Buddha with candles

Turning Straw into Gold

A three-day Insight Meditation retreat held at the Prama Institute in Marshall, NC from Thursday December 3rd to Sunday, December 6th, 2015.

About the Retreat

Stress, difficulty and suffering are natural by-products of the human condition—particularly around hectic periods like the Holidays.

Take a break during this time and benefit from this fully supportive meditative environment.

The Turning Straw into Gold residential retreat will focus on providing you with the tools needed to turn stress, difficulties, and suffering into the presence, peace, and joy inherent in your own true nature!

Led by Asheville Insight Meditation teachers Ronya Banks and Michael Scardaville, and with Guest Presenter Eddie LeShure, this retreat is appropriate for both beginning and advanced meditators.

Enjoy the many benefits of coming together with other like-minded practitioners for a committed period of time in profound silent meditation.

Retreat Details


A silent Insight Retreat is a wonderful opportunity to engage in full-time mindfulness training. The daily schedule involves periods of sitting and walking meditation, dharma talks, instruction, working meditation, stretching periods, and discussions with teachers. Silence is maintained throughout most of the retreat.


The retreat will be held at the Prama Institute in Marshall, NC, a beautiful spiritual center located 25 minutes northwest of downtown Asheville and 15 minutes west of Weaverville. Website: http://pramainstitute.org/


  • Total Cost:
    • Early Bird Registration (before November 1): $315
    • Regular Registration (on or after November 1): $400
  • Deposit: You may reserve your spot at the retreat with a deposit rather than the full payment up front. The balance is then due by December 3rd.
    • Early Bird Deposit (before November 1): $165
    • Regular Deposit (on or after November 1): $200
  • Optional Linens Fee: $10. The retreat fee by itself covers minimal linens: a bottom sheet, pillow, and pillow case. For an additional $10, you will also receive a top sheet, blanket, bed spread, towel, and wash cloth.
  • Included Amenities:
    • Lodging: the Prama Institute (shared rooms and shared bathroom facilities)
    • Meals: Thursday dinner, three meals on Friday and Saturday, two meals on Sunday. All meals are vegetarian (vegan and gluten-free options are also available).


You may register and pay for the retreat either with an online form or a paper form.

  • Online form:
    • Fill out the online form and submit it. After submission, you’ll be taken to PayPal to make your payment.
    • Note: you do not need a PayPal account to use PayPal for your retreat payment. If you do not have a PayPal account, look for “No PayPal account?” or “Don’t have a PayPal account?” on the bottom left of the PayPal page.
    • Register online »
  • Paper form:
    • Download the paper registration form or pick up a copy at the meditation hall. Fill it out and submit it with your payment (cash, check, or credit card information).
    • Submit the form by dropping it in the dana box, handing it to Retreat Coordinator Kate Freeman, or mailing it to the address below. If you pay by cash, you must hand the form and cash directly to Kate Freeman.
    • Asheville Insight Meditation
      Attn: Retreat Coordinator
      29 Ravenscroft Dr
      Suite 200
      Asheville, NC 28801
    • Note: With paper form registration, your spot at the retreat is not confirmed until the form and payment have been received by the Retreat Coordinator.

**Note**: Our last retreat filled up very quickly (in about 2 months), so you may want to register early to ensure your spot.

Scholarship Fund Contribution

AIM will offer some scholarships depending on the availability of funds. If you would like to contribute to the scholarship fund, please do so when you register. Because AIM is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, your donation will be tax deductible. For questions regarding scholarships, please contact the Retreat Coordinator.


This retreat is offered in the Buddhist tradition of Dana, an ancient Pali word meaning generosity. The retreat teachers receive no payment and offer their wisdom and generosity as a gift to students. At the end of the retreat, you will be given the opportunity to offer dana to the teachers.

Refund Policy

If you register for the retreat and then are unable to attend:

  • If you already paid in full, notify us by November 1st to receive a full refund minus a $35 registration fee. After November 1st, you will receive a refund of 50% of your payment.
  • If you paid a deposit only, notify us by November 1st to receive your deposit back minus a $35 registration fee. After November 1st, your deposit is forfeited.

Retreat Teachers

Ronya Banks
Ronya Banks

Ronya Banks is the founder and lead teacher of the Asheville Insight Meditation community in Asheville, NC. Ronya began her meditation practice in her mid-20’s.  Her teaching is informed by over 30 years of daily meditation practice, studying with more than 20 different Vipassana teachers, spending more than one year cumulatively on numerous silent Vipassana meditation retreats, and her participation in Spirit Rock & Insight Meditation Society’s current Community Dharma Leader training program. She also lived as a traditional Theravada Buddhist nun (Spring 2014).

Ms. Banks continues to hone her skills with Pat Coffey (her meditation teaching mentor and senior teacher of the Insight Meditation Community of Charlottesville in Virginia) and Bhante UJotika Bhivamsa (her dharma teacher who is a Theravada Buddhist monk from Burma). She has also been greatly impacted by the teachers Jack Kornfield and Rodney Smith.

Ronya Banks has supplemented her meditation experience and passion for Buddhism with over 20 years of experience in business management, training, and consulting individuals and groups. She also leads residential meditation retreats. Her teaching style is characterized by her authentic, down-to-earth personality.

Besides meditation, Ronya’s greatest passion is her love for her family:  children – Vincent, Ashley, and grandson – Zander!

Michael Scardaville
Michael Scardaville

Michael Scardaville has been practicing Vipassana or Insight Meditation for over 20 years, during which time he participated in numerous retreats and in various sanghas in the Carolinas. He also had the privilege of serving for 10 years on the Board of Directors of the Southern Dharma Retreat Center near Hot Springs, North Carolina. He has been a retreat teacher as well.

Recognizing the connection between inner and outer transformation and inspired by the work of many socially engaged Buddhists, Michael tries to take the dharma into the larger community. As Rumi notes, “So many in this world are being torn apart.” He has taught meditation in a maximum-security state prison, and he currently offers meditation classes at the Buncombe County jail and a local alcohol and drug rehab facility.

Michael’s only regrets in life are that he didn’t hit a home run in Little League and that he didn’t begin his nurturing spiritual path back in his twenties.

Guest Presenter – Eddie LeShure
Eddie LeShure

Having meditated for over 30 years, Eddie regards himself as a “seasoned beginner.” His understanding and practice have evolved from exposure to numerous Western and Eastern teachers in Theravada, Zen and Tibetan traditions, plus numerous retreats and 18 months living in retreat communities. Eddie has been part of Asheville Insight Meditation virtually since its inception, serving when asked as a lead teacher.

Eddie is a Certified Peer Support Specialist, Substance Abuse Counselor, Family Support Group Facilitator in NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and meditation teacher. Eddie’s primary passion and focus is bringing mindfulness practices, informed and deepened by his own life experience, into the world of addiction recovery, trauma relief and self-care. He teaches and leads groups in various treatment/recovery settings, as well as in series classes, workshops and retreats.

His other passions include his life partner Margaret, his “children” Nicole and Matthew, yoga, hiking, jazz, wellness, and his intense pursuit of creating and serving the perfect curry!



Please contact the Retreat Coordinator.

Register Online Now

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Download the paper registration form »

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