Best Zen Retreats

Daniel Brown
• Sunday, 08 November, 2020
• 7 min read

They are ALL so valuable, but it seems that more and more people are turning to spiritual retreats to provide a bit of an escape from daily life. It's one thing to have a really strong practice, it's another to be able to step out of the daily stresses and mundane routines and open your heart to new teachings.

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Zen's meditation is the practice of regulating attention and focusing your mind. On a retreat, you will be guided through Buddhist teachings with yoga, meditation classes, chanting and workshops on dharma.

Think to the likes of adopting a mindful approach and finding peace within each situation (no matter how stressful!) Generally, the daily schedule for each place will be similar, so do some research and start to tune in to what feels right.

This is a great place to start and get a taste of authentic zen practice. Soak up Japanese culture, practice with Zen monks, learn how to make delicious meals and immerse yourself in the daily schedule of a real Zen way of life.

Offering weekend retreats all throughout the year for Zen meditation, this center provides a few days of meditation sessions, yoga and delicious vegetarian meals. Longer retreats, lasting five to seven days, take on a more focused approach at helping participants integrate meditation into their daily lives.

In addition to guided meditations and silent practices, you can spend hours of the day exploring the 27 acres surrounded by the Big Sur coastline. Sale is also home to a community farm and garden, cliff side bathhouse, and natural hot springs.

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(Source: www.psychologies.co.uk)

Located in the Catskill Mountains in New York, the Adam Meditation Center and Tibetan Buddhist temple offer both personal and group retreats. Individuals looking to gain a fresh perspective through quiet relaxation will find peace and calm with one of their personal Rest & Reflect retreats.

A quick, weekend away includes guided activities and individual time, Friday through Sunday, with meditation workshops, hikes in the 82 acres of natural woodlands, delicious food, and more. Workshop topics include developing confidence, letting go of stress, a day of silence, power to be happy, anger detox, and many more.

But, if you live close by or want to stay off-site, Spirit Rock offers multi-day non-residential retreats that allow participants to spend the day learning and practicing meditation, and your nights, away from the center. Participants can choose from guided meditations, hiking, yoga, and kayaking, among other indoor and outdoor activities.

If you’re looking to deepen your meditation practice, focus your energy, and commit to an in-depth program, consider booking a stay at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Muir Beach, California. Just north of San Francisco, this Buddhist practice center focuses on the Japanese Soto Zen tradition in a year-round study format.

Guests can stay short-term or extend to a long-term meditation retreat that also involves working in the community, for sometimes, months at a time. The long-term option is geared towards individuals who want to take a deep-dive into an intensive meditation practice, while being part of the greater community.

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(Source: www.psychologies.co.uk)

This includes a seven-day Session (which means to collect the heart and the mind) to meditate, eat, and work in silence. Shorter sessions include guided meditations with on-site resident teachers that focus on a particular aspect of the practice.

The Alaska Still point Lodge, Halibut Cove, near Homer, offers wellness retreats that focus on guided reflection and rejuvenation to nurture your soul. Wellness retreats are available in three, four, and five-day packages that include wilderness hikes, feasting on local, organic cuisine, silent meditation spaces, and yoga.

The Insight Meditation Society (IMS), located in Barre, Massachusetts, offers everything from weekend retreats to extended stays lasting several months. While there, guests will spend time immersed in sitting and walking meditation, completely done in silence.

The longer retreats can last up to one year, with participants immersing themselves in one or more early Buddhist practices. One thing that sets IMS apart from most other meditation retreats is a policy offering a sliding fee scale.

Participants are charged based on a sliding fee scale that allows them to pay in accordance with their individual means. But Retreats, a new website launched in May 2019, allows users to search by location and filter by type to find their perfect match.

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The 27-acre campus includes a farm and gardens, an art studio, and a clothing-optional cliff side bathhouse and natural hot springs. The Shamble Mountain Center holds more than 100 two-day to weeklong programs per year, including introductions to meditation, deep dives into different practices, and multidisciplinary offerings that incorporate indigenous wisdom traditions, body awareness practices, contemplative arts, and more.

The modern and distinctly American practice draws on the traditions of Zen Buddhism as they evolved in ancient China and Japan. Curious newbies can join regular meditators in the monastery’s weekly Sunday Morning Program or participate in an Intro to Zen weekend retreat.

The center also offers longer programs, from one week to one month to one year, during which residents have the opportunity to learn more about integrating their practice into everyday life. Visitors stay in dorms (for short courses) or private rooms (longer retreats), and the main building, which was built as a Benedictine monastery, is a national and state historic landmark.

