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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.

As a personal retreatant you will be 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 staying for 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 two weeks teacher-led, Insight (Vipassana) or Zen meditation retreat in silence (either as two separate weeks or one continuous retreat of 14 days), not necessarily at Gaia House. You must also have an established, regular meditation practice.

If you are interested in a personal retreat please complete a Personal Retreat Application Form, for approval by a Gaia House teacher. You may be asked to undergo additional group retreats before embarking on a personal retreat.

How much does a personal retreat cost?

We endeavour to keep our rates as low as possible and are committed to ensuring that Dharma teachings are available to all who wish to participate in our programme, irrespective of financial circumstances.

Retreat rates for 2015/16:

Personal retreats of 1 to 30 nights are charged at a nightly rate of: £42 per night
For Personal retreats longer than 30 nights, the nightly rate from night 31 onwards is: £33 per night

You can calculate the cost of your retreat with the Personal Retreat Cost Calculator

If you need financial help to come on personal retreat, please apply to our Financial Assistance and Bursaries Fund (FAB Fund).

Bursary places

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

To apply for a bursary supported place, please contact us to find out when the next places are available, and complete the online Personal Retreat Application Form.


What accommodation do you provide?
We provide long-term retreatants with single rooms in the Hermitage Wing.  On departure, we request that you vacate your room by 9.30am leaving it clean so that it is ready for the next arrival.

How can I apply?
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.

Can I change my retreat dates?
Yes, this may be possible – subject to availability. Each date change is subject to a £20 admin fee.

How will I be supported during my personal retreat?
Personal retreats (of one week or longer) are supported by a weekly meeting with a teacher. As soon as possible after the beginning of the retreat, an induction interview will be arranged in which the nature and outline of the retreat will be discussed. Weekly interviews are a requirement, and retreats may continue only with the agreement of one of the teachers. Personal retreatants staying for less than one week cannot be guaranteed an interview but may sign up if there is a free space.

Which teachers support personal retreatants?
Christina Feldman, Yanai Postelnik, Rob Burbea, Kirsten Kratz 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.

It may be possible to participate in group retreats during your personal retreat. A sign-up sheet will be put on the Hermitage Wing noticeboard shortly before the start of a group retreat if there is capacity for personal retreatants to participate.

What are Gaia House’s retreat guidelines?
Coming on retreat is an opportunity to explore and develop serenity, wisdom and compassion through meditation and mindfulness practice in a caring and supportive environment. To make it possible for us to offer an atmosphere and environment which is conducive to meditation, we ask all retreatants to be aware of these guidelines:

  • Please respect the silent atmosphere in the house and the grounds at all times.
  • We ask you to switch off all electronic devices (mobile phones, iPads, laptops, Kindles etc.) for the duration of your retreat.
  • We recommend that you avoid making telephone calls and sending emails/post during your stay.
  • Consumption of drugs (except prescription medications), cigarettes and alcohol is not permitted during your stay at Gaia House.
  • This includes all areas in the house as well as the garden and the grounds.
  • All retreatants are asked to abstain from sexual contact whilst on retreat.
  • Please commit yourself fully to your retreat and stay on the Gaia House premises or within the immediate vicinity, except in an emergency. If you need to leave the retreat please liaise with a coordinator to gain permission from the teacher(s).
  • All retreatants are expected to participate for the full retreat and can only shorten a retreat with the permission of a teacher.
  • Everyone is asked to contribute one hour of work to the house daily.
  • We encourage sensitivity towards all living beings and a non-harming relationship to all life.

The Five Precepts

The core ethical principles of Buddhism are known as the ‘Five Precepts’, which we ask all people who live, work and practice at Gaia House to observe whilst within the house and grounds, in order to support a retreat environment of safety, peace, sensitivity and respect. The precepts are not rules or commandments, but ‘principles of training’, which are undertaken freely.

1. Refrain from harming or taking the life of any being.
2. Refrain from taking or misusing anything that does not belong to you or has not been clearly offered.
3. Refrain from harmful expressions of sexuality.
4. Refrain from harmful expressions of speech.
5. Refrain from the use of intoxicants and substances which cloud the mind.

Thank you for your help with preserving Gaia House’s unique retreat environment for the benefit of all beings.

What do I need to bring with me on retreat?
Please read our Frequently Asked Questions which cover: travel, food and what to wear and bring.

Can I access Dharma talks during my retreat?
The Gaia House library includes an extensive collection of Dharma talks given by Gaia House teachers. These are stored on a PC laptop computer in the library and can be downloaded onto MP3 players provided by Gaia House. Please do not bring personal devices e.g. phones, laptops or iPads into the library.

Can I participate in group retreats during my stay?
It may be possible to participate in group retreats during your personal retreat. A sign-up sheet will be put on the Hermitage Wing noticeboard shortly before the start of a group retreat if there is capacity for personal retreatants to participate. This is sometimes not decided until the opening day of a group retreat, and is entirely at the discretion of the teacher leading the group retreat. Please be aware that there is no guarantee that you will be able to participate in any group retreats that are running during your stay as a personal retreatant.

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.