You might have heard about meditation retreats from the token religiously meditative coworker or friend in your life, but likely dismissed them as something exclusively beneficial to zen vegans. But these retreats also offer a variety of benefits to the average stressy Joe you may not have considered.

What is it?

Meditation retreats involve staying at a retreat centre for a period of time (usually anywhere between a weekend and ten days) in order to meditate, reflect and spiritually connect with yourself.
Centres usually cater to both experienced and completely inexperienced meditators, and meals are often inclusive in the prices of your stay as a part of the mindfulness experience.

Who is it for?

The short answer is – anyone and everyone. However, different people will gain different benefits from the experience:

  • Active meditators

    If you’re experienced in the process of meditation, you likely know the benefits of increased mindfulness, bodily relaxation and the inner awareness it provides.
    A meditation retreat can serve to provide a higher experience of enlightenment and skill in something you already enjoy, and can afford an extra element of tranquility and quiet you might not have access to in your regular routine.

  • Stressed non-meditators

    If you’re experiencing stress on a noticeable or high level in your daily life, chances are you’re not pointing at a lack of meditation as the central cause. Work, family, money, food, health—life in general can be stressful, and the results of prolonged exposure to stress can be extremely harmful to our health, happiness and wellbeing.A meditation retreat may initially be a shock to your ‘always on the go’ lifestyle, but you’ll likely leave the retreat feeling de-stressed and more rested and in-tune with your mind and body.

  • Experience-seekers

    Who says a holiday has to be about exploring the physical world? If you’re the kind of person looking for something different from getting away, a meditation retreat could be a uniquely interesting experience for you.Rather than exploring the outside world, a retreat focuses on exploring your inner mind and self in a spiritually focused journey. Rather than leaving with pictures and souvenirs, you’re likely to leave with an understanding of the deeper meanings to life and yourself.

What to expect

While every retreat differs, there are a few things you can expect to experience in general from a meditation retreat:

  • No phones – don’t expect to have your phone with you on your retreat, as electronic comforts are considered disruptive to mindfulness and meditation. If you bring it along with you, staff will place it in a safe place until the end of your stay.
  • Silence – silence can sometimes be uncomfortable, but meditation retreats use it as a pathway to hearing the louder presence of your mind and awareness in the meditative and reflective aspects of your stay.
  • Minimalism – food, surroundings and sometimes clothing can be expected to be minimalist in nature, as the aim of the retreat is to focus inward on your mind and self – not on your surroundings.
  • Strange concepts – being mindful of the way you eat down to chewing, breathing, taste and the experience of the process as a whole likely sounds like a very odd concept, but it’s a common aspect of retreats.

Meditation is a broad term for mindfulness and the many ways to achieve it – from traditional silence to active and service meditation, and being aware of your eating habits and body presence.

Schedules – schedules are a common part of meditation retreats to ensure you get the most of your experience. Silent meditation, lunch, active meditation, time for personal care and many more activities will have their allocated time slots in the day for you to follow.

Where to go

There are many meditation retreats across Australia worth visiting, but these are our top three picks:

#1 Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre, NSW

Managed by a non-profit organisation comprised of monks, nuns and students, this centre is a beautiful sight of tranquility in secluded Blue Mountains bushland. Several retreats are offered by the centre, varying in length from weekend to month-long courses and offering a variety of focuses to suit every individual. Prices vary from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars, depending on the length of the retreat.

#2 Springbrook Theosophical Retreat Centre, QLD

Brahma Kumaris are a worldwide spiritual movement, with their Australian fraction holding regular retreats at this scenic bushland location in Springbrook, Queensland. Panoramic views, vegetarian meals and various activities are offered on the retreat in exchange for safety and respect compliance, and a small generosity donation.

#3 Nan Tien Temple, NSW

The Nan Tien Temple in NSW offers a variety of retreats focused on buddhist meditation, mindfulness and teaching. The temple itself is a breathtaking sight of buddhist design and decoration, and retreats start from as little as $50 for a one-day experience – vegetarian lunch inclusive.