Photo Credit: Helena Lopez
Retreat Orientation and Logistics
This page is to help all who are attending the retreat prepare so they can enjoy the retreat fully. It contains:
This Retreat Dedicated to the Memory of Kenny Feldman (1976-1999)
We retreat organizers -- Ruth Sorenson-Prokosch, Unny Nambudiripad, and Freeman -- dedicate this retreat to the memory of Kenny Feldman.
Kenny Feldman was a close friend of Unny. Kenny was instrumental in getting Unny involved in activism. Kenny cared deeply about animals. He loved his companion animals deeply and was a vegetarian.
Kenny suffered from depression much of his life and took his life in 1999. “I’m grateful I was able to know him and that I was influenced by him,” says Unny. “Shortly before he passed away, I told him how much he meant to me and how I appreciated the key role he played in getting me on the path I am on.”
We organize this retreat to help activists heal and have full physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health. We understand to carry on sustainable and loving activism, we must heal ourselves.
We invite you to honor Kenny’s memory by advocating for animals and nurturing your health.
- Ruth, Unny, and Freeman
Guiding Values for The OWL Retreat
The Retreat Organizing Committee planned this retreat with the following eight values in mind and intend to run the retreat in a way that embodies these values. Please read them over and join us in helping to embody these values during the retreat.
All people, animals, and forms of nature have inherent value, worth, and dignity. We recognize and appreciate all beings and life forms equally. To this end, the retreat is free to help people who lack funds attend. We seek to create a warm, welcoming, friendly retreat environment where everyone can feel safe, peaceful, and at ease. We are also doing our best to accommodate those with special needs, so they too can attend and enjoy its benefits.
As black, lesbian, feminist Audrey Lorde proclaims, "It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences." We aim to recognize, accept, and celebrate our differences. To this end, we seek to have a diversity of voices heard at this retreat, including people of color, LGBTQ+ people, women, low income people, disabled people, and others.
We welcome people of all faiths and those of none. Whether you believe a secular or religious wisdom tradition, we seek to make you feel welcomed and appreciated. At the same time, we appreciate that all traditions contain wisdom, and we will share wisdom from various traditions that can benefit all of us, whether we are an atheist or theist. In addition, we will do our best to use language that makes everyone feel included and valued.
When we are objectively aware of our inner and outer experience, we are less likely to react unskillfully in a way that harms ourselves and others, and more likely to feel a sense of peace and ease regardless of our situation. To encourage mindfulness, we will be leading guided meditations and teaching mindfulness techniques to help you be mindful.
One helpful way to define compassion is as the ability to willingly feel unpleasant feelings while maintaining a balanced mind and an open heart. When we feel unpleasant feelings without resisting them and without creating a story around them, it allows these energies to move through us without causing suffering. If we resist these feelings, we are more likely to become overwhelmed, depressed, and burn out. In our work as animal advocates, we may witness animals endure severe abuse, suffering, and torture, which is why learning the mindset of compassion tremendously helps our activism be sustainable, effective, and even a source of joy. At this retreat we will be offering a talk and several guided meditations to help you learn this mindset of compassion.
All beings want to be peaceful and happy. Thus, it makes sense to treat all beings with kindness, warmth, consideration, and care. Moreover, kindness feels better, is sustainable, and allows clear thinking. In contrast, hatred and anger feel unpleasant, are unsustainable, and often sabotage our efforts to create positive and lasting change. This retreat will share with you helpful perspectives and techniques to help you be kind to yourself, kind to others, and even kind to those who cause harm.
We are stronger together. Cultivating understanding, respect, and appreciation of all of the diverse members of the animal protection community will help our movement thrive. To help strengthen our connections with each other, we will offer community building activities such as sharing meals, playing games, singing songs, working cooperatively, recreating, and socializing together.
As animal advocates we often see the dark side of humanity. This is difficult and can lead to sadness and despair. The antidote to despair is joy. Thus this retreat incorporates many playful, fun, joyful activities such as playing games, singing songs, nature walks, a campfire, dancing, socializing, and more. We call this a “retreat” for a reason. Haha!
Presenters and Presentations
At the retreat, you will hear from several different presenters on various topics. As we get their bio and presentation summaries, we will add them here.
KEYNOTE Speaker: Christine Coughlin
Presentation: In It for the Long Haul
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not… Genius will not… Education will not… Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” –Calvin Coolidge
As animal advocates, our work is not easy nor are the outcomes we seek often achieved quickly. There are inevitable setbacks, difficulties, defeats and disappointments. How do we keep going? How do we withstand discouragement and burnout? This session will be a conversation about putting persistence into practice, keeping faith even when we do not see results, and building the inner core of courage and resilience we need to persist and to succeed.
