What does Gaia House offer?
Gaia House offers silent meditation retreats from various Buddhist traditions led by teachers from all over the world.
There are several types of silent meditation retreat at Gaia House:
Group Retreats are suitable for beginners and experienced practitioners:
- About Group Retreats: Teacher led retreats with a daily schedule of meditation, talks and teacher-led discussions or interviews, are listed in the Group Retreat Programme. Newcomers to meditation are advised to try these retreats first.
- One Day Retreats: Meditation Days are usually on the same theme as Group Retreats.
- Evening Meditation Courses: Short courses, held locally in South Devon, UK.
- Various other talks, courses and meetings are listed on the News page.
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 one’s practice, deepen one’s understanding and foster greater self-reliance. Dates and duration can usually be arranged to suit individuals, 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.
Gaia House @Seale-Hayne: suitable for beginners and experienced practitioners:
Gaia House @Seale-Hayne retreats differ from being at Gaia House in that you are not called upon to do work periods, ours is not the only activity on the site and the other people there are not on retreat, creating a different atmosphere. We hope that this may reach a wider audience, including those put off by the idea of strictly silent retreats, and that it may broaden our offering to those who already thrive on such practice. Seale-Hayne retreatants are accommodated in single rooms in beautiful listed buildings with extensive grounds, deep in the Devon countryside, just 4 miles from Gaia House.
Gaia House, in conjunction with Sharpham Trust, also offers:
- Dharma Study Course 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.
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. They allow us the opportunity to cultivate moment-to-moment awareness that nurtures inner stillness and peace, insight into the nature of one’s experience and the fostering of emotional resources with which to respond more fully to suffering. They 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.
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 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 yourself. 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, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or disability. 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.
What does the price of the retreat cover?
The price of our retreats is set to reflect just the basic costs of providing the facilities, managing and maintaining the centre. Prices include delicious vegetarian meals, refreshments and simple, shared accommodation. However, in the Buddhist tradition of Dana or generosity, teachings at Gaia House are offered freely. Teachers are not paid for their time and energy, so at the end of your retreat with us you will be given the opportunity to offer financial support to the teachers who have guided your retreat or practice. Before you come on retreat we ask that you read our About Dana information page
Gaia House offers the opportunity for individuals to engage in retreats with the support of other meditators. To make it possible for Gaia House to offer an atmosphere and environment which is conducive to meditation, it is essential that all retreatants observe these practice guidelines:
- Please respect the silent atmosphere throughout the House and grounds.
- Please engage in at least four periods of meditation practice.
- Everyone is asked to contribute one hour of work per day to the house.
- We encourage sensitivity towards all living beings and a non-harming relationship to all life.
- A retreatant takes only that which is clearly given.
- No consumption of drugs, cigarettes or alcohol is permitted at Gaia House. (Including all areas of the house, garden and grounds.)
- Retreatants are asked to abstain from all sexual contact during their retreat
- Please be aware of the Code of Conduct
Continuity and steadiness are essential factors in the deepening of meditation. Retreatants are asked to participate for the full retreat and shorten a retreat only after discussion with a teacher. Retreatants are also requested to commit themselves fully to Gaia House and to stay within the immediate vicinity of the House and grounds, except in an emergency. Walking in the nearby countryside is fine.
Retreats FAQ: Please read through the Frequently Asked Questions about the practical side of coming on Retreat at Gaia House. Other questions about Group Retreats are answered here. Hopefully most questions are answered on this website – but if you have any other queries, please contact us, and we will be happy to help.
How do Gaia House retreats differ from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) courses?
I’ve done some Group Retreats, how can I deepen my meditation practice?
The November Solitary Retreat (see Group Retreat Programme) offers the opportunity for independent practice while supported by a community of other dedicated retreatants. Regular teachings are given and 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.
How to Book a Retreat: Ways to Book a Retreat and other Booking Information.