Pilgrimage Retreat to Avila, Spain

April 2 - April 14,  2020

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
— St. Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

The purpose of this pilgrimage retreat: 

  • To deeply understand the above quote and deepen your spiritual practices so as to live more fully in alignment with the purpose of your life. The quote speaks to the practice of compassion and wisdom and bringing these qualities in service to the world. It is the practice of Tonglen in Buddhism, or, The Way of the Cross, in Christianity. To understand the spiritual practices fully with the humility required in understanding your limitations.

  • To work with someone that has fully embodied the truth and the love of this quote, namely Charisse Lyons. You will be facilitated in doing your own inner work through her work and Lyndall’s, with you.

  • To increase your capacity for the inner journey through daily dharma talks on living mindfully and daily practice in meditation and kundalini yoga.

  • To spend as much time a day as you need for meditation, journaling and quiet reflection on your experience of this work. Charisse and Lyndall, as well as other leaders will be available for follow up guidance, teaching or counseling at any time.

  • To be in community with people with the same vision, purpose and goals who will be in relationship with you in the deeply, soulful, intimate way required for growth.

  • To explore the ancient city of Avila and the holy sites of Theresa of Avila in a deeply contemplative way, using photography, journaling and even meals as exercises in mindful living.

  • To study the works and life of Teresa of Avila in the cultural context of her time and study the painting by Hieronymus Bosch in the Prado in Madrid

  • To awaken more fully to yourSelf in every way, through full acceptance and awareness of your own personal hidden suffering, the suffering of your ancestors and the impact on future generations, so that you might discover more of the power, beauty and love that you are.

  • To understand the meaning of the stations of the cross, death on the cross, resurrection and ascension, from the lens of the 4th quadrant

Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.
— Henry Miller

Accommodation: We will be staying two nights in Madrid in order to visit the Prado Museum of art and study Hieronymus Bosch’s Triptych that hung in the bedroom of Phillip II of Spain during the time of the inquisition and then at the Convent of Casa Natal de Santa Teresa de Jesus. The Convent is built on the site of Teresa’s birthplace and her remains are in the crypt of the church there.

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- One small scene from Bosch’s Triptych painting

- Avila Cathedral

- Avila Cathedral

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- Covent of Casa Natal de Santa Teresa

After our visit to Madrid and Toledo you will be spending your days in the small walled city of Avila on a contemplative inner journey of days spent in meditation and mindfulness practice with Bussho, doing Kundalini yoga with Christina, long walks of self exploration and visiting sacred sites, individual soul work, group processing and follow up counseling and spiritual direction, for which we will all be available. We will do a tour of the sites of St. Teresa as well as tours to the University town of Salamanca and the ancient walled city of Segovia.

A detailed itinerary will be available closer to departure

When asked which sacred sites influenced me most strongly during my long pilgrimage travels, I always include the cathedral of Avila in my response. There is a wonderful presence or energy inside the cathedral, especially focused at two locations, which stimulated in me the most sublime and passionate feelings of spiritual love. It is often my habit, within the various temples, mosques and churches that I visit, to utilize different dowsing techniques in order to locate what I call energy beam points. These places are particular locations within the larger area of a sacred structure where it seems that the energy, spirit or power of the site is most highly charged. In Avila, I located three of these energy beam points, two of which it was possible to stand directly upon. During a four-day exploration of Avila I spent many hours each day sitting or standing at these two places. My experience at them was of a presence that surrounded and infused my being with the most intoxicating compassion. I was frequently so overwhelmed while standing at these sites that I would softly cry with intense joy for minutes on end. The tourists visiting the church found my behaviour a bit odd, but the old priests seemed to well understand.”
— Martin Gray's Experience in Avila

Your Guides


 Lyndall Johnson M.A.,L.P. is the president and founder of the Aslan Institute and Sacred Service at Aslan Institute which is a non profit organization promoting the evolution of consciousness and helping people accelerate their own evolution through the work of Tonglen and therapy. She is a licensed psychologist, a writer, speaker and facilitator. She has degrees in psychology and sociology from the University of South Africa and a Masters degree in Psychology from the University of Pepperdine in California. She has worked with ethnically and culturally diverse communities in creating dialogue, reconciliation and collaboration. She has worked in Africa doing grass roots community development in the areas of physical, social, political and economic development. Lyndall has extensive experience teaching and facilitating spirituality and the evolution of consciousness around the world. She has led many spiritual pilgrimages and retreats, both domestic and abroad.


 Charisse Lyons is a retired speech/language therapist and co-founder and vice president of Sacred Service at Aslan Institute. After a rewarding thirty-year career in the school system, she became aware that her life's purpose was waiting for her. Retirement has allowed her the ability to pursue this purpose and she has never looked back. Charisse experiences an awe of the human spirit. She has witnessed limitless strength and resolve in facing the deepest pain and how that leads to the core of one's being, the truth of who we are. Charisse has been on a spiritual path since childhood. Throughout her life she has had an awareness of the power and healing this has brought to her, and others, especially in times of sorrow and suffering. Charisse's work can best be described as a soul worker. She works in transpersonal realms with others, in building an awareness of unresolved suffering within themselves. In combination with her client, she enters into the suffering and gives it the light needed to work towards healing. This is done in a setting that is comforting and compassionate. Many of her clients experience an acceleration in their healing after completing this work. She is honored and grateful for the opportunity to bring this healing to others. She recognizes this work as sacred, and considers all who participate in it to be answering the highest of spiritual callings. 


 Bussho Martin Lahn is a Certified Spiritual Director and an ordained Soto Zen Buddhist priest. He is also a teacher and retreat leader at the Episcopal House of Prayer in Minneapolis. Raised Catholic, Martin is grounded in contemplative spirituality, interfaith dialogue, and is experienced in retreat facilitation and public speaking on a variety of spiritual subjects. He has taught meditation and Zen at Minnesota Zen Meditation Center for over three years. Martin is in his tenth year as a teacher and provider at the Aslan Institute. He has led several spiritual pilgrimages, and has studied with Lyndall on pilgrimage overseas. 


Christina Hughes received her BA in Theatre and Creative writing at New York University with a focus on Growtowksi’s Physical Theatre Training Methods. Since then, she has worked in various parts of the country devising original theatre pieces in addition to training with Leeny Sak from the Wooster Group, Meredith Monk, Wendell Beavers from the Naropa Institute, Suzuki, Judith Malina of the Living Theatre and Ann Bogart’s SITI company. During her years in the theatre, she practiced various traditions of Yoga until the day she entered a Kundalini Yoga and Meditation Class at Yoga West in Los Angeles. She became a certified Kundalini Yoga and Meditation Teacher in 2010 at Yoga Soul in Eagan Minnesota and taught at various Yoga studios including the Women’s Correctional Facility in Shakopee during the years that she resided in the Twin Cities.

Currently, Christina resides with her family in London where she is finalizing her Master’s Degree in the Applied Theatre Arts at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London University. She has facilitated theatre and creative arts workshops with women in Shelters for Domestic Violence, Youth groups and the Elderly. Her passions in Yoga and the Arts are symbiotic and have nurtured each other throughout the years. She loves facilitating, directing , devising and exploring the multi-faceted and infinitely layered story that is the human condition in diverse communities to create and elevate self-awareness, vitality, self-empowerment and wholeness. Christina is Half Spanish from Alicante, Spain and Half American from Johnson City, Tennessee.


Sacred Service Pilgrimage Flier Avila, Spain 2020

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