Whether you want to travel to a far off, exotic destination or find something closer to home, these blissful meditation retreats will allow you quiet your mind, open your heart and explore the realm of your inner world. Hop on a plane, or journey by car, to escape to an oasis of relaxation and spectacular views.
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Ananda in the Himalayas offers the ultimate meditation retreat on a 100-acre estate with sweeping vistas of the Ganges River and the temple villages of Haridwar and Rishikesh. 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. The sessions can be held outside or indoors, lasting from an hour or an entire afternoon. 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.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin County, an hour north of San Francisco sits upon picturesque lands once used by Native Americans for spiritual rites. 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. Founding teacher Jack Kornfeld says, “Some come for healing, either the healing of the heart or the healing of the body. Some come because they are in life transition and need to listen deeply to what is the next thing that is asked of them or how to deal with some great change.”
No matter why they come, the time spent in nature and stillness is like a facelift inside and out. After a week of retreat, he says, guests look 10 years younger – and, their spirit has been renewed.
At this 600-acre retreat in the breathtaking Rocky Mountains about 50 miles northwest of the charming Fort Collins area, Colorado, guests can create a personal retreat package or register for a variety of programs ranging from “Introduction to Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” to “The Path of Simply Being” and nature-based programs with an interdisciplinary focus on astronomy. Stay for a month, week or just a weekend, embarking on a journey of self-exploration focusing on mindful living, body awareness or personal transformation. Lodging options include everything from tent platforms providing the chance to immerse yourself in the spectacular surroundings to lodge suites with modern amenities. Eight miles of trails offer the chance to practice active meditation by running, hiking or snowshoeing.
Rolling Meadows offers the chance to do some serious unplugging with a silent meditation and yoga retreat overlooking the hills of coastal Maine for up to 11 participants. Retreats are held throughout the year and are designed to increase awareness and simplify life with a daily schedule of multiple meditation session, yoga and free time between sessions for reflection, solitude and enjoying the beauty of the land. Talking is encouraged during guided sessions that offer the chance to ask questions and talk about how to integrate the experiences into daily life. The property is set across 100 acres and features hiking trails as well as a spring-fed pond for swimming.
Kalyana Centre for Mindfulness, Dingle, Ireland
The Kalyana Centre for Mindfulness is located in one of the most beautiful places on earth – Ireland’s southwest region on the Dingle Peninsula. Retreats and classes are based on Mindfulness Meditation and Mindfulness Based Stress Reductions. Simple movements are known as Kum Nye, or Tibetan healing yoga are often integrated into the practice. The weekends or longer retreats are residential and spent mostly in silence. Mindfulness meditation includes sitting, walking, standing and lying down. Loving Kindness practice, as well as compassion practice, are supporting practices in some of the retreats. A maximum of 10 participants can be hosted, partly in shared accommodation, with three daily vegetarian meals included.
The Middle Way Meditation Retreat, Pai, Thailand
This compound is surrounded by a lush green valley and is adjacent to the Pai River. The practice is centered around a 2,500-year-old ancient meditation technique which focuses on the center of the body as a gateway to higher consciousness. The property features indoor and outdoor meditation space and a hot spring pool. Guests must refrain from any type of destructive behavior, including killing any living creature – and, mosquitos are not an exception.
The Buddhist Retreat Centre, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
The Buddhist Retreat Centre is perched atop a ridge overlooking indigenous valleys, forests and rolling hills. 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. Just a 90-minute drive from Durban, the remote location feels worlds away. 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. Walking and bird watching across the 300-acre property are encouraged accordingly. In addition to regularly scheduled meditation retreats, people who want to escape from the modern world and enjoy solitude are also welcome.
This secluded lodge located in Halibut Cove at the edge of Kachemak Bay Park in Alaska offers guided meditations and yoga, as well as a labyrinth for walking meditations complemented by the spectacular wilderness, allowing guests to connect with nature. It also features a poustinia, 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. Hiking and paddling among icebergs are popular activities.
The very best of Osho’s teachings – a name synonymous with meditation and New Age catchphrases like “totality,” “awareness,” and “conscious living,” continue to inspire the thousands who come to the Osho Meditation Resort every year. Most come to reconnect with themselves or as part of a journey toward a more meaningful life. 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. Other amenities include basketball and tennis courts, a nightclub, mini-mall, massage and beauty salon. Active meditations tend to be the focus here, although traditional silent, seated sessions are also practiced, interspersed with meditative dancing, vocalizing and power breathing. All guests are required to wear dark red robes due to Osho’s belief that the color maroon, when worn by many people meditating together, adds to the collective meditative energy.
