Biological Mind and Transcendent Awareness: Different Paths to Compassion - A Personal Practice Retreat

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Personal Practice
May 29, 2024
May 31, 2024
Biological Mind and Transcendent Awareness: Different Paths to Compassion - A Personal Practice Retreat


This retreat is open to all, and no prior experience is necessary.


All timings are according to UK BST. These will be confirmed shortly.


This workshop is priced as follows:

Student Rate - £325.00

Standard Rate - £395

Online - £295

For those in difficult financial circumstances, who may struggle to afford this price, please contact hello@compassionatemind.co.uk

In this retreat, we will explore the nature of consciousness from an evolutionary and biopsychosocial perspective as well as from a traditional Buddhist contemplative approach. During the retreat we will engage in practices to deepen insight and stimulate compassion. We have a retreat brochure available here.


All life forms are built by DNA to come into existence for a short time, survive and reproduce, then decay and die. Prince Siddhartha (the Buddha to be) was keenly aware of this stark reality and it inspired him to leave his life of privilege and embark on a spiritual quest using deep meditation techniques. In his moment of awakening under the Bodhi tree he uncovered a deeper dimension of being that sits behind the biological forms of life. He touched on the very nature of consciousness itself and saw clearly how it was the ground of all experience.

In the last 20 years, scientists too have begun to put forward the idea that consciousness gives rise to the material world, not the other way round. Crucial then is our ability to see through the fears, thought constructs and passions of our biological mind to experience the nature of our consciousness itself that exists outside of time and space and is not bound by them.

We can put it this way: as human beings we are encased in our biology, which powerfully shapes and determines what arises in our consciousness, namely our motives, emotions, and thoughts. Yet all these are transient, and in the service of survival and reproduction. However, we are a species who also have the capacity for self-awareness: the ability to mindfully observe the mind and i its contents and become aware of the nature of consciousness itself. We can be aware of being aware. Honing this competency gives rise to penetrating insight that transcends our fearful striving minds. This insight is powerfully liberating and it allows us to touch a dimension of being that it timeless. This requires that us to approach our minds in two very different but complementary ways as expressed below.


This retreat will guide participants to consider how our minds and bodies have evolved over millennia and how we can settle our nervous system and intentionally choose compassion as a response to the life we find ourselves in.In Buddhism this is described as relative bodhicitta (or awakening mind). In this approach the practices help to create an internal secure base and safe haven that creates th e conditions for an opening of heart and mind.

With this as a foundation we can access a deeper level of practice that is described as ultimate bodhicitta. This enables us to recognise and come to rest in the ground of our consciousness that is described in Buddhism as rigpa, or nondual awareness. It is that part of our nature that is always at peace, free and complete in and of itself – called ‘Buddha Nature’. This nature is empty of any specific forms but it is also the ground or originator of all forms. It is the deeper truth lying behind biological life. When we recognise this nature in ourselves we see it in everyone else and in life at large. This is the basis for a different type of compassion that is not dependent on biology, but one that arises from the experience of interconnectedness.

As part of our exploration of relative and ultimate bodhicitta, we will be discussing this recently published diagram on how best to apply this understanding to our life and practice.

Paul, Choden and William will guide you step by step through this process. The relative bodhicitta will focus on the insights and practices of CFT and the ultimate bodhicitta will focus on the insights and practices of Mahayana Buddhism. Relative and ultimate will be contextualised within the principle of mandala which is a symbol of wholeness and integration.


Colwick Hall Hotel

Colwick Park, Racecourse Rd,

Nottingham NG2 4BH


0115 950 0566


Accommodation is not included in the price of this retreat, but some rooms are available onsite at the hotel - please contact them directly. Colwick Hall is a 10 minute drive from Nottingham where there is lots of accommodation available.

Gilbert, P. (2009) The Compassionate Mind. Robinson.

Gilbert, P., Basran, J., Plowright, P., Matos, M., Kirby, J., & Petrocchi, N. (2023). Fears and Resistances to Mindfulness: Development of a Self-Report Scale, Mindfulness, 1-15.

