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Coming to Life – Waking Up and Getting Intimate with Existence

A Gaia House online retreat with Zohar Lavie and Gavin Milne,
assisted by Tony O’Connor

Monday 17 August – Friday 21 August


For anybody who feels a connection to Gaia House and/or the Insight Meditation tradition. All levels of experience welcome.

The teachers:

Photo of Teacher.ZOHAR LAVIE has been practising meditation in different traditions since 1995. This journey has taken her from the meditation cushion into exploring further ways of expressing truth and love and in 2004 she co-founded SanghaSeva. She now spends most of her time facilitating retreats that offer service as a spiritual path around the world. Since 2006 she has been teaching on silent retreats and Dharma gatherings in India, Europe and Israel.

GAVIN MILNE has been practising Insight Meditation since 2004, and was invited to teach in 2015, training under the guidance of Yanai Postelnik. Inspired and influenced by other paths, he is particularly interested in exploring practice wherever we find ourselves – everything from family life to responding to the wider issues of our era.

Assisted by:

TONY O'CONNOR is a teacher-in-training with Martine Batchelor and is also a participant on the Bodhi College Teacher Training Programme. He has practised meditation since 1993 in both the Insight Meditation and Korean Sŏn traditions and lives in Cornwall.


Well-being guidelines - please click here to read before booking

Before you book, please read these guidelines about mental well-being and silent retreats:

Meditation retreats can be very nourishing; however, as they require sustained meditation practice, they also need some stability of psychological health. If you have recently (within the past year or so) experienced significant trauma or psychiatric illness, or if you are currently experiencing acute emotional distress such as serious depression or anxiety, it may not be the best time for you to participate in a retreat. The teachers might not be able to give you the kind of individual psychological care you need at this time. A setting with more opportunities for interpersonal engagement may be more appropriate.

  • If you are currently under the care of a mental health professional, please discuss your attendance with them. You should be in a relatively stable period of mental well-being and have adequate psychological resilience.
  • If you have any questions about this, please contact Susanne using the email address, retreatmanager@gaiahouse.co.uk

Retreat description

In this home retreat, we will harness a particular intention for relaxed but continuous practice both on and off the cushion, inviting an attitude of kindness and equanimity that can nurture these qualities in our lived experience. In formal meditation, we can connect with our deeper aspirations, establish balance and calm, and strengthen our hearts. Off the cushion, we can explore meeting circumstances with curiosity, kindness and equanimity whatever the situation. Through both forms of practice, we can illuminate our habits and learned tendencies, enabling us to creatively engage with life; bringing insights alive; releasing tension; calming; and opening to freedom.

An open heart is liberating and ocean-like, and can change the world. Yet many elements in today’s global situation – including climate chaos and now the coronavirus – can feel very challenging and disempowering. How can we orientate ourselves to meet life as it unfolds in ways that are transformative and freeing, rather than leading to more struggle?


We will offer a daily structure of teachings, meditations and opportunities to connect with the teachers as a support for your practice.

We are aware that the conditions vary between us in terms of how much available time we have and whether we can immerse in silence or have responsibilities towards those around us. We would like this retreat to support the whole range of conditions that participants find themselves in, as part of their own path of practice. So this retreat can begin from the moment you decide to attend, and in the spirit of the Buddha’s middle way, you are invited to reflect on what you might be able to usefully let go of or simplify in your life for this time, as a support for becoming more intimate and awake to it.

We will offer a full schedule, to try to support the diversity of our situations; both those who choose to immerse more fully in a silent retreat form, and those who can do less of the formal sessions. There are however three periods in the day which we ask that you attend, as minimum supports for the practice orientation we will be exploring. They are at:

  • 10:00-10:45 am
  • 15:30-16:30 pm
  • 19:45-20:15 pm

These are the times when we will offer meditation instructions, guided meditations and Dharma talks.

Please see the schedule below:

This schedule is offered as a support to your practice. There is no pressure to attend more than the ‘essential’ components in bold.


All times are British Summer Time (GMT +1)

Monday 17th August      

15:30-18:00       Opening Session

Each Day (Tuesday – Thursday)

06:30                          Personal Mindful Movement or Exercise
07:15                          Sitting Meditation
08:00                          Breakfast
10:00                          Meditation with Instructions
10:45                          Walking Meditation/Optional time for Questions
11:30                          Sitting Meditation
12:15                          Walking Meditation/Small Group Interviews
13:00                          Lunch
15:30                          Meditation and Dharma Talk
16:30                          Walking Meditation/Small Group Interviews
17:15                          Sitting Meditation
17:45                          Supper
19:45                          Guided Meditation
20:15                          Walking Practice
20:45                          Sitting Meditation
21:15                          Rest or Further Practice

Friday 21st August

09:30 – 12:30       Closing Session

Using Zoom

This online retreat will use the Zoom platform. For support with learning how to use Zoom, please click here to read the guidance we’ve put together on our website. Please read the first section, ‘Using Zoom’, before registering.


If you have any questions regarding the retreat, you can send an email to info@gaiahouse.co.uk We will respond as quickly as possible, but we have a reduced team during this time so we apologise if you have to wait longer than usual:

Dana (the practice of generosity)

At the end of your retreat you will be invited to make a voluntary offering of dana / financial support, to support the livelihoods of the teachers who have guided your retreat and help sustain Gaia House into the future. Your registration fee contributes towards Gaia House’s management and support costs and maintenance of our building and grounds. The Dharma teachings of wisdom and compassion are considered priceless, thus the retreat teachers offer their understanding freely. Both Gaia House and the retreat teachers rely on your kindness and generosity, and are deeply grateful for your support.

You can find out more about the practice of dana by clicking here.

Dana can be offered to the Zohar and Gavin collectively by clicking here –  referencing your dana “Coming to Life

Dana can also be offered to Gaia House or the teachers through the Gaia House website:  If you are offering dana to the teachers please choose Teachers and then specify that your donation is for ‘Zohar and Gavin- Coming to Life’, in the notes section on the checkout page: this will be shared between the teachers.

With deep appreciation for your generosity and support.


Registration for the retreat is closed. For future online retreats please see our Online Dharma menu.