What is a retreat?
A retreat is a chance to get away from the noise and complexity of modern life in order to deepen your experience of yourself and of the world around you. Below is an outline of the programme that our retreats follow. Please bear in mind it can vary, but will follow this rough structure:
8.45 Breakfast (free time)
11 Meditation or workshop in shrine room
1pm Lunch (free time)
7.30 Talks in shrine room and/or ritual
All our weekend retreats start with a welcome meal at 8.30pm on the Friday – you're welcome from 6.30pm and we suggest you arrive with time before dinner so that you can settle in (see below for details of coach travel). Weekend retreats finish at 3pm on the Sunday. Longer retreats usually begin with dinner at 6.30pm on the first day and finish at 12 noon on the last day.
What happens on retreat?
There will be periods of meditation, talks on aspects of Buddhism, as well as Buddhist devotional rituals, called ‘pujas’, which you are welcome to participate in if you wish. As the retreat progresses there will be more meditation sessions and periods of silence to allow for more reflection building up to a few days of silence. There will usually be small groups led by a team member in which you can share your experience of the retreat.
We try to provide a peaceful context that is free from distraction and interruption We therefore ask you to turn off all mobile phones, laptops, and so forth, and not to contact anyone outside the retreat. You may give friends or family members the emergency phone number for Vajrasana for the time that you are on retreat: 01359 259 067 (but we ask that this is used strictly in emergencies only). In order to meditate effectively one needs to maintain clarity of mind, we therefore ask you not to drink alcohol or use any recreational drugs during the retreat.
Do you need to be a Buddhist?
You don’t need to be a Buddhist to go on one of our retreats. Nor do you need any previous experience of meditation. Meditation will be introduced as part of the retreat. If you have already learnt meditation at the London Buddhist Centre, or another Triratna Buddhist Community centre, there will be opportunity to deepen your practice and receive more guidance in meditation.
Living communally is an important and usually enjoyable part of the retreat. Accommodation will be in shared single-sex rooms and we will eat together as a community.
Living communally means caring for each other. The team leading the retreat are volunteers who are on retreat as well; they are not paid staff. So we ask you to help out with simple chores. A team member will oversee these daily tasks. Working together is a good way of getting to know each other, and it also helps us keep the cost of retreats to a minimum.
Our retreats are known for being friendly and harmonious; we ask retreatants to cooperate with each other and to refrain from harsh speech or anti-social behaviour.
Please note that we don’t at present have the permission from the local authorities to include camping places on our retreats, and we will also want to take care over our relationship with the local community. And so although this may change in the future, at present we cannot allow camping on any retreats at Vajrasana.
Our food on the retreat will be vegetarian. Vegetarianism is part of the Buddhist commitment to non-violence. The cooks on the retreat are voluntary helpers and will be on retreat themselves. This means that we will not be able to cater for special diets unless for medical reasons. If you do need a special diet for medical reasons then we need to be notified as soon as possible and at least one week before the retreat starts.
Your welfare on retreat
For welfare and safety reasons please let us know if you have any disabilities or serious health problems such as diabetes or epilepsy, or any clinical mental health problems – particularly if you are on medication. No pets are allowed on the retreat. The retreat centre is a non-smoking venue. If you do wish to smoke we ask you to do so in a designated place a short walk off-site. To protect people’s privacy we would prefer that you do not offer people on the retreat physical therapies such as massage, reflexology, etc.
What's included in the cost?
The cost of the retreat includes all food and bedding. Transport is not included, but you can pay for a seat on a coach to the retreat (occasional retreats excepted) or make your own way there. See above section for more.
What to bring
Toiletries, towel, comfortable clothes to meditate in. You may want to bring a notebook and pen. The countryside around where we will be staying is lovely – so you’ll need suitable clothing for going on walks and maybe some boots if it is wet.
What not to bring?
To make the most of being on retreat please do not bring work with you, and also leave behind newspapers and the media generally. We strongly recommend not bringing your laptop or tablet with you.
You will also be asked to turn off your mobile phone and leave behind the internet! Make sure you have confirmed and forward travel arrangements before you arrive and let your friends and family know you will be off line and not in regular contact for the period of the retreat.
If being out of contact is going to be a problem for friends or family, let the Vajrasana office team know and we will make sure you are informed of any necessary communication. In case of emergencies, family and friends can call our office number +44 (0)1359 259 067 if they need to reach you.
Location & travel
Vajrasana is at Potash Farm, Walsham le Willows, Suffolk, IP31 3AR (on Google maps here). For most of our retreats at Vajrasana, when you book the retreat you can also book a return journey on a coach from the London Buddhist Centre (LBC) to Vajrasana. For coaches to weekend retreats, you're asked to be at the LBC at 5.45pm on the day for a prompt 6pm departure. The coach will leave Vajrasana again at the end of the retreat at 3pm. These timings will be different for longer retreats – please consult the page for the retreat itself for more.
If you're making your own way to Vajrasana, we recommend a train to Stowmarket station (regular trains run from London Liverpool Street). There is a taxi rank at Stowmarket station, but TKO Cars (07739 365 555), based in Walsham le Willows, is usually cheaper. Download full travel advice here.