Ready to Recharge? What to Know about Going on a Meditation Retreat
It’s Time to Focus on You
Vacations don’t always have to be about exploring new places. Sometimes, getting away is more about digging deeper, exploring yourself and taking a break from the hustle and bustle that makes up your daily life. If the idea of a typical holiday seems overwhelming to you, or you feel like your daily life is taking a toll on your spiritual, emotional and physical health, perhaps what you really need is a spiritual getaway or a meditation retreat.
When you really need to relax and get away, a meditation vacation can be a beneficial way to center yourself and improve your well-being. Perhaps you have heard of the benefits and have an interest in learning more about meditation. Or, maybe you are an experienced practitioner who is very familiar with meditation and you want to deepen your practice.
If this sounds like you, then keep reading for more information about meditation retreats and a few picks of the top retreats around the world.
What Is a Meditation Retreat?
A meditation retreat is a getaway or a vacation where you devote some or all of your time away to meditation practice. Meditation is a time of purposefully and intentionally sitting still and breathing mindfully to bring calm to your mind, body and spirit.
Typically when one meditates, they assume a comfortable position in a comfortable seat and then allow stillness to overcome them both physically and mentally as they focus on a breath or a particular mantra. Once you’ve reached this more calm state, you’ll remain in this meditative position for some period of time.
Meditation can be enhanced by a host of other mindful practices that set the tone for your practice including periods of silence, mindful eating, mindful walking and others.
Meditation retreats allow meditation practitioners to devote a significant amount of time to their practice. There are a variety of different types of meditation trips out there with something to suit every personality and preferred meditation style. These vacations can include guided group sessions, informal sessions, workshops, and adventurous activities and excursions.
It’s helpful to know what you want. Are you looking for a bare bones, minimalistic type of retreat where silence, solitude and group meditation are the key to the program? Or, are you looking for more of an all-inclusive resort and spa type of getaway where meditation makes up a large part of the offerings, but everything you’d expect from a vacation resort is also present?
You’ll find there are a variety of styles of retreats out there, with something to suit every personality and preferred meditation style. No matter what type of retreat you choose, you’re likely to come away changed for the better.
Benefits of a Meditation Retreat
Meditation is becoming a lot more popular and you’d have to live under a rock to not have heard someone touting its benefits. Science seems to support what long-time meditation fans have been saying for many years — that there are quantifiable benefits to meditation.
Some of the benefits you will likely see from regular meditation include pain relief, lower anxiety, less depression, heightened self- and emotional- awareness, longer attention span and increased neuroplasticity in the brain.
It’s entirely possible to meditate all on your own without any training, special equipment or a group. However, it can be incredibly helpful to be guided in your meditation. Furthermore, if you are participating with a group and a teacher you will have the inspiration of watching others meditate and the accountability to follow through with your practice. The temptation to pull out your cell phone midway through is much lower if you are in a room full of fellow practitioners who are keeping you accountable.
If you are new to meditation, a retreat is a great way to learn. You can think of it as a sort of crash course where you can pick up a new technique and get introduced to the basics of meditation. However, the benefits of a meditation vacations aren’t just for newbies. Experienced practitioners likely already know the value that a retreat brings — in both deepening and enriching their practice and coming together with the community in meditation.
It’s very encouraging to spend a bit of time away with people who are like-minded and interested in improving themselves. Many people will come away with life-long friends after participating in these retreats. Also, gaining valuable insight from an experienced teacher will only serve to enrich and deepen your meditation practice.
There are other benefits that often come along with going on a meditation retreat such as having a chance to immerse yourself in nature, participate in fitness activities, indulge in healthy, high-nutrient food, and practice solitude.
How to Prepare for Your Meditation Retreat
Before you leave on a meditation retreat, it would be beneficial to make sure there aren’t any major stressors hanging over your head. If you have any big items on your to-do list, try and take care of them before you leave. The same with unresolved conflict with someone close to you — if you can resolve it, do so before you leave for your retreat to avoid thoughts of the conflict intruding on your meditation practice.