Christine Coughlin is the Minnesota State Director for The Humane Society of the United States. She has been active in the field of animal protection since 2002, with a focus on grassroots legislative campaigns and electoral advocacy. Christine has served on animal welfare policy task forces for the City of Minneapolis, initiated the biannual publication of MN’s Humane Scorecard, and founded Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection, serving as executive director until 2014. She is the recipient of Compassionate Action for Animals’ 2017 Kenny Feldman Animal Advocate Award.
TALK: Showing Compassion to Ourselves by Ruth Sorenson-Prokosch
Day in and day out our hearts overflow with compassion for the people and animals we advocate for and serve. How do we show ourselves compassion in the midst of heartbreak, hard work, and criticism? This session will explore how to "fill up our own tanks" when we get compassion fatigue so that we may be healthy, whole leaders who are able to share our compassion with the world and with ourselves. We will take time to practice a few exercises that we can take back into our daily lives to refresh and strengthen our spirits.
Ruth Sorenson-Prokosch has been a Lutheran Pastor since 2006, a hospital chaplain, and a spiritual director. Her focus has been around mental health, spiritual practices, pastoral care, and working with those in crisis or grief. She is passionate about helping leaders who serve others stay resilient and centered to prevent burnout. Why? She answers, "Because we need you and your work in the world!" She appreciates animal activists deeply and has been vegetarian for 17 years. She has a regular meditation practice and loves exploring spiritual practices with others to help deepen our connections to ourselves, creation, and the divine.
TALK: What eastern Wisdom Traditions Teach us about activism by mark Berkson
What do Confucian, Daoist, Hindu and Buddhist wisdom traditions teach us about how to be successful activists? During this talk, we will explore questions such as: What is the relationship between contemplative practices and activism? How can we find balance between engagement and quietude? With what attitude should one approach activism? What is the role of anger and joy? What is the relationship between activism and the spiritual life? We look at how these traditions answer these questions and explore the practical advice these traditions with ancient roots can give us about our work today.
Mark Berkson, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Religion at Hamline University. He teaches courses in East and South Asian religions, Islam, and comparative religion. He frequently addresses topics related to non-human animals and teaches a seminar entitled, “Resources or Relatives: The Ethical Status of Non-Human Animals.” Mark has organized panels on animal activism, presided over a roundtable session entitled “Teaching about Animals and Religion” at the annual American Academy of Religion conference, and given multiple presentations on religion and animals at CAA’s “Their Lives, Our Voices” and Veg Fest events. He also serves as Faculty Advisor for the Hamline Animal Rights Club, a student organization.
Conversation: Personal and Community Health Lead by Unny Nambudiripad
Unny will lead a conversation on personal and community health. We will draw from the wisdom of participants about how to facilitate and maintain physical, spiritual, psychological, emotional, and social health.
Unny Nambudiripad co-founded Compassionate Action for Animals in 1998 and served as its Executive Director from 2011 to 2016. His work has included investigating factory farms, planning Twin Cities Veg Fest and he currently serves on the Program Advisory Committee of the Animal Rights National Conference. Unny co-planned this retreat and his current passion is bringing together animal advocacy with wellness and healing. Unny is a peer-learner in wellness and appreciates the opportunity to learn and grow with you.
QiGong and Meditation by Sarah Wilson
Qigong is an easy and deeply satisfying sequence of exercises that integrates breath and movement. Qigong enhances our ability to feel the life force undelying the physical world and to deepen our communication with the natural phenomenon moving in the present moment. We will practice self-compassion in both the qigong and guided meditation at the upcoming retreat.
Sarah Wilson teaches many workshops in preventative health, traditional Chinese Medicine, Tai Chi and Qigong. Sarah has and active tai chi practice in Huang Ping Yang Style Long Form and various qigong practices since 1980. Sarah recently graduated from the Dharma Leadership training at Common Ground Meditation Center in Minneapolis.
Meditation: Bonfire of compassion by Christy Schick
TALK: Understanding Compassion by Freeman
As activists, we often mistake our sadness, depression, and sense of overwhelm to be compassion. But true compassion is the ability to relate to the suffering of ourselves and others with an open heart and a balanced mind. True compassion empowers us to take effective action and respond skillfully. This talk will give you pointers to help you relate to suffering with true compassion.
