Learn to Meditate at one of our favourite European Retreat Centres.
Retreat centres across Europe provide nourishing conditions for contemplative practice. The collective energy of mindfulness, concentration, and insight can help bring healing and transformation to ourselves and the world. Whether a beginner, or a seasoned practitioner, a retreat offers uninterrupted time to explore, deepen and strengthen meditative practice. If you are thinking about your next retreat in Europe, here are a few ideas to get you started.
Plum Village Monastery - France and Germany
Plum Village was established in 1982 by Zen Master and Peace Activist Thich Nhat Hanh in southwest France. What began as a small, rustic farmstead has become Europe’s largest Buddhist monastery spread across three Hamlets. Located in a beautiful part of the French countryside, the Hamlets are surrounded by rolling hills, sunflowers, little villages, and forests. This is very much an engaged community practice centre that aims to create a healthy, nourishing environment where people can learn the art of living in harmony with one another and with the Earth. Retreats are generally offered for one or two weeks and visitors can expect to enjoy periods of silence, sitting meditation, singing, rest, eating meditation, thai chi, relaxation, mindful work and play. Mindful breath awareness and walking meditation are two of the core practices taught at Plum Village. There are sister centres in Germany and outside Paris as well as practice centres in other parts of the world. Live events are also offered on their website and youtube. Many well-known mindfulness teachers like Jon Kabat-Zinn and Jack Cornfield have spent time in training with Thich Nhat Hanh.
Vipassana means to ‘see things as they really are’ and is an ancient meditation technique from India. Once an endangered practice, surviving in remote monasteries in Burma, it is now one of the most accessible meditation techniques to learn. Offered for free around the world, the numerous centres and non-sectarian ethos was the work of S.N. Goenka. The first centre established by Goenka in Europe was Dhamma Mahi in 1988. Today, there are 17 Centres across Europe offering courses throughout the year as well as 39 Non-Centers which offer courses on an adhoc basis, usually during the summer months. This really is a course, requiring sufficient personal determination to immerse yourself in complete silence and commit to around ten hours of meditation practice per day, starting very early in the morning. In addition to the vipassana technique, students are taught Anapana Meditation which helps to cultivate concentration, and metta-bhavana (loving kindness) meditation. The 10-day residential vipassana meditation course is not for everyone, but students who last the distance generally experience numerous benefits. Best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari once shared that vipassana meditation transformed his life and since 2013 he is an assistant teacher at the Goenka practice centre in Israel.
GAIA House, the United Kingdom
Located in Devon, the United Kingdom, GAIA House offers Insight Meditation retreats in the Buddhist tradition. Founded by Christina Feldman and her late husband in 1983, the centre offers silence, rural tranquillity, and simplicity of lifestyle. The practice of Insight Meditation, which is closely related to vipassana, can help to free the mind and heart from confusion, self-centredness and anguish. Retreats are offered anywhere from two days to four weeks. GAIA House is also affiliated with other Insight Meditation Practice Centres, including the Meditation Centre Beatenberg in Beatenberg, Switzerland; and two in the U.S., Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Woodacre, California; and the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts.