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About Meditation Retreats

Meditation on Group RetreatWhat does Gaia House offer?

Gaia House offers silent meditation retreats from various Buddhist traditions led by experienced Dharma teachers from all over the world. 

There are several types of silent meditation retreat at Gaia House:
Group Retreats and Meditation Courses
Group Retreats are suitable for beginners and experienced practitioners:

Work Retreats and Personal Retreats
Work Retreats and Personal Retreats are suitable only for meditation practitioners with some experience of silent retreats:

  • About Personal Retreats: For meditators with prior experience of silent retreats and an established meditation practice, an extended period of independent or solitary meditation is an excellent way to develop our practice, deepen our understanding and foster greater self-reliance. Dates and duration can usually be arranged to suit you, subject to availability.
  • About Work Retreats: For robust and healthy individuals with prior experience of silent meditation retreats. This is a chance to combine daily work which directly contributes to the well-being of the Gaia House community, with daily periods of intensive meditation practice. Dates for these retreats are variable, subject to availability. Minimum: two weeks.

Advanced Dharma Study Course
Gaia House, in conjunction with Sharpham Trust, also offers:

  • Dharma Study Course: Committed Dharma Practitioners’ Programme (CDPP) This two year course for experienced meditation students is an integrated approach to the study and practice of the Dharma. Applicants should have formal retreat experience and a working knowledge of the Buddha’s teaching.
About Silent Meditation Retreats at Gaia House:
What is the purpose of coming on meditation retreat?
All meditation retreats share the common aim of Buddhist contemplative traditions: to free the mind and heart from confusion, self-centredness and anguish. The opportunity allows us to cultivate moment-to-moment awareness that nurtures inner stillness and peace, insight into the nature of our experience and the fostering of emotional resources with which to respond more fully to suffering.
Retreats offer an opportunity to explore and develop serenity, wisdom and compassion through meditation and mindfulness practice in a supportive environment. The main emphasis is placed upon developing attention, sensitivity and awareness through sitting and walking meditation. More about meditation.

Why are meditation retreats held in silence?
All of our retreats (except the Family Retreat) are held in silence. Spending a period of time in silence is a very powerful way to support the deepening of meditative calm and insight. Being together in this way also allows us to explore a degree of solitude, while having the support of a group.

Silence fosters a sense of safety and refuge even when among a group of people we do not yet know. Through letting go of the familiar world of words we give ourselves space from the complexity of personal interaction, and can come to see our mind and its activity more clearly. Insight into the way things are, arises through experiencing life directly, rather than filtered through language and concepts. This direct seeing is the foundation for inner peace, wisdom and compassion. More about silence.

In the spirit of silence, you are asked to refrain from all forms of verbal and written communication with others and the outside world, during your retreat (except for essential communication with a teacher or coordinator). At the end of the retreat there will be some time when silence is lifted and you will have the opportunity to talk and share your experiences with other retreatants.

What sort of meditation is taught at Gaia House?
Our retreats are predominantly based in the Buddhist practices of Insight (Vipassana), Loving-kindness (Metta) and Zen meditation. Despite the varieties of meditation practice, all of our Dharma teachers share an aspiration to encourage a continuity of self-awareness and experiential learning. Group Retreats each focus on a particular practice – depending on the teacher and the theme of each individual retreat as outlined in the Group Retreat Programme.

The teachings and practices offered here are founded in the spiritual teachings of the Buddha, who lived 2500 years ago. Through his own deep interest in life and commitment to discovering freedom he came to a profound realisation of the understanding and practices that ennoble and liberate a human being. What is offered in retreats is the opportunity to experience this ennobling wisdom for ourselves. More about Meditation.

Do I need to be a Buddhist to come on Retreat at Gaia House?
No – All you need is an interest in inner exploration and development. Participation in retreats does not require you to identify yourself as a Buddhist, or to subscribe to the principles of Buddhism.

Gaia House is open to all, irrespective of religious or political beliefs. We do not seek to convert others or discriminate against those who hold differing views. Gaia House is committed to supporting the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual well-being of all who reside and work here. The Aims of Gaia House.

How do Gaia House retreats differ from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy/Stress Reduction (MBCT or MBSR) courses?
Read an article by John Teasdale on how MBCT & MBSR fit with Gaia House Meditation Retreats. About MBCT.

I've done some Group Retreats, how can I deepen my meditation practice?
The November Solitary Retreat (see Group Retreat Programme for details) offers the opportunity for up to a month of independent practice with regular teacher interviews and Dharma talks from the Gaia House teachers, supported by a community of other dedicated retreatants. Participants can choose to practise in the solitude of their own rooms or with others in the meditation hall.
For information regarding independent solitary retreats at other times of the year, please see About Personal Retreats.

More FAQs about Retreats: The Frequently Asked Questions page is all about the practical side of coming on Retreat at Gaia House.