A Guide & Resource List to Insight Meditation Retreats Worldwide
Adapted from a blog post originally written by Jessica Lam Hill Young in February 2017
Here you will find a guide to and list of meditation centers & retreats discussed in our group sessions as well as upcoming events of special interest. Note that this is presented in my humble opinion and may not necessarily reflect the views of HKIMS’s.
The Benefits of Seclusion
Seclusion is the cause and condition for profound peace and life-transforming insights to arise. In the beginning stages of meditation practice, physical seclusion is of vital importance. In a silent retreat, without agitating entertainment and electronic distractions, we experience freedom from irritating external sense contacts. This leads to mental seclusion, the calming of the defilements (disturbances to the mind) that we are under constant assault by in our hectic daily lives. Through sense restraint in a retreat setting, we see such profound peace is possible. This can really inspire and give momentum to our meditation practice, motivating us to practice to understand ourselves and the nature of this mind.
“Secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, I entered and dwelled in meditative absorption, which is accompanied by thought and examination, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion.” – the Buddha
Therefore, I strongly encourage each and every one of you to make time to go on retreat and experience it for yourself. Even if you’re motivated to meditate for secular reasons, a retreat is a fantastic way to spend time with ourselves, gain insight into the struggles in our lives, and re-connect to what we value most. Please feel free to speak to me if you need further guidance on this!
That said, the worst thing you can bring on a retreat is expectations. For a successful retreat experience, the best advice I can give is to simply abide in present-moment contentment no matter what we are experiencing, and trust that we can learn from all retreat conditions, good or bad. As Ajahn Sumedho says:
Of course we can always imagine more perfect conditions, how it should be ideally, how everyone should behave. But it is not our task to create an ideal. It’s our task to see how it is, and to learn from the world as it is. For the awakening of the heart, conditions are always good enough.”
Note: Most Buddhist meditation retreats are offered freely on the basis of generosity.
Meditation Centres In Asia
Here are the ones I can recommend based on personal experience/word-of-mouth. Most have retreats year-round; check websites for schedule. List arranged by region with details and recommended further reading.
(For meditation centres in the west, jump to the next section)
Meditation Centres In The West
Western retreats have a distinctively different flavor from Asian retreats. Very generally speaking, Western retreats are more luxurious in terms of food and accommodation and more inclined toward secularism (i.e. less Pali chanting and devotional rituals, more one-on-one interviews and talks); but Western retreats also tend to charge for room and board (most Asian retreats don’t).
How to decide a retreat to go to? Other than considerations of time and location, my main consideration is usually my interest in practice at the moment and more importantly, the teacher. Often I read a spiritual book that struck a chord with me and I end up joining that teacher’s retreat. Other wonderful teachers of insight meditation not mentioned here that we share on Monday nights are: Tara Brach, Steve Armstrong, Ajahn Brahm; you can check their retreats.