Retreat Centre – Frequently Asked Questions
- Coming on retreat
- Can I stay at the retreat centre before a retreat begins or after it has finished?
- What do I need to bring?
- Will I be able to use the internet, email, or make phone calls whilst on retreat?
- Should I continue to take my medication whilst on retreat?
- What should I wear?
- Can I wash clothes at the Retreat Centre?
- Will I be able to meet with the Ajahn (teacher)?
- Will I be able to ask the Ajahn (teacher) questions?
- Staying at the Retreat Centre
- Can I stay at the Retreat Centre outside of retreat times?
- What accommodation is available?
- What facilities are available for people with disabilities?
- Can I camp while on retreat?
- About retreats
- What time do retreats start and finish?
- How much does it cost to come on retreat?
- Can I attend part of a retreat?
- How long are the meditation sessions?
- Can I sit on a chair for meditation?
- How do I get to the Retreat Centre?
- What food is provided?
- Can special diets be catered for?
- About booking
- Why does a retreat show “closed” when booking opened at 19:00 hours?
- How many retreats can I apply for in a year?
- What happens if I book more than 3 retreats in one year?
- What chance do I have of being offered a place from the waiting list?
- Why do I have to Reconfirm my place?
- What can I do if I have forgotten my password?
- How can I change my personal details?
- Why are there no retreats in January, February or March?
- How is coming on a retreat different to staying as a guest at the monastery?
- Do I have to have meditation experience to attend a retreat?
- Do I have to have previous retreat experience to attend a retreat?
- How old do you have to be to attend a retreat at the Retreat Centre?
Coming on retreat
Can I stay at the retreat centre before a retreat begins or after it has finished?
If you have a confirmed place on a retreat and wish to offer support to the Retreat Centre, we welcome a small number of people coming a day or two early to help with the preparation, or staying a day late to help clean up.
If you are interested in doing this, please contact the Retreat Centre to see if there is availability. Once you have been accepted, it is important that you let us know in plenty of time if you are no longer able to help in this way, so that someone else can take your place.
What do I need to bring?
You need to bring:
- Sheets, pillowcase, and duvet cover or sleeping bag (pillow, duvet and blanket are provided)
- Towels and toiletries
You are advised to bring:
- Waterproof outdoor clothing and footwear
- Slip-on shoes or sandals
- Thick socks or slippers (outdoor shoes are not worn in the Retreat Centre)
- Warm clothes – several layers of clothing are recommended
- Comfortable, loose-fitting clothing
- Small torch, hot water bottle
Health & Safety – Electrical Appliances
Due to current Health & Safety regulations, all electrical appliances, i.e. anything which needs to be plugged into a wall socket in the Retreat Centre, must first be checked and approved by a qualified electrician. This means that visitors CANNOT plug in and use their own items such as mobile phones, laptops, iPads, hair-dryers, etc. while staying at the Retreat Centre.
Will I be able to use the internet, email, or make phone calls whilst on retreat?
Retreatants are asked not to use electronic equipment during retreats. If you believe you will be unable to meet this request, we would ask you to consider whether this is the right time for you to come on a silent meditation retreat.
We provide safe facilities where mobile phones and other valuables may be left for the duration of the retreat.
If you think someone may need to contact you in an emergency whilst you are on retreat, please give them our contact details (provided in your Confirmation email). We will take a message and pass it on to you. We are happy to support you during your retreat in this way.
Should I continue to take my medication whilst on retreat?
It is essential that you continue to take any prescribed medication whilst you are staying at the Retreat Centre. You should not stop your medication or reduce the dosage. If you need to take food with this medication, please let us know and this can be arranged.
What should I wear?
Retreatants are asked to dress modestly, out of respect for the monastics leading the retreat and to not distract other retreatants. This includes:
- not wearing sleeveless tee-shirts, tops or dresses
- not wearing short or tight-fitting clothing or leggings
- not wearing low or plunging necklines or transparent clothing
- not wearing shorts, skirts, or dresses which end above the knees
It is advisable to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for sitting meditation, and suitable outdoor clothing for walking meditation, according to the time of year.
Can I wash clothes at the Retreat Centre?
Washing machines are not available. But it is possible to hand-wash small items of clothing and a spin dryer and a drying room are available for retreatants to use.
Will I be able to meet with the Ajahn (teacher)?
At the end of each retreat the teacher is available to meet informally with retreatants.
During retreats the teacher does not offer individual private interviews, although if needed these can be arranged, especially on longer retreats.
Will I be able to ask the Ajahn (teacher) questions?
