Native American-Zen Peacemakers
Bearing Witness Retreat
Native American-Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness Retreat 2023
Wolakota Makasintomni Awachekiyapi
Praying for Sacred Harmony
and Worldwide Peace
Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn Mts. of Wyoming and at the site of the Rosebud Battlefield in Montana
Sunday, July 9 through Saturday, Jul 15, 2023
Zen Peacemakers has been conducting bearing witness retreats following the principles of Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action in Auschwitz, Rwanda, and the Black Hills since 1996. This program is a continuation of this rich legacy and part of our dedication to growing in connection with the indigenous communities of Turtle Island.
Check our Journal for reports and reflections from our past retreats.
We participate in a Zen Peacemaker Bearing Witness Retreat
When we participate in a Peacemaking Process
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Cost for the Plunge is $750.00. Additional donations are encouraged to help cover costs and support. Participants will be responsible for all travel expenses, lodging and meals. Attendees are responsible for travel costs to and from the retreat locations, and all lodging and meal costs. Attendees are also responsible for making their own hotel reservations.
When We Participate in
A Zen Peacemaker Bearing Witness Retreat,
We Participate in a Peacemaking Process
To Bear Witness is to have a strong glimpse into the truth that the life of the other is actually our own life itself, that we are, indeed, one body.
Our Bearing Witness retreats take place in places where deep human trauma occurred and where healing is endlessly needed. With our retreats we intend to contribute to this healing.
To do this we rely on the Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers. All aspects of the retreat are founded on these Three Tenets:
letting go of fixed ideas about ourselves, others, and the universe.
to both the joy and the suffering of the world.
that arises from Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness.
These will be our anchors to which we will return throughout each day of the retreat. They are a powerful way to live one’s life and respond to the needs of the world.
While a Bearing Witness Retreat cannot precisely be a Zen Sesshin, we do create a container of intention and awareness we all share the responsibility to maintain. Moving as one, sharing meals, adhering to the schedule, and attending all activities are part of this. Everyone is asked to maintain presence and attention throughout the retreat as each setting allows.
Often, we experience strong emotions and reactions in these places of profound human trauma. Our retreat is designed to support us, with Council practice, meditation periods, prayer sessions, and the presence of senior Spirit Holders who are available to you if you need them. All of us should remain vigilant about how our fellow participants are doing. These reactions can be transformative, and we want to protect the space to fully experience them.
Please prepare to arrive with this spirit in heart and mind.
Refer to the webpage on the Three Tenets to learn more
and contact a retreat leader if you have questions.
Bearing witness retreats often take us to places of deep suffering and even trauma. Participants are encouraged to bear witness not just to certain external and historical events, but also to personal issues of vulnerability and darkness. While the entire staff, including spirit holders, council facilitators, religious leaders and coordinators, tries to create a retreat environment that serves these goals, it is the responsibility of all of us, staff and participants alike, to maintain this environment for the sake of all participants. For this reason I agree to uphold this Code of Ethical Conduct, which is based on principles of trust, integrity, justice, respect and accountability, in order to nurture this bearing witness retreat.
I understand that this retreat provides an opportunity to practice the Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers: (1) Not Knowing, (2) Bearing Witness, and (3) Taking Action from Not Knowing and Bearing Witness.
>> Accountability. Maintaining the well-being of the retreat is the mutual responsibility of all participants. I agree to consciously cultivate a space where all voices and opinions are heard, the diversity of individual experiences is affirmed and encouraged, and where all participants feel safe in sharing personal shortcomings and concerns. Clear communication supports taking responsibility for both oneself and the retreat, and is thus an act of service to all participants.
>> Transparency. Transparency is crucial to maintaining balance and harmony. I will speak out on matters that, if left unaddressed, may foster doubt, suspicion or resentment.
Self-Awareness. Knowing that this retreat may be arduous to both mind and body, I will take responsibility for monitoring and caring for myself.