Ala Kukui, Maui, Hawaii
The name of the center, Ala Kukui, means “Pathway of Illumination.” It attracts those in search of spiritual restoration, creative expression and intercultural exchange. Appropriately located in Hana, 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. There are various offerings throughout the year, including Vipassana meditation, silent and healing retreats, as well as retreats that aim to help heal the extreme PTSD that war veterans often struggle with. Programs in yoga, writing and gardening are also available.
Holy Isle is a private, two-mile-long island just off the Isle of Arran on Scotland’s west coast. The island has a rugged coastline and a delicate ecosystem that includes centuries-old species like Saanen goats and Eriskay ponies. The meditation retreats are held on the island’s north end in a modest enclave known as the Centre for World Peace and Health. On the south end, there are a dozen or so long-term residents living here in isolated silence. A variety of retreats are offered for serious Tibetan Buddhism students as well as those who are interested in learning or deepening their practice. Accommodations are rather sparse, monastically furnished with plain bedsteads and dressers.
Set on the dramatic cliffs of the central California coast, the Esalen offers one of the most awe-inspiring settings you can possibly imagine. Guests can enjoy soul-seeking meditation and mindfulness workshops in this historic lodge that’s hosted legendary guests like Joan Baez and Steve McQueen as well as world-famous spiritual people like Deepak Chopra. A variety of meditation practices are offered, from tantric to Buddhist, depending on the particular workshop. There are more than 500 workshops on all different subjects including mindfulness as well as massage and martial arts. Guests can also enjoy hiking through the lush forest or kayaking in the ocean.
Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, also known as Green Dragon Temple, is set in a eucalyptus-wooded valley just north of San Francisco, opening up onto Muir Beach and the magnificent expanse of the Pacific. This is a Buddhist practice center in the Japanese Soto Zen tradition, offering training in Zen meditation aimed to awaken and support the spirit of kindness, through the traditional seated, silent variety. Those who are interested in intensive meditation practice can stay long term, working in the community for months at a time. Shorter term stays involving daily meditation sessions, seminars and tea ceremonies are also available. The 115-acre property includes a guest house and private cabin as well as several meditation and seminar spaces, a working organic farm and garden.
Starting on the first day of every month, this forest refuge offers 10-day meditation retreats. Wat Suan Mokkh has been inviting guests to learn more about Dharma and meditation for several decades now. 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. It’s designed for anyone who is seeking to achieve compassion, peace and an ability to approach destructive emotions in a new and healthy way. 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. Wake up is at 4 a.m.
Harmony Dawn Retreat, Ontario, Canada
At this retreat tucked within the depths of the Canadian wilderness, guests can take part in a variety of meditation retreats, like the two- to seven-day mindfulness retreat which includes dharma talks, nature walks and Qigong, mostly in silence, aimed to build awareness in each moment in order to understand and free oneself from restrictive patterns. Lessons in cooking nutritious and organic meals are available as well, and the center also offers interpretive dance and detox weekends during the spring.
Simple Peace, located in the ancient Umbrian city of Assisi, offers nurturing meditation retreats focused on helping participants connect to peace, beauty and love that emanates from inner stillness. The center sits in the rolling hills overlooking acres of olive groves. Husband and wife team, Bruce and Ruth Davis, lead the weeklong, largely silent meditation retreats where participants of all religious faiths are welcomed. Modest bedrooms are available in a renovated historic Assisi monastery for retreat participants. Each room includes a private bathroom, and all share a verdant garden and terrace with valley views.
The Dalai Lama gives teachings throughout the year at various times and in a variety of places. 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 Dharamsala, the center of the Tibetan community in exile. His tour in Dharamsala is meant for those who want to connect with and discuss Tibetan culture and practices. 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 Maharaja.
Insight Meditation Society, Barre, Massachusetts
A retreat at IMS, located on a wooded 200-acre property in a grand old mansion in central Massachusetts, provides guidance and instruction in Vipassana (insight) and loving kindness meditation. The center has been offering a variety of courses and retreats, ranging from a weekend to several months, for nearly four decades. The practice involves a combination of seated and walking meditation, all of it in silence. The main campus includes dining and lodging facilities, with accommodations provided in sparsely furnished single and small double rooms.