Silent Awakenings – Deepak Chopra Retreat 2023 – Austin, TX

Good morning, Yogis! Well, here is a tale I’ll tell about my recent trip to Austin, Texas to attend Deepak Chopra’s final Silent Awakenings retreat. I think it was actually the last retreat that the Chopra organization is organizing (they held these for many years) due to the costs of putting on such a show! My story begins a few months ago when out of the blue I got an email from someone I used to know in Seattle, Washington. She and I helped with the ZPG chapter (Zero Population Growth, now Population Connection), and she must have been on my email list for all of the years since she reached out to me to ask me if I could help her sell her $4,700 ticket to an upcoming retreat that she couldn’t attend.

I answered that I’d be happy to try. So, for the next couple of months, I tried a variety of approaches – reaching out to the Chopra organization to see if they would buy the ticket back and sell it to whoever was on the waiting list; joining multiple Facebook groups (including many having to do with Deepak Chopra) and posting repeatedly that there was a ticket to this retreat (that led to some interesting revelations about the world of international retreats); and reaching out to my own vast network to see if anyone was interested. Then we lowered the price a couple of times and I repeated some of the steps – all leading to no takers. Eventually, I suggested to my friend that if no one was interested and she gave me a little lead time I would attend the retreat and that’s what ended up happening. 

One of the coolest group projects I’ve ever seen. At the bottom, I’ll post how this turned out. We all participated (200 of us) in creating this mandala throughout the week on the way to and from our silent meals.

In June of 2023 at the Breitenbush Summer Solstice Retreat, I met a new friend, Sundeep (who lives in Austin) and before the retreat, I spent a couple of days staying with him and enjoying his company and fine hospitality. It was a nice way to acclimate to Austin (105 degrees) and see a little of the town. Sundeep also lent (it turned out it was a gift!) me this fine outfit which I wore at our final closing ceremony on the last day of our silence together. 

On Saturday, September 9th, Sundeep dropped me off at the Lost Pines Hyatt Resort and Hotel about a million miles from nowhere. I registered for the retreat and checked into my room and said goodbye to my friend. I felt a little like a young kid being dropped off on the first day/night of sleepover camp, except my bed had lights that went on as I walked through the room and my room had two luxurious queen-sized beds and a beautiful view of a hummingbird garden down below. For the next 7 days, we were on a somewhat tight schedule featuring delicious food (pretty much all vegan and gluten-free), yoga, morning primordial mantra meditations, more yoga, more food, talks, and lots of time to think and enjoy the property. I would have enjoyed the property a lot more if it had been a little cooler, but I did make some time to visit the steam bath and take a ride on the lazy river. 

There were lots of highlights throughout the week. I am not a frequent meditator, though I do spend a fair amount of time with myself and my thoughts. But this week pushed me into a new level of quiet and being with Albert. On Monday I got up for the 6 am outdoor sunrise yoga which was followed by a 7 am group primordial mantra meditation on a hillside overlooking the Colorado River. It was the only day I chose to get up that early, but it was really a very beautiful experience. The woman teaching yoga all week was delightful and I had many opportunities to hear her lead yoga classes throughout the week. Most days also featured talks by Deepak Chopra during the day (these were often highly theoretical (reminding me of Nassim Haramein). Somehow the day talks also caught me when I was a bit sleepy and I generally didn’t get that much from them. His evening satsangs (also talks) where he would answer questions that attendees posed were a lot more interesting to me. Deepak is a fantastic speaker – he knows a lot about a lot of subjects and is able to weave his answers together in surprising ways. I especially loved when he would talk about his passion for New York City where I attended college (NYU) and I still have so many great memories of it. 

Speaking of speaking, one of my highlights of the week was the main presenter, Brent BecVar. Brent led us in meditation training and also shared some of his wisdom, as well. I intend to follow his work in the future. He also performed music at the end of the week – some lovely Beatles songs which we all sang along to as we came out of silence for the first time. 

