Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ's
How has The Barn Retreat changed for Covid times?
The main change that you will notice is that things are done at a safe, socially-distanced spacing and that everyone is wearing face coverings inside.
The Barn may be slightly cooler, due to increased need of ventilation, and there are no sofas or armchairs in common spaces in order to discourage chatting at unsafe distances.
The tasks we ask you to do have changed slightly, and retreatants will not be cooking for each other. Instead, we have an extra coordinator living at The Barn who will be cooking and serving food for us.
The library has been transformed into a second dining area so that we can be 2 metres apart from each other while eating.
In order to have enough time to deep-clean between retreats and to give the coordinators enough down-time, the retreats end on Friday morning, so each retreat is one day shorter than it was previous to March 2020.
Showers need to be signed up for in advance and there may be times where you can only shower every other day.
The group sharings have to be in groups of 6 or less, so the group will be split.
For the time being, there will be no treatments offered to limit the number of people entering The Barn. In order to facilitate connection, we’ve set up various areas outside to sit and chat at a safe distance.
What is the SAME at The Barn?
We still meditate together in the meditating room, and have group sharings (also now in the meditation room and library), and have a rotation of Dharma teachings coming to support the retreat.
We will still go outside in the garden (where we don’t need to wear face coverings) and work together for the mornings, at a distance.
We eat lunch together (in two dining areas), have the afternoons for personal practice, have a silent day on Wednesday, have periods of walking and sitting meditation.
The schedule is very similar, with a few adjustments because of the shorter length of the retreats, such as having a dharma talk with a teacher on Wednesday afternoon (which is still a silent day).
Advice for those who have been previously to The Barn
We know and love how The Barn has been operating over the past years, and we did not ask for the changes that are now required. But more important than the specific ways things are done are the care that we have for each other.
Right now, this care we have for each other manifests in part through social-distancing, more emphasis on hygiene, and wearing face coverings inside.
In addition to thinking this is the best way to care for the community, we also have a legal responsibility to follow the government guidelines. If we were not willing to make these changes, we would be choosing to stay closed.
We can use these extra safety measures as an opportunity to increase our awareness and mindfulness.
Each time we leave our rooms we can be aware of the shared space we are entering and put on our face coverings. Each time we are sanitising the toilets after use, we can come back to the metta we have for the person who will be using it next. Each time we wash our hands we can be grateful for the running water and soap we can access freely and be present to the sensation of water on our hands.
We can also use the changes in The Barn to notice our comparing mind. We often want things the way that we are used to them being, and can compare the negatives of new ways without recognising the positives. Although this is natural, it also can increase the suffering we feel.
We have the opportunity to practice something different, to notice, for example, that we can still be on the land, watching the River Dart, being together in a supportive community.
The space that has opened up in the schedule for the afternoons can be filled with connecting with nature, or more meditation, or more napping.
It is our wish that through these changes and the adversity that we are in, we can deepen our care for each other, ourselves, and the land around us.
What previous meditation experience do Barn retreatants have?
All retreatants have had some (from little to lots) experience of meditation.
Meditation sittings are up to 40 minutes, and many are not guided, so we recommend complete beginners attend a Sharpham House Mindfulness for Beginners retreat before coming to The Barn.
Can I come on a Barn retreat with a friend or partner?
We recommend you come on a Barn retreat without anyone you know. If you bring an important part of your life with you then you aren’t really retreating! However, we realise for some people it isn’t possible to come separately (eg visiting the country together). In this case we ask you to engage with the retreat as individuals.
What is the difference between The Barn, Sharpham House and Woodland Retreats?
The Barn Retreat offers 5-night meditation retreats throughout the year in a wonderful converted old Devon Linhay. Retreats are based on a contemporary approach to Western Buddhism and participants have the chance to experience a schedule of mindfulness practice, teacher-led inquiry and working meditation in the organic garden.
Sharpham House offers secular mindfulness retreats with the opportunity to stay in a beautiful Grade 1-listed Georgian mansion house at the centre of the Estate and surrounded by superb gardens. Retreats at Sharpham House are fully catered for with cooks and house-keeping staff in attendance. Retreats include 3-night Mindfulness for Beginners, as well as a variety of themed retreats such as walking, silent and for stress/burn-out.
Woodland Retreats are a chance to stay in our woodland campsite in the grounds of Sharpham House with a focus on mindfulness and connecting to nature. Guided by our experienced leaders, participants will explore mindfulness in the inspirational setting offered by the Estate’s woodlands, gardens and parkland.
All of the above retreats are set at different locations across the beautiful 550-acre Sharpham Estate with views over the River Dart in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Are Barn retreats helpful for people with mental health difficulties?
Mental health difficulties and Sharpham Mindfulness Courses and Retreats
Although mindfulness can be helpful in managing stress, depression and anxiety, our courses and retreats might not be suitable if you are experiencing an episode of clinically diagnosed anxiety, depression or other serious psychiatric illness. If you are at a low point in a cycle of depression for example mindfulness and meditation can sometimes make matters worse. This is because it can be just too difficult to concentrate and thoughts and feelings can quickly start to feel overwhelming.
For these reasons we have a process designed to make sure that the course or retreat that individuals wish to book on to is right for them at this point in time.
Our booking process
Once you have booked on to a retreat you will be sent a link to a confidential questionnaire where you can provide information about your health needs. This questionnaire will be reviewed by a member of staff and if needed he or she will make contact with you.
If you are supported by a community mental health care team we might ask for your permission to speak to a psychiatric nurse or other relevant professional to help us make sure a retreat is right for you at this time.
