‹ Back to Blog

Beginner’s Guide to Meditation Retreats

If you examined the lives of today’s top performers—across all industries— and what made them successful, you’re likely to find that many of them have some form of meditation practice. Around the world, many people have adopted the ritual of taking an annual meditation retreat to de-stress and clear their minds in order to draw from this reservoir of peace once they’ve returned to work. Here at the Art of Living Retreat Center, we know meditation not only reduces stress and anxiety, but it also improves sleep, promotes emotional health, bolsters self-awareness, controls pain, and enhances focus and mental clarity. A meditation retreat is the perfect place to learn how to meditate or dive deeper into your practice.

But you don’t have to don’t take our word for it; scientific studies carried out by Australian researchers over a 6-week period examined the effects of integrating complementary and alternative therapies in a retreat setting on participants. The results? “A one-week residential retreat experience can lead to substantial improvements in multiple dimensions of health and well-being, with many improvements being maintained at six weeks”—unlike a regular vacation.

Researchers found that the participants lost weight (about 1.5 kg), became leaner (waistline reduced by about 2.7 cm), experienced a reduction in blood pressure, kidneys functioned better, and psychological symptoms improved. Another study noted “improvements in spirituality, gratitude, self-compassion, and anxiety,” particularly among those retreat goers who participated in a 5-day meditation program at a resort versus another group of women who stayed at the resort without attending the program, indicating that the ‘vacation effect’ lasted longer in case of retreat participants. Other studies have also pointed to improved cognitive function among participants after a week-long intensive meditation retreat.

Reconnect with Your Deepest Self

A meditation retreat is a unique opportunity to unplug, spend time in self-exploration, and find more appreciation for life. They are different from other forms of leisure travel. Although you may experience Ayurveda spa treatments, outdoor activities, and creative workshops, for the most part, you’ll be sitting in meditation for extended periods of time, guided by wellness experts to bring about restful awareness and connection with your deepest self. Our retreat experiences include mindfulness, meditation, experiential exercises, nature walks, labyrinth meditation, learning breath-focused and gentle yoga practices, and eating healthy nutritious meals that support your meditative state.

A meditation retreat is a powerful way to permanently change the way we lead our lives. You’ll be more present in everything you do, more responsive than reactive, and find a corner of peace within that will stay untouched by the craziness in the world outside.

A Safe Space to Open Up

In order to reach one’s deepest self, one must move with awareness through many layers of existence—the body, breath, mind, memory, ego, intellect. Meditation retreats are designed to be safe spaces to nudge participants in moving past impressions, doubts, fears, and anxiety to release emotional toxins that have accumulated in one’s system over time—to experience total freedom.

Meditation is a powerful art of ‘doing nothing’ with incredible benefits such as

  • Creating more balance in the body and and clarity in the mind
  • Purity in emotions
  • Gaining a newfound appreciation for everything and everyone in your life
  • Healthier and more giving relationships
  • Becoming more dynamic in action and peaceful at heart.

Art of Living meditation and mindfulness retreats are designed to work for anybody and everybody, whether you are new to the practices or a seasoned meditator, you’ll gain easy and accessible tools to transform, heal, and find inner and outer peace.

Silence and Mindfulness Retreats

The constant digital chatter of today’s world has fogged our thinking, eaten into our energy reserves, and dulled our senses. A week of silence can clear up our minds, free us from self-limiting beliefs, and recharge our spiritual and mental batteries. The Art of Living Retreat Center is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Boone, North Carolina. Learning meditation techniques in the midst of nature, away from the chaos of our daily lives, makes the healing last longer. In a retreat setting, the practices release unresolved stress and tension from the mind, and as well as produce better sleep. It is important to pick the location for a meditation retreat very carefully. The best ones provide everything in its purest form—pure air, pure and healthy food, sounds of nature, and like-minded community. Interspersed with meditation, calming chants, kirtans, and sessions on spiritual wisdom and philosophies to soak your mind in, the routine gives you enough time to rest and be with yourself. Sometimes meditation is integrated with a detox diet and yogic exercises—a combination that gives more depth and effortlessness to your meditation experience.

The Art of Living Retreat Center offers alternative healing in the form of state-of-the-art Ayurveda therapies and treatments for physical detox that will complement your meditation practice.

