Do you ever feel like escaping your life for a bit, to a place where there are no emails, twitter or phone calls, just countryside and peace and calm?
Such a place exists – a Meditation Retreat known as the Sharpham Barn Retreat near Totnes in Devon. I have stayed there a few times in recent years, and it really is a great escape!
It’s possibly best if you have tried a little meditation before because each day is structured with three meditation sittings a day for 40 minutes each. This might be tough if you are a beginner. Yet it’s also a great learning curve and you are given as much support as you need. Sometimes these sessions include Mindful Walking and Mindful Movement.
Sharpham Barn Retreat
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to go there, though it’s run on Buddhist principles. You simply need to be willing to practice mindfulness as much as possible and respect the Buddhist way.
Everyone has allotted jobs to do each day. One time in winter mine included collecting logs. Each morning at 7.30am I was outside with a wheelbarrow. I listened to the birdsong and enjoyed the vivid red and pink sky as it emerged from the east.
On other stays I made the porridge each morning for everyone’s breakfast and had cleaning bathroom duties!
Later in the day we all do additional tasks around the smallholding. These might include pruning fruit trees, building hedges, mending chicken pens and a million and one other jobs.
Not being a practical person at all, I still enjoyed getting out there! I took pleasure in weeding, spreading compost and placing matting around raspberry bushes.
Whenever I stopped for a breather, I was rewarded with beautiful views across the River Dart. The swirls of passing starlings and peace and quiet were deeply nourishing.
The barn itself is located on the Sharpham Estate just outside Totnes. It includes dairy cattle and a vineyard which produce Sharpham wine and cheese.
The estate also provides a farm facility for adults with learning disabilities. As I walked around there one day I was cheerfully greeted by several young adults who were there feeding the cows amongst the stunning backdrop of undulating green hills.
As well as meditating, experiencing talks and doing mindful jobs, we undertook silence every day from 9pm until 9am. Additionally, in the middle of the week there is silence from 9pm on Tuesday evening all the way through until 9am on Thursday. It can be a fabulous or a challenging experience, perhaps a bit of both, for many people.
For me, I am always amazed at how quickly the time goes. And how comfortable I feel working alongside others in peaceful silence. It can, however, allow you a lot of time for thinking and this is where your practice of mindfulness can deepen. Can you imagine how you might find it to go for 36 hours in silence?
The surrounding countryside provides beautiful walks. The library is full of Buddhist and related books all available to enjoy. The silence means no distractions from your phone, emails or television.
In addition to all this, two retreatants each day take turns to prepare lunch. Just because it’s a meditation retreat don’t expect that you will lose any weight due to frugality!
Every meal was delicious and on a summer stay I enjoyed all the freshly picked vegetables from the gardens. We ate mindfully and slowly, and by doing so, this gives you the chance to appreciate every morsel of food that’s eaten.
This is ideally how you would wish to eat each day – giving yourself the time and space to savour and enjoy your food. Here you have the chance to do this.
Some of the produce comes from the garden, either fresh or has been made into chutneys and sauces from the seasons of the year. Other food comes from nearby Riverford Organic Farm. It is plentiful and satisfying.
Time for a Meditation Retreat
So have I convinced you yet that a Meditation Retreat might be just what you need?! A retreat can mean many things, but this really is a retreat from the chaos of a busy world.
It’s worth bookmarking this place in case you want to plan your escape sometime in the future! If you can’t make a week, or if you want to learn about mindfulness before you do something like this, I have several options available for you here at Place of Serenity, around the East Hampshire area. These include a 6 Week Mindfulness Course and Weekly Meditation sessions which can be mini-retreats of an hour each week for you!
Sometimes it’s good to escape!
Place of Serenity, East Hampshire: Alton, Liphook, Petersfield …
First published 27 December 2014. Updated 2018: Now more than ever many of us feel ready for a great escape to experience the power of peace!!