Meditation Retreats at Gaia House are held in silence.
Gaia House is a dedicated retreat centre for sustained meditation practice and Dharma teachings. Maintaining silence and reducing activity to a minimum is the best way to support retreats, by creating a calm, quiet and simplified environment with minimal distractions.
Spending time in silence is a very powerful way to support the deepening of meditative calm and insight (Vipassana). Being together in this way allows us to explore a degree of solitude, while having the support of the group.
Silence fosters a sense of safety and refuge, even among people we do not yet know. 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. This includes participating in work periods in silence.
The house and grounds are in silence at all times apart from the beginning and end of group retreats. At these times silence is maintained throughout the house except for the Dining Room, Library and the Grounds in front of the house. After silence is lifted, you will have the opportunity to talk and share your experiences with other retreatants – please endeavour to maintain an atmosphere of awareness and sensitivity. People extending their Group Retreat are asked to attend a brief ‘Resume Silence’ talk which outlines Personal Retreat guidelines.
Within the silent practice environment all retreatants are expected to refrain from engaging in conversation with others, including writing notes or non-verbal interaction. Please do not practise massage, bodywork or other therapy.
In the spirit of silence, you are asked to refrain from all forms of verbal and written communication with others and the outside world, including reading, writing, engaging in correspondence or telephone calls, SMS text messaging and checking emails. We are not able to provide Internet access to Group Retreatants.
Many activities may be appropriate in our daily life, but are not supportive in the context of sustained meditation practice. Please follow the guidelines, to support both the deepening of your own practice and the creation of an environment that is most conducive for meditation, for the welfare of all.
Sustained Practice – Personal or Work Retreats
Personal and Work Retreatants are encouraged to engage in a schedule of 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.
- The maintenance of a silent retreat environment is a shared responsibility for all those within the House.
- If you have any concerns about your own or another retreatant’s well-being or behaviour, please contact a teacher or Coordinator, (not the retreatant concerned).
- At times Coordinators may need to remind retreatants of the need to follow the guidelines. Thank you for your co-operation.
If the idea of spending your entire retreat in complete silence is difficult for you, an alternative is a retreat at The Barn, part of the nearby Sharpham Trust. The Barn has been a friendly meditation retreat centre for over twenty years. It is a place where people re-connect with themselves and nature in a tranquil, supportive environment. Within a structured framework of shorter periods of silence, small groups of retreatants enjoy a mixture of meditation and mindfulness practice, teacher-led Buddhist inquiry and working meditation in the organic garden.
Other retreats with a rather different atmosphere are now offered @Seale-Hayne. These retreats differ in that ours will not be the only activity on the site and the other people there will not be on retreat. This is an opportunity for learning and insight into Buddhist teachings to be gained in a different way, other than intense meditative practice and pure silence. We hope that this may reach a wider audience, including those put off by the idea of silent retreats, and that it may broaden our offering to those who already thrive on such practice.