You don’t need much in order to sit and meditate, but even so, many retreat leaders will send out a packing list that will help you know what to bring on your retreat. Some other things you might want to consider bringing include a favorite cushion for meditation, a reusable water bottle, a journal for recording any break-throughs or thoughts you might have during your retreat, your favorite essential oils (especially those designed to clear the mind), and photos of loved ones or any small special items that will aid you in your meditation practice.
Comfortable clothing is also key. Nothing is more distracting while meditating than an itchy tag or an uncomfortably snug pair of jeans. Pack comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that you won’t be bothered or distracted by when you are sitting and meditating for long periods of time.
As you are planning for your retreat, make sure you understand how the meals will work and whether or not they are included in the price. If you have dietary restrictions, make sure to communicate them well in advance so you can ensure the retreat center will be able to provide you with food. Otherwise, you will need to arrange for alternative meal plans.
Lastly, if you are completely new to the practice, it might also be a good idea to try out meditation before you go on your retreat. If you can’t make it to a drop-in meditation center for a guided session, there are plenty of guided meditations available online that will give you a taste of what you can expect.
How Expensive Are Meditation Retreats?
The price of a meditation trip is as varied as the options you’ll find. From silent meditation retreats in simple, no-fuss surroundings to luxury spa retreats with numerous guided sessions, haute cuisine and fitness activities, the range is huge.
Accordingly, you’ll find retreats available for little to no cost on the lower end, and shockingly high costs on the upper.
Popular Meditation Retreats Around the World
Choosing the right meditation trip is very important in determining what sort of experience you will have. Before you choose, spend some time thinking about what you want to accomplish at the retreat and what sort of things you are looking for in a retreat center. Read reviews and research information about the retreat on the center’s website so you have a good idea if they are offering what you are looking for before you jump into booking one.
We’ve rounded up several of the best meditation retreats in the world in the following section. Some offer short one- to two-day stays, while others offer longer residential programs for those who wish to really dig deep in their meditation practice. For beginners, we recommend starting with an overnight or weekend, and then moving on to a week-long or 10-day retreat to get your feet wet before you consider diving into a residential program.
There are many options around the world and we’ve only been able to include some of our favorites. Peruse this list for inspiration as you try to decide where to book your own spiritual getaway.
Ananda Spa: Uttarakhand, India
What better place than the Himalayas to go for a meditation retreat? The Ananda Spa in the Himalayas was once the home of Maharaja of Tehri-Garhwal. Today it operates as a wellness resort and spiritual retreat center. It sits at 3,000 feet above sea level and offers an amazing view of the mountains and the nearby cities of Rishikesh and Haridwar, which both have religious significance.
If you are looking for meditation with a bit of pampering retreat could be for you as it has a sprawling 21,000-square-foot spa, numerous yoga pavilions and a great tea lounge for when you need a bit of refreshment. Make sure to indulge in a few of the top-notch spa services and don’t forget to get out and enjoy the surroundings. The view outside is amazing and awe-inspiring, so you should certainly plan to spend some time outside during your stay here.
As for the type of spiritual journey to expect, Ananda staff have an extensive discussion with each visitor so that the retreat is fully customized to each individual. In addition to meditation, there are opportunities to learn yogic breathing, Buddhist teachings and more.
Green Gulch Farm Zen Center: Muir Beach, California
If a trip to the Himalayas seems out of reach, you could choose to take your retreat a bit closer to home in the tranquil surrounds of Muir Beach, CA. Green Gulch Farm Zen Center is a Soto Zen practice center that also goes by the name Soryu-ji or Green Dragon Temple.
The center offers several options for those looking for a meditation retreat, including Guest Student Stays where guests live in student housing, participate in the full meditation and work schedule, and attend a variety of classes, ceremonies, workshops and lectures.
They also offer a structured Resident Training Program designed to help students learn about Buddhism and Zen Practice, live in community with other like-minded individuals and sit in meditation. They also offer more simple overnight accommodations for guests who wish to take advantage of the meditative retreat space on their own personal retreat without the structure of a full training regimen.
