About Group Retreats


Gaia House offers an extensive programme of silent meditation retreats in the Buddhist tradition.

Group retreats are teacher-led and most are suitable for beginners as well as experienced meditators. This page answers questions about meditation practice, daily routine and retreat guidelines.

Click here for details of our upcoming group retreats (online and in-house): 2022 Programme

What is a group retreat?
Our group retreats are led by established and experienced teachers, and range in length from two to ten nights. We also offer a four-week group retreat during November for experienced practitioners. During a retreat the group joins together in a daily schedule of sitting and walking meditation, and a short work session to help look after the house and gardens.

There are regular talks on a theme from the teacher(s), instructions and guidance about meditation and teacher-led discussions or interviews. Apart from the teaching (Dharma) sessions, the retreats are held in silence. More about silence. This shared experience is often felt as profoundly peaceful and safe for newcomers. More about meditation.

Are group retreats suitable for beginners?
Yes – group retreats are recommended for beginners as well as for more experienced practitioners (unless stated otherwise in the retreat description). Meditation days or weekend group retreats are good introductions to meditation, and can equally be opportunities to deepen a continuing personal meditation practice. Some newcomers join a week-long silent group retreat as their first experience of meditation, and find that this longer immersion in a retreat environment is also a good way to begin.

If one is currently experiencing acute emotional distress, such as clinical depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, attending a silent retreat could be difficult. When negative thinking patterns are very intrusive or persistent, sometimes it could be easier to practice in a setting where there are more possibilities for active engagement (such as mindfulness-based stress reduction or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy programmes taught by an appropriately trained and competent instructor). Once the acute phase of emotional distress has eased, Insight Meditation retreats can then offer invaluable opportunities for developing practice further.

Gaia House personal and work retreats are suitable only for experienced meditation practitioners.
More about the various retreats that Gaia House offers.

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 is the role of the teachers on a group retreat?
The teachers provide guidance through meditation instruction, evening talks, and individual and/or group meetings. The talks aim to clarify the nature of meditation practice, to explore its application in daily life, or to explore the nature of human experience in the light of spiritual teachings. There will be opportunities to discuss your experience and meditation practice with the teacher(s), in the form of group or individual interviews and/or question and answer periods. More about Gaia House teachers.

How much time is spent in formal sitting meditation?
Meditation generally alternates between regular periods of sitting and walking. Sitting meditation is divided into manageable sessions throughout the day, so that you get plenty of time to stretch your legs and enjoy the beautiful grounds. Sitting meditation may be done on cushions or a meditation stool or bench, or you may wish to sit in a chair: you can use the posture you find most comfortable. More about meditation.

What is meant by 'silent' retreat?
While on retreat you are asked to refrain from engaging in all forms of verbal and written communication with other retreatants and the outside world. Please respect this guideline, once the retreat begins. You are still able to speak with the retreat teacher(s) when appropriate, to ask questions and discuss your meditation experience, and with our coordinator team if there are any essential practical matters you need to attend to. More about silence. 

What will I do on a typical day, while on group retreat?
Individual retreats vary, but an average day starts at 6.30am and finishes at 9.30pm. Most of this time is spent in meditation practice, either sitting in the spacious hall or walking in the peaceful grounds. Apart from personal and group meetings with teachers, retreats at Gaia House are held in complete silence.

The schedule, silence, group support and comprehensive instruction combine to create an atmosphere of exceptional sensitivity, mindfulness and stillness, which support and facilitate the deepening of meditation and the unfolding of insight. As part of this shared experience, each person is asked to contribute one hour of work per day, to help the coordinators and keep the house running smoothly. More about silence.

Do you have access for people with disabilities?
It is important to Gaia House to be accessible and inclusive and we welcome people with disabilities.

We have a rambling old house, however the ground floor is mostly accessible for people in wheelchairs and those with restricted mobility. We have an adapted bathroom and ground floor bedroom available. The main meditation hall is accessed via a gentle ramp.

We have a hearing loop facility in the meditation hall which is compatible with hearing aids and we are very happy to provide written information in large print.

In some cases a carer may stay free of charge to support a retreatant who needs personal care/support. Please contact us if you would like to discuss this.

If you have specific needs relating to a disability, long-term illness or health condition please phone our Reception team on 01626 333 613 who will be happy to provide you with more detailed information about the house and discuss your needs whilst on retreat. We are keen to ensure that the retreat environment can be accessible to all.

Read more about Inclusion and Diversity at Gaia House.

How do I find out what each retreat is about - and how do I book?
Clicking on the title of a retreat within our Group Retreat Programme will provide a description of the retreat and a brief biography of the teacher(s), along with details of dates and retreat rates. From here you can opt to book a place via our online booking system.

For more information on booking please click here 

Frequently asked questions: Useful information to help you prepare for your retreat

More about the different types of retreat that Gaia House offers

Hopefully most questions you may have are answered on this website. However, if you have any other queries, please contact us, and we will be happy to help you.