Best Meditation Retreats

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The 7 Best Meditation Retreats of 2021

Best Overall : Esalen Institute

Esalen Institute

Esalen Institute

The California coast is home to hundreds of weekend and weeklong retreats inspired by the beauty of this cliffside wonder at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.

Guests can choose from several, three-day workshops including mindfulness retreats for lawyers, meditation in nature, self-love, and kindness that benefits all, mindful self-compassion intensive training, and mindfulness meditation. There are other options like modern life, and music, mediation, and technology.

Longer retreats, lasting five to seven days, take on a more focused approach at helping participants integrate meditation into their daily lives. In addition to guided meditations and silent practices, you can spend hours of the day exploring the 27 acres surrounded by the Big Sur coastline. Esalen is also home to a community farm and garden, cliffside bathhouse, and natural hot springs. 

Best Budget : Kadampa Meditation Center

Kadampa Meditation Center

Kadampa Meditation Center

Located in the Catskill Mountains in New York, the Kadampa Meditation Center and Tibetan Buddhist temple offer both personal and group retreats.

Individuals looking to gain a fresh perspective through quiet relaxation will find peace and calm with one of their personal Rest & Reflect retreats. And, if you’re new to meditation or looking for a group experience, you might want to try one of the group retreats to help you find ways to integrate the practice into your daily life.

A quick, weekend away includes guided activities and individual time, Friday through Sunday, with meditation workshops, hikes in the 82 acres of natural woodlands, delicious food, and more. The Kadampa Meditation Center also offers in-depth silent retreats that focus on the teachings of meditation, along with silent meditation. These guided experiences involve two days of teachings, followed by three days of a silent retreat.

The Kadampa Meditation Center is ideal if you're looking to stick within a budget because of the variety of Saturday meditation workshops that only cost around $20. Add on a vegetarian lunch for about $5, and you have a day away for approximately $25. Workshop topics include developing confidence, letting go of stress, a day of silence, power to be happy, anger detox, and many more. 

Cant travel for a retreat? Check out the best meditation apps around.

Most Flexible : Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Spirit Rock Meditation Center 

Buddhist teachings, extensive time for meditation, walks in nature, and a silent and mindful environment, are the key features that make the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in West Marin County, California such a popular location for group meditation retreats.

The center offers day-long, week-long, and even month-long retreats that are suitable for both new and experienced students of meditation. Fitting a retreat into your schedule is easy with the variety of stays they offer. The focus at Spirit Rock Meditation Center is on the teachings of Buddha and the practices of insight and loving-kindness meditation.

Spirit Rock also infuses meditation into every part of the day, including sitting, walking, and eating, which helps you have a better awareness of food and mindful eating. If you want to stay overnight, you can choose from one of their residential retreats.

But, if you live close by or want to stay off-site, Spirit Rock offers multi-day non-residential retreats that allow participants to spend the day learning and practicing meditation, and your nights, away from the center. These non-residential retreats are ideal for newer practitioners who are just learning to deepen their practice.

Interested in the benefits of meditation? Here's our guide to its positive effects on mental health.

Best for Beginners : Shambhala Mountain Center

Shambhala Mountain Center

Shambhala Mountain Center

Nestled in the mountains of northern Colorado, the Shambhala Mountain Center offers a variety of retreats, activities, and programs for all levels, but more specifically, to people new to meditation.

Participants can choose from guided meditations, hiking, yoga, and kayaking, among other indoor and outdoor activities. While the variety of activities is set up to accommodate all levels, what sets Shambhala apart from other retreats is their programs focused specifically on beginners. Their “Learn to Meditate” retreats are designed for people that are curious about the teachings and practice of meditation.

One popular option, Fresh Start: Yoga and Meditation for All Beings, is a two-day retreat that combines yoga and meditation to help beginners find a sense of relaxation, peace, and calm. Through this relaxed state, guests will find that meditation helps them reduce stress, increase body awareness, and increase their mental clarity.

Shambhala Mountain Center also offers week-long family retreats that center on community, creating a culture of kindness, wholeness, and strength. The teachings are done through play, outdoor time, and guided meditation. These family retreats involve group time, as well as individual time spent in separate spaces. 

Best Intensive : Green Gulch Farm Zen Center

Green Gulch Farm Zen Center

Green Gulch Farm Zen Center

If you’re looking to deepen your meditation practice, focus your energy, and commit to an in-depth program, consider booking a stay at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Muir Beach, California.

Just north of San Francisco, this Buddhist practice center focuses on the Japanese Soto Zen tradition in a year-round study format. Guests can stay short-term or extend to a long-term meditation retreat that also involves working in the community, for sometimes, months at a time.

The long-term option is geared towards individuals who want to take a deep-dive into an intensive meditation practice, while being part of the greater community. This includes a seven-day Sesshin (which means to collect the heart and the mind) to meditate, eat, and work in silence. The goal is to devote all of your energy to a deeper understanding of the Buddha Way.

Shorter sessions include guided meditations with on-site resident teachers that focus on a particular aspect of the practice. 

Best for Wilderness : Alaska Stillpoint Lodge

Alaska Stillpoint Lodge

Alaska Stillpoint Lodge

With wildlife, mountains, lakes, and breathtaking views, Alaska is known as the great outdoors. So, it makes sense that there would be peace, reflection, and mindfulness meditation found there.

The Alaska Stillpoint Lodge, Halibut Cove, near Homer, offers wellness retreats that focus on guided reflection and rejuvenation to nurture your soul. Wellness retreats are available in three, four, and five-day packages that include wilderness hikes, feasting on local, organic cuisine, silent meditation spaces, and yoga. Plus, you can participate in guided kayak tours, boating, guided meditation, massage, mindfulness classes, and journaling.

You also have the option to ditch the technology and make this retreat a digital detox. Request limited or no access to phone, TV, and Wi-Fi in your meditation cabin, and you will really experience the true meaning of a silent meditation.

Because of the harsh Alaska winters, meditation retreats are only available from May through September.

Best for Instructions : Insight Meditation Society

Insight Meditation Society

Insight Meditation Society

The Insight Meditation Society (IMS), located in Barre, Massachusetts, offers everything from weekend retreats to extended stays lasting several months.

Guests are taught by residential instructors that deliver teachings through Vipassana and loving-kindness meditations. The facility is divided into two campuses: one for short-term meditation retreats lasting seven to nine days, and another designed to attract students wanting to stay for longer retreats.

While there, guests will spend time immersed in sitting and walking meditation, completely done in silence. Advanced levels can benefit from the high level of instruction provided at IMS’s Forest Refuge retreat. The longer retreats can last up to one year, with participants immersing themselves in one or more early Buddhist practices.

One thing that sets IMS apart from most other meditation retreats is a policy offering a sliding fee scale. Participants are charged based on a sliding fee scale that allows them to pay in accordance with their individual means. 

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