Find Your Retreat

If you have always wanted to learn to meditate, a retreat immersion is the perfect way to start. Because meditation is, put simply, the delicate art of emptying one’s mind, learning the practice in a peaceful atmosphere can be a great enabler. You’ll also connect and co-learn with people on the same journey as you are. In our experience, the bonds formed during retreats are long-lasting and remain some of the most supportive and meaningful relationships in one’s life. You’ll also have dedicated wellness experts and instructors to walk you through your doubts about your practice and life situations in general, with zero judgment.

Location. Look for a location with a lot of space to walk around without running into traffic and noise. Being surrounded by nature to explore is invaluable. Try to find a location that offers Ayurvedic therapies or other holistic treatments that attend to the body, mind, and spirit and you won’t be disappointed. Explore the accommodations and meals (if included) and the policies regarding technology use, etc. The goal should be finding a place that you feel comfortable, safe, and unstressed. Be sure to do a vibe check! Read reviews to find out what people are saying about the place and how they felt while there.

Choose your retreat length. Decide how many days you want to spend in retreat. In our 3-day program, you spend your time learning a mantra-based meditation technique you can take home and benefit from immediately. You can extend your stay to continue practicing in our supportive environment. How long you choose to retreat is entirely up to you, but keep in mind that for most people the first couple of days are spent catching up on sleep, letting your body and soul get re-acquainted, and for beginners, learning the practice. If you can add a couple more days to actually dive into a new rhythm, all the better.

Curriculum. Know what a day at the retreat is like and what you need right now. There should not be too many activities packed into your schedule, or so few activities that you struggle to make sense of your time, especially when you are starting out. Some of our meditation and mindfulness retreats focus on cultivating creativity, others give you the opportunity to dive deeper into the practice, and then there are those that offer opportunities to explore and heal a particular emotional issue.

Yoga. For beginners, adding yoga to the retreat is ideal. Yogic exercise followed by meditation are spiritual boosters that give you calmness and a state of no-mind as a result. The transition from body (outward) to the self (inward) happens effortlessly.

Tips for the best experience…

Be open minded. It is recommended to go with an open mind and take it as it comes. Here is your chance to dive deep and find gems about your own self that you did not know you had in you.

Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip or aren’t able to follow certain requirements. You are on retreat to let go of the burdens you are carrying within—don’t add to them while you’re there. Remember, there are millions of people who are living with stress and worries, and only a few decide to do something about it and find a way to have real joy and peace in their lives. You are one of them; give yourself credit!

Ask for help. Retreats have teachers and staff who are there to answer any questions you may have. Do not miss out on the fullest retreat experience because you were afraid to ask! There is no judgment, only excitement in being part of your journey and acceptance of you exactly as you are.

Trust the process. A subtle but very important step. Have faith that this is going to benefit you and give you all that you need from it. Trusting the process will help you move through the realm of logic to beyond the barriers of intellect, which is where wonder lies and miracles happen.

It is not easy to change the habit and patterns in the mind. Just be willing to do the work. At first, the change of routine may make you uncomfortable. Stick to it and you’ll see the magic unfold. You’ll feel more energized, fit, and happy. Staying away from the distractions of television, phones, people, cars, and food may be boring. Lovingly accept it. For most of our lives, we have been controlled by our gadgets and objects of our senses. This is a rare opportunity to reclaim control of your mind and what you do with its infinite potential.

When you return home from a retreat, you will be a different person. You will have practices to help you create a mini retreat at home to recreate that same bliss whenever you want. You will find subtle changes in how you are dealing with what life throws at you. You don’t get angry at your co-workers or lose patience with your children as much. You are no longer interested in foods that are unhealthy or life supporting. Your natural life choices are shifting toward ones that help you stay calm and relaxed. You will sleep better, feel more balanced and energized, and find more creativity or confidence.

Art of Living Signature Meditation Retreats

The Happiness Retreat

Learn to master practical techniques that will benefit you for the rest of your life, including Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful breathing technique proven to reduce stress, bolster immunity, relieve anxiety, and more.

The Silent Retreat

A profound spiritual immersion that integrates our renowned Happiness Retreat and several days of silent contemplation with unique guided meditations, yoga, and advanced breathing techniques.

The Meditation Retreat

Learn the simple, powerful technique of meditation to effortlessly calm the mind, boost immunity, and decrease the physical and psychological stressors you’re experiencing.