Last updated on September 23rd, 2023.
Mindfulness is more than just the latest stress-relief buzzword. Backed by research, mindfulness is confidently offered by life coaches, therapists, and even personal trainers, as a means of bringing your stress under control and gaining more meaning and joy out of every day life.
So, where should you meditate and what are the best mindfulness retreats to practice meditation? Mindfulness requires dedication. Retreats are amazing options because they help you relax and open your mind to the possibilities, but you’ll get much more out of them if you plan to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life after the retreat.
What many people don’t realize is that mindfulness is also a skill, and a retreat can be the perfect way to learn. That said, mindfulness retreats often include a combination of meditation, yoga, and other practices. You’ll explore multiple techniques and skills under the guidance of the retreat instructors. Many retreats also offer additional services like meals, massage, or outdoor activities to help you process, learn, and relax.
The 5 Best Mindfulness Retreat Centers:
- The Spiritual and Mindfulness Retreats of Deepak Chopra – The Chopra Center, Locations vary.
- Eleven Directions, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Teachings, Dharmshala Retreat – Dharmshala, India.
- Beginner’s Mind, Quiet Mind: Meditation Instruction and Practice for Meaningful Daily Living – Buddhist Retreat Center, Ixopo, South Africa.
- Beyond Suffering: Unconditional Self-Love, Mindfulness, Meditation, & Qi Gong Retreat – Shambhala Mountain Center, Red Feather Lakes, CO, USA
- The Art and Science of Mindfulness, Compassion, and Awe – Esalen, Big Sur, CA, USA
We would also encourage you to explore the other retreats offered by these programs. All of them offer more than one, and while we picked the best rated retreats that appealed most to us, you may have different goals for your mindfulness journey.
These are beautiful locations that attract incredible instructors. The perfect retreat is waiting.
Also, while the retreats may be re-occurring, that does not mean that the price stays consistent year to year. If you are interested in attending one of these retreats we would recommend looking up prices on their website directly.
1. Infinite Possibilities Retreat with Deepak Chopra
This retreat offers a 4 day stay at the Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder Resort, where you will stay in Native American themed suites (each room has 2 Queen sized beds). You will also have access to the Wo’ P’in Spa, and the hotel offers a spacious campus along with an indoor pool.
There are 5 instructors for this retreat, Deepak Chopra, M.D., Gabrielle Bernstein, Bestselling Author, Megan Monahan, a Certified Instructor, Libby Carstensen, Vedic Instructor, and Roger Gabriel, a Master Educator.
Deepak Chopra is one of the biggest names in meditation today. His Chopra Center is well known for offering amazing retreats and even certification for new instructors. He uses his medical knowledge to inform his practice and education.
Gabrielle Bernstein is the author of bestseller May Cause Miracles, though her latest title is the book, Miracles Now. She is also the Founder of women’s social empowerment website HerNow.com, in addition to being a regular Today Show guest expert.
The other three instructors are all specialists from The Chopra Center, launched by their own mindfulness and meditation journeys into a new purpose in teaching and helping others learn and grow through mindfulness.
The retreat itself includes some meals, but you should plan on having some extra money to get meals in Santa Fe as well. This is actually a bonus since it gives you the perfect excuse to explore the city, and to put your new learning to practice by choosing healthy meals in line with the retreat goals. Your days will be a combination of guided group meditation, reflection, meals, and yoga.
This is an intensive retreat, so much of your time will be accounted for in the schedule, but they do include some breaks with the suggestion that you take advantage of the beautiful surroundings and spa services to complete your experience.
2. Eleven Directions, His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s Teachings, Dharmshala Retreat
This retreat is in India itself, during the annual teaching His Holiness gives in Dharmshala. Eleven Directions combines the best aspects of a mindfulness retreat with a guided tour service, so you can receive instruction and cultural immersion at the same time. The retreat includes necessities like airport transfers, guided tours, accommodations, 3 meals a day, and bottled water, but does not include your plane tickets or any additional days you may wish to stay in India.
You should also plan on having extra cash on hand to exchange for local currency. This is in part because there are several services it is customary to tip for, usually about $5 a day total in tips, but also because you may have opportunities to purchase souvenirs.
