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Personal Retreats

What is a Personal Retreat?

For people with experience of silent meditation retreats at Gaia House or elsewhere and with an established meditation practice, an extended period of solitary meditation is an excellent way to develop one’s practice, deepen one’s understanding and foster greater self-reliance. Gaia House offers a rare opportunity to undertake an independent silent Personal Retreat in a supportive environment with regular guidance from respected international teachers.

Personal retreatants are responsible for your own practice within the structured routine of the House. Personal Retreats (of one week or longer) are supported by weekly meetings with a teacher – these are considered essential to maintaining your well being as part of the residential community at Gaia House. Personal Retreats are undertaken and continued subject to approval by a Gaia House teacher.

Personal Retreats can range in length from two days to three months or longer. The Hermitage Wing is available for Personal Retreats of one week or more. Personal Retreats shorter than a week are available only between scheduled Group Retreats and are usually based in the main house.

The November Solitary Retreat offers the opportunity for up to a month of independent practice supported by a community of other dedicated retreatants. Regular teacher interviews and Dharma talks are offered, and guidance is available in Insight Meditation (Vipassana), Tranquillity (Samatha) Meditation, Loving-kindness (Metta) and the other Brahma Viharas. See the Group Retreat Programme for further information.

Who can apply for a Personal Retreat?

Before booking a Personal Retreat, you need to have completed at least one five-day teacher-led, Insight / Vipassana / Zen meditation retreat in silence – not necessarily at Gaia House – and have an established regular meditation practice.

Anyone interested in a Personal Retreat should complete a Personal Retreat Application Form, which must be approved by a Gaia House teacher. You may be asked to undergo additional Group Retreats before embarking on a Personal Retreat.

Which teachers support Personal Retreatants?

Christina Feldman, Yanai Postelnik, Rob Burbea and other local teachers offer individual interviews for long-term Personal Retreatants throughout the year. Please contact us if you would like specific information about which teachers will be available at particular dates.

Is there a daily schedule for Personal Retreatants?

Yes – there is a regular schedule for the main Meditation Hall of seven group sittings per day. Alternatively, you may meditate in your room or, if you are staying in the Hermitage Wing, you are also welcome to use the small Meditation Hall there.

Each day routinely includes an hour’s work period in the morning. This is an invitation to contribute to the well being of the House and its occupants and enables us to keep our charges low.

Personal Retreatants are encouraged to engage in sustained formal meditation (sitting, walking, standing etc.) and to approach all activities as opportunities for meditative awareness and the development of continuity of practice, as the primary focus of the day.

Long term Personal Retreatants are also welcome to join the Dharma talks offered to Group Retreatants. A sign up sheet is put on the Hermitage notice board shortly before each Group Retreat.

What are the Practice Guidelines for Retreatants?

For Gaia House to offer an envi­ron­ment conducive to meditation, it is essen­tial that all retreat­ants observe Gaia House practice guidelines.

Personal retreatants commit to observing our Code of Conduct, including the Five Precepts, which for Gaia House Retreatants are interpreted as:

  1. Refrain from taking life and harming living creatures
  2. Refrain from taking that which is not offered
  3. Refrain from expressions of sexuality
  4. Refrain from unnecessary speech and respect the silence within the House and grounds
  5. Refrain from the use of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs (unless for medical reasons)
  • All retreatants are asked to contribute one hour of work per day to the house.
  • Interviews with Teachers for Long-term Retreatants:

    • Personal Retreatants staying for one week or longer, commit to meeting with a teacher at least once a week.
    • As soon as possible after the beginning of Personal Retreats, an Induction Interview is arranged in which the nature and outline of the retreat is discussed.
    • Regular interviews are offered and retreats may continue only with the agreement of your teacher(s).
    • Personal Retreatants staying for less than one week are not guaranteed an interview but may sign up if there is a free space.
  • Continuity and steadiness are essential factors in the deepening of meditation.
    • Retreatants are asked to participate for the full retreat booked.
    • Retreatants are also requested to commit themselves fully to Gaia House and stay within the immediate vicinity of the House and grounds. You are welcome to walk in the nearby peaceful countryside.
    • If you need to leave your retreat for any unexpected or urgent reason, please discuss this with your Teacher and  inform a Coordinator.

Retreats FAQ: Please read through the Frequently Asked Questions about the practical side of coming on Retreat at Gaia House. If your queries are not answered on this website, please contact us, and we will be happy to help.

Can I stay in touch with my family?

To support a meditative environment it is recommended that retreatants do not make telephone calls during their stay, however a payphone is provided for use in exceptional circumstances. It is also recommended that Personal Retreatants keep the writing of letters and receiving of mail to a minimum. Gaia House is not able to provide paper or envelopes. There is no access to fax, email, internet or photocopier facilities.

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 through language and concepts. This direct seeing is the foundation for inner peace, wisdom and compassion.

Retreatants are requested to commit to maintaining silence throughout the House and grounds, apart from essential communication with teachers and Coordinators. More about silence.

How do I get my clothes cleaned at Gaia House?

For long term retreatants we provide towels and a laundry service once a week.

How do I apply for a Personal Retreat?

Please complete a Personal Retreat Application Form and submit this for approval by our resident teacher who will be supporting you whilst on retreat. You can apply and book on-line; by phone or by post.

The Retreat Application Form asks questions about your personal and medical history, including meditation and retreat experience. This confidential information is necessary so that our teachers can assess your preparedness for what will be a unique and profound experience, and your ability to negotiate the demands of a Personal Retreat.

Please read through the Booking and Cancellation Policy, before making your booking.
Do not make travel arrangements until your place has been definitely confirmed.

How much does a Personal Retreat cost?

Gaia House endeavours to keep costs as low as possible and aims to be accessible to everyone, regardless of financial circumstances.

Bursary Places:

Gaia House supports 12 bursary places per year for personal retreatants undertaking a retreat of 90 days. Bursary places begin annually on 1st January, 1st April and 1st October.

To apply for a bursary supported place, please get in touch with Gaia House to find out when the next places are available, and complete the on-line Personal Retreat Application Form.

Retreatant Support Fund:

If you need financial help to come on retreat, please apply to the Retreatant Support Fund (RSF).

Retreat Rates for 2014:

Personal Retreats (and extra nights for Group Retreats) from 1 – 30 nights: £40 per night
Personal Retreats longer than 30 nights; the nightly rate will be reduced from night 31 onwards to:

£30 per night

Calculate the cost of your retreat with the Personal Retreat Cost Calculator  
Bursary: Subsidised 90-day Personal Retreat: £1,886
Retreatant Support Fund (RSF) Rate:
This highly subsidised rate is available to anyone who cannot afford the Standard or Supported Rate, via a short application process.
This rate may be used for up to 30 days of either Group or Personal Retreats in any one calendar year.
If your circumstances are such that you do not feel able to afford even this reduced rate, please contact us to discuss what you might be able to afford, as we are keen that costs do not prevent anyone from coming on retreat to Gaia House.
60% of Standard Rate (40% off)