Christy Schick is a Queer Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist. Her private practice is based in South Minneapolis within The Well Healing Arts Center. She specializes LGBTQ+ needs, trauma, addiction, mood concerns and brain spotting. She serves as a resiliency consultant to individuals and agencies related to mindful living, stress management and holistic wellness. Christy’s greatest passion is to support clinicians, healers and activists in obtaining their highest state of wellness to retain the joy and passion they have towards their calling in responding to the suffering of the world. She currently serves as a board member for the Boundless Love Project and previously co-facilitated the Dharma Core Queer Meditation Group and the Mental Health Professional Group based out of Common Ground Meditation Center. She considers her practice of Buddhism, especially when focused on cultivating compassion, to be the most effective, revitalizing and unwaveringly supportive resource to draw from in her social services career and personal life.
See Freeman’s bio below.
TALK: Freedom from Hatred by Freeman
Hatred and anger are normal emotional states, but they tend to unbalance and constrict the mind and heart, and cause us to act in ways that don't help us or the animals. In this talk we will learn alternative ways to relate to our adversaries that keep us calm, grounded, flexible, and effective.
Freeman serves as the Mindfulness Teacher at the Boundless Love Project, a nonprofit dedicated to peacefully creating a global beloved community where all live thrives. During his three decades of activism for animals he has served as the Director of Campaigns for Mercy For Animals, the Executive Director of Compassionate Action for Animals, and as a Humane Educator for Bridges of Respect. He authored Strategic Nonviolence for Animal Liberation and organized the first open rescue in the United States in 2001.
How to Finalize Your Registration
You have received an email confirming that you have been accepted to the retreat. Great! Now, to finalize your registration, please mail a check for $50 payable to the “Boundless Love Project” to:
Boundless Love Project
7287 153rd St. W., # 241-312
St. Paul, MN 55124-7019
This check is your commitment to attend. We will return the check to you when you arrive at the retreat.
If you are unable to mail us a check for whatever reason, please contact any of our retreat organizers (Unny, Ruth, or Freeman) to let us know of your situation. You can do this using our contact form. Thank you!
Below is the intended schedule. Use it to get a sense of the retreat's flow and to plan your arrival and departure. Please hold this schedule lightly and flexibly so that it may evolve and change as needed.
3-5 PM Registration, put bags away, orient self to grounds and buildings
4-5 PM Mixer games to meet others and have fun (Optional)
5 PM Welcome and Orientation
6:30 PM Dinner
7:30 PM Opening meditation and the power of mindful pauses
8:30 PM Keynote Address: “In It for the Long Haul” by Christine Coughlin
9:30 Community Building
10 PM Quiet hours begin
6:30 AM Fruit, nuts, and other snack foods available in the kitchen (Optional)
7 AM Qigong and Morning Meditation by Sarah Wilson
8:10 AM Breakfast
10 AM Programs. Freeman will give a talk on effective and holistic activism. Unny Nambudirapad will lead a community conversation about personal and community health and wellbeing using the Indabe method. There may also be games, singing, and/or physical activities. :)
12:40 PM Lunch
2 PM Free Time - Yoga, nature hike, socialize, play games.
2:40 PM Programs. Ruth Sorenson-Prokosch will lead a talk and meditation on self-compassion. Mark Berkson will give a talk on what four Eastern wisdom traditions have to teach us about activism. There may also be games, singing, and/or physical activities. :)
6 PM Dinner
7:30 PM Programs resume. Freeman gives a talk on Compassion. Christy Schick leads the bonfire of compassion meditation. AmyLeo Barankovich will guide us in a ritual release of our suffering by the fire. There may also be games, singing, and/or physical activities. :)
10 PM Party! Dance inside. Bonfire outside. Socializing, singing, and more!
11:30 PM Quiet hours begin.
6:30 AM Fruits, nuts, and other snack foods available in the kitchen. (Optional)
7 AM Freeman leads qigong then Unny Nambudiripad leads the morning meditation. (Optional)
8 AM Breakfast
9 AM Programing. Freeman speaks on how to let go of anger and leads a compassion meditation. There may also be games, singing, and/or physical activities. :)
11 AM Pack up your stuff and clean your room
12 PM Lunch
1:30 PM Closing Circle
2:45 PM Complete Evaluations
3 PM Bon voyage! Have a safe, peaceful, and joyful journey home <3
Retreat Grounds Information
The retreat will be held at the Metta Meditation Center, 3864 – 420th Avenue, Janesville, MN 56048.
Here is some information to know about the retreat grounds:
1. There is no smoking or using mind altering recreational substances on the grounds.
2. There is no internet or telephones available at the retreat and cell phone reception may be "spotty."
3. For the benefit and welfare of our retreat attendees who have chemical sensitivities, please do not use scented products or perfumes. Thank you.