Gilbert, P., Basran, J. K., Plowright, P., & Gilbert, H. (2023). Energizing compassion: using music and community focus to stimulate compassion drive and sense of connectedness. Frontiers in Psychology, 14

Gilbert, P. & Choden (2015) Mindful Compassion. Robinson.

Gilbert, P., & Van Gordon, W. (2023). Compassion as a Skill: A Comparison of Contemplative and Evolution-Based Approaches, Mindfulness, 1-22.

Gilbert, P., & Huxter, M. (2023). Exploration of Evolution-Informed Compassion-Focused Therapy and Buddhist Approaches to Insight Meditation: A Three-Way Exploration. Mindfulness, 1-24.

Nairn, R., Choden & Regan-Addis, H. (2019) From Mindfulness to Insight: Meditations to Release Your Habitual Thinking and Activate Your Inherent Wisdom: The Life-Changing Power of Insight Meditation. Shambhala.

Van Gordon, W., Sapthiang, S., Barrows, P., & Shonin, E. (2021). Understanding and practicing emptiness. Mindfulness, 12(7), 1845-1848.

Van Gordon, W. & Shonin, E. (2021) The Way of the Mindful Warrior: Embrace Authentic Mindfulness for Wellbeing, Wisdom, and Awareness. Rowman & Littlefield

Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., Dunn, T., Sapthiang, S., Kotera, Y., Garcia-Campayo, J., & Sheffield, D. (2019). Exploring emptiness and its effects on non-attachment, mystical experiences, and psycho-spiritual wellbeing: A quantitative and qualitative study of advanced meditators. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 15, 261–272.

Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., Dunn, T., Sheffield, D., Garcia-Campayo, J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2018). Meditation-induced near-death experiences: A three-year prospective study. Mindfulness, 9, 1794–1806.

Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., & Griffiths, M. D. (2016). Buddhist emptiness theory: Implications for psychology. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 9(4), 309-318

This course is for


Meet your instructor(s)

Prof Paul Gilbert OBE

Prof Paul Gilbert OBE

Founder and President


Tibetan Buddhist Monk
Dr William Van Gordon

Dr William Van Gordon

Associate Professor of Contemplative Psychology


When will I receive the login details?

All delegates signed up to the workshop will receive the joining links, instructions, handouts and any extra resources and information via email. We send these roughly a week before the workshop start date.

What if I am unable to attend?

If you find you are unable to attend this course, please email our admin team via hello@compassionatemind.co.uk as soon as possible. You will be given the option to transfer to another course (within 12 months). Refunds are available if cancellation occurs no less than one month before the start of the course, although we will consider exceptional circumstances.

Can I watch the recordings in my own time?

We understand that, due to time differences, it may not be possible for you to attend all of this training live with us. With that in mind, the workshop will be recorded, and you'll have access to the recordings for a month after the live broadcast to watch in your own time.

If you're unable to attend for the entire duration, please email hello@compassionatemind.co.uk to let us know, as non-attendees will not receive a certificate unless we are informed of your circumstances.

Do I need to be a therapist to attend this?

No, this is for personal practice, and is open to all.


If you wish to book via invoice, please click here to download our workshop booking form.

Terms and conditions

All places booked for our event, must be paid for prior to attending the event unless pre-agreed with management. Please note that we cannot confirm your place until we have received payment.

Should you be unable to attend the event, please contact our admin team as soon as possible via hello@compassionatemind.co.uk. Refunds, less the Eventbrite administration fee, will be made if cancellations are received in writing up to one month before the event. Any cancellations received after this time will not be eligible for a refund, although we will consider exceptional circumstances.  While refunds for failure to attend cannot be made, you can transfer your event fee to a future event that will take place within 12 months of your booking without an additional penalty.

Please note that information about the event and venue are subject to change and cancellation. Occasionally, an event may have to be cancelled or postponed.  We will endeavour to inform you of any changes and cancellations as soon as possible via email. We cannot take responsibility for any resulting costs you may incur for travel, accommodation, any other related goods or service or other compensation should an event cancellation occur.

For all face-to-face events, lunch provided at the event will be vegetarian and will include eggs, but no meat or fish (though vegan options will also be made available). However, please advise us of any dietary requirements in the notes section whilst booking online and we will do our best to accommodate your request.