Intimate Rolling Meadows only accommodates 11 guests at a time to a handful of silent meditation and yoga retreats each year at its restored 1840s New England farmhouse. Guests are encouraged to stroll the walking paths and through the flower and organic vegetable gardens of the 100-acre property, relax in the sunroof or library, or unwind in the wood-fired sauna as a valuable part of the experience.

Less than an hour outside of San Francisco, Spirit Rock nonetheless feels worlds away from any metropolitan hustle and bustle on its 411 acres of quiet, hilly countryside in West Marin. The teachings at Spirit Rock also draw on other practices, including mindfulness through breathing and loving-kindness meditation, which focuses on compassion.

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(Source: retreats.io)

There’s something for everyone here, whether you’re looking to dip your toe into a two-hour class, interested in getting involved at a daylong event, or ready to commit to a longer (three days to two months) silent retreat. Guests spend their days on these silent courses alternating sitting and walking meditations, enjoying vegetarian meals, and sleeping in simple single rooms.

Ayurveda, a sister science of yoga, approaches wellness based a person’s constitution. The property receives an eclectic mix of clientele, ranging from jet-setters looking for comfort and tranquility to serious meditation practitioners.

One-on-one guided meditation sessions are tailored to each individual’s needs, possibly incorporating yogic breathing techniques or Buddhist teachings. In addition to meditation and yoga pavilions spread throughout gardens and the former maharajah’s palace, you’ll also find a 21,000-square-foot-spa, a tea lounge and antique billiards room.

Rooms, suites and villages are rather lavish, with colors that echo the natural surroundings along with balconies that provide spectacular mountain views. The center hosts a program of full-day and residential retreats as long as two months, as well as ongoing classes, all exploring the themes of meditation and its relation to life in modern society.

For more than two decades now, people of all types have come here to experience peace and tranquility, offering a gentle and sympathetic place to be still and get in touch with oneself. Former President Nelson Mandela awarded the center National Heritage status for its environmentally friendly approach to using indigenous plants as well as efforts to help save the endangered Blue Swallow.

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(Source: www.onekindesign.com)

In addition to regularly scheduled meditation retreats, people who want to escape from the modern world and enjoy solitude are also welcome. It also features a posting, or silent meditation space, complete with a pillowed floor and subtle lighting for serenity and stillness, available 24 hours a day.

Visitors also have the chance to see wildlife like bears, whales, sea otters and seals as well as to dine on meals featuring local ingredients, including from the property’s organic garden, like fresh-caught oysters, mussels, salmon and halibut. The slick, modern 40-acre campus just outside Mumbai includes extensive Zen gardens, a placid swimming pool and sauna, a soaring meditation auditorium and seminar spaces set inside a complex of black space-age pyramids.

Appropriately located in Haney, known as the land where the heavens meet the earth due to its striking beauty, the center has breathtaking views of Haleakala as well as the Pacific Ocean. The island has a rugged coastline and a delicate ecosystem that includes centuries-old species like Shane goats and Risky ponies.

The meditation retreats are held on the island’s north end in a modest enclave known as the Center for World Peace and Health. A variety of retreats are offered for serious Tibetan Buddhism students as well as those who are interested in learning or deepening their practice.

Those who are interested in intensive meditation practice can stay long term, working in the community for months at a time. The 115-acre property includes a guest house and private cabin as well as several meditation and seminar spaces, a working organic farm and a garden.

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Thanks to the generous donations of supplies and time, mainly by locals, the open-air meditation halls in the beautifully manicured grounds of the monastery provide an ideal refuge for newcomers as well as serious practitioners. The conditions are rugged and simple, exemplifying the term, “Live plainly, aim high.” You’ll have to turn in your cell phone at registration and sleep on a bed made up of a straw mat and wooden pillow.

Lessons in cooking nutritious and organic meals are available as well, and the center also offers interpretive dance and detox weekends during the spring. When he teaches in India, where he sought refuge after fleeing his native Tibet, his talks are open to the public and typically free.

Eleven Directions bridges the gap between the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s talks and negotiating a week in Dharamshala, the center of the Tibetan community in exile. A week is typically spent attending teachings, keeping a mindfulness practice, taking walks in a Rhododendron forest, engaging in discussions and getting exposure to Tibetan culture.

Accommodation options include living in a guesthouse run by His Holiness’ brother and sister-in-law, or the home of a local Maharajah. The main campus includes dining and lodging facilities, with accommodations provided in sparsely furnished single and small double rooms.

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