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practical information for our portugal retreats

Immersion in silence and stillness in the company of others during a prolonged meditation retreat can be a profound and potentially transformational experience.

 

Through the practice, we are encouraged to go as far as we can in our own personal experience of what the moment reveals which implies allowance to experience suppressed feelings, thoughts, or hurtful memories from the past we have shunned in order to avoid facing what is emotionally painful. Here, we take all that in. While we are going through our own personal experience of the moment we slowly begin to notice by simply looking at others and sometimes exchanging a fleeting smile that they too are going through experiences that are not dissimilar to mine. Something in how we all show up in that space gives me an intimation of this. The space is welcoming and accepting. Everyone goes at some level through their own individual experience yet we slowly begin to feel an unspoken intimacy between ourselves and others and beyond that an ineffable connectedness with all that is around us; the mountains, the trees, the sound of water, the bird songs and the clouds and beyond that the vast open blue sky that is boundless yet does not feel out of reach.

how to prepare for the retreat

 

Entering into a week of intense silent meditation is a demanding, but very rewarding experience. You will get the most from the retreat if you prepare in advance. If you don’t have time to prepare, don’t worry - these are just some tips to help you adjust more easily to the week:

 

Start meditating

We will be meditating together for 6-8 hours a day. We therefore highly recommend you begin a daily practice as soon as you can so that your body can adapt to the posture.

 

Read some books on meditation

We highly recommend the following books; zen mind beginner's mind by shunryu suzuki and opening the hand of thought by Kosho Uchiyama. 

 

Make space to be offline during the retreat

We will not take your telephones from you on arrival. However, we do highly recommend that your phone is kept off, or on flight mode throughout the retreat so that you can maintain noble silence and go deeper into practice. It is very disruptive to meditation if you are reading news and messages throughout the retreat. 

 

We therefore suggest that you let your work, family and friends know that you will be offline for a week and take full advantage of this rare opportunity to be free of the usual distractions of daily life.

 

How do my family contact me in an emergency?

If your family or friends need to urgently contact you during the retreat, you can give them Ana’s phone number. She is our retreat host and will have her phone on during the retreat: +351 912 221 857

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This is a SILENT MEDITATION retreat meaning we will be meditating a lot and maintaining silence throughout our week together. It is important that everyone understands and commits to this non-negotiable and essential part of our time of practice: maintaining what Buddha called Noble Silence. So please bear in mind, observance of silence will be required of everyone.

 

If you need something during the retreat, such as an extra blanket or toilet paper, or have any problems with your room, there will be a place available to write notes to the retreat host Ana.

 

If you are having emotional difficulties and need to speak to our retreat facilitator, you can write a note to them and they can arrange a time to speak to you.

a note on silence

the daily schedule

 

Day 1

  • 230pm: Pickup from Faro train station to drive to Karuna retreat centre

  • 330pm: Check in to your rooms

  • 5pm: Opening circle 

  • 7pm: Dinner

  • 8pm: Continuation of introduction, start of silence and first meditation

  • 10pm: Sleep

Day 2 - 6

  • 530am: Wake up

  • 6am - 740am: Zazen (meditation)

  • 8am: Breakfast

  • 9am - 1030am: Yin yoga

  • 11am - 1240am: Zazen (meditation)

  • 1pm - 3pm: Lunch and rest

  • 3pm - 340pm: Mindful walk

  • 4pm - 540pm: Zazen (this block of meditation is optional)

  • 540pm - 610pm: Tea and snack

  • 620pm - 7pm: Talk given by the retreat facilitator 

  • 7pm - 8pm: Dinner

  • 8pm - 940pm: Zazen (meditation)

  • 10pm: Sleep

Day 7

  • 530am: Wake up

  • 6am - 740am: Zazen (meditation)

  • 8am: Breakfast

  • 9am - 1030am: Yin yoga

  • 11am - 1240am: Zazen (meditation)

  • 1pm - 3pm: Lunch and rest

  • 3pm - 340pm: Mindful walk

  • 4pm - 540pm: Group discussion (retreat participants will have the opportunity to share their experiences from the week together, silence will resume after the group sharing.)

  • 540pm - 610pm: Tea and snack

  • 620pm - 7pm: Group discussion continues

  • 7pm - 8pm: Dinner

  • 8pm - 940pm: Zazen (meditation)

  • 10pm: Sleep

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Day 8

  • 530am: Wake up

  • 6am - 740am: Zazen (meditation)

  • 8am: Breakfast

  • 9am - 10am: Yin yoga

  • 10am - 12pm: Closing ceremony

  • 12pm - 1pm: Pack belongings and clean rooms

  • 1pm: Lunch

  • 230pm: Taxi to Faro train station

how to get to karuna meditation centre, monchique

We recommend that you give yourself plenty of time to arrive in Faro before the retreat. If possible, it’s a good idea to arrive in Portugal the day before the retreat so that you are well rested.