4. Recycling is encouraged and proper bins are available.
5. Plan to share a room with one or two other people. If you are coming with a partner or friends (who have also applied and been accepted) and would like to share a room with them, please let us know. If you have special needs that requires a room by yourself, please let us know that as well.
6. Although the building has air conditioning, the sleeping rooms do not. Pack and plan accordingly.
7. Finally, while at the retreat center, please remember to follow the Retreat Center Code of Conduct which reads: While at the retreat center, I will:
· Abstain from killing and harming living beings.
· Abstain from stealing or taking what is not given.
· Abstain from sexual activity.
· Abstain from false, malicious, or harsh speech.
· Abstain from illicit drug use and drunkenness. (Prescription drugs are fine.)
8. Because the lake is surrounded by farmland and there is a lot of runoff, the lake is not suitable for swimming. Sorry.
9. Here is a map of the retreat property. You can see there are many nice hiking paths in nature (green lines). Nathanial Hall is the main retreat center. It is misspelled as “Nathianial Hall” in the photo. :) All lodging, eating, and most retreat activities will take place there.
Pack List for Retreat
1. Sleeping bag or bed linens for a twin-sized bed, unless other arrangements have been made for you to sleep jointly with a partner or friend in a double- or queen-sized bed. If you are able to share a bed with a friend or partner, please let us know. Each person will get a pillow and a blanket. If you bring sheets, bring two: one to cover the mattress and one between you and the blanket.
2. Pillowcase. If you have a favorite pillow or would like more than one, bring them along.
4. Toiletries. Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, sunscreen, bug spray, etc.
5. Head lamp or flashlight (optional, but useful). You will most likely be sharing a room with one or more people. Headlamps and flashlights allows you to see while others are sleeping without needing to turn on the overhead light and disturb their sleep.
6. Additional vegan food. Vegan meals will be provided. However, if you have special dietary needs, feel free to bring additional food. We respectfully request that any food brought be vegan during this retreat. Thank you.
7. Loose fitting clothes for doing yoga, qigong, meditation, and nature walks in.
8. Notebook and writing utensils.
9. Folder for keeping all handouts in.
10. Any prescription drugs or supplements you need.
11. Meditation cushions are provided, but if you want to use your own, or use a kneeling bench, then please bring them.
12. Meditation blanket if you use one.
13. Slippers for indoor use as outdoor shoes will be removed in the entryway.
14. Water bottle.
15. Blankets or camp chairs to sit on outside or by the campfire.
15. Ear plugs and an eye mask (optional). May help you sleep while co-habitating.
16. Anything else you think you will need.
Carpooling is being organized by Unny. If you can give a ride or if you need a ride, please call or text him at 612-293-6876 or email him at email@example.com.
Self-Care Resources to Start Implementing Now
We invite you to deepen your self-care before the retreat. Here are some mindfulness techniques, a talk to listen to, and other resources to help benefit your daily life and activism.
Read a summary and listen to the talk that Freeman gave at last year’s animal activist retreat: Loving Activism: How to Joyfully, Effectively, and Sustainably Heal Society.
USE Your ACtivism to create the beloved community
The Boundless Love Project has created a Beloved Community Pledge that we encourage all people and activists to read and consider taking. The pledge is designed to help guide us on our journey to be more loving, peaceful, and joyful, while also helping our activism be more kind, effective, and sustainable. Please read it over, consider its message, and take the pledge if you are so moved.
Daily Mindfulness Practices
Try doing 10 minutes of mindfulness practice a day!
Devote 5 minutes a day to doing breath meditation. Breath meditation helps you cultivate mindfulness, concentration, peace, and compassion. Use the 5-minute guided breath meditation found on our guided meditations page.
Devote 5 minutes to working with the slogan “breathe.” This slogan encourages you to take short, mindful pauses throughout your day, especially whenever you feel stressed. These mini-meditations will give you more peace and empower you to tackle whatever situation you face. Read the article Working with the “Breathe” Slogan and listen to the 5-minute audio breathe slogan guide found on the same web page each day.
Weekly Long Meditation
Once a week, consider doing a longer, 30-minute meditation. You can choose to do any of the meditations that call to you on our guided meditation page. However, if you are not sure which one to do, we recommend these ones for activists:
Attend the monthly OWL Meditation
If you live in the Twin Cities, consider attending the monthly OWL Meditations. You can find details of upcoming OWL meditations on the OWL Facebook Page and on the Boundless Love Project’s events page.
Still Have Questions?
Then please contact Unny. You can call or text him at 612-293-6876 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.