You also must already have a valid passport, and a visa to India. These will not be arranged for you and are not included in the cost of the Eleven Directions retreat. You should also consult with a doctor about any additional vaccinations you may need for travel in India. Also, unless you speak Tibetan, you should plan on bringing a small radio and headphones and the Dalai Lama teaches in Tibetan and translation services are primarily made available via radio.
However, they translate into multiple languages, including English, Japanese, German, and others.
This retreat is offered several times a year, coinciding with the Dalai Lama’s public teachings, the next is September 1st-6th, 2019
Each retreat is a little different, depending on which retreat you attend and the time of year, but you can expect that you will spend a great deal of time attending the Dalai Lama’s teachings, and interspersed with this will be Temple and Museum tours, meals, yoga, and general sight-seeing.
This is an amazing retreat for those who already have a mindfulness practice going as it offers an opportunity to really deepen your understanding of the tools and techniques of mindfulness practice, as well as to connect with the culture and traditions they are drawn from.
3. Beginner’s Mind, Quiet Mind: Meditation Instruction and Practice for Meaningful Daily Living
Buddhist Retreat Center, Ixopo, South Africa: your primary instructor for this retreat will be Tsunma Tsondru. The Buddhist Retreat Center in Ixopo is well known as a beautiful campus and attracts some of the best instructors of mindfulness.
Tsunma Tsondru is a nun in the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and has many years of Buddhist practice behind her.
She is an ideal instructor for starting you on the path of mindfulness meditation or for deepening an existing practice. While this retreat is designed for beginners, that in no way means that it is only useful to those beginning their practice.
This is truly a retreat for those who want to resonate and connect with their inner selves.
Much of the time will be spent quietly or silently. Guided meditation will be interspersed with time for self-reflection, walking, or just staring into the distance with your thoughts.
The slow and quiet nature of this retreat is designed to help you really reflect inward and bring forward the best of your mindfulness practice. With certainty and calm at the center of your being, joy and meaning flow into the rest of life.
The campus itself is gorgeous. It offers a Zen garden, a labyrinth, and a library in which you can spend the quiet time between sessions. There is a meditation studio space, guest lodgings, parking, a shrine, and even a small shop on the campus to guarantee that your needs are met for the entirety of your stay.
4. Beyond Suffering: Unconditional Self-Love, Mindfulness Meditation, & Qi Gong Retreat
This retreat is led by Bestselling Author Blake D. Bauer and is focused on mindfulness meditation and Qi Gong healing exercises.
As the name suggests this is a retreat seeking to root out and learn to handle complex emotions that are holding us back.
An amazing retreat for trauma survivors, individuals with mental health conditions, or even just those looking to live more fully as their truest self, this retreat teaches the tools for building a lifelong practice of self-love and healing.
The retreat is largely built around Mr. Bauer’s book, You Were Not Born to Suffer, which also means there is an easy way to find out if this retreat is for you, simply purchase a copy of the book, or check it out from a local library.
Because this can be an emotionally intense retreat you should expect for sessions to run late some nights.
They also ask that you arrive by no later than 5pm your first day, so you can register and settle into the accommodations before attending dinner and orientation.
Shambhala Mountain Center is nestled into an absolutely stunning part of the Rocky Mountains, next to a boy scout camp ground and multiple large hiking trails Shambhala also boasts a geodesic dome housing a small hydroponic garden that provides fresh vegetables and herbs.
Food, included with your stay at Shambhala, is amazing, and often scents the air throughout the day.
Shambhala is also home to the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, which is open to visitors with a suggested donation and occasional guided tours.
5. The Art and of Science of Mindfulness, Compassion, and Awe
There are four instructors for this retreat, a combination of world renowned clinical professors of psychology, neuroscientists, and authors that specialize in mindfulness for peace, compassion, and joy.
This retreat is like a mental boot-camp, giving you an array of tools to open your mind to new possibilities and new practices and exercises for every-day mindfulness.
It combines movement, meditation, and a deep connection with nature to create an all-encompassing practice you can take anywhere.
They really focus on bringing a greater sense of joy, compassion, and forgiveness as keys in your mindfulness practice. Specifically the practice is designed to help you experience those emotions more fully, more simply, and more often.