On all retreats there is usually an opportunity to ask the teacher questions about meditation practice and Buddhism. The teacher will say whether questions should be written or may be asked verbally. Questions about practice may also be written and posted on a board during retreats, to be given to the teacher each morning.
During ten-day and thirteen-day retreats, retreatants have the opportunity to meet with the teacher in small discussion groups.
On weekend and five-day retreats, the teacher will give instruction in both sitting and walking meditation. Longer retreats are for those who already have some experience of meditation, so basic instruction is not generally given, although often there are guided meditations.
Staying at the Retreat Centre
Can I stay at the Retreat Centre outside of retreat times?
It is usually only possible to stay at the Retreat Centre during a retreat. However, a few retreatants are welcome to support us by arriving early to help set up the retreat, or staying on to help clear up after the retreat is over. If you are interested in applying to do this way, please contact the Retreat Centre. Please note that it is only possible to arrive early or stay on after a retreat has finished if the Household & Maintenance manager has confirmed that your help is needed.
What accommodation is available?
Most of our accommodation is in single-sex dormitories which sleep up to eighteen people. Each bed has its own small wardrobe and chest of drawer unit.
We have a few single rooms available for those with medical needs or disabilities, or due to age (75 years or older).
If you request a single room, you will be asked when booking to give your reason for this request. A Confirmation email will be sent once you have completed the online booking process. However your place cannot be guaranteed until your reason for requesting a single room has been considered. If you are on the waiting list for a place on a retreat and have selected a single room, you will only be contacted if a single room becomes available.
What facilities are available for people with disabilities?
We have one room which has easy access for wheelchair users and a hospital bed suitable for those who are seriously or terminally ill and require this facility. This room is adjacent to a toilet and shower room which are equipped for special needs. If you need these facilities, please indicate this on your online booking form and if possible we will allocate this room to you.
Can I camp while on retreat?
It is not possible to camp at the Retreat Centre while on retreat.
What time do retreats start and finish?
Registration takes place between 4.00pm and 6.30pm on the first day of the retreat. Although you cannot register before 4.00pm you are welcome to arrive earlier on that day and join in the main meal at the monastery (11.30am in the summer and 11.00am in the winter).
Weekend retreats end at 5.00pm on the last day of the retreat. All other retreats end at 1.00pm on the last day.
How much does it cost to come on retreat?
There is no charge for attending monastic-led retreats at Amaravati. The teachings are given freely, as are the accommodation, food, and all the other facilities available during your retreat. This is in keeping with the Thai Forest monastic tradition as practised here at Amaravati.
We are able to continue offering retreats due to the generosity of past retreatants, and all future retreats remain dependent on that generosity.
At the beginning and end of each retreat there is the opportunity to offer dāna (generosity) if you wish to do so. This may be financial, or take the form of volunteering your time or special skills, or offering supplies and equipment needed to help with the running of the Retreat Centre. Whatever you feel inspired to give is gratefully received.
To give you an appreciation of how much it costs overall to run the Retreat Centre: it is about £60 to support one person for a weekend retreat, £100 per person for a 5-day retreat, £200 per person for a 10-day retreat and £260 per person for a 13-day retreat.
Please do not feel under any pressure to give a donation which meets these costs. Conversely, if you are able to give more, this will help fund those who cannot afford to give so much. No one should feel unable to attend a retreat because they cannot afford to make a donation. Whatever you can offer is helpful and of value.
Can I attend part of a retreat?
It is not possible to attend only part of a retreat, or to leave a retreat and then return later. Once you have a confirmed place, you are asked to participate in the whole retreat.
How long are the meditation sessions?
Both sitting and walking meditation sessions usually last for about 45 minutes. On longer retreats the sessions may last up to one hour. There are opportunities to sit in meditation for longer during free periods, should you wish to do so.
Can I sit on a chair for meditation?
For the sitting meditation sessions, there is a choice of mats and cushions, chairs or kneeling stools.
All retreatants are asked to choose a place to sit in the Shrine Room at the start of each retreat. If you initially choose a mat and cushion but later on need to move to a chair, that is possible. However, due to limited space in the Shrine Room, it is not possible to reserve both a mat and cushion as well as a chair.
How do I get to the Retreat Centre?
Please see the Getting Here section on the main monastery website.
What food is provided?
All food provided is vegetarian, and mostly vegan and gluten-free.
In accordance with keeping the Eight Precepts (see section on What to Expect), there is no evening meal. If you require an evening snack for medical reasons, please indicate this on your online booking form and a simple meal will be provided for you at 5.00pm during teatime.
The practice of fasting is not permitted during retreats.
Can special diets be catered for?
