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Retreats FAQ

Practical Frequently Asked Questions about Retreats:

All about the practicalities of staying on a Gaia House retreat.

How do I get to Gaia House?

Gaia House is about 4 miles from Newton Abbot, located between Exeter and Plymouth in Devon, UK. We are easily accessible by train or coach from Exeter to Newton Abbot. We organise a Lift Share and Local Taxi Share scheme. See Getting to Gaia House.  

What time do retreats start and finish?

Group Retreats: Registration takes place between 2pm and 5pm on the first day. A light evening meal is served at 6pm. The retreat begins at 7.30pm with an opening talk. Please arrive on the first day and stay for the entire length of the retreat.

First Time Retreatants: Please note that it is essential for first time visitors to arrive during registration and attend the introductory talks before beginning the retreat. We regret it is not possible for first time retreatants to arrive early or late.

Experienced Retreatants: If you have attended a silent retreat at Gaia House before, but are unable to arrive during registration time, please arrange late or early arrival with Reception on +44 (0)1626 333613.

Finishing Times: Retreats of 2 -3 nights will end about 4pm and longer retreats finish at lunchtime on the last day. You are welcome to stay for lunch on the last day of longer retreats.

Personal & Work Retreatants: Please inform us in advance of your time of arrival and whether you are coming here for the first time.

What does the price of the retreat cover?

Delicious vegetarian meals, refreshments and simple, shared accommodation are included.
Gaia House is a non-profit organisation and the Standard Retreat Rate reflects just the basic costs of providing the facilities, managing and maintaining the centre. About Retreat Rates

In the Buddhist tradition of Dana or generosity, all teachings at Gaia House are offered freely. Teachers are not paid for their time and energy, so at the end of your retreat 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 please read About Dana.

Can I come for just part of a retreat?

For the benefit of everyone, we ask that all participants commit to attending the entire retreat, arriving for the beginning of the retreat and staying until the end. Your wholehearted commitment supports your fellow retreatants and expresses respect for the retreat teachers and staff who are committed to being here and freely give their time and energy to serve the welfare of all.

Can I stay extra days, before or after my Group Retreat?

First Time Retreatants:

  • If you are new to silent meditation retreats it is essential to attend the introductory talks before beginning the retreat.
  • Please arrive in time for registration on the first day of your Group Retreat.
  • We regret it is not possible for first time visitors to book extra days before a retreat.
  • It is possible to book an extra day of silent retreat after your Group Retreat has ended.

Experienced Retreatants:

  • If you have stayed at least 5 nights on silent meditation retreat before, (at Gaia House or similar retreat elsewhere), it is possible for you to arrive a day early for your Group Retreat, as well as stay an extra night afterwards.
  • If you would like to arrive more than a day in advance, or leave later than one day after the Group Retreat has ended, please check in advance with Reception whether room is available.
  • Please apply for more than two extra retreat days in the same way as a Personal Retreat, by submitting a Personal Retreat Application Form.

Select extra retreat days as options in the drop down menu when booking on-line – or book by phone.

If arriving early or leaving late, please respect the routine of the House and those engaged in long-term silent retreats, by treating the opportunity as additional silent retreat time, and observing the House Guidelines.

Please pay the Personal Retreat daily rate for any additional time you spend here.

What is the accommodation like?

Bedroom at Gaia House

We offer very simple but comfortable, shared accommodation. Rooms are for two or three, single-sex, usually with people of similar age. Younger retreatants may be in a dormitory of up to six people.

Single Rooms: We have a very limited number of single rooms and these are allocated depending on the needs of the individuals on each retreat. Medical needs are given priority, followed by consideration of age. If you feel that you need a single room, please request this when booking.

We are unable to meet requests for single rooms made on the opening day of retreats.
We regret we are unable to guarantee single rooms.

Do you have access for people with disabilities?

We welcome people with disabilities. We have a rambling old house, however the ground floor is accessible for people in wheelchairs and those with restricted mobility. If you have any mobility or other special needs please phone Reception who will be happy to provide you with information about the house and discuss your needs whilst on retreat. In some cases a carer may stay free of charge to support a retreatant who needs personal care. Please contact us.

We have a hearing loop facility in the Meditation Hall which is compatible with hearing aids.

Can I camp at Gaia House while on retreat?

We have a limited number of camping places for Group Retreats during the summer months. You need to bring all your own camping equipment. These places are offered at a reduced rate (lower than the Supported Rate). Camping is at your own risk and if it rains (as it does at lot in Devon!), sorry, but we cannot accommodate you in the house. For information on rates and availability please contact us.

What food is provided?

We offer delicious, healthy and nutritionally balanced vegetarian meals that may include eggs and dairy produce. Breakfast and lunch are substantial meals, with a lighter supper of soup, bread and spreads.

Vegan, non-dairy and wheat-free/gluten-free options are available on request.

A simple diet of a grain, steamed vegetables and plain pulses or tofu can be provided at lunch time, if requested. The ‘simple diet’ is intended to meet the nutritional needs of retreatants whilst being as plain as possible. More about specialised diets.

teas-dining-room

 

What I should wear and what should I bring with me?