The grounds also feature an organic farm and garden where visitors can learn about and participate in growing fresh, organic produce that they also get to enjoy when meal-time comes around.
Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa: Paradise Valley, Arizona
Located just outside of Phoenix, the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa is a luxurious desert retreat centered around a Zen meditation garden and tranquil reflecting pond. Guests can sit and meditate in the garden and by the pond as much as they’d like; but if they would like a bit more guidance, there’s that too.
The spa has Guided Imagery Meditation sessions and the option for Labyrinth Walking Meditation instruction each day. Also on offer are meditative stretching and a sleep-based meditation technique known as yoga Nidra.
In addition to the opportunity to sit in meditation, the resort offers ample opportunities to enjoy the surroundings through a number of nearby trails. However, we wouldn’t blame you if you simply chose to kick back and unwind in your luxurious Spa Suite, complete with spacious patio, personal fireplaces and some of the best views around.
Hurawalhi Island Resort: Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
Not one for traditionalists, your typical menu of meditation retreat activities won’t be found at the Hurawalhi Island Resort. However, this adults-only, private resort island in the Maldives offers a unique specialty program they call “At One with the Ocean,” which includes a series of mindful practices and therapies that tap into the tranquil surrounds and healing power of the ocean all around you.
Set at specific times throughout the year, the “At One with the Ocean” package includes three days of classes designed to transform both your mind and your body. Expect morning yoga classes on the beach, meditation in the undersea restaurant, wave healing sessions, aqua fitness and guided snorkeling trips.
The experience will provide you with an unmatched opportunity to experience true healing from the ocean.
Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary: Phuket, Thailand
Set on the beautiful Andaman Sea in Southern Thailand, the Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary is a collection of all-pool villas surrounded by lush jungle greenery. The resort offers a unique program that’s focused on improving guests’ well-being through a long menu of activities.
In fact, there are more than 50 wellness activities for guests to choose from with the option of selecting a wellness tract to hone in on one aspect of your well-being. For example, the Mindful Practice tract offers guests the option to choose classes related to movement, meditation and breathing exercises.
In addition, guests at the Banyan Tree Spa Sanctuary can take advantage of numerous other activities and amenities, including in-villa massage and spa services, tailored well-being assessments, nightly rest rituals, and a full daily detox meal program.
Bali Silent Retreat: Penebel, Bali
If you are considering a meditation vacation, one option to really reconnect to your inner voice is to go on a silent retreat. More than just a meditation retreat, Bali Silent Retreat offers inspirational programs and events in simplistic classrooms set within a self-sustaining eco-sanctuary.
The ashram-like environment of the retreat center is the perfect setting for experiencing the peace and reflection that comes from sitting in silence.
Daily activities include meditation and yoga sessions, walking the prayer labyrinth, relaxing in the onsite hot springs, water meditation, and various Balinese cultural activities.
The food is certainly a highlight as well. Three daily organic, vegetarian buffets as well as an all-day grazing table are all piled high with delicious food crafted from the resort’s own organic, sustainable gardens for a food experience that is both incredibly healthy and delicious.
Kinkára Luxury Retreat: Santa Elena de General Viejo, Costa Rica
Nestled at the foot of Costa Rica’s tallest mountain, Mount Chirripó, Kinkára is a luxury resort offering a host of unique activities that set the scene for both relaxation and adventure. Kinkára Luxury Retreat offers daily guided meditation sessions and yoga classes in tranquil, open-air spaces. Or, find a nice seat at Meditation Rock, which faces the resort’s waterfall, and spend some time in meditation with the backdrop of the sound of falling water.
Spa services such as reiki, shiatsu massage and acupuncture therapy are also available during your stay. You’ll also find a host of other wellness experiences that incorporate things such as magnets, crystals, and Tibetan singing bowls to aid in your healing experience. They even have a temescal-inspired sweat ceremony.
If you’re hoping to be a bit active during your visit, then bring your gear as you can take advantage of hiking, horseback riding and rock climbing offered by the resort.