Skip to content

Origin of the Enlightenment Intensive

Charles Berner

The Enlightenment Intensive Retreat was inspired by three unique self awareness practices fused together by Charles Berner in 1968. Two of them originated from ancient and Eastern practices and the third is a newer Western approach.

The Three Unique Self Awareness Practices

Zen Sesshin

1st Eastern Practice

A Zen sesshin is a self awareness retreat that has been practiced for over 3000 years. It originally came from China before it migrated to Japan where it became popular in the 12th Century. Today, it is still used and practiced in Japan and around the world. The Enlightenment Intensive Retreat borrowed certain elements from the zen sesshin, notably the use of a 'koan.' A koan is a riddle-like question to help a meditator focus and penetrate into the absolute truths of life. Hundreds have been developed over the years. "What is the sound of one hand" and "What was your face before you were born," are two well known koans. The practice of contemplating on a 'koan isn't concerned with philosophy, ideas or religion, but with direct experiencing.

Ramana Maharshi

2nd Eastern Practice

The Enlightenment Intensive Retreat makes use of the koan, 'who am I.' This riddle like question is a yoga meditation that dates back 10,000 years. Its modern proponent, Ramana Maharshi, lived a simple life in India. He taught during the first part of the 20th Century inspiring a constant stream of local and international visitors who sought his company and spiritual guidance. His guidance was always the same. "Seek to know yourself. Practice self inquiry by asking yourself, 'who am I' then you will know everything."

Relating Dyads

Western Approach

Dyad is a Greek word that means 'two'. A relating dyad is two people who work together to bring about a complete communication through openness and focused listening. This powerful process of relating is the fuel that accelerates the effects of these ancient enlightenment practices.


The Opening Enlightenment Intensive

Have you ever thought...
Who am I, really???
What is life about???
Have you ever longed for a deeper connection to others???

Then you don't want to miss this residential retreat dedicated to self discovery. Together, utilizing a simple yet profound inquiry meditation technique, we will clear our minds and remove long held obstacles and barriers to peace and self realization.

By letting go of the external search for happiness we allow the technique to open and prepare us for the possibility of experiencing our true nature directly. Experiencing the authentic self we reconnect to the eternal happiness, contentment, and peace within.

The Retreat environment is a supportive, focused, intense and self empowering sacred space. It softens what is rigid and inflexible in our bodies and minds. It awakens openness, trust, joy, acceptance, love and understanding which allows for profound transformation.

The Upcoming Opening Enlightenment Intensives at Vital Life Center

"The Enlightenment Intensive is a process that may highlight one's own habitual mental obstacles to peace and self-realization - and so may be challenging. The process supports a natural, gentle insight and surrender of these obstacles that allows a radical, joyful transformation of consciousness."
~Paul Weiss, Enlightenment Master


This is a residential monastic style retreat. For this long weekend prepare to leave the outside world behind and delve into yourself.

The Opening Enlightenment Intensive

For health and safety reasons, we are cancelling this upcoming retreat.

Never fear! The Vital Life Center is working in collaboration with Copper Beach Institute to organize a week long Enlightenment Intensive Retreat. DETAILS COMING SOON!!!


Thursday, January 21 - 5:30 pm - Monday, January 25 - 1:00 pm

Location: Vital Life Center


Cost: $675

Early Registration Discount:
$550 with $200 non-refundable deposit by December 31
(Deposit is non-refundable/non-transferable to other services)

 Includes gourmet vegetarian meals, snacks, lodging, workshop, and integration

Space is limited. Register Today!


Limited Amount of Partial Scholarships Available.

To apply for scholarship funds we require that the participant send us a formal request by email or US mail with the following information. Please let us know what is drawing you to the Opening Enlightenment Intensive and how you think the retreat might serve you. Also, please include the details of your current situation that is causing you to request the scholarship along with the dollar amount you are able to contribute to the intensive.

Donations Accepted & Appreciated

If you feel served by this work, please consider donating to our scholarship fund to support others.