Cascadia: Program Overview

CASCADIA LIVING WISDOM SCHOOL is a school without walls that is designed to maximize flexibility for participants. Those interested apply for admission to one of two sub-programs – the Residential Program or the Online Program. Both groups involve online and videoconference interaction and discussion of readings with Dr. Benner. Those enrolled in the Residential Program additionally participate in the annual retreats.

Program participants enrol one year at a time and continue for as long as they find helpful. Although readings and retreats follow a two-year cycle, new applicants can start the program any year as each year’s curricular focus serves equally well as an introduction and also leads to the next. This makes at least two years of program enrolment ideal as it provides exposure to the full curriculum. Continuing involvement is supported by a fee structure designed to make the school less of a revolving door and more of a place where at least some of us can journey together over a longer time. However, at the end of each program year enrolled participants decide whether to continue or not and, if they choose to continue, select either the Residential or Online Program, depending on which suits them best for that year.

The core of the program is the small-group mentoring of participants. This begins within the daily online interaction that starts each April and continues until the end of the subsequent March. Suggested readings and challenges in living the things being taught form the foundation of this dialogue. This is supplemented by regular videoconferences and the annual retreats. Please note, however, that while the program offers a great deal of personal interaction with the mentors/teachers, one-on-one time should not be expected with them at the retreats. All mentoring is provided within the context of small groups – although after two or more years of program involvement, participants are eligible to apply for individual mentoring with Dr. Benner as openings for this become available.

The annual retreats held in Toronto are available to those enrolled in the Residential Program. They are built around the classic Christian disciplines of contemplative prayer, lectio divina, and silence, and are ordered by the framework of the Benedictine Daily Office. Retreats also include a fast from phones and all internet-accessing technology (with a built-in exception of a scheduled brief time each day when this can, if necessary, occur). Mornings are generally more conceptual, afternoons more experiential and evenings more contemplative. These strands, however, are continuously interwoven in the flow of each retreat day.


Wisdom is accessible to everyone, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or beliefs. This is why CASCADIA LIVING WISDOM SCHOOL is committed to inclusivity in our admission policies. The program is, however, offered within a Christian framework and consequently, the ideal applicant is someone who is making their spiritual journey within the context of the Christian tradition.

Applicants to CASCADIA LIVING WISDOM SCHOOL should be motivated to live their way into wisdom, wholeness and well being. They must also have basic computer skills and an email account, an established contemplative practice, and a spirituality that leads to engagement with the needs of the world. Those who are new to contemplative living will benefit from first receiving an introduction to contemplative practices and the way in which they facilitate awakening of the heart. Contact us if you need help in finding a suitable program that can provide this preparation.

Ideas and practices explored within CASCADIA LIVING WISDOM SCHOOL will stretch most applicants intellectually, theologically, and spiritually. The program draws from such diverse sources as evolutionary theology, cosmology, other faith traditions, aboriginal spirituality, and depth psychology. While prior background in these areas is not necessary, what is required is openness to the contributions science and other religious traditions can make to Christian theology, spirituality and wisdom.