations, and group discussions. To support the study aspect of the retreat, there will be two talks a day, in the morning and evening, as well as group discussions. To support the meditation, the retreat will include regular sitting and walking periods and will be held in silence apart from the talks, discussions and interviews.

The second retreat of the program, Nature of Awareness, will be held at Spirit Rock from November 7-15, 2016, led by Phillip Moffit, Guy Armstrong, Sally Armstrong, and Adrianne Ross. Awareness is the heart of sentient life, the central faculty that reveals to us all the phenomena of our experience. Usually, in both meditation and daily life, we pay most attention to phenomena and less to awareness itself. This retreat is an opportunity to focus on the nature of awareness and to explore this mysterious, innate capacity for knowing. This practice can open the door to emptiness, profound understanding and great freedom. To support our practice and understanding, we will also study and discuss the Buddha’s and other teachings on the nature of awareness in regular interactive sessions.

The first two retreats will be held mainly in silence to allow for a deepening of practice, with a regular component of interactive exercises and study. During the retreats we will also organize other aspects of the program, such as a Dhamma buddy system and ongoing study groups.

The third retreat of the program will be held in Yucca Valley, California, from April 21 - 29, 2017, and will focus on more of these liberating teachings, but will not be primarily in silence. Joining the teaching team is one of our foremost scholars, Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, who will share his unparalleled knowledge of the Buddha's teachings and discourses. It will have interactive study and practice sessions throughout the week, like the format used in DPP retreats. This retreat will include sessions on how to continue these practices and support each other after the program. The intention of this retreat will be to develop community that can continue after the program ends.

In addition, participants commit to maintaining both meditative and daily life practice, working with monthly homework that includes readings, reflections and meditation instructions, ongoing meetings with study/practice partners, and regular conference calls with APP1 teachers. Depending on the location of students and teachers, monthly or bimonthly groups may be formed.

Spirit Rock is excited to offer a program like this to our senior students, and hope that those of you who have done DPP or CDL will join us; current DPP5 participants are welcome to apply as the program ends in May 2016. The program will be led by Sally Armstrong, Susie Harrington and Kamala Masters, and the faculty will include Gil Fronsdal, Phillip Moffitt, Guy Armstrong, and other senior teachers.  

Please send inquiries to Kathy Cheney, APP Administrative Coordinator, at:


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