Medical food allergies and requirements can generally be catered for, but we cannot cater for personal food preferences. There is always a choice of food, including rice, salads and a dessert.
Why does a retreat show “closed” when booking opened at 19:00 hours?
The most common reason for this happening, is that the booking page has been opened before 19:00 hours and has not been ‘refreshed’ at 19:00 hours.
If you do not refresh the page, most browsers will not automatically update it, so you will still see the retreat as ‘closed’, even though it has opened for booking.
How many retreats can I apply for in a year?
You can apply for up to three retreats in any one retreat year (April-December).
What happens if I book more than 3 retreats in one year?
If you apply for more than 3 retreats in any one retreat year (April-December), you will automatically be placed at the end of the waiting list for any additional retreats. You may still be offered a place, if those on the waiting list before you are not able to accept the offer, or if you cancel or do not get offered a place on one of the first three retreats. In the event of this happening, your next retreat booking will be placed on the waiting list in the position determined by the booking date.
Please be aware that we generally receive a high number of cancellations for each retreat, so you may well be offered a place.
What chance do I have of being offered a place from the waiting list?
Once a retreat is fully booked, a place can only be offered when someone cancels their confirmed booking.
We do, however, generally receive a high number of cancellations, so people on the waiting list frequently get offered a place, especially in the dormitory.
If you are available to attend a retreat at the last minute you have a very good chance of being offered a place, as these late cancellations are often difficult to fill.
Why do I have to Reconfirm my place?
Even though you have already been sent a Confirmation email, to help us continue to reduce the high number of late cancellations we receive, everyone who has a confirmed place on a retreat has to Reconfirm their availability and commitment to attend.
This is done via an email which is sent 8-10 weeks before the start of your retreat, depending on its’ length. If we do not have a response to this email within 4 weeks of it being sent, your place is automatically cancelled and offered to the first person on the waiting list.
What can I do if I have forgotten my password?
If you have forgotten your password, go to the Amaravati website, click on ‘Retreat Centre’, then select ‘Manage your bookings’. You will be asked to enter the email address that was registered when making your original booking; you then select the option ‘Forgotten password’. An email will be sent, generally within a few minutes, giving you your password.
If you wish to change your password, you can do this by going to ‘Manage your details’ on the Retreat Centre homepage. For further information on how to do this, see ‘How can I change my personal details?’, below.
How can I change my personal details?
If you need to change any of the personal details that you gave when you first registered on the booking system, you need to go to the Retreat Centre homepage on the Amaravati website, then you select ‘Manage your details’. This will take you to the booking system. You will be asked to enter the original email you registered and your password. You can then change your details, such email address, telephone number etc.
Please note that we do not require you to enter your address, so you are unable to put your address information into the booking system.
Why are there no retreats in January, February or March?
In January, February and March the monastery is on its annual Winter Retreat. During this time it is not possible to stay at the Retreat Centre or the monastery.
How is coming on a retreat different to staying as a guest at the monastery?
Coming on retreat is a different experience to staying at the monastery.
The Retreat Centre has its own facilities, and operates completely independently of the monastery. While on retreat you keep Noble Silence, spend your time practising sitting and walking meditation, and listen to Dhamma talks every evening.
Guests staying at the monastery follow the daily schedule of the monastic routine; working, sharing meals, and meditating with the monastic community.
Do I have to have meditation experience to attend a retreat?
Weekend and five-day retreats are open to all, including those with no meditation experience. However, most guidance and meditation instruction is offered on weekend retreats. If you wish to gain some experience before coming on retreat, you are welcome to attend one of the Saturday afternoon meditation workshops held in the main monastery Temple. These workshops are held from 2.00pm until 4.00pm every Saturday. Further information can be found on the monastery website.
To attend ten-day retreats you are required to have some meditation experience, as these retreats offer the opportunity to deepen your practice rather than offering basic guidance.
We hold one thirteen-day retreat a year which is open to people who have an established meditation practice and do not need guidance or instruction.
Do I have to have previous retreat experience to attend a retreat?
Weekend and five-day retreats are open to all, including those with no previous silent meditation retreat experience. However, most guidance and meditation instruction is offered on weekend retreats.
To attend ten-day retreats you are required to have some previous silent retreat experience, as these retreats offer the opportunity to deepen your practice rather than offering basic guidance. This retreat experience does not have to have been at Amaravati Retreat Centre.
We hold one thirteen-day retreat a year which is open to people who have attended a previous ten-day silent meditation retreat and are comfortable practicing for longer periods in silence.
How old do you have to be to attend a retreat at the Retreat Centre?
Monastic-led retreats are open to those eighteen years of age or older.