I’ve got to say, after more than 15 years of sampling spas, retreats and healthy holidays all over the world, meditation remains the single most useful tool I’ve come across to calm me down and set me back on track. It’s not for everyone – my husband says it just irritates him and he prefers to surf – but though I’ve wanted to flee many times on a meditation retreat, hanging in there has always paid off somehow.
Here are a few options in the UK… Drop me a line if you want ideas for further afield.
The buddhist retreat – Gaia House, Devon
This marvellous Buddhist retreat is set in a former convent in the peaceful countryside of South Devon and has all the ingredients you need for a successful meditation retreat, including a serene meditation hall, clean and simply decorated bedrooms, healthy vegetarian food and lots of spaces to lose yourself in. Expert tutors offer highly affordable meditation days, weekend retreats and week-long stays and specialise in teaching Vipassana, or Insight Meditation. As at all bona fide Buddhist meditation retreats, be prepared to help out with basic daily chores such as gardening, cleaning or preparing meals. Meditation days cost £25, personal retreats from £34 per night, group retreats from £112 for a weekend. Read more or book here.
The secular retreat – The Art of Relaxation weekend, Suffolk
The beauty of these weekends run by Satvada Retreats in rural Suffolk is that they mix restorative hatha yoga with mindfulness meditation. A Friday-to-Monday retreat, it aims to help you find breathing space and teach you tools to help you combat stress in everyday life, and you’ll go home with hand-outs and reading suggestions so that you can maintain and develop these skills when you’re back in the fray. The weekend is based at peaceful Potash Barns, near Framlingham – three lovingly converted, listed barns on a smallholding with some chickens, pygmy goats and horses to watch over you. It costs £435 per person in a room alone or £365 per person in a shared room for three nights with all meals and classes. The next one runs 29 Nov – 2 Dec 2013. Read more or book here.
The posh retreat – Ynyshir Hall, Wales
This white-painted, 16th century manor house near Machynlleth in the Powys countryside is a Relais & Chateaux hotel set in 14 acres of pretty gardens in the middle of a bird reserve. An unlikely venue, one might think, for learning meditation, but thanks to the hands-on owner Joan Reen – a great believer in holistic living – they can arrange special Relax & Revive breaks for you and a friend which include private meditation sessions with local teacher Thomas Buchi as well as holistic treatments. Come to enjoy total peace, reviving walks, gourmet meals and cossetting interiors. Relax and Revive breaks from £460 per night for two, based on two sharing a double room including all meals and a meditation walk with Thomas. Read more or book here.
The at-home option – learn mediation via skype with Sara Campbell
Can’t or don’t want to get away on retreat? You can now to learn to meditate in the comfort of your own home with the lovely down-to-earth Kundalini yoga teacher and World Champion freediver Sara Campbell. Sara lives most of the year in Dahab, Egypt, where she runs private wellbeing retreats and group yoga holidays as well as her freediving adventures. But she also offers one to one meditation coaching via skype to help you let go of the negative thought patterns and beliefs that hold you back, and to cope more easily and efficiently through stressful and challenging periods. The meditation coaching costs£450 per person for a six month one to one programme. Read more or book here.
Read more from Queen of Retreats, Caroline Sylger Jones :
Queen of Retreats offers honest, independent reviews of spas and healthy holidays by journalists with a critical eye plus a booking service for retreats we would hand-on-heart recommend. You won’t find any retreats on the site we don’t have experience of and no one pays to be on it. More at www.queenofretreats.com