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Retreats FAQ

Useful information to help you prepare for your retreat


Booking & cancellation

How do I book a retreat?
Group retreat places can be booked online, by phone or by post. For further information please see Making a booking.

To book a personal retreat or work retreat, you first need to complete a Retreat Application Form. Once you have received confirmation of your place and dates, you will be asked to pay for your retreat.

What happens if I have to cancel?
Cancelling your retreat will incur a charge. Before booking your retreat, please ensure you have read the information on our Booking & Cancellations page, which provides details of our cancellations fees. You may also like to read a piece from Gaia House trustee and teacher, Stephen Batchelor, on the background to our cancellation policy.



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 specific needs relating to a disability, long-term illness or health condition please phone our Reception team 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 if you would like to discuss this.

We have a hearing loop facility in the meditation hall which is compatible with hearing aids.

How do I get to Gaia House?
Gaia House is approximately four miles from Newton Abbot, located between Exeter and Plymouth in Devon, UK. Newton Abbot is easily accessible by train or coach from Exeter. Please see Getting to Gaia House.

We encourage all our retreatants to make use of our lift share message board. By sharing a lift or a taxi from Newton Abbot train station you can help reduce the carbon footprint of your journey 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. All retreatants are expected to 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 that 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 our Reception team on +44 (0)1626 333613.

Finishing times: Retreats of 2 -3 nights will end at 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. We will inform you via email of any exceptions to our normal times.

Personal & work retreatants: We ask that you arrive in the afternoon if possible. Your room will be available after 2pm. If you are arriving early in the morning or late at night, please let us know. If you have not been to Gaia House before, please aim to arrive before 5pm. At 5pm a coordinator will meet you to show you around.

On departure, we request that you vacate your room by 9.30am, leaving it clean so that it is ready for the next arrival.

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 that 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 previously been on a retreat of five nights or more at Gaia House, or a similar silent retreat centre, you can opt to arrive one day early for your group retreat and/or stay on for an extra day, depending on capacity within the house. Please contact our Reception team to check if this will be possible and book your dates in advance. Our standard daily rate applies.
  • To stay for more  apply for more than two extra retreat days, you will need to fill in a Personal Retreat Application Form.

You can book extra days by selecting this as an option from the drop down menu when making your online booking – or let our Reception team know if you are booking by phone.

If you choose to extend your retreat, you will be asked to attend a brief ‘Resume Silence’ talk, which outlines personal retreat guidelines. We request that you commit to observing silence, following the daily schedule and practising meditation during your extra retreat days.


Being on retreat

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 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. You’ll need 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 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.


What is the accommodation like?
Bedroom at Gaia House

We offer very simple but comfortable same-sex accommodation. On group retreats rooms are shared between two or three people, usually of a similar age. Younger retreatants may be in a dormitory of up to six people.

Can I be guaranteed a single room for my group retreat?

We only have eight single rooms available for group retreats, which are allocated according to medical needs, followed by considerations of age. If you feel that you need a single room, please request this when booking. However, we regret that we are unable to guarantee single rooms. Please also be aware that we are unable to meet requests for single rooms made on the opening day of retreats.

Can I camp at Gaia House while on retreat?
During the summer months we offer a few camping places at a reduced rate for those attending group retreats only. We can only accommodate small one/two-person tents, and each retreatant must have their own tent.

Please be aware that if there is poor weather, we may be unable to accommodate campers in the house.

For information on rates and availability please contact our Reception team.

What food is provided?
We offer a healthy, balanced vegetarian diet that may include eggs and dairy produce.

There is an alternative ‘simple diet’ (consisting of a gluten-free wholegrain, steamed vegetables and plain pulses, egg or tofu) at lunch for those who need to eat simply.

Vegan, dairy-free and wheat/gluten-free options can be requested when you register on arrival.

Breakfast and lunch are substantial meals, with a lighter supper of soup and bread.

For more information please see our food policy.


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.

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 cooperation 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.


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 practise 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 liaise with the coordinators to gain permission from the teacher(s).



What rates do you offer?

What does the price of the retreat cover?
Our retreat rates cover the cost of food, accommodation and teachers’ travel expenses. They also contribute to our management and support costs, including administration and maintenance of our building and grounds.

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 Dana for the teachers who have guided your retreat or practice, for the coordinators who care for our retreatants and retreat space, and for the support of Gaia House. Before you come on retreat please read About Dana.

What is Dana?
In the Buddhist tradition, the teachings are offered freely because they are considered priceless. ‘Dana’ is a Sanskrit/Pali word that connotes the virtue of generosity, and the practice of Dana means offering a donation given from the heart.

During your retreat you will be invited to offer Dana for the teachers who have guided your retreat or practice, for the coordinators who care for our retreatants and retreat space, and for the support of Gaia House. This is an invitation to participate in the spirit of generosity that has sustained the tradition and teachings for around 2,500 years. Find out more.


After your retreat

Are there any meditation groups near where I live?
Please 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 to contact details so that we can keep the list up to date.

Meditation courses and other sangha events:

Sharpham Trust, near Totnes in Devon, also runs 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.


Contact us

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 Monday – Saturday 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.

How do I opt in or out of your mailing list?
Gaia House NewsletterGaia House Newsletters are available to read online, 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 to us.

Please tell us if your contact details change, so that we can keep our mailing list up-to-date.

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