 

Similarly, we recommend staying a day or two in Portugal after the retreat so that you can digest the experience and have a slower start back to daily life. It is also a nice opportunity to connect with people you have sat with in silence.

 

It is traditional after a zen retreat to have a ‘celebration for the completion of an intense period of practice’ on the last day. We always book a restaurant on the last night in Faro for those who wish to join us for this celebration.

By plane

  • The closest international airport to our retreat centre is Faro 

  • There are often cheaper flights available if you fly to Lisbon. From Lisbon, there are several easy and very affordable trains that go to Faro each day. Journey time is 3 hours.

  • We suggest arriving in Faro the day before the retreat.

  • We will arrange shared transport from Faro train station to Karuna on the day of the retreat (see below).
     

Offsetting your carbon emissions

If you are arriving by plane, please consider offsetting your carbon emissions. We recommend choosing Ripple Africa for your carbon offsets.

Ripple Africa is a Malawi based charity which replaces traditional three-stone cooking stoves with more fuel efficient stoves. They are gold-rated by the UN carbon neutral programme. The project has lots of benefits because traditional three-stone fires:

  • Consume huge amounts of wood resulting in major deforestation. It also takes a lot of time to collect all this wood. This time can be spent on education and other activities.

  • Produce lots of smoke and so cause health problems such and lung cancer and child pneumonia.

  • Are unsafe for children.
     

Find out more about Ripple Africa’s carbon offsetting programme.

 

By train

If you are arriving from Europe, Portugal is very well connected by high speed train.

  • For example - from France: Train from Lyon to Barcelona (day 1) -> Train from Barcelona to Seville (day 2) -> Bus from Seville to Faro (day 2)

  • There are high speed trains from Barcelona and Madrid to Seville and from Seville you can catch a three hour bus to Faro

  • We recommend the website rome2rio to find your easiest journey

 

Visit rome2rio 

 

Getting from Faro to Karuna meditation centre

  • We will arrange shared taxis for retreat participants at 230pm on the day of the retreat from Faro train station to Karuna meditation centre.

  • We will also arrange shared taxis on the last day of the retreat from Karuna meditation centre to Faro train station at 230pm 

  • The journey takes approximately an hour.

  • The price is 15 euros per person each way. Please bring exact change to make it easier as the taxi won’t have lots of euros to give as change.

  • If you want to arrange your own transport to and from the retreat centre, please book it in advance as you won’t have access to the internet during the retreat.

Give yourself time

We recommend that you give yourself plenty of time to arrive in Faro before the retreat. If possible, it’s a good idea to arrive in Portugal the day before the retreat so that you are well rested.

 

Similarly, we recommend staying a day or two in Portugal after the retreat so that you can digest the experience and have a slower start back to daily life. It is also a nice opportunity to connect with people you have sat with in silence.

 

It is traditional after a zen retreat to have a ‘celebration for the completion of an intense period of practice’ on the last day. We always book a restaurant on the last night in Faro for those who wish to join us for this celebration.

what is and what isn’t provided

 

What’s provided

  • All meals from dinner on the first day of the retreat to lunch on the final day

  • Yoga matts and props

  • Meditation cushion (if you have a preferred cushion for meditation, we recommend bringing your own) 

  • Accommodation and bedding

  • Instruction on meditation technique

  • Meditation and yoga each day

  • Dharma talk each day

 

What’s not provided

  • Flights

  • Transfers to Karuna meditation centre

  • Towels and toiletries

payment

 

The cost for the retreat is 750 euros per person.

 

Deposit payment

A non refundable deposit of 200 euros is needed to secure your place.

 

Balance payment

The balance of 550 euros is payable by bank transfer 30 days before the start of the retreat.

 

Cancellation policy

  • Up to 30 days before the retreat: Your deposit is non-refundable, but we will refund any balance you have paid.

  • Less than 30 days before the retreat: The deposit is non-refundable and your balance can be transferred to a future retreat of your choice.

what to expect

 

Meditation

We practice Zazen which is a meditative practice in the Zen buddhist tradition. During zazen we sit on our cushion, facing a wall and focus our attention on our posture and breathing. There are 5 to 7 hours of meditation per day. The day is split into four meditation sessions, each lasting 1 hour and 40 minutes. The third meditation session of the day is optional but we ask you to attend all other sessions to keep harmony within the group. ​

Each block of meditation includes three periods of seated meditation and takes place as follows:

  • 25 minutes of seated meditation (zazen), 

  • followed by 10 minutes of walking meditation (kinhin), 

  • followed by 25 minutes of seated meditation (zazen), 

  • followed by 10 minutes of walking meditation (kinhin),

  • ending with 25 minutes of seated meditation (zazen).
     

The meditation is in silence and is not guided. You will receive full instruction of the technique for seated and walking meditation on the first day of the retreat.

Yoga

The yoga is yin yoga which is a gentle and slow practice in which postures are held for up to several minutes at a time. Yoga will be led by a qualified and experienced yoga teacher. You will receive a form from the yoga teacher ahead of the retreat which you can use to let them know about any injuries you have. 

