Frequently Asked Questions - Solo retreats
What is the difference between Sharpham's various retreats?
The Barn Retreat offers 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 meditations, 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 I-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 Mindfulness for Beginners, as well as a variety of themed retreats such as seasonal, walking, silent and retreats for stress/burn-out.
The Coach House offers retreats with accommodation in a converted stable courtyard in the grounds of Sharpham House. The retreats have an ecological focus and offer an opportunity to live in community and explore the benefits of nature-based mindfulness. The daily rhythm of the retreats revolve around mindfulness, gardening and nature connection, including experience of our rewilding land.
Woodland Retreats offer a chance to stay under canvas 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.
Solo retreats are for experienced meditators and take place in The Cabin, within the grounds of The Barn Retreat Centre. They offer the chance to take a personal retreat and be immersed in solitude and nature, with daily work on the land.
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.
Why are Sharpham retreats so cheap?
The Sharpham Trust is a registered charity (number: 285767) and a social enterprise which endeavours to keep the costs as low as possible by subsidising various aspects of the courses and retreats.
What is a Mindfulness Meditation Retreat?
What is a mindfulness meditation retreat?
Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally (Jon Kabat Zinn)
A mindfulness meditation retreat offers a valuable opportunity to step out of everyday life to focus on being rather than doing. Without our usual distractions and diversions we meet our experience as it arises with a sense of spaciousness, care and compassion.
When we sit in meditation we begin with developing mindfulness of our breathing to help us to steady our minds. Each time our mind wanders and we become distracted (which naturally happens), we bring our attention back to our breath. This practice of focus and awareness can be extended to encompass all of our experience including our physical sensations, thoughts, feelings and emotions. Being with our direct experience in this way can allow us insight into the nature of our lives, which in turn can lead to self-knowledge and wisdom.
Mindfulness and retreating can sometime be portrayed in the wellness industry as being all about generating a sense of calm and relaxation. Although this can sometimes be the case, another perhaps more helpful way of seeing mindfulness practice is the way in which it can support our capacity to be with and transform our difficult feelings, emotions and life challenges. In this way we can live out of awareness rather than reactivity and make better choices for our lives; cultivate positive rather than negative thoughts and feelings states and be better placed to contribute and be of benefit to the beings we share with this planet with.
What happens on a Sharpham Mindfulness Retreat?
When you come on a mindfulness retreat at Sharpham you will experience the following across all of our retreat venues:
- Three 30-40 minute formal meditation sessions per day. This is mainly sitting meditation, some silent, some guided. Leaders can help with sitting posture which can be on a chair, stool or matt or even lying down where people might have physical difficulties.
- Nature-based mindfulness practice either through gardening or nature-connection and nature-sensing activities on the land
- Self-compassion or metta-based practices
- Some mindful movement or embodiment practice
- Periods of silence to help you deepen into mindfulness practice
- The chance to bring mindfulness into some everyday tasks and activities
- The opportunity to share your mindfulness experience in the supportive company of fellow retreatants (sometimes we learn the most from listening to each others experience)
- Guidance about how to integrate mindfulness practice into your everyday life
What and where is The Cabin?
The Cabin is a small, rustic building in woodland near The Barn Retreat centre (roughly a 5 minute walk from the main site).
It is set in a stunning hillside location overlooking the River Dart, on the Sharpham Estate near Totnes in Devon.
It has no electricity; torches are provided.
It has running water, though it is not treated, therefore we suggest boiling it before drinking it.
There is a wood burner inside for heat with wood provided.
Bedding, a meditation mat and cushions, and some food is provided.
There is a compost loo nearby, and you can use a shower in The Barn when arranged in advance.
How much meditation experience is suitable to come on a solitary retreat?
A general guideline is that you have been meditating at least 3 times a week for more than 3 years. You’d have a strong desire to meditate and not need support in meditations.
Do I have access to any emotional or spiritual support during the retreat?
No - The Barn Retreat team will only be available to greet you on the day of your arrival, and help with any practical requests you may have throughout your stay. They won’t be able to support you emotionally or with your meditation practice, as they will be coordinating group retreats at The Barn Retreat centre.
You can communicate any practical requests with the team using written notes.
You will be expected to create your own personal daily structure which includes meditation and approximately two hours (or optionally more) work meditation on the land.
You won’t have access to teachers whilst on the retreat, and won’t be able to join with any scheduled activities on the group retreats.
Will I be working whilst in The Cabin?
As part of your stay in the Cabin, we ask that you work approximately two hours each day on the upkeep of your accommodation, the surrounding woodland and the vegetable garden. We’ll offer jobs that take into account your physical ability.
How do I eat and drink there?
The Cabin has a propane camp stove for you to use.
A vegan lunch in a thermos tiffin flask (prepared by Barn retreatants) can be discreetly collected from outside the main building daily (Monday to Friday).
You will have access to a fully-stocked vegetarian pantry in The Barn.
We can accommodate gluten-free needs (though gluten-free bread is not available). However, our kitchen is neither gluten nor nut-free.
You are welcome to bring any food that you would like to The Cabin. A cooler is provided to safely keep your food in The Cabin.
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.
Our water is provided from our own spring, but not treated, therefore we suggest boiling it before drinking it.
What if someone needs to get hold of me in an emergency?
If someone needs to contact you urgently then please ask them to call us on 01803 732661 leaving a message if there is no reply. We will then come and let you know.
This number will be checked regularly during your stay, allowing you the chance to relax into the retreat.
Will I have access to Wi-Fi?
No, there is no Wi-Fi access in The Cabin and you won’t be able to come into The Barn to access Wi-Fi.
Some phone networks get signal in The Cabin, but most do not.
We encourage you to not use digital devices during your retreat, and if you do need to access Wi-Fi during your stay, the closest places are the cafes in Totnes - a 40-minute walk.
When should I arrive to stay in The Cabin?
It is important that you meet with a Barn Coordinator to receive the information you need.
Please arrive between 2pm and 3pm on your arrival day.
Let us know when you plan to arrive either via phone on 01803 732661 or via email on [email protected] so that we can greet you.
Some people choose to walk or cycle from Totnes - a great way to draw yourself out of the world and into retreat.
How much does it cost?
Please see the Costs tab on this page
If I need to cancel for any reason will I be refunded?
You can find information on our cancellations and transfers policy on the page Terms and Conditions for booking with The Sharpham Trust.
This page also has information on our Coronavirus Cancellations and Transfers Policy.
How long can I stay for?
The solo retreats follow the flow of the group retreats at The Barn, therefore there are normally 6-night solo retreats, with occasional 3, 4 or 10-night stays available.
If you are wanting to stay for fewer nights than this, that is possible, but there isn’t a discounted rate for that.
Please note that if you are booking for longer than 6 nights, lunch will not be served on Saturdays and Sundays so you will be expected to prepare your own food.
What else do I need to know?
If you decide to stay with us, we’ll send you a list of what you need to bring for this retreat in your Welcome Letter that we send out after you've booked.