My personal highlights were these:

  1. Spending the week in silence around 200 people was something I had never experienced before. We came and went sometimes with a nod, but a lot of the time just “ignoring” one another. Every once in a while I’d catch a smile here or there or hold open a door for someone, but generally, for 6 days I was on my own. By the end of the week, I had a lovely feeling that I’d never noticed before – a feeling of not being judged by anyone. I had gone into the retreat with a little bit of an imposter feeling, but by the end of the week I realized that everyone was in a similar boat – no one was looking at how you were dressed; and no one knew each others’ personal stories – how we came to be there; what we were thinking – nothing. It was a huge revelation to exist in such a space. 
  2. Eating silently. Earlier in the Summer I’d actually put out the call to folks at the Summer Solstice Retreat to see if anyone would like to sit in silence together while we ate. I didn’t manifest it then, but boy did I get my fill at Silent Awakenings. It was really quite something – we’d line up at a couple of rows of buffets, take our food, and then sit in a giant ballroom (or outside once the temps came down) together, but alone. The first couple of meals were a little bit awkward for me, but after the first day, I was down for this type of dining. It enabled me to focus on the delicious food and my own thoughts. There was a strong encouragement by Brent for people not to bring their phones with them into the ballroom where we’d meditate, and this pretty much carried over to the space where we ate. Even with this message repeated, inevitably someone’s phone would go off in the middle of our meditations. 
  3. I really enjoyed learning and practicing the meditation style that was taught. We did the same meditation each time, and now I’ve learned it well enough that I’m practicing it at home. Doing this meditation really allowed me to drop in deeper and I appreciated the soft and gentle approach that our teachers guided us with. 
  4. I had a thought about my Dad during the week. He used to spend hours looking out our screened porch at our cabin (Camp Smiley). I never knew what to make of that, but this week I realized in a way he was meditating. That made my thoughts about him a lot softer.  I was also able to let go of some of the charge that a family member’s anger towards me has had in recent years.

So, that’s a little peek into my week. If you have any questions for me I’d be happy to try to answer them. I’m sure I’ll be adding to this report, but I wanted to gather a few thoughts to share with friends and family. 

I so appreciate this opportunity that my friend gifted me with. It’s given me lots to think about. I feel like my life path has been altered a little bit. I feel at the beginning of a life reset. I still feel very contemplative. I notice that I’m making some slight changes to my life already to change course a little. I tend to have a thousand activist projects going at once and I’m recognizing that that needs to shift to make room for some other parts of my life, such as romance and possibly travel. I feel softer. Quieter. And more curious about meditation and other worlds that I don’t know much about.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti Ohmmmmmm

Here’s how the communal mandala turned out at the end of the week.

There was also a table set up which people could add to during the week – this filled out quite a bit by the end of the week and was a beautiful reminder of the nature around us.

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Primordial Sound Meditation

Questions asked by the facilitator (or self):

  • Who am I/What am I?
  • What do I want – What is my Deepest Desire – What do I want?
  • What is my purpose? How can I serve myself and the rest of humanity?
  • What am I grateful for?(leave space for the answers to come)
  • I am (followed by your first and last name)
  • I am (followed by your first name)
  • Silently repeat I am
  • Silently repeat the Sanskrit equivalent AHUM (about 1 minute)

Meditate using your primordial mantra for 15-30 minutes.

Then the facilitator speaks the following intentions – releasing them into being (waiting about 15-30 seconds between each of them)

  • Joyful Energetic Body
  • Loving, compassionate heart
  • Reflective, alert mind
  • Lightness of Being

Continue resting for another minute

Take a few deep breaths, Start to move, and stretch gently.

When you are ready, open your eyes slowly


9.25.23 – More pics and context.

Snow Days!

Scooterville Snowlandia

Scooterville Snowlandia

We’ve been snowed in in Portland, Oregon for the last 5 days. It’s really something. I’ve lived here for 15 years and, as far as I can recall, I’ve never seen the City so socked in. I’ve been wishing to come up with a system to award people for keeping their cars parked.  More stars the longer you go without driving. The roads and sidewalks are pretty icy and slippery – it’s really something.

