We cannot solve the problems of the world with undeveloped tools.
The human mind is our most fundamental tool.
Willow Monastic Academy is a training centre dedicated to developing the capacities of the human mind through rigorous mental, ethical, and interpersonal practices grounded in ancient Buddhist traditions.
Our goal is to create leaders who are an unstoppable force for justice and peace in the world.
What’s the problem?
Our environmental and social ecosystems are in peril. Between a worldwide pandemic, an increasing crisis of loneliness and mental health, compounding climate catastrophes, and a media landscape that prioritizes capturing our attention over providing truth, it has become increasingly clear that our current way of doing things is unsustainable.
How do we emancipate ourselves from these harmful systems and become the kinds of leaders the world desperately needs?
What can we do?
We begin with the premise that it is possible to create fundamental changes in our minds, our characters, and our behaviour, and increase our capacity to be sovereign agents capable of facing the world’s largest problems with clarity, conviction, and care.
At Willow, the two pillars of our training are Awakening – classical insight, the ability to radically transform the mind – and Responsibility – the power to take clear action in the world.
We create an environment that fosters broad human development through practices which incorporate ancient wisdom traditions and modern transformational modalities.
View Our Practices
The Eightfold Path
The eightfold path offers a helpful framework for living a well-rounded and beneficial life, as we strive toward becoming better people. We continually reflect on and refine our views, intentions, speech, actions, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration.
3+ Hours of Meditation & Chanting Daily
Through regular meditation and chanting, we learn to reclaim our attention and strengthen the muscle of concentration while healing our minds and hearts. Regular one-on-one interviews with a teacher help us refine our direction, get unstuck, and continue striving. Our teaching methodology is inspired by Buddhist monks Soryu Forall and Shinzen Young.
We live together, eat together, work together, meditate together, and train together. Being in community in this way can cause many of our difficult patterns to surface, and give us an opportunity to work with them among caring peers. Also, being surrounded by differing opinions and approaches helps to combat some of the dangerous pitfalls of autodidactism.
Circling & Authentic Relating
Through social practices like Circling and Authentic Relating, we are invited to discover the patterns of our social dynamics and learn the skills of speaking truthfully and showing up fully with each other exactly as we are, with no pretense or performance.
Emotional blockages are among the most difficult and pervasive things running our lives. We employ the Bio-Emotive Framework to help each other notice, process, and heal the wounds we carry through our lives.
Strict Monastic Structure
Our daily schedule is strict and uncompromising, with specific times for work, meals, exercise, meditation, and leisure time. This strictness supports us in fully immersing in the present task, allowing us the opportunity to quickly notice emotional resistances and work with them.
Vow / Peer Coaching
What do we each see as the deepest, truest, most authentic life we can lead? The Peer Coaching protocol allows us to support each other in finding alignment between the way we live and the way we want to live, and helps us to move from unclear stuckness into clarity and action.
Week-Long Silent Retreats
Every month, we spend one full week in silence, dedicating our days entirely to meditative practice. Through this, we work through some of the deeper tangles of our psyches, allowing us to tap into a wisdom that goes beyond mere intellect.
Service & Responsibility
Through taking on various roles and projects at Willow, trainees learn the work skills necessary to engage with the economics of the broader world skilfully and with confidence. We are often pushed and supported to take leadership beyond what we believe we can do, and through this we learn just how capable we can be.
Living With The Land
We are located on a beautiful 10-acre property which helps us learn how to live in harmony with nature every day. Our goal is to encourage the growth of a food forest and permaculture garden and work towards self-sustainability.
Our bodies hold a lot of knowledge – but we have to re-learn how to listen to them. Through connecting with ourselves in this way, we learn to use the natural wisdom of the body to take clear action in the world.
Located near Toronto, Canada, Willow is the newest branch of the Monastic Academy for the Preservation of Life on Earth.
Our intention is to make this training available to anyone willing to engage wholeheartedly in the hard work of self-transformation for a better world, regardless of their financial situation.
We need your help to make that possible
We live frugally, and spend little.
- $2.66 provides one meal for one trainee
- $50 provides a new fruit tree for our budding food forest
- $100 provides one scholarship for a weekend of workshops
- $750 subsidizes residential training for one apprentice for a month, providing access to our full ecology of practices
- $2,000 jump-starts our self-sufficiency garden project
- $30,000 covers our most frugal core costs for 6 months, allowing us to offer dozens of retreats, workshops, and events
Want to help another way?
What our attendees and friends have to say
Humanity’s current challenge is to increase our wisdom and love so that it is commensurate with the exponential power of our technology. If we fail to achieve this balance the odds of our civilization’s survival are vanishingly small.
Willow meets this grand challenge through a synthesis of transformational practices meant to create trustworthy stewards of the planet in a time of crisis. If we succeed in creating a future of sustainable whole-system flourishing, it will be because we valued and supported institutional experiments like Willow.
monastic & host of the emerge podcast
When Seishin comes to mind, so do the following words: integrity, care, and character. She shows up in life embodying these traits, along with a loving, no bullshit attitude. She is a dear friend, a trusted peer, and I fully believe she is the right person to bring the Monastic Academy to Canada. May we all be blessed with her wisdom, and her steadfast fidelity to the truth.
Creator & Steward of The stoa
Here are two ways of framing the purpose of Buddhism: it’s a way to find true happiness, and it’s a guide for how to live in accordance with truth, which is to say, ethically. After the time I spent at Willow and MAPLE, I notice that happiness seems to come more easily these days, and I have far less patience for my own (very human) tendencies for selfishness and self-deception. If more people have a chance to learn how to be both happier and more ethical, life on Earth just might have a chance. I believe Willow and places like it are a crucial part of what the world needs right now.
Willow is a truly wonderful place for physical, mental and spiritual development. Seishin has built an incredible container that is simultaneously deeply nuturing and extremely challenging. My time there showed to me that I could live the life I’ve dreamt about.
It was so lovely to experience, even for a short amount of time, a taste of sangha — a community of people who I could learn with and from, while being guided by Buddhist values and principles. The circling in particular really helped uncover and unravel certain emotions, in a way that was safe, tender and supportive. I’m very grateful to my temporary sangha for that.