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Liberation through Emptiness and Awareness Practices (LEAP)

(Formerly called Advanced Practitioners Program (APP)

May 2023 – May 2024

with Sally Armstrong, Susie Harrington, and Dawn Scott
Guest Faculty: Bhikkhu Analayo, Guy Armstrong, Gil Fronsdal, and Brian Lesage


Thank you for your interest. 
The application period for this training is now closed.


Program Dates: May 2023 – May 2024

With the following in person retreats held at Spirit Rock Meditation Center:

  • Retreat #1 | May 15 – 23, 2023 (8 nights) | Spirit Rock Meditation Center
  • Retreat #2 | November 2 – 10, 2023 (8 nights) | Spirit Rock Meditation Center
  • Retreat #3 | May 17 – 25, 2024 (8 nights) | Spirit Rock Meditation Center


  • A minimum of 50 nights of silent vipassanā, and/or mettā residential retreats. (Daylongs or non-residential retreats do not count towards the prerequisites.)


“This is peaceful, this is excellent, namely the stilling of all formations, the relinquishing of all attachments, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation, Nibbāna.” MN 64.9

LEAP is intended for experienced students of the Dhamma who want to explore the liberation teachings of the Buddha through practice, study, inquiry, and interactive exercises. It is a year-long program consisting of three retreats and is intended for those who have completed programs like Spirit Rock’s Dedicated Practitioners Program (DPP), Community Dharma Leader Program (CDL), Heavenly Messengers (HM), or an equivalent. Alternatively, long time practitioners or people who have participated in an equivalent program offered by another Vipassana teacher or organization are also eligible to apply.

The purpose of this program is to bring to life the liberating teachings of the Buddha both on retreat and in our daily practice. The three LEAP retreats will focus more on silent, intensive practice than DPP or CDL, but each retreat will include regular interactive and study sessions. 

Spirit Rock is excited to offer this program again. Our previous iterations found it to be a great support to the experienced students in our community. We hope that those of you who have done DPP or CDL or have other significant study and practice experience will join us!


  • Attendance at all three 8-night retreats
  • Attendance at monthly small regional group meetings (in-person and Zoom options)
  • Ongoing meetings with study/practice partners
  • Regular Zoom meetings with LEAP teachers
  • Completion of monthly homework including readings, reflections, and meditation instructions
  • Commit to maintaining both meditative and daily life practice
  • The practice of dana (generosity) to support program teachers, group leaders and mentoring teachers
  • Meeting all financial obligations outlined in this application relating to program fees


Retreat #1: The Nature of Awareness, May 15-23, 2023 (8 nights), at Spirit Rock

Teaching Team: Dawn Scott, Sally Armstrong, Susie Harrington, and Guy Armstrong, with Mei Elliot and Francisco Gable assisting

The Buddha said that he teaches just suffering and the end of suffering. The LEAP retreats will focus on the ending of suffering – Nibbana - and the practices and insights that lead to this ending. The first retreat of the program, on Awareness, is the heart of sentient life, the central faculty that reveals the phenomena of our experience. Usually, in both meditation and daily life, we pay most attention to phenomena and less to awareness itself. This retreat is an opportunity to focus on the nature of awareness and to explore this mysterious, innate capacity for knowing. This practice can open the door to emptiness, profound understanding and great freedom. To support our practice and understanding, we will study and discuss in regular interactive sessions, the teachings of the Buddha and others on the nature of awareness.

Retreat #2: Emptiness & Liberation, November 2-10, 2023 (8 nights), at Spirit Rock

Teaching team: Dawn Scott, Sally Armstrong, Susie Harrington, and Gil Fronsdal, with Mei Elliot and Francisco Gable assisting

The second retreat of the program is a further development of a senior students retreat on Emptiness previously held at Spirit Rock. While retaining the teachings on emptiness, this retreat will add more direct pointing to the steps toward liberation as described by the Buddha as well as ancient and contemporary meditation masters. We will introduce and explore teachings and practices that lead to awakening through talks, readings, reflections, guided meditations, and group discussions. To support the study aspect of the retreat, on some days there will be two talks a day, in the morning and evening, as well as group discussions. To support the meditation, the retreat will include regular sitting and walking periods and will be held in silence apart from the talks, discussions and interviews.

Retreat #3: Radiant Mind, Peaceful Heart, May 17-25, 2024 (8 nights), at Spirit Rock

Teaching team: Venerable Bhikkhu Anālayo, Dawn Scott, Sally Armstrong, Susie Harrington, and Brian Lesage, with Mei Elliot and Francisco Gable assisting

The third retreat of the program will focus directly on the topic and practices leading toward liberation. There will also be interactive study and practice sessions throughout the week, with a period of intensive practice in the depth of the retreat. This retreat will include sessions on how to continue these practices and support each other once the program has ended.

The retreats will be held primarily in silence to allow for a deepening of practice, with a regular component of interactive exercises and study. There will also be the parallel intention throughout the program to develop a community that can continue after the program ends. During the retreats, we will also organize other aspects of the program, such as a Dhamma buddy system, monthly study groups, and mentoring with teachers.

