Four-Month Human Development Training Retreat

Four-Month Human Development Training Retreat

2017 Program: August 31–December 16

Description: This retreat provides students with an intense four-month period of study and practice of Nyingma teachings. The retreat curriculum is a program in human development, working both cognitively and experientially with mind, body, and spiritual awareness. Students develop insight into the nature of consciousness, emotion, thought, embodiment, and feeling. Exercises release the hold of negative habitual patterning within body and mind, allowing previously untapped human qualities to emerge. Participants are instructed in how to integrate their new knowledge and way of being within daily life so that what is learned in the retreat continues to unfold and develop. Read more.

Objective: Upon completion, students will understand how habitual patterns of thought and emotions arise, how to transform negative energy patterns to allow previously untapped human qualities to emerge, and how to integrate their new knowledge and way of being within daily life so that what is learned in the retreat continues to unfold.

Length: 16 weeks.

Program Components:
5.5 hours of daytime instruction, Mondays-Fridays; Between 1.5 and 3 hours of evening instruction, Mondays-Fridays (including nine evening classes); and fourteen workshops. (See below.) 

Program Cost: $6,800 (nonresidential); $9,200 (residential). May be paid in monthly installments ($1700 nonresidential; $2300 residential.) Residential costs for retreats include a private room. Both residential and non-residential retreats include vegetarian meals. A private tour of retreat facilities available by appointment. See our photo albums on Facebook for a virtual tour.

Instructors: Sylvia Gretchen, Nyingma Institute Co-Dean and the Nyingma Institute faculty.

Typical Daily Retreat Schedule

Find out what the graduates say about the 4-month Human Development Training Retreat

Please call us at 510-809-1000, or email us at to register or to speak with a faculty member to see if this program is right for you.

Retreat Curriculum

Tarthang Tulku, founder of the Nyingma Institute, taught the first Human Development Training Program at the Institute in the Summer of 1973. This program offered a comprehensive education in how to develop and expand the capacity to know, to be aware through all the senses, and to find new, more positive, ways of being in the world.
In 1984 Tarthang Tulku designed the present Four-Month Human Development Training Program which has been offered by his senior students annually since that time. The program blends meditation, movement, and awareness exercises with discussion in an environment that encourages retreatants to integrate what they learn into daily life.

Relaxation and Appreciation
The Human Development Training Program begins by focusing on relaxing tightly held patterns that manifest in the body, breath, and mind. Movement exercises, chanting, and meditative postures are among the methods used to give rise to states of deep relaxation and inner peace.

Next, specific practices reveal that all of our senses can become gateways to beauty, meaning, value, and truth. Our senses are cleansed and renewed: Whatever we see becomes art, whatever we hear is beautiful music.

Wisdom And Compassion
Old patterns connected with the self-image and emotion loosen, opening to love, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Experience becomes a mirror, reflecting awareness and the prospect of perfect freedom. Practices cultivate new insights and deeper compassion, both for ourselves and others. These practices develop and mature over the course of the retreat.

Time For Change

The structure of the Human Development Training Program provides a vehicle within which individuals make positive and lasting changes in their lives. Retreat groups are small, so there is plenty of opportunity to interact with the instructors individually.

Typical Weekday Instruction Schedule, Mondays-Fridays:
7—8:15 AM
(1.25 hours)
10:00—11:30 AM (1.5 hours)
2:00—3:00 PM (1 hour)
4:00—5:30 PM (1.5 hours)
6:15-7:45 PM and/or 8-9:30 PM (1.5 hours)
Total: 6.75 hours per day

Typical Saturday Instruction Schedule:
7—8:15 AM
(1.25 hours)
10:00—11:30 AM (1.5 hours)
Noon-1 PM (1 hour)
2:00—3:30 PM (1.5 hours)
3:45—4:45 PM (1.5 hours)
Total: 6.75 hours per day (or more, depending on particular workshop schedule)

Classes will include: (124.5 hours)
MED305 Advanced Meditation (6 hours)
DHS209 Majestic Aspirations (6 hours)
NPR103 Dream Yoga and Authentic Communication (6 hours)
NPR109 Healing through Mantra (6 hours)
KNR104 Kum Nye to Balance Feelings (6 hours)
KNR109 Kum Nye Self-Massage: Healing Power of Touch (6 hours)
KNR204 Kum Nye: Opening the Energy Centers (6 hours)
MED301 Advanced Meditation: Pure Vision; Pure Land (15 hours)
NPS201 Path of Self-Mastery (15 hours)
KNR105 Kum Nye: Expanding Enjoyment and Ease (15 hours)
KNR205 Balancing and Integrating Body and Mind (15 hours)
NPS104 The Art of Happiness or NPS103 Working with Emotions (15 hours)
KNR106 Kum Nye Self-Massage (7.5 hours)

