Useful information to help you prepare for your retreat
Planning your retreatWho are Insight Meditation retreats suitable for?
Mental well-being and silent retreats
While intensive silent meditation retreats can be very nourishing, 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 may be more appropriate to practice in 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
- If upon reflection of the points above you would like to cancel your retreat, please contact us as soon as possible via the email address above.
To book a personal retreat or work retreat, you first need to complete a Retreat Application Form. Once you have received confirmation of your place and dates, you will be asked to pay for your retreat.
PracticalitiesDo you have access for 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.
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.
If you experience difficulties with hearing, we encourage you to contact our Retreat Manager on 01626 323884 to discuss how we can support you to get the most from your retreat at Gaia House. Our retreats are mostly in silence, but you will also be listening to talks and instructions offered by the teachers on a daily basis.
We do have a Hearing (Induction) Loop facility in the meditation hall, where you will be listening to the teacher talks and instructions. To benefit from the Hearing Loop, your hearing aid must be fitted with a Telecoil, with the necessary settings enabled. If you are in doubt about whether your hearing aid is set up to receive the Hearing Loop, we recommend you speak with your audiologist to check that your hearing aid is compatible, and also to familiarise yourself with how to switch into (and out of) the T / Loop mode.
There are also some other ways in which we can support you to hear the teachings whilst on retreat if you have hearing loss and do not wear a hearing aid. If you contact us in advance we can arrange to meet you on arrival and offer all the support you may need.
We encourage all our retreatants to make use of our lift share message board. By sharing a lift or a taxi from Newton Abbot train station you can help reduce the carbon footprint of your journey to Gaia House.
First-time retreatants: Please note that it is essential for first-time visitors to arrive during registration and attend the introductory talks before beginning the retreat. We regret that it is not possible for first time retreatants to arrive early or late.
Experienced retreatants: If you have attended a silent retreat at Gaia House before, but are unable to arrive during registration time, please arrange late or early arrival with our Reception team on +44 (0)1626 333613.
Finishing times: Retreats of 2 -3 nights usually end at about 4pm, while longer retreats finish at lunchtime on the last day. You are welcome to stay for lunch on the last day, after the retreat ends. We will inform you by email of any exceptions to our normal times.
Personal & work retreatants: We ask that you arrive in the afternoon if possible. Your room will be available after 2pm. If you are arriving early in the morning or late at night, please let us know. If you have not been to Gaia House before, please aim to arrive before 5pm, when a coordinator will meet you to show you around.
On departure, we request that you vacate your room by 9.30am, leaving it clean so that it is ready for the next arrival.
- If you have not been on a silent retreat before, it is not possible to book extra days before a retreat.
- Please arrive in time for registration on the first day of your group retreat.
- If you are new to silent meditation retreats it is essential to attend the Coordinator and Teacher opening talks at the beginning of the retreat.
- It is possible to book an extra day of silent retreat after your group retreat has ended.
- If you have previously been on a retreat of five nights or more at Gaia House, or a similar silent retreat centre, you can opt to arrive one day early for your group retreat and/or stay on for an extra day, depending on capacity within the house. Please contact our Reception team to check if this will be possible and book your dates in advance. Our standard daily rate applies.
- To stay for more than two extra retreat days, you will need to fill in a Personal Retreat Application Form.
You can book extra days by selecting this as an option from the drop down menu when making your online booking – or if you are booking by phone, just let our Reception team know.
If you choose to extend your retreat, you will be asked to attend a brief ‘Resume Silence’ talk, which outlines personal retreat guidelines. We request that you commit to observing silence, following the daily schedule and practising meditation during your extra retreat days.
Being on retreatWhat are Gaia House’s retreat 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 phone 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 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 using 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.
If you forget any outdoor clothing, we have a range of old, communal boots, coats and umbrellas available.
What should I bring with me? Please bring your own towel – we do not have a large supply here. Toiletries: unscented, please. Remember to bring any food supplements or medication you regularly take – enough for the length of your stay.
Please bring a watch or clock (which is not your mobile phone). Although there are bells to wake you up and mark activities during the day, having your own watch or clock supports you in turning your mobile phone off.