They also recommend reading some of books written by the instructors, including Born to Be Good by Dacher Keltner, The Art and Science of Mindfulness by Shauna Shapiro, and Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human by Daniel Siegel.
Esalen is another amazing destination as well. Located on a hot spring, you can enjoy the benefits of a hot spring without leaving the retreat.
They also offer massage services, which help complete your mental and physical relaxation, have amazing health benefits, and connect you and your body more closely.
They also offer an Art Barn, so you can take some time and turn the experience of the retreat into a unique work of art.
The Benefits of Mindfulness Retreats:
- Reduced Stress
- Gaining Skills and Techniques you can always use
- Improved concentration
- Increased patience, compassion, and appreciation for yourself and others
- Physical health benefits
Of course, one of the primary benefits of mindfulness retreats is the reduced stress and tension that is an immediate effect.
Between the peaceful locations, the meditation and movement, and often massage and other services offered, stress melts away and sets your mind and body free.
Often people don’t realize just how much stress they are carrying, mentally in constant burn out and fatigue, and physically in muscle tensions, sore spots, and even reduced mobility and chronic pain.
Only as long-term stress fades do we usually realize just how much it was hurting us and holding us back.
Mindfulness not only helps you learn to release that stress and tension, but it also helps you identify areas of stress within your body and connect those points of pain to the emotions causing them.
Retreats offer skill-building that let you learn and grow even after the retreat is over, eventually allowing you to cope better with stress and reduce how much stress you feel.
That skill building is also an important life benefit. There is a lot of talk about self-care, but mindfulness is one of the best-proven methods of self-care out there.
Because retreats often combine a whole list of techniques they are almost guaranteed to give you at least one or two exercises you love and can do as part of your every-day health routine.
Mindfulness also teaches you to identify and cope with unnecessary distractions. By connecting your internal experience mentally and physically you will be more in tune with potential sources of distraction.
Plus, unplugging for the duration of a retreat may help you identify more distractions that come with modern life.
Knowing what distractions you can ignore and distractions you should pay attention to will help you learn to focus, brushing aside inconsequential things like annoying noises, while also teaching you to practice self-care.
You’ll learn to be more productive by listening to your needs like hunger, thirst, and pain, before they can interfere with the task at hand.
You’ll also find yourself suddenly more understanding of your own needs.
Rather than being upset that you need to stop work a little early to go get lunch, or that you needed to take a day to yourself instead of going out with friends, you’ll find that you know you made the right decision.
You’ll give yourself credit for taking time instead of blaming yourself for it.
You’ll also be more empathetic to others and better able to understand their needs and perspective. Being in tune with your essential nature gives you a great springboard to understanding and communicating with others.
Your relationships and friendships will naturally become deeper and more meaningful.
You’ll likely also experience health benefits. Mindfulness practice can be an aid to lowering blood pressure, improving flexibility, balance, and coordination, and even help in digestion. Mindfulness can also lead to weight loss as you learn to pay attention to your body’s signals and get a better idea of when you’re actually hungry, and really full.
You’re eating habits may also change. Because mindfulness teaches you to be aware of your body you may notice that certain foods make you feel really good even after you’ve eaten them, and others might make you feel heavy and bloated.
Even without conscious decision you will likely find yourself seeking the feel-good foods, and they’ll be healthier.
The most important thing is to bring an open mind. Try not to set specific expectations for your experience or the people you share that experience with. You’ll get much more out of it if you’re not fighting your own suppositions first.
Practice Makes Perfect
The most common form of Movement Meditation you are already likely aware of is yoga. While this is the most common western form (common in the West now but learned from the East) of Movement Meditation there are other varieties of Movement Meditation that stretch back (pun intended) thousands of years. One of the oldest forms of this type of meditation is QiGong. ‘Qi’, in Chinese means energy and ‘Gong’ means work. This is not only a work of the body but a work of the energy through and around the body.
Movement Meditation is also a form of focused mediation in which the practitioner focuses their thoughts on the movements as a guide to establishing a state of presence. Movement Meditation is unique in that it utilizes the body’s motion more intentionally as a form of focusing the mind rather than creating an awareness of the body itself through remaining still and observing the body with thought.
This type of meditation practice is great for those who find peace in movement.