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Work Retreats

What is a work retreat?

Work retreats offer the opportunity to integrate your meditation practice with daily life. The work directly contributes to the well-being of the Gaia House community and is one way you can help to keep rates as low as possible.

Work retreats are suitable for robust and healthy individuals who have previous silent retreat experience and an established meditation practice.

A work retreat consists of five hours of physical work and at least four sessions of meditation a day. One day a week is set aside as a retreat day. From the second month, as a work retreatant you will be entitled to two additional retreat days per month for each month completed.

Work retreatants are supported by a facilitated weekly group meeting with the resident teacher when scheduled, as well as meeting individually with teachers. Work retreats are undertaken and continued with the agreement of the teacher.

During group retreats, you are welcome to participate in the group retreat schedule as your work allows.

You commit to staying with us for a minimum of two weeks, up to a maximum of three months. Work retreats start and finish on a Sunday.

Who can apply for a work retreat?
Work retreats often involve work that is strenuous and demanding, so prospective work retreatants need to be fit and in robust good health. Work retreatants are allocated to a department according to the needs of the house and have to be able to work in any department.

You also need to have the capacity to live and work in silence and to work independently (with instruction from the residential staff).

Work retreats are available only to those with previous retreat experience (at least two weeks on a silent group meditation retreat) and an established meditation practice. As with a personal retreat, a Retreat Application Form (RAF) has to be completed and submitted for approval by a Gaia House teacher. The independence of a work retreat can be very challenging if you are not ready for it – you may be asked to undergo further group retreats before embarking on a work retreat.

What is the minimum/maximum length of stay?
The minimum stay for a work retreat is two weeks, the maximum is three months.

Which department will I be working in?
Gaia House has five work retreatant places, which are assigned to the departments of Maintenance, Household, Kitchen and Garden. Please let us know if you have any specialist skills in any of the above areas. Work retreatants are assigned to individual departments according to the needs of the House. Work retreatants need to be flexible and prepared to work within any department, which requires support. We cannot therefore meet individual needs regarding choice of department.

What accommodation do you provide for work retreatants?
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.

Will I have to pay for a work retreat placement?
Whatever the length of your work retreat it will cost you an initial booking fee and deposit of £50. £10 of this is a non-refundable booking administration fee and £40 is a refundable deposit.

On satisfactory completion of your work retreat, you will receive a refund of the £40 deposit. However, your deposit will not be refunded if you cancel your booking or do not complete your work retreat for the dates agreed with your application. More about Booking Conditions.

How do I apply?
Gaia House has five work retreat places available at any time. To apply for a work retreat, please complete and submit a Work Retreat Application Form.

The Retreat Application Form contains important questions about your personal and medical history. This confidential information is necessary so that our teachers can assess your preparedness for what will be a unique and profound experience.

You can apply on-line; by phone or by post. If your application is accepted, Gaia House will be in touch to discuss available dates. Please do not pay your deposit or make travel arrangements until your place has been confirmed.

Can I change my retreat dates?
As work retreat placements provide a vital service of support to the running of Gaia House, late cancellations can have a major impact on the running of the house, leading to gaps in cover which are impossible to fill at short notice. In order for us to plan the work schedule effectively, we request that you commit to the dates you have booked.

How will I be supported during my work retreat?
At the beginning of a work retreat you will be inducted by one of the coordinators who will be your contact person during your work retreat, and responsible for managing the workload of your retreat. If any difficulties arise during a work retreat work retreatants will be referred to a teacher for support. For retreats longer than a month a review will be carried out after two weeks.

All work retreatants participate in a weekly teacher-led work retreatant meeting. In addition, we ask you to sign up for a weekly one-to-one interview with the Gaia House teachers.

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. A laundry service is provided once a week for work retreatants.

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 work retreat, but this would need to be discussed with your contact coordinator first. 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 and work retreatants to participate. This is often 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 work 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 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.


Different types of Gaia House Meditation Retreats

Booking and Cancellation Policy