We have a very small shop containing a small selection of toiletries and first aid supplies, should you run out of these.
All bed linen is provided. Meditation mats, blankets, cushions and benches are also provided, but you are welcome to bring your own if you prefer.
We offer very simple but comfortable same-sex accommodation. On group retreats rooms are shared between two or three people, usually of a similar age. Younger retreatants may be in a dormitory of up to six people.
We only have eight single rooms available for group retreats, which are allocated according to medical needs, followed by considerations of age. If you feel that you need a single room, please request this when booking. However, we regret that we are unable to guarantee single rooms. Please also be aware that we are unable to meet requests for single rooms made on the opening day of retreats.
Please be aware that if there is poor weather, we may be unable to accommodate campers in the house.
For information on rates and availability please contact our Reception team.
There is an alternative ‘simple diet’ (consisting of a gluten-free wholegrain, steamed vegetables and plain pulses, egg or tofu) at lunch for those who need to eat simply.
Vegan, dairy-free and wheat/gluten-free options can be requested when you register on arrival.
Breakfast and lunch are substantial meals, with a lighter supper of soup and bread.
For more information please see our food policy.
You are also asked to clean your own room on the day of departure. Gaia House relies on this offering of service to help keep costs down. We are very grateful for your cooperation in this.
If you are unable to do a work session, or can offer only light work, it is important that you let Reception know of your situation when booking.
Please refrain from other activities such as playing musical instruments, art and craft work, juggling, acrobatics etc. anywhere on the premises or grounds of Gaia House.
In the spirit of simplicity and silence, group retreatants are asked to refrain from reading and writing during your stay here.
Personal retreatants may read to support your retreat, however you are encouraged to do so with moderation, and only in the library or your bedroom.
If you need to make an unavoidable trip away from the house, please liaise with the coordinators to gain permission from the teacher(s).
In the case of an emergency, a message can be conveyed to you whatever time of day or night. We hope that this will support you in switching off your mobile phone whilst on retreat.
Instructions for contacting a retreatant in case of an emergency can be found on our Contact Us page.
RatesWhat rates do you offer?
- For group retreat rates, please check the individual description page for the retreat you are interested in.
- For comprehensive information about our rates, please visit our retreat rates page.
- If you cannot afford our rates we invite you to apply for support from our Financial Assistance and Bursaries Fund (FAB Fund)
In the Buddhist tradition of ‘Dana’ or generosity, all teachings at Gaia House are offered freely. Teachers are not paid for their time and energy, so at the end of your retreat you will be given the opportunity to offer Dana for the teachers who have guided your retreat or practice, for the coordinators who care for our retreatants and retreat space, and for the support of Gaia House. Before you come on retreat please read About Dana.
During your retreat you will be invited to offer Dana for the teachers who have guided your retreat or practice, for the coordinators who care for our retreatants and retreat space, and for the support of Gaia House. This is an invitation to participate in the spirit of generosity that has sustained the tradition and teachings for around 2,500 years. Find out more.
After your retreatAre there any meditation groups near where I live?
If you run a meditation group and your details are not featured, please let us know so we can add you to this list. Please keep us informed of any changes to contact details so that we can keep the list up to date.
Meditation courses and other sangha events:
Sharpham Trust, near Totnes in Devon, also runs a regular programme of meditation and mindfulness evenings, weekend mornings and courses.
London Insight Meditation and Oxford Insight Meditation (formerly Oxford Gaia House) are associated organisations, offering a programme of retreats and meditation groups, based in the Insight (Vipassana) Meditation tradition.
Contact usWho do I contact if I have more questions?
We also offer news, articles and opportunities to get involved with Gaia House fundraising and activities via email, post and phone.
If you no longer wish to be on our mailing list, every e-news we send includes an unsubscribe button, or you can email or write to us.
Please tell us if your contact details change, so that we can keep our mailing list up-to-date.
We protect your privacy – your details are kept on a secure database. Gaia House complies with the General Data Protection Regulation and does not supply any information to third parties without your prior consent.