Shambala Mountain Center location of Basic Training retreats
Karuna Retreat
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Basic Training 

Curriculum 2 year certification

Highlights

About The Basic Training

Karuna Training uses time-tested skillful means to unlock our innate health.
Karuna Training teaches us how to work skilfully with ourselves first—and then how to offer ourselves to others through the innate potency of the heart. The program joins deep study of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist principles with contemplative practice, skills development, and ongoing group interaction and community support.

Karuna Training is a journey of discovering one’s own brilliant sanity, and of learning how to exchange ourselves for others so that we can transform everyday life challenges into opportunities for openness and wisdom.
The Karuna Basic Training is a two-year, comprehensive training in Contemplative Psychology. It is divided into three phases that are composed of weekends, extended retreats, and ongoing small groups. A more detailed description is below on this page.

Elements of Karuna Basic Training

Mindfulness Awareness

In Karuna Training we become familiar with our own mind, and discover that mindfulness and compassion are natural and healthy components of the human mind and heart. Through training in meditation and contemplation, we learn to recognize and nurture these innate qualities. This is the basis for working with others in a wakeful and compassionate manner. It is also the basis for the healing and transformative processes that are part of the contemplative psychology journey.

Community Process

Karuna Training takes place in community. In fact, the journey of our own personal transformation is dependent upon our cohort and the personal transformation of all its members. We call this Mutual Recovery—meaning the path works on us through our interactions in our relationships with others.

Therefore, no new members will join the program after the second meeting of the Basic Training. Through fostering this type of trust and intimacy, we begin to realize there is no relationship in our lives that's not worthy of love, respect, and openness. And, we see that the quality of our relationships are a mirror of our own minds, and how these relationships support us to discover the diamonds within us.

Compassionate exchange

Compassionate exchange is a mindful encounter that allows for mutual healing. Exchange is the natural and choiceless present-moment capacity to feel another person's feelings. Working with exchange is enhanced through both contemplative training and navigating the treacherous terrain of difficult emotions. Along the way, through befriending ourselves, we become skillful in offering ourselves to others—utilizing the aspiration to grow our bodhicitta, our awakened heart.

Compassionate Exchange is the act of opening fully and completely to another as a vehicle of basic sanity and compassion. It can occur in a micro-moment or be incorporated into skilled sessions of deep listening and reflection.

The Five Buddha Families

In Karuna Training we use a Buddhist tool called the Mandala of the Five Buddha Families. Mandala is a Sanskrit word that means circle, and is a way of viewing elements in the world as interdependent and in continual relationship to each other. The Five Buddha Families are a remarkable tool for understanding and working with our own emotional energies and that of the people we interact with. Each of the five families relates to a color and to an element (earth, water, fire, air, and space). And, like the facets of a precious crystal, together they compose a whole.

Maitri Space Awareness

Maitri Space Awareness is a practice that utilizes this mandala and deeply engages these energies as a transformational tool. It aids in coloring our understanding of our own intrinsic health by refining our relationship to the space around and within us. Maitri Space Awareness practice places with our perception of space, opens us to the Buddhist concept of nonduality, and brings us into the present moment.

Deep Practices

Karuna Training offers an abundance of tools for working with our hearts and minds. Our Body-Speech-Mind Groups are mindfulness-based practices which help us go deeper into our understanding of our personal relationships. And, our Process Groups help us to expand our capacity for mindful speech and deep listening. Our Four-Step Practice is a process for investigating, befriending, and transforming difficult emotions.
See available basic training cycles

Karuna Training Phase 1
Personal Process 

332 Total Training Hours For All Phases

Seminar 1:

Confidence in Intrinsic Health and Defining Ego in Contemplative Psychology

Participants are introduced to the view of Intrinsic Health and the mind-map of ego in Contemplative Psychology

Seminar 2:

Befriending the Energy of Emotions

The Mandala of emotions is introduced as the Six Realms of psychological fixation.

Seminar 3:

Four Foundations of Space Awareness

Four foundations of taming the mind and developing a fearless relationship to space unfolds.

Seminar 4:

Maitri Space Awareness: Meeting with Elemental Magic

The first in-person retreat working with the Mandala of the Five Buddha Families and exploration of  the outer manifestation, which is the five elements and the practice of ‘space awareness’.
Phase 1 includes 12 hours of regional continuity groups
129 hours total training
See available basic training cycles

Karuna Training Phase 2
Compassionate Exchange

Seminar 5:

Compassionate Presence I

The birth of bodhicitta and foundation of compassionate exchange

Seminar 6:

Compassionate Presence II

The four phases of  working contemplatively with others in compassionate exchange

Seminar 7:

Shining the Jewel

The well-honed skill of offering honest, kind,  and helpful feedback which serves to bring out the brilliant sanity of others

Seminar 8:

Exploration of Emotional Energy in the Mandala of Now


The second in-person retreat that works with the Mandala of the Five Buddha Families from the perspective of emotional energies, and transmuting confusion into wisdom
Phase 2 includes 16 hours of regional continuity groups
126 hours total training
See available basic training cycles

Karuna Training Phase 3
Compassionate Exchange

Seminar 9:

A 25-hour project of Compassionate Exchanger


Participants engage in five hours of working with someone they recruit in successive sessions of compassionate exchange.

Seminar 10:

Mentoring Day


Support for the projects in whatever way is needed by mentors

Seminar 11:

Exploration of Emotional Energy in the Mandala of Now


Participants present their projects to one another in creative forms and describe the impact of Karuna Training on their lives.
Phase 3 includes 16 hours of regional continuity groups
91 hours total training
See available basic training cycles

I feel like Karuna has really has opened the door for me to different ways of experiencing the world. And it’s constantly refining my sense perceptions. And there’s a mystery of life that Karuna touches into and allows me to be closer to myself and to other people and the phenomenal world

Margot Geist - Student