On my end, it’s allowed me some much-needed and enjoyable downtime to just be with myself. I’ve been reading an interesting book – The Happiness Project; working on my email marketing world; taking short walks to visit with neighbors; I got to see David Bromberg play at the Alladin Theater – and I spent a lot of time chilling and doing house projects. I’ve really been appreciating the sun. It’s been shining steadily for the past 2 days and right now the light is streaming into our living room – and bouncing off of various fun sparkly things I’ve set up to capture the light and reflect and refract it.

The moon has also been delightful. Full – shining.  I walked home after having dinner with Gregg Harris of Roosevelt’s Terrariums last night – and got to see her in her fullness shining down on me. We have a Spotify account which has led to all sorts of new music – such as this version of Winter Wonderland by David Grisman and friends.

That’s all, I just wanted to share some of what I’m up to – been feeling pulled to share some of what’s on my mind, lately – and The Eleven, just comes out once a month :). My friend, Brock Noyes, shared this with his e-list yesterday and I thought it profound.

From Brock: “In the last year or so I have been teaching a class at Breitenbush called Meditation-Experience 5 Traditions.  I have been on the path of Meditation for an entire adult lifetime, and it would take time to count all the ones that I have seriously practiced.  In this class, I sort of randomly choose 5 different modalities and we explore them for about 12 minutes each.  Amazingly, the class is FUN (not something I ever associated with meditation) and what I have re-discovered is that each tradition has a slightly different feel, and I will choose different ones at different times depending on where I am at…at that moment.  Sometimes I am working on stress, sometimes on chi, sometimes on the mystery.  There is that adage from the book The Artist’s Way that we are closest to the creator when we create, so I have unbound myself from the structure of a specific form, and create my own practice and I have found it brings a sense of play into the process which is quite different from the stern protocol  that “I am going to get enlightened.”  (good luck with that…my opinion is that is the first thing to let go of)  In this way, meditation can be playful rather than stern.  I love that simple line from the country-western legend Merle Haggard; “I’m into happy, I ain’t into sad.
Recently I was sent a link to a visiting Tibetan Lama in Portland and in scrolling through U-Tube I karmically came across a talk by my Tibetan Teacher Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche.  I studied with him in the Himalayas and make the half-truth joke that the only less gifted students than me were the ones that did not show up.  I was so excited to see what he had to say and  his primary message was “Relax.”  It was not memorizing prayer, it was not a protocol of enlightenment, it was simply RELAX.  When I checked in with this message it was simple but extraordinarily profound.  It illuminated when I checked in with my body in mediation I was still holding reservoirs of stress, partly from the tragic loss of my wife to breast cancer in December, and partly from other karma.  I re-oriented my mediation practice AND my yoga practice to feel into how relaxed I could be in each posture.  Not how perfect the pose was but how deeply I could surrender into relaxing in the pose and the breath.  I took this same message into my sitting practice, and what I have found is that it laid the groundwork for being much more relaxed outside of my various practices. It translated into life.
We all live in this electronic world of visual stimulation and stress and trauma, and now we live in the world of Mr. Trump.  So the simple message here in your practice is checking in with your body.  Are you truly relaxed and can you make that the focus of your practice relaxation until it gets somatically ingrained?
The process of creating a community of conscious creativity (for lack of better words) at our new “compound” in NE Portland has been halted by the passing of my wife in a heroic fight against breast cancer.  She died in December.  Incredible loss for all of us who knew her,  I am headed to points south for a month to try to assimilate, integrate, and reboot my life. And we will be exploring classes and synergistic evolution starting sometime in March here in Portland and periodically at Breitenbush  I hope you can join us.
Leaving you with the message from Chuang Tzu from 4th Century BC China when we westerners were living like dogs in caves.
Those who heaven helps we call the sons (and daughters) of heaven.  They do not do this by learning.  They do not do this by working it.  They do not reason this by using reason.  To let understanding stop at what can be understood is a high attainment.
Brock can be reached @ &