>> Right Speech. Mutual respect manifests when we treat each other with dignity and engage with everyone truthfully and compassionately. Harmony is promoted when I observe right speech: refraining from lies, self-serving talk, slander, or apportioning blame. It also includes proactively and skillfully speaking out in a manner that respects all persons involved. Recognizing the potency of anger, I will practice self-awareness and endeavor to express myself openly and generously, without blame or rejection.
>> Confidentiality. I understand that the retreat includes processes and procedures that may involve the sharing of sensitive personal information, and that this information should be held in confidence as much as possible. This caution particularly applies to staff members. On those occasions when, for the well being of specific individuals, staff members need to consult with each other, such consultations will be maintained in confidence.
Boundaries. I am responsible for clarifying, maintaining and communicating appropriate and clear boundaries with other participants.
>> Sexual Conduct. I acknowledge that sexuality is a highly vulnerable part of human experience, and even more so in retreats that challenge our bodies, minds and hearts. For this reason I will not form a new sexual relationship during the retreat with other retreat participants.
>> Use of Intoxicants. I understand that clarity of mind is a fundamental component of the practice of the three tenets. The use of non-medically prescribed intoxicants during retreats is acceptable only when prescribed by the retreat staff.
>> Practices Outside the Scope of the Retreat. All activities should support the purpose of this retreat as declared in the advertised description. No staff member or leader can give teachings or practices that lie outside its purview. Any doubts or questions about this should be taken to the spirit holders for resolution.
We support our attendees’ concern for security and safety and we require all those registering to provide a photo image of their Covid vaccination card. We will, of course, follow the Covid regulations in place at the time of the retreat on site as well. Every country may have different regulations and types of certificates needed for entry/exit/re-entry at different times. For example, some countries have required proof of testing negative (with a an antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT)) 3 days prior to re-entry. This may change; however, participants are asked to be aware of the regulation updates for their destination. Please be advised that the testing fees are not included in the retreat fees. Although costs will be covered personally, we will assist in making this service accessible.
Please keep abreast of the travel restrictions due to Covid-19 and make your travel arrangements wisely, purchasing either a fully refundable ticket, a travel insurance policy, or both.
Mitakuye Oyasin — all my relations –– is an essential Lakota understanding, and Zen Peacemakers is honored to continue deepening our relationship with the Lakota and other Native tribes in the Black Hills. Though formal programs began recently, they’re the fruit of an 18-year relationship between Lakota individuals and Zen Peacemaker members.
Since 2015, Zen Peacemakers have conducted programs annually in collaboration with the Native American community in South Dakota. These programs are different every year, according to the needs of our hosts and our participants: they’ve manifested as the major 180-participant Black Hills Bearing Witness retreat in 2015, the intimate members-led Plunge in 2016 on Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation (CRST), and the dual programs in 2017 of a Week of Service on CRST and the Bearing Witness Plunge in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.
Each consecutive year builds on the relationships we develop with our hosts. And, our program participants have individually continued their relationships through communications and actions, such as a nation-wide clothes drive, social-justice collaborations, their presence at Standing Rock camp in Winter 2016, a members-led Bearing Witness retreat in Minnesota, building a year-round hot-house in Pine Ridge, and in many other forms. Some of these stories are told in our online Journal.
This year’s pilgrimage will focus on sacred and historical sites in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Our Lakota friends, with their deep reserves of humility, faith, and endurance, will show the way. We will meet them with deep listening, respect, and the intention to plant new seeds of caring, trust, and wellbeing for all our relations.
Further details will be made available upon registration and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
This program will be conducted by the leadership team and in the spirit of the Three Tenets of Zen Peacemakers. While there is a set structure and framework facilitated by the leaders, please be aware that the agenda may change at any time as we bear witness to what’s arising moment to moment, and from day to day. Flexibility is essential.
The intentions and spirit of this program will be held carefully and subtly maintained by the program facilitators. Please be mindful of their instructions.