Saturday Workshops will include: (93.5 hours)
MED412 Healing through Breath (5 hours)
KNR405 Tasting Relaxation (5 hours)
KNR406 Joy and Spaciousness (5 hours)
MED406 Light Awareness: Visualization in the Tibetan Tradition (5 hours)
MED405 Wheel of Analytic Meditation (5 hours)
MED420 Developing Mindfulness through Chanting and Visualization (5 hours)
MED419 Music, Mantra, and Meditation (5 hours)
NPR401 Dream Lotus (2.5 hours)
NPS406 Activating Joyous Feeling (5 hours)
MED410 Translucent Person: Radiant World (5 hours)
NPS407 Transforming Personal History (5 hours)
SKM404 Topics in Skillful Means (5 hours)
TSK401 Healing Pain (7 hours)
KNR412 Inner Alchemy: Transformation through Tibetan Yoga (5 hours)
NPR402 Cultivating Compassionate Love (14 hours)
MED409 Silent Mind, Peaceful Mind (5 hours)
MED411 Inner Bliss (5 hours)

About the four-month retreat instructors

Sylvia GretchenSylvia Gretchen will be your primary instructor. She brings forty-five years of meditation practice and Nyingma study to her teaching. A student of the founder of the Nyingma Institute, Tarthang Tulku since 1969, Sylvia has been a full-time volunteer in his organizations for more than forty years. The current director and co-dean of the Institute, she has taught HDTR since 1996.


Associate instructors for the core program of the retreat

Santosh PhilipSantosh Philip, primary Tibetan Yoga (Kum Nye) instructor for the retreat, presents Kum Nye exercises in ways that deepen relaxation past all boundaries. With a practice that began in 1996 and teaching since 2001, Santosh has a full understanding of the range of challenges and benefits of Kum Nye practice and his support to his students draws upon this deep well of experience. He is a graduate of the HDTR class of 2000.

Lama PalzangLama Palzang, a Tibetan teacher trained in Tibet and Nepal, brings his lifelong study and practice of Nyingma teachings to his role in this retreat. He offers a rich link to the tradition in all of its vitality within the context of our modern world.



Olivia HurdOlivia Hurd is a graduate of the HDTR class of 2006 and has been a student at the Nyingma Institute since 1998. In addition to the benefits of her years of meditation  practice, Olivia brings thoughtful insight to her teaching and offers personal and meaningful attention to each student as they develop their own meditation practice.



Ken McKeonKen McKeon, Meditation instructor, brings years of meditation practice and skill to the retreat. As an accomplished poet he is sensitive to the impact of words in the context of teaching and his tolerant and open minded approach encourages students to be comfortable and direct when asking questions or participating in discussion. Ken has been a student of Tarthang Tulku since 1977.




Typical daily schedule might be:

  • 7:00 AM: Relaxation and Meditation
  • 8:00 AM: Breakfast and clean-up
  • 9:30 AM: Instruction session
  • 10:30 AM: Tea break
  • 11:00 AM: Instruction session
  • 12:30 PM: Vegetarian buffet lunch
  • 2:00 PM: Work practice and individual practice/study
  • 5:30 PM: Vegetarian buffet dinner
  • 6:15 PM: Evening class session
  • 8:00 PM: Evening class session (optional)

What the graduates say about the 4-month Human Development Training Retreat:

Without a doubt, the 4-month Retreat was one of the most joyous and fulfilling experiences of my life. What could be better than being immersed in a place of wisdom and beauty, while learning essential meditation and relaxation techniques? Every day was a new experience in awakening new levels of creativity and balance in my life. And those positive seeds of awareness continue to blossom. Carol V., Boston, MA

Under the expert guidance of the faculty, the retreat combined deep inquiry, experiential learning, and gentle movement techniques to offer a wide range of useful skill sets to call upon anytime in our lives. I can't recommend the retreat highly enough. Creating ease in stressful times is indeed a precious gift. For me, the retreat was like choosing joy as an antidote to the busyness of our modern lives - and the result was a refreshed and renewed appreciation for my life!"  Catherine B., Berkeley, CA.

The retreat at Nyingma was wonderful, a unique experience in my life, one of the best things I ever did. A gift. I think it was the first time I had a shift in my awareness - this was absolute surprise. From then on it was altogether something else. Much more deep. The retreat is so well done, so well prepared, that you go in gradually. Everything comes at the right time.  Jennifer G., Berkeley, CA

This retreat really gave me something very precious, which is the loving and compassionate guidance of our teachers, the protection we had in the Institute, and these powerful teachings which were really needed by me to find out it works. I know my mind better and I have tools to quiet it down, to be more at peace with myself and others. Joleen V., Amsterdam, Holland

I think back to the kindness with which I was received by Sylvia and Jack, that beautiful room overlooking San Francisco Bay and the city, the coastal mountains and the sun behind the hills. Time and space given for practice. To practice every morning in the meditation room was excellent. All opportunities for learning. Pat H., Hawaii


Please call us at 510-809-1000, or email us at to register or to speak with a faculty member.