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Living with Illness and Loss

Living with Illness and Loss

Facing illness and loss in our lives can be a time to slow down and look deeply into our experience. This retreat provides an opportunity to explore being present with our experience just as it is without judgement or blame, thus opening to the possibility for transformation that this approach brings. The practice of Insight Meditation will be used as the basis for exploring our relationship to bereavement and illness.

Developing greater mindfulness in times of transition, challenge and confusion can enable us to find new ways of relating to our daily lives. The retreat includes guided meditation and reflection, reflective exercises and contemplative art/writing.

Because of practical constraints, we request that those attending be able to manage tasks of everyday living.

We will do our best to meet requests for single rooms, but there may be a need to share. We can guarantee that you will share with no more than one other person.

Please note the arrival time for registration for this retreat is from 14.00 until 16.30. 

This unique annual retreat has been running at Gaia House since 2011 and has received much positive feedback from participants.

Edward Mills, who attended the retreat in 2017, said: "I chose to come on this retreat as I had encephalitis five years ago which has left me with a brain injury, and I found the retreat very beneficial in gaining an insight and healing into this. It was the first multi-day silent meditation retreat I’ve been on and I went through so many emotions that it is difficult to sum up in a few words. But I can say that it was a good experience, and I felt that it had enormous benefits. Over the few days in silence I found that I became very finely attuned to the beautiful nature and wildlife around the retreat centre, and became intensely aware of my surroundings and the others on the retreat. We built up a surprising degree of rapport and it felt very supportive and nourishing."

Jenny Nicholson, who attended the retreat in 2016, said: “The retreat was a safe space for me to start to explore my relationship with a relatively recently diagnosed chronic illness for the first time. The silence allowed me to really be with my experience, in beautiful, therapeutic surroundings, and the daily afternoon sessions helped me to face issues and feelings in a kind and supportive environment. Going through the Brahma Viharas was perfect for me - exactly what I needed - and I have come away with a clearer feeling of wholeness and strength to help me live with the condition.”

Pau, who attended the retreat in 2016, said: "What helped me the most was to share my experience of loss with other people who were passing through a similar situation. That really changed my perspective of feeling alone in my situation and I began to realise that it is a shared experience. Seeing that made the pain of my loss become more bearable and it helped me to be more compassionate with other people and with myself. I still remember this now and I think it's something I won't forget."

Thelma, who attended the retreat in 2015, said: “The retreat changed my life. That sounds like an extreme claim, but I came away knowing what I needed to do to help me cope with issues that had overwhelmed me, and it resulted in me successfully making twice-daily meditation part of my routine. I was transformed by those few days and hope to repeat the retreat next year.”

Alison, who attended the retreat in 2015, said: “I gained a lot of benefit from attending this retreat. I came on the verge of depression with repetitive thoughts of not knowing what to do, and of despair – I left with a plan! I felt in control of my life again and was much happier. I would highly recommend the course to others who are feeling lost. The teachers were excellent and assisted the participants to feel included and accepted in the group. This broke down much of the isolation that I had been feeling”.

Click here for answers to some additional questions you may have about the retreat

How heavy is the schedule? What does a typical day entail?
The daily program is lighter than an average Gaia House retreat. A typical day will include meditation sessions, teaching, and some reflections and exercises relevant to the theme of the retreat to explore how these practices can support self-care and well-being.

What if I need to take a rest?
Rest time will be scheduled into each day and you can rest whenever you need to. Meditation practices can be done lying down if necessary.

What are the seating options in the meditation hall?
In the hall people can choose to sit on chairs, or on cushions or benches on the floor, or lie down.

What is the accommodation like?
The accommodation in the house is basic but comfortable. We will do our best to meet requests for single rooms, but there may be a need to share. We can guarantee that people will share with no more than one other person. Bathroom facilities consist of shared bathrooms with showers.

What food is available?
Nourishing vegetarian or vegan food is served three times daily. A simple diet is available for people with special dietary needs.

What access is there for people with disabilities?
There is one bedroom and bathroom available with full wheelchair access. The meditation hall and dining room are all on the ground floor and accessible. Most of the bedrooms are upstairs.

What does the daily work period entail?
The one-hour work period might include vegetable chopping, washing up, or cleaning. It will be allocated to suit any physical limitations you may have.

What support is available if I encounter any problems or need help with something?
The teachers offer both group and individual meetings to support your practice and talk about any difficulties you are having. The staff and co-ordinators are available for help with practical questions.

What if the retreat rates are too high for me?
Our Supported rate is a subsidised rate available to anyone for whom the Standard rate is too high. This rate is available via the online booking process.
If the Supported rate is too high for you, we invite you to fill in a short, confidential application form for additional help from our Financial Assistance and Bursaries Fund (FAB Fund). This offers funding of 50% towards the Standard rate for the retreat, and further discounts can be arranged depending on individual circumstances. For more information, please visit the Financial Assistance section of our website. Please phone our Reception team on 01626 333613 to request a FAB Fund form and they will be happy to send you one. We may also be able to offer flexibility around the initial deposit payment.

What if I need to cancel my booking?
Due to the nature of this retreat we understand that you may need to cancel your booking. Cancellations can be made by phone or email and we may be able to offer flexibility around our cancellation policy, taking into consideration personal circumstances.

We also recommend you visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.

If you have any further questions, please contact our Reception team on 01626 333613 or

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.

Listen to one of Zohar Lavie's Talks from the Dharmalaya Silent retreat on 29.03.2017-: Emptiness, Self and Dependent Arising (Duration 50:33)

Nathan Glyde will be an assistant teacher on this retreat.

Retreat Code = 18158

A = suitable for all

C = special criteria, please read the retreat description carefully

Thursday 23 August - Tuesday 28 August 2018 (5 nights)
Registration: 2 - 4.30pm

Standard Rate:    £250 - Please pay this rate if you can
Sponsor Rate:        £300 - A benefactor rate, which helps others to come here on the Supported Rate
Supported Rate:     £213 - Available if you cannot afford the Standard Rate
FAB Fund Rate:     £125 - For more details please see the Financial Assistance page
Young Persons Rate: £75 - For more details please see the Financial Assistance page

Extending Your Retreat = £44 per night - Conditions apply - please see box

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

Intensive silent 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 (i.e. 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 attend an intensive retreat in silence. The teachers might not be able to give you the kind of individual or psychological care you might need at this time. It could possibly be more appropriate to practise in or seek out a setting where there are more opportunities for interpersonal engagement.

  • 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 to attend an intensive silent retreat.
  • Please be prepared to offer your mental health professional's contact information to the teachers on opening day if requested.
  • If you have any questions about the above please contact:

Retreat is Expired This is an old retreat and no longer available for booking.

Please click here to see our current retreat programme.

Price: £250.00