What I should wear? Please dress modestly, as an expression of respect for this place of spiritual practice – as you would in a church, temple, synagogue or mosque. Comfortable, loose clothes are best for sitting meditation. Indoor shoes, or slippers and good outdoor shoes, boots or wellingtons for walking. Warm clothes are advisable throughout the year: Devon weather can be changeable in any season. A raincoat is essential!

If you do forget any outdoor clothing, we have a range of old, communal boots, coats and umbrellas available.

What should I bring with me? Please bring your own towel – we do not have a large supply here. Toiletries: unscented, please. Remember to bring any food supplements or medication you regularly take – enough for the length of your stay. 

Please bring a watch or clock (which is not your mobile phone). Although there are bells to wake you up and mark activities during the day, having your own watch or clock supports you in turning your mobile phone off.

We have a very small shop containing a small selection of toiletries and first aid supplies, should you run out of these.

All bed linen is provided. Meditation mats, blankets, cushions and benches are also provided, but you are welcome to bring your own if you prefer.

cushions-blankets

What work will I be asked to contribute?

We request that everyone offers one hour per day, to support our coordinators and help with the running of the house. The work may be washing-up, house cleaning, maintenance, gardening or whatever the house needs at the time.

Please wash up and put away your own mug between meal times – Thank you!

You are also asked to clean your own room on the day of departure. Gaia House relies on this offering of service to help keep costs down. We are very grateful for your co-operation in this!

If you are unable to do a work session, or can offer only light work, it is important that you let Reception know of your situation when booking.

wellington-boots

Are there opportunities or space for other activities?

Mindful movement, such as yoga, tai chi or qi gong, may be practised outdoors at any time, so long as the space of other retreatants is respected. Indoors: please practice only at the designated times and in the designated places – these will be explained on each retreat.

Please refrain from other activities such as playing musical instruments, art and craft work, juggling, acrobatics etc. anywhere on the premises or grounds of Gaia House.

In the spirit of simplicity and silence, Group Retreatants are asked to refrain from reading and writing during your stay here.

Personal Retreatants may read to support your retreat, however you are encouraged to do so with moderation, and only in the library or your bedroom.

Can I go out while I am on retreat?

All retreatants are asked to remain within the tranquil atmosphere found within the vicinity of Gaia House for the duration of the retreat. Walking in the peace of the local countryside is fine. Experience has shown that it can be very disruptive to the intensive practice of meditation – for oneself and for others – to leave the sensitive retreat environment. If you need to make an unavoidable  trip away from the house please discuss this with your teacher and inform a coordinator.

Are there any meditation groups near where I live?

See our list of Meditation Groups (sitting groups).

If you run a meditation group and your details are not featured, please let us know so we can add you to this list. Please keep us informed of any changes, so that we can keep this list up to date.

Meditation Courses and other Sangha Events:

Sharpham Trust, near Totnes in Devon, also run a regular programme of meditation and mindfulness evenings, weekend mornings and courses.

London Insight Meditation and Oxford Gaia House are associated organisations, offering a programme of retreats and meditation groups, based in the Insight (Vipassana) Meditation tradition.

Are recordings of Gaia House talks available?

You can listen to a selection of Dharma talks from Gaia House teachers from our library of over 2,000 – available on-line or on CD. Please make a small donation to cover the basic costs of production and administration.

How do I opt in or out of your mailing list?

Gaia House NewsletterGaia House Newsletters are available to read on-line, with regular features and articles of interest. To subscribe for paper copies, please either email ku.oc.esuohaiagnull@ofni, tick the box on the registration form when you book a retreat, or send us your name and address, enclosing a stamped addressed envelope. To unsubscribe, please email or write.

Please tell us if you change your contact details, so we can keep the mailing list updated.

We protect your privacy – your details are kept on a secure database. Gaia Hose complies with the Data Protection Act and does not supply any information to third parties without your prior consent.

What rates do you charge?

Rates for each Group Retreat can be found on the individual description page.

  • Standard Rate: Please pay this rate if you can – this reflects the basic costs of providing the facilities, managing and maintaining the centre.
  • Supported Rate: Available if you cannot afford the Standard Rate – just choose the ‘Supported Rate’ option when booking on-line, or by phone. (No financial information required.)
  • Sponsor Rate: – A benefactor rate, which helps others to come here on the Supported Rate.

Teachings are offered freely by the teachers, many of whom rely on your generosity (Dana) for their livelihood.

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

Extra Financial Help from the Retreatant Support Fund is also available where necessary, while other options such as the Young People’s Rate, Summer Camping, Work Retreats or Personal 90 Day Retreat Bursaries may be suitable – please click the links for details.

How do I book a place and what happens if I have to cancel?

You can Book On-line, by Phone or by Post: See Ways to Book a Retreat.

Please read the Gaia House Booking Conditions before booking.

For details of Cancellation Fees and Refunds, please refer to the Gaia House Cancellation Policy.

Who do I contact if I have more questions?

Any member of our reception team will be pleased to answer your questions and help in any way we can. Contact us on +44 (0)1626 333613 or email ku.oc.esuohaiagnull@ofni. Reception is open Mon – Sat 9.30am until 4.30pm, with telephones given priority 9.30am – 11.30am. At other times, messages can be left and we will get back to you as soon as possible.