Going on retreat can deepen your practice by giving you the opportunity to dedicate all of your energy to the spiritual path. For thousands of years monks and nuns have lived in secluded monasteries in Asia. However even a week long retreat can invigorate our practice. Sometimes focused energy of a retreat center is enough to awaken a new energy and dedication within us.
Spirit Rock, California
The spirit Rock retreat center was founded by Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein in the late 1980s. About an hour drive from San Francisco, the center is a popular destination for insight meditation practitioners from around the country as well as visisters discovering mindfulness practice for the first time. Spirit Rock also hosts teachers from a variety of traditions. Notable visitors include the Dalai Lama, Ram Dass and Thich Nhat Hanh.
Shambhala Mountain Center, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
The Shambhala Mountain Center is nestled high in the Colorado Rockies where the land is wild and rough. According to Tibetan mythology Shambhala is the name of a mythical hidden kingdom somewhere in inner Asia. Shambhala Mountain Center evokes its namesake, with 600 acres of jagged and wild landscape shrouding the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, the largest stupa in North America.
Year round offerings include month long meditation programs called Dhatuns, workshops on body awareness practice, and mindfulness training. Accommodations include comfortable winter lodging as well as tents in the summer months for the more adventurous.
Gampo Abbey, Nova Scotia, Canada
For those looking for a more traditional monastic experience, the quiet refuge of Gampo Abbey is the perfect setting. The center offers year long retreats under their temporary monastic program, which gives practitioners an opportunity to stay at the abbey and train in the disciplines and rituals of monastic life without taking life vows.
During the summer the Abbey offers week long retreats for practitioners wanting to visit the abbey without shaving their head and jumping into robes.
Blazing Mountain Retreat Center, Crestone, Colorado
Located along the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the southern Colorado town of Crestone, Blazing Mountain hosts meditation retreats, yoga retreats and other contemplative programs. Blazing Mountain is truly off the beaten path. Although founded by the Dharma Ocean Foundation, an organization dedicated to the legacy of meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the center hosts practitioners from a variety of contemplative traditions.
Plum Village, Dordogne, France
Named after the plum orchards that grow within the centers grounds, Plum Village was founded by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. The vibrant and colorful land center hosts growing retreats every summer. Last year over 2000 people attended from all over the world. The center has sprawling gardens, and the center offers programing integrating mindfulness and ecology.
Tassajara Zen Center, California
Tassajara is an icon of American Buddhist history. The center was founded by Shunryu Suzuki, one of the first teachers to bring Zen to the west and the author of Zen Mind Beginners Mind. For most of the year, Tassajara operates like a traditional monastery with a rigorous schedule of study typical of Zen. During the summer months, the center opens to the public and offers dips in their Japanese style hot spring baths and famous vegetarian cuisine to visitors.
Holy Isle, Scotland
Located off Scotland’s west coast, Holy Isle is a small island retreat center run by Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, a meditation master in the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The island was once home to the Saint Molaise, a 6th century Irish abbot who lived on the island as a hermit. Visitors to the island can visit his cave, now adorned with prayer flags. True to the eclectic spiritual history of the island, the center hosts courses and retreats in a variety of different traditions and is not a strictly buddhist center. Holy Isle also hosts long term solitary retreats which take place in converted light house cottages on the island.
Karma Choling, Barnet, VT
Founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinoche and a handful of students in 1970, Karma Choling was the first Shambhala land center established in the United States. Located in the the woods of Vermont, the center has a cozy and contained atmosphere. Thousands of practitioners have visited the center over the years to hear teachings from the Shambhala, Kagyu and Nyingma traditions. The center regularly holds month long retreats called “Dathuns” which can be broken up into week long sessions. In the summer most visitors stay in tents. However during the winter months lodging is provided to visitors.
Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, New York
In the hills of rural New York, The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies offers an eclectic mix of spiritual offerings. With a large year round staff, and a busy schedule of workshops and guests, Omega is part retreat center, part university campus. The close proximity to New York City means it’s on the circuit of many popular teachers. Visitors should be sure to explore the Ram Dass Library during their stay.
Palolo Zen Center, Honolulu, HI
A small center in the lush Waimao Valley, the Palolo Zen Center offers affordable lodging and teaching in a gorgeous setting. The center hosts silent retreats called Sesshins that range from 3 to 8 days during which students can immerse themselves in a rigorous schedule of instruction and meditation. The center also offers day long walking meditation excursions on local hiking trails in the area.
Wat Suan Mokkh, Chaiya, Thailand
The Wat Suan Mokkh International Dharma Hermitage is a Theravadan monastery in the forests of Chaiyam Thailand. The expansive grounds cover over 300 acres of protected land. Because Thailand can get very hot, much of the practice and teaching takes place outside under the the shade of dense forest. Every month the center holds 10-day Vipassana retreats, giving travelers from around the world a unique opportunity to experience the lifestyle of a forest monk in Thailand.
Upaya Zen Center, Santa Fe, NM
Designed in classic adobe style, and located near Santa Fe’s historic plaza, the Upaya Zen Center offers retreats in a unique south western setting. Under the abbotship of Joan Halifax Roshi, the center offers programs on engaged buddhism taught by some of the foremost activists and teachers in the field. The center also hosts more traditional retreats including week and month long long sessions.