Yoga mats and props will be provided, but you are also welcome to use your own.

 

Accommodation

Karuna retreat centre is set in a beautiful setting in the eucalyptus forests in the hills above Monchique, about an hour inland from Faro.

 

The accommodation is basic and similar to what you would find in an ahsram.  We have hosted retreats at Karuna for many years and it is a beautiful place to meditate. However, we do like attendees to be aware of the simplicity of the accommodation in advance so they know what to expect. This simplicity is reflected in the low price for the retreat. There are quite a lot of steps up to some of the bedrooms, so we advise you to pack a suitcase that you can comfortably carry to your room. Please let us know in advance if you have mobility issues and we can arrange for you to stay in the lower bedrooms. 

 

You will be staying in a shared twin or triple room with people of the same gender. The bathrooms are also shared with other retreat participants. 

 

Your bedding and sheets are provided, but please bring towels for the shower.

 

It can be cold in the morning and evening in Portugal on our April and October retreats, so please bring warm bed clothes. There are also extra blankets available for the bedroom.

 

Food

Breakfast, lunch, an afternoon snack and dinner will be provided each day. Fruit and tea are also available in the kitchen throughout the day.

 

All of the food provided is lovingly prepared by our host Anna and her team of volunteers. Much of the food comes from their garden or is locally sourced. The food is all vegan and gluten free, with some vegetarian options available. Please note that while we always do our best to cater for dietary requirements, we are not able to cater for serious allergies due to the nature of the small kitchen. 

 

Free time

There are periods of free time throughout the retreat which you can use to relax, do yoga, walk in nature, write, read or simply be in the beautiful landscape. Writing notes and reading are allowed during the retreat, but we encourage you to only read material relating to meditation. 

packing list

  • Toiletries

  • Towel for showering

  • Comfortable clothes for meditation and yoga

  • Warm jacket for meditation in the morning and evening

  • Waterproof jacket

  • Comfortable walking shoes to walk around the retreat centre and for our daily mindful walk in the forest

  • Flip flops for the shower (optional)

  • Head torch if you don’t want to use your phone torch

  • Watch or alarm clock if you don’t want to use your phone alarm

  • Water bottle you can refill

  • Meditation cushions are provided but it can be a good idea to bring your own if you are used to it

  • Yoga mats are also provided but feel free to bring your own

FAQs

 

Is this retreat suitable for beginners?

Yes. This retreat is designed for everyone - from complete beginners to experienced practitioners.


What type of meditation do we practice?
We practice Zazen which is a meditative practice in the Zen buddhist tradition. During zazen we sit on our cushion, facing a wall and focus our attention on our posture and breathing. We sit in silence and there is no verbal guidance given during the meditation. Full instruction will be given on the posture and technique on the first day of the retreat.

 

Can I write or read?
Yes but we recommend that you give silence the space it deserves and are mindful of what you write and read.

 

Can I listen to music?
We recommend that you don’t listen to music during the retreat.

 

Can I bring my own meditation cushion?

Yes. We will provide meditation cushions but recommend bringing your own if you have found a comfortable one that suits you.

 

I have difficulty sitting cross legged, can I sit on a chair?

We will teach you the sitting posture on the first day and help you to find a comfortable position. If you find it too painful to sit on the floor, then you can sit in a chair. The most important part of the posture is to keep your back straight. 

 

Can we talk during the retreat?

This is a silent retreat and it is very important that everyone respects silence at all times during the retreat. The retreat facilitator will give a short talk each day about the practice and you will receive indications during yoga. If you are sick or need to speak to the retreat facilitator during the retreat, you can write them a note and they will make time to speak with you.

 

Can I use my phone during the retreat?
We won’t take your phone from you but we highly recommend that you keep your phone off or on flight mode during the retreat.

 

How many hours of meditation will there be a day?

There are 5 to 7 hours of meditation per day. The day is split into four meditation sessions, each lasting 1 hour and 40 minutes. The third meditation session of the day is optional but we ask you to attend all other sessions to keep harmony within the group. 

 

Can I arrive late/leave early?
In order to keep harmony during the retreat, we ask that all participants arrive at the retreat center at 330pm on the first day and leave at 230pm on the last day.

 

Can I stay at Karuna retreat centre for longer?
If you would like to stay at the retreat centre before or after our retreat, let us know and we will contact Ana on your behalf to arrange.

 

Is there wifi at the retreat centre?

There is no wifi at the retreat centre but there is phone signal. We recommend leaving your devices on flight mode during the retreat.

 

What if someone needs to contact me during the retreat?

If anyone needs to contact you then they can call our retreat host, Ana, on +351 912 221 857

 

Can I have my own room?

Due to limited single rooms, we cannot guarantee that you will have your own room on the retreat. Most rooms are double or triple rooms and you will share with someone of the same gender.

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