In some cases we might recommend that you wait until you’re feeling a little better or suggest that you undertake an 8 week course or similar to gain more experience of mindfulness as a more gradual introduction to this practice. If this is the case – you will of course be offered a full refund or transfer to a course at a later date.
Why do retreats at the Barn cost less than at Sharpham House?
Costs are kept lower at The Barn because gardening and household tasks are shared in community by volunteer coordinators and retreatants.
Retreats at Sharpham House are fully catered. Also, Sharpham House is a large Grade 1-listed building with far higher overheads.
What dietary needs can you accommodate?
We can accommodate gluten-free and/or vegan dietary needs. However, our kitchen is not gluten, dairy nor nut-free.
Please make sure you include dietary restrictions and any food allergies on your Booking Form. We may need to communicate further with you about specifics.
The booking form will be sent as a link once you have booked and paid for a retreat.
What's the food like at The Barn?
Excellent! All of our food is vegetarian, and 99.5% organic.
Do I need to be fit to work in the garden?
No. The work is as easy as you like. We can find work to suit all abilities and physical conditions; even indoor tasks if you wish.
What time do Barn Retreats start and finish?
Arrival time for all Barn retreats is between 2pm and 4pm. Departure time is after 9am and before 11am.
How do I get to The Barn from Totnes Train Station?
The Barn is about three miles by road and about 10-15 minutes from Totnes Train Station.
A taxi will cost about £12-18.
We are not able to provide rides from the Totnes station at this time. If you travel by rail, you will need to take a taxi or walk or bike to The Barn. And this is a great way to draw yourself out of the world and into retreat.
How do I find out more and book a Barn retreat?
How do I get to Sharpham House?
Sharpham House is 10 minutes drive from Totnes, Devon. Trains to Totnes run frequently from London and the North of England.
For full details and directions click here
What is the difference between Sharpham House, The Barn and Woodland Retreats?
Sharpham House offers secular mindfulness retreats with the opportunity to stay in a beautiful Grade 1-listed Georgian mansion house at the centre of the estate and surrounded by superb gardens. Retreats at Sharpham House are fully catered for with cooks and house-keeping staff in attendance. Retreats include 3-day Beginners' mindfulness, as well as a variety of themed retreats such as singing, yoga and walking.
The Barn Retreat offers 6-day meditation retreats throughout the year in a wonderful converted old Devon Linhay. Retreats are based on a contemporary approach to Western Buddhism and participants have the chance to experience a schedule of mindfulness practice, teacher-led inquiry and working meditation in the organic garden.
Woodland Retreats are a unique chance to stay in our woodland campsite in the grounds of Sharpham House with a focus on mindfulness and connecting to nature. Guided by our experienced leaders, participants will explore mindfulness in the inspirational setting offered by the Estate’s woodlands, gardens and parkland.
All of the above retreats are set at different locations across the beautiful 550-acre Sharpham Estate with views over the River Dart in an area of designated outstanding natural beauty.
Why do Sharpham House Retreats cost more than Barn retreats?
Costs are lower at the Barn because it is run by volunteer coordinators, and gardening and cooking is carried out by retreatants in mindful work periods. Retreats at Sharpham House are fully catered. Sharpham House is also a larger Grade 1-listed building with much higher overheads to cover. Any surplus made from retreats goes towards supporting the charitable activities of the Trust.
Do I need to have prior knowledge or experience of mindfulness before coming?
All of the retreats at Sharpham House are suitable both for people new to meditation and mindfulness, as well as those looking to reconnect with their practice. Each retreat typically involves x3 20-30 minute guided formal sitting meditation sessions per day. The retreats are not held in silence, however there are usually silent periods in the evening and first thing. Most retreats also include a half-day of silence to deepen your mindfulness experience. If you are totally new to mindfulness we recommend that you visit our mindfulness resources page and some pre-reading on the subject would be useful before you come. More experienced meditators might want to consider The Barn Retreat Centre also on the Sharpham Estate which includes longer sitting and silent periods, as well as taking your practice into shared work periods of cooking, cleaning and working on the land.
I have some mental health difficulties - is this retreat for me?
Mental health difficulties and Sharpham Mindfulness Courses and Retreats
Although meditation and mindfulness can be helpful in managing stress, depression and anxiety, according to UK best practice guidelines, the practice might not be suitable if you are experiencing major depression or other clinically diagnosed psychiatric illness such as bipolar disorder, psychosis or current self-harming. If you are or feeling very stressed and anxious, meditation can make matters worse. This is because it can be just too difficult to concentrate and thoughts and feelings can quickly start to feel overwhelming.
For these reasons we have a booking process designed to make sure that a course or retreat is right for you at this point in time.
What is the accommodation like?
Sharpham House has a mix of 24 bedrooms, made up of Premium and Standard rooms, sleeping up to 47 guests in the main House, the South Wing and the West Wing.
Our Premium bedrooms are larger and offer a view of the River Dart. Our Standard rooms are simple but homely. All bedding and towels are provided and there is constant tea and coffee making facilities available in the Dining and Toasting room.
All rooms are single occupancy. There are 3 en-suite rooms and we have an accessible bedroom and bathroom, which can be reserved only if you have specific medical or health needs.
Retreatants have access to the woodland, formal and walled gardens as well as the open air swimming pool (with conditions).
What's the food like at Sharpham House?
Our cooks regularly get rave reviews for the high quality seasonal, vegetarian food they produce. We source food whenever possible from our kitchen garden and support local food suppliers.