Frequently Asked Questions - The Barn Retreat

  • 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.

    More of the retreat has been adjusted to be taking place outside, in order to increase our safety while increasing our connection to the land.

    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. In addition, we have more spaces outside to sit and contemplate or socialise (at a distance).

    The tasks we ask you to do have changed slightly. Retreatants are returning to cooking for each other, and are being given easy-to-follow recipes to assist.

    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.

    For the time being, there will be no treatments offered to limit the number of people entering The Barn.

    The schedule is very similar, with a few adjustments because of the shorter length of the retreats. There is no dharma talk with a teacher on Wednesday afternoon, although this is still a silent day.

  • 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 Coach House retreat with a family member, friend or partner?

    We recommend you come on a 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, Coach 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.

    Coach House Retreats offers 6 night retreats with accommodation in a converted stable couryard 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.

    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.

    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 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.

    Click here to go our our Find Us page, giving road, walking/cycling maps and directions

  • How do I find out more and book a Barn retreat?

    You can view all of our retreats, courses and events and book easily and securely online through our calendar  or by phoning 01803 732661 or emailing [email protected] 

  • 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