Seeking the Heart of Wisdom Retreat with Winnie Nazarko

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The Guest House, Convent of the Sisters of St. John the Divine

233 Cummer Avenue

Toronto, Ontario M2M 2E8


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Our lives are filled with many experiences and challenges. Periods of joy, and times of difficulty alternate unceasingly. There is no way around this truth of change, of impermanence. While we can't "stop the river", we can learn to be present to the flow of things in a way which develops inner stability and joy. In doing this, the mind and heart educates itself experientially.This retreat will teach participants the meditative skills which are foundational to becoming a wise, free human.

Instruction in the mindfulness practices of sitting and walking meditation will be offered. Additionally, metta meditation (loving-kindness) will be taught, with compassion woven into the texture of the retreat. This retreat will be held in silence, as a support to people quieting their minds and settling their attention in the present. The instructor will provide opportunity for questions, and for individual support.

This retreat is conducted largely in silence, with all electronic and digital devices turned off. In the quiet, the heart-mind is able to more easily settle down, and learn. For many people, this 'Noble Silence' is one of the most potent and valuable parts of the process. Even as retreatants practice in silence, a feeling of community and mutual support emerges among those attending.

Meditation instruction will be given each day by the retreat leader, and there will be opportunity to ask questions related to the practice. Small group practice meetings will also permit individualized attention as the retreat unfolds.


What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?

Cummer Avenue runs east-west. It is north of the 401, mid-way between Steeles on the north and Finch on the south; the convent is on the south side of Cummer mid-way between Yonge and Bayview.

  • From the west via Highway 401, the Sisters recommend avoiding Yonge Street in favour of the next exit at Bayview.

  • If you will be using the express toll highway 407 (recommended for people coming from the west of Toronto) take the southbound Bayview exit for about 4 km; turn right on Cummer; proceed about 1km; the convent is on the left just past the St. John’s Rehab hospital.

  • Travelling from Pearson Airport by public transportation (TTC) would be a 2 hour trip with many transfers. The only practical way is by airport taxi. It will be a 30-45 minute trip and will cost $50 to get to the SSJD Convent. Be sure to ask for a Flat Rate Taxi.
  • Free parking is available on site.

What can/can't I bring to the event?

What to Bring

  • Bring your own meditation cushion or bench if you wish to use them. No cushions are provided and they are not required.
  • Wear loose, comfortable, modest clothing.
  • There are plenty of chairs available in the meditation hall.
  • We will try to keep the meditation hall cool enough to stay alert! Please bring some layers of clothing.
  • Bare feet are not permitted in the Guest House except in the meditation hall and in your bedroom.

What Not to Bring

  • Please DO NOT BRING substances with fragrances, or incense or candles. Some people are very sensitive to the chemicals in perfumes and scented products, so please refrain from using these products during the retreat. This is both a Dharma Retreats as well as Convent policy.
  • For ecological reasons, the Convent is a commercial bottled-water-free zone – so please do not bring any commercial bottled water or disposable plastic bottles to the retreat. You may bring your own refillable bottles; there will be lots of chilled water available in the pantry fridge next to the meditation hall. And in the pantry cupboard there are cups you can use.
  • As a support for inner calmness and silence, participants are encouraged not to read or write other than very brief notes from the instructions or talks. It is therefore suggested that you avoid temptation by not bringing any books or journals.
  • Please don’t wear “noisy” clothing that rustles a lot.
  • Please turn off and put away all cell phones (in your car, or give to the retreat manager) and turn off beeping things like watches.
  • Bedding and towels are provided at the Guest House.

Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?

For retreat information prior to Friday June 12 at 2 pm, please contact John Lovas at info@dharmaretreats.ca or phone / text: 902 476-0509

Our on-site retreat manager is Linda Barrett. Once the retreat is underway, please refer ALL questions to her (rather than to John Lovas).

For retreat information from 2 pm on Friday June 12, or for all food-related questions, please contact our­ Retreat Manager Linda Barrett: (226) 984-1969 (phone or text) 53lindakb@gmail.com

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

No, we will have your name and other registration information.

What is the refund policy?

Please contact us as soon as possible if you need to cancel so that people on the waiting list will have a chance to attend. As on our website: http://www.dharmaretreats.ca/current-retreat

Cancellations up to May 11: $75 non-refundable, balance returned;
Cancellations from May 12 to May 24: $75.00 non-refundable, 50% of balance returned;
Cancellations after May 24: no refund.

What is the policy regarding phones?

  • This is a silent retreat, and you are requested not to make any phone calls except in an emergency – for the benefit of yourself as well as others.
  • Please leave cell phones in your car - OR
  • You will also have the opportunity to surrender your phone to the retreat manager for the duration of the retreat. THIS IS AN EXCELLENT SUPPORT for your retreat, and is highly recommended.

EMERGENCY CALLS TO THE RETREAT: During the retreat if anyone needs to reach you in an emergency, the number for them to call is 416-226-2201 ext. 305 (the Guest House.) After hours calls will be
automatically forwarded to the Guest House Coordinator.

What is a "silent" meditation retreat?

At silent meditation retreats we voluntarily relinquish all forms of communication (speech, facial cues, notes, phones & other electronic devices). This provides ourselves and our fellow retreatants with much-needed rest and a measure of solitude so we may self-reflect in peace. Refraining from reading & writing helps further settle our anxiously busy mind.

Only if & when important, we post a note on the bulletin board (by the office), addressed to the Retreat Manager or Teacher. More about Noble Silence on our website: http://www.dharmaretreats.ca/noble-silence

Arrival & Checking in?

Checking in will open at 2:00 pm. Please try to arrive by 3:00pm on Friday June 12, so there is time to get settled in your room before supper (a light meal)

  • Supper is at 5:30 pm. Supper will be held in silence.
  • The retreat program formally begins (on Friday) at 7:00 pm.
  • If you will be arriving late, please let retreat manager Linda Barret know as soon as possible by email: 53lindakb@gmail.com or phone / text: (226) 984-1969

Checking in upon arrival

  • When you arrive at SSJD, first please enter at the main door on the west side of the building (brick-paved plaza). There you will check-in and register your vehicle, receive your room assignment and a parking code to enter the Guest House parking area at the back.

  • Then proceed around the back (south) to the Guest House entrance.


  • The Friday June 12 evening program begins at 7:00 pm.

  • The retreat formally ends at 11 a.m. on Friday June 19. However, we hope you will stay for an informal light lunch (which is covered by your fee), ending around 1pm.

  • The daily retreat schedule will be posted prominently.

Dana (donation)?

The fee you pay to attend the retreat covers the basic costs of the retreat itself, primarily room and board. It does not include any payment for the teacher.
Following a 2500-year-old Buddhist tradition, the teacher offers her teaching free of charge, and she is supported by voluntary donations from her students.
You will have the opportunity to make a donation at the end of the retreat for the support and well-being of the teacher.
More about Dana on our website: http://www.dharmaretreats.ca/recommendations

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The Guest House, Convent of the Sisters of St. John the Divine

233 Cummer Avenue

Toronto, Ontario M2M 2E8


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