Example Retreat Schedule


April 12 – November 15, 2022 | Application window (applications accepted on a rolling basis until the program fills)
November 18, 2022 | Final notifications sent out via email
Within 3 days of acceptance notification | Commitment and deposit deadline; 25% deposit required at time of acceptance.

Applications will be formally accepted on a rolling basis throughout the application period until the program fills, or until the application window closes, whichever comes first. Applications received AFTER the program is full or after the application window closes (again, whichever comes first) will automatically be considered for the waitlist. You are encouraged to apply early.


Participation in LEAP requires a financial commitment. Payment plans are available for all levels of the sliding scale. Scholarship support is available to help with payment of fees but it will be limited.

Upon acceptance to the program, you will be asked to pay a minimum 25% deposit or pay in full. The remainder of any unpaid balance may be divided into 12 monthly installments* that will start Jan. 1, 2023. Installments can only be set up on credit cards. We no longer set up installments on checking accounts. All program fees are to be paid in full by Jan. 1, 2024. *If you join the program after Jan. 1, 2023 you may be required to pay in fewer monthly installments.

Please consider the amount you would be able to afford in order to participate in LEAP. We ask you to select the highest possible level of program fees that meet your needs, as your generosity allows for those with lesser means to attend. 

Sliding Scale:
$15,000 - Supporter with Guaranteed Single Room
$12,000 - Benefactor
$9000 - Sustainer
$6000 - Base

Scholarship Sliding Scale:
Scholarship Rate 1: $5,500
Scholarship Rate 2: $4,000
Scholarship Rate 3: $2,500

Tuition includes:

  • Accommodations and meals at all three residential retreats.
  • All handouts and program materials.
  • Access to online community building groups.

Tuition does NOT include:

  • Financial offering (dana) for teachers.
  • Transportation costs to/from your home to Spirit Rock.
  • Mentor teacher support (dana) for individual meetings with your mentor teacher in your area.


Participating in the LEAP program will require your commitment of both time and financial resources. Because this program is a progressive sequence of three retreats and other activities over a two-year period, you are committing to attend all three retreats and paying for the entire program. If you need to withdraw from the program, the following fee* structure will apply:

$100 non-refundable, flat fee for all applicants on or before Jan 1, 2023
10% fee: Jan 2 - Mar 15, 2023
20% fee: Mar 16 - May 13, 2023
40% fee: May 14 - Oct. 31, 2023
85% fee: Nov. 1, 2023 - May 13, 2024
No refunds = On or after May 14, 2024

*Fee deducted from refund; fee is a percentage of the total amount agreed to pay. These fees apply to all participants.


Sally Armstrong

Sally Armstrong began practicing vipassana meditation in India in 1981 and started teaching in 1996. She is a member of the Spirit Rock Teacher’s Council and has served as a co-guiding teacher at Spirit Rock. She developed and led Spirit Rock’s Dedicated Practitioners Program and Advanced Practitioner Program. She has a keen interest in supporting students who want to deepen their practice and understanding. She regularly teaches retreats on themes such as metta or concentration, as well as the multiweek retreats at Spirit Rock and the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts.

Susie Harrington

Susie Harrington teaches meditation nationwide and is the guiding teacher for Desert Dharma, which serves many communities in the Southwest near her home in Moab, Utah. She has trained in the Insight tradition since 1989, practicing primarily with Guy Armstrong, Jack Kornfield, and Joseph Goldstein. Susie has also received teachings from many others, including Tory Capron, Adyashanti, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche. She was invited to begin teaching in 2005, and often offers retreats outside, believing nature to be a profound teacher, and a gateway to our true nature.

Dawn Scott

Dawn Scott has been practicing Insight Meditation since 2008 and served as the Family Program Coordinator for eight years at Spirit Rock Meditation Center.  She is a graduate of the Insight Meditation Society’s 2017 – 2021 teacher training program, a co-principal teacher of Marin Sangha, and is a core teacher of Spirit Rock’s Liberation, Emptiness, and Awareness Practices (LEAP) Program and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and Insight Meditation's joint program, Exploring the Heart of Freedom.  Dawn has a deep love of long retreat practice and the Buddha's liberating teachings.



I loved the APP program. The chance to take a deep dive into the Dharma with experienced teachers over several different silent retreats was precious learning and time very well spent. I am looking forward to another advanced learning experience at Spirit Rock in the future.
— Helen V

I was able to deepen my practice, deeply connect with folx in my group, and learn more about the Dharma and my place in the Dharma. Now I have a network of dharma friends who I can learn and grow with.
— Lawrence S

My experience of APP was insightful and transformative. The teachings as well as the teachers were powerful and excellent…All good and well worth the time and effort.
— Russell B

Even with seven years of training as a Zen Monk, I feel that the APP program is one of the best training opportunities I've participated in. The teachings and assignments were carefully crafted and insightful. The program deepened my practice tremendously.
— Mei E

The ongoing experience with APP continues to be one of the most precious learning experiences of my life at this location. Gratitude arises as this is written. The sangha established through the second iteration of APP continues to meet monthly via Zoom and support each other in the practice.
— Rick D

Through APP I was able to connect intimately with other dedicated practitioners who were hungry for the depth of what the Dharma offers. The connections I made during APP are still among my dearest and closest Dharma friends.
— Kodo C

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