Play as Being Five-Day Retreat in RL - The Kira Institute
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Play as Being Five-Day Retreat in RL
NOTE: This event has now successfully taken place! Made possible by a grant from the Trust for the Meditation Process, a charitable foundation supporting contemplative practice among Christians and encouraging dialogue among all contemplative traditions.
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Pema Osel Ling Lake
We planned to hold a five-day retreat at Pema Osel Ling ( between August 24-28 2009.  This was to be the first of a continuing series of real life Play as Being retreats. While founded by a Tibetan Buddhist group, the retreat center itself hosts groups from all different religions.  We took up some of the main themes that we have explored online in Second Life, centered around appreciation, integration of contemplative practice, and mindfulness in an intensive manner through 20-30 minute sitting meditations and group discussions. A report by one participant can be found on the Play as Being Wiki.

Retreat leaders

Piet Hut

Piet Hut (Pema Pera in SL), who started the Play as Being initiative in 2008, led the retreat together with the assistance of his co collaborator and professional meditation teacher, Steven Tainer.

Piet HutPiet Hut  is currently Professor of Astrophysics and Interdisciplinary Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, NJ, where he has been on the faculty since 1985. He is also Head of the Program for Interdisciplinary Studies, a new program at IAS that he founded in 2002 (see for the program and  for his web site). He is a native of the Netherlands, where he obtained his Ph.D. in Astrophysics at the University of Amsterdam in 1981, before immigrating to the United States.  His research in Astrophysics has led to the development of novel algorithms, some of which are now used for simulations in widely different fields, from collisions between galaxies to the folding of proteins.  He has also made contributions to our understanding of mass extinctions, working with geologists and paleontologists.  He has been a founding member for a number of different interdisciplinary initiatives, including the B612 foundation, the GRAPE project, and MODEST and MUSE.

He has also studied with a variety of Buddhist teachers, including Tarthang Tulku from the Nyingma Institute in Berkeley, Sogyal, head of the Rigpa organization, Namkhai Norbu, head of the International Dzogchen Community, Bernard Glassman, head of the Greystone Foundation, as well as a number of other Zen teachers.

Steven Tainer

Steven TainerSteven Tainer (Stim Morane in SL) is one of the oldest Western investigators of Asian contemplative traditions. He has spent the past forty years studying Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian schools of contemplation with sixteen Tibetan, Chinese and Korean teachers and a number of senior monks and nuns.  Steven has studied Tibetan Buddhism since 1970 without interruption, training in the traditional way with many Tibetan masters, mostly from the Dzogchen or “Great Perfection” school. Upon the publication of Time, Space and Knowledge in 1978, which he wrote under the direction of his first master, he earned an advanced traditional degree. With the publication of another book he wrote on Taoism in the 1980’s in collaboration with Ming Liu (and eight years of training and retreat practice), he was declared a successor in a family lineage of yogic Taoism.

Most of his study from the late 1970’s through the present has been grounded in mountain retreats in which he practiced the “pure contemplation” schools of Dzogchen and similar approaches drawn from Taoism. But starting in the mid-80’s he also studied Confucian views of contemplation emphasizing “exemplary conduct” in ordinary life. He began teaching under the direction of his own masters in the early 1970’s, and after a series of mountain retreats spanning most of 1989 and 1990, finally began teaching his own groups.

He has served on the faculty of both the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery and the Institute for World Religions (IWR) since 1995. See the home page at  He leads daily practice sessions at the Monastery, and has been involved in various “inter-faith” councils and conferences sponsored by the Monastery or IWR. His courses are usually part of IWR’s Masters Degree program, but are also open to the general public.  Steven has also led over two hundred weekend retreats in the Bay Area, and about ninety live-in retreats (ranging from one week to one hundred days), making him one of the most active retreat instructors currently teaching. Some of these retreats have been held on the East Coast, but most have been done in various parts of the northern California coast and mountains, Southern California, New Mexico and Pender Island (off the coast of Vancouver, BC).

Previous work at Summer schools

Hut and Tainer conducted a series of yearly summer schools, aimed at bringing together graduate students from various disciplines to engage in an open Socratic dialog, centered around science and contemplation. The first summer school was held during Aug. 2-15, 1998, on the Amherst College campus, with support from the Fetzer Institute. This became an annual event, held in late July to early August between 1998-2002. From 2002 to the present, Hut and Tainer continued these discussions in an even more intensive mode.  By increasing the time allocated to discussions by a factor ten, Hut and Tainer reached the point in 2006 to begin to publish on the web what they had learned from both Ways of Knowing (WoK) ( and the Kira Institute. Starting in 2008, Kira started “Play as Being,” in the virtual world of Second Life. Play as Being is an activity that is a natural outgrowth of WoK , which itself was the next step for Hut and Tainer after their initial work with Kira.

Practical information about the retreat

Here is some logistical information about the retreat.

  • Pema Osel Ling is located in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains deep in the redwoods (while this is a Tibetan Retreat Center they are non political and open to hosting attendees of all spiritual/secular backgrounds).
  • The nearest airport is SFO (1.5 hours away)
  • The price of the retreat included meals and accommodations, and there was an additional fee of $50 for transportation to and from SFO airport.
  • The costs of the retreat are only the direct costs of transport, meals, and accommodations!
  • Meals were organic prepared by a professional chef, both vegetarian and nonvegetarian entrees available.
  • The cost for the entire retreat (in USD) excluding transportation for Single room: $500 and Double room: $420 (rooms are very clean and bright).  This was the total cost for all five days.

Pema Osel Ling collage

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