What’s a Retreat Like?

A low shrine facing a stream.

Shrine, Total Immersion Retreat | Image © Seán Quigley 2011

The aim of a retreat is to have time away from your normal everyday life, with all its demands and distractions, to explore who you are, and how you are, or perhaps just to be with the way things are for a while. A retreat can be an opportunity for reflecting on your life, exploring the Buddha’s teaching, or deepening a connection with nature. All our retreats are camping retreats on beautiful sites in Devon.

Living simply, elegantly and close to nature go some way to providing the space for positive change to happen. We use Buddhist practices such as meditation and ritual to help us engage with different aspects of ourselves.

People come to our retreats with all different levels of experience of Buddhism. You don’t have to be a Buddhist for our ‘open’ retreats, on which introductory sessions are provided. The general approach to our retreats is that you are free to join in whatever is useful to you.

What do you do on retreat?

Manjughosha statue on a log-based, outside shrine

Image courtesy and © Padmapani

Most retreats follow a similar daily programme with meditations first thing in the morning, a work period after breakfast and then the main morning activity. Depending on the retreat, that could be a talk, workshop, discussion, practical activity or more meditation.

Although each retreat has a different theme or emphasis, you’ll generally learn two kinds of sitting meditation, the Mindfulness Of Breathing and the Metta Bhavana — loving-kindness — meditation practices. There may be periods of walking meditation too. Retreats are usually led by one or two teachers who are ordained members of the Triratna Buddhist Order.

Retreats are a truly communal experience, where everyone’s contribution to running the camp is important, whether that involves chopping wood, preparing vegetables or keeping the hot water going for tea.

Afternoons are free for walking, catching-up on sleep, chatting, reading, writing. There are often yoga or Tai Chi sessions on offer.

In the evenings, there will often be a Buddhist ritual in the richly decorated shrine tent or in a sacred place under the skies. This is an opportunity to engage the heart and imagination, with chanting, drumming, poetry and dance. Before bed, you can enjoy a hot drink by the fire or a soak in the hot tubs under the night sky.

All kinds of people come on our retreats, of all ages and from many different backgrounds. We find that the shared experience of beauty and practice supports a very warm-hearted and open environment where deep communication can arise and friendships are forged.

Our retreats are generally one or two weeks long. However, we also hold a longer intensive meditation retreat with a four-week option.