With all the stresses of modern life, more and more people are exploring their inner-world through mindfulness. We’ve searched high and low to come up with five of the most serene meditation retreats from around the world.
The Buddhist Retreat Centre
KwaZul-Natal, South Africa
The Buddhist Retreat Centre sits on a ridge overlooking green valleys, forests and rolling hills. For more than two decades people have been travelling to this retreat in search of peace and tranquillity.
Just a 90-minute drive from Durban, this remote location feels like another universe. Visitors are encouraged to take long walks and go bird watching across the 300-acre property, and the Centre was awarded National Heritage status by former President Nelson Mandela for helping preserve the endangered Blue Swallow.
Ananda in the Himalayas
Boasting stunning views of the Ganges and the temple villages Haridwar and Rishikesh from its 100-acre estate, Ananda in the Himalayas is the ultimate meditation retreat. All sorts of people head here for their mindfulness fix – from jet-setters seeking some downtime from their busy working life to spiritual seasoned practitioners.
One-on-one guided meditation sessions are tailored to each person’s needs, and focus on yogic breathing techniques or Buddhist teachings. These can be held outside or indoors and last from anything between an hour or an entire afternoon.
Kalyana Centre for Mindfulness
For a retreat much closer to home, you’ll struggle to find better than the Kalyana Centre for Mindfulness on the Dingle Peninsula in the south-west of Ireland. The classes here are based on Mindfulness Based Stress Reductions, and features simple movements as well as Tibetan healing yoga.
Weekend stays are spent mostly in silence and activities include sitting, walking, standing and lying down. Up to ten participants can attend at one time, and three daily vegetarian meals are included.
Spirit Rock Meditation Centre
The Spirit Rock Meditation Centre lies in the heart of California about an hour north of San Francisco, on a piece of land once used by Native Americans for spiritual rites. The founding teacher Jack Kornfeld says that guests look ten years younger when they leave. “No matter why they come, the time spent in nature and stillness is like a facelift inside and out”.
As well as ongoing classes for local residents, Spirit Rock offers a full programme of all-day and residential retreats – some lasting as long as two months! Each activity explores the theme of meditation and its relation to life in modern society.
The name Ala Kukui means “Pathway of Illumination”. Many people reach this retreat after following a path for spiritual stimulation, creative expression and intercultural exchange – and all of that can be found here in spades.
As well as breathtaking views of Haleakala and the Pacific Ocean, Ala Kukui offers a number of exercises that promise to bring enlightenment to visitors. Vipassana meditation, yoga and gardening are all on the menu, and the centre also runs programmes designed for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder.