Street Retreat

Plunging on a Street Retreat is a rare and unique opportunity to blow your mind. Life doesn't open in too many ways for us to get outside of our habitual routines and ideas about ourselves and who we think we are. The streets will take you on an adventure that will open up vast new spaces for your habitation, in harmony not only with the homeless but with all beings. Prepare to be amazed.

- Grover Genro Gauntt - Street Retreat Leader

"When we bear witness to life on the streets, we're offering ourselves. Not blankets, not food, not clothes, just ourselves."

– from Bearing Witness by Bernie Glassman

On Bernie’s 55th birthday in January 1994, he led the first street retreat in Washington D.C., contemplating the question of what to do to serve those rejected by society, those in poverty and those with AIDS.  Upon returning home, he discussed his vision of a container for people wanting to do spiritually-based social engagement with his late wife, Sensei Sandra Jishu Holmes.  They decided to develop the Zen Peacemaker Order, a religious order with a strong social action component that would bear witness on the streets, at sites of atrocity, and meet the troubles of the world.


“I want to figure out how to learn from those who have suffered in a certain way, even though I can’t fully enter that realm. So we go on the streets. I know we aren’t homeless and I make that quite clear. At the same time those who came will experience something that is closer to that world than those who haven’t been there. This is the meaning of ‘bearing witness.’ It’s like entering a church knowing you’re not God or the priest. But you will experience something different from someone who stays out of the church or someone who is just hired to fix the roof.”

– Bernie Glassman (1999 interview)

Street Retreats are offered by recognized leaders and ZPI affiliate groups.
Visit our members’ site for a list of all coming events.

To learn more about bearing witness to homelessness, read Bearing Witness: A Zen Master’s Lessons on Living a Life That Matters by Bernie Glassman.