There’s a viral meme that keeps making the rounds on my Instagram feed of Cruella de Vil frantic at the wheel as she’s tearing down the (albeit animated) road at what we can assume is Disney’s equivalent of 150mph. The caption aptly reads: “Me trying to excel in my career, maintain a social life, drink enough water, exercise, text everyone back, stay sane, survive and be happy.” You’ve probably seen it, which is why I’m pretty confident when I say that most of us could benefit from a meditation retreat right now.
If you lost your equilibrium 73 email notifications ago, feel like you’re constantly on the brink of throwing your phone/laptop/iPad out the window, or just want to assume the fetal position right about now, I’d say you’re long overdue for a time-out.
If you need some zen ASAP, there are several meditation apps to help you get centered until you can get away. Mediation is something that will benefit you all year long, not just when you are at a retreat. Let's face it; whether it is time or budget restraints, sometimes a retreat is not in the cards. There are various apps, from free basic versions to those that have a fee and all the bells and whistles. Whether you want a guided mediation for newbies, freestyle mediation with calming sounds, or even sleep stories read by celebrities, there is an app for you. Check out these five popular U.K. mediation apps:
- Calm: Free to download with a trial period; Calm Premium is £29.99 a year
- Headspace: Free to download with a trial period; £9.99 a month or £49.99 a year
- Smiling Mind: Free
- Buddhify: £24 per year
- Beeja Meditation: Free to download; monthly subscription of £5.99 or £41.99 a year
- Ten Percent Happier: Free to download with a trial period; £12.99 a month
These apps will help you destress and refocus anywhere, including your office, in the car, or at home before bed. They may not be quite as good as an in-person retreat, but close enough until you find some time away.
Here are our picks for the five best in-person U.K. meditation retreats—perfect for disconnecting from the noise, letting go of stress, and recalibrating your zen.
If “less noise” is what you’re craving, Gaia House in Devon is ideal—the Buddhist retreat focuses on silent Insight Meditation. Yep, zero chat. While there’ll be talking during your guided meditation sessions or teacher-led discussions, the house and (seriously incredible) grounds generally operate in silence throughout the rest of the day. You can choose to either join a group retreat or—if you’re more seasoned in your practice—book a personal retreat where you’ll embark on a journey of solitary meditation.
You must contact them directly for specific rate details; however, in addition to standard rates, they also offer group retreat rates, young persons' rate (18-25 years), and camping rates during the summer.
Mind, Body, Bowl Retreats
If you haven’t got heaps of annual leave to take advantage of, Annie Clarke’s retreats, such as her Mind, Body, Bowl one-day retreats in London/Somerset, are ideal. Combining relaxing yoga sessions with meditation workshops, you’ll get the chance to hit pause and explore your mind without the added stress of taking too much time off. She also offers weekend retreats if you’ve got more time to spare.
Prices vary by location and activities; however, prices start around £75 for a day retreat and start at £500 for a three-day retreat.
Dhanakosa Buddhist Retreat Centre
If you’ve got a yearning for some fresh air with your meditation, this is the place for you. The Dhanakosa Centre runs various retreats throughout the year, combining Buddhist meditation with yoga, tai chi, photography, and more, but it’s the eight-day Hillwalking and Meditation course in Lochearnhead that’s caught our eye. Along with guided and solo meditation sessions, you’ll also embark on several walks across the Scottish Highlands to reconnect with nature and blow away the cobwebs.
Dhanakosa operates on a Dana economy, where (after a booking fee) you pay what you can afford for the retreat via a donation—this way, the center can remain open to help everyone, regardless of financial circumstances. The current booking fees are £75 for weekend retreats and £100 for week/10-day retreats.
Mindfulness is at the heart of this Devon-based meditation retreat at Sharpham Trust, and courses range from Mindfulness for Beginners and Breaking Free From Burnout to walking retreats. If you’re less into the Buddhist tradition of meditation, this more relaxed approach might suit you better. Once you’ve completed your retreat, it’s also worth investigating The Vineyard Kitchen, where you can sample wine and cheese all made on the Sharpham Estate.
Costs vary according to the type of retreat and location; however, in general, prices start around £345 per night. They also offer online weekend retreats at home in which you pay what you can afford, with a suggested £115 to £300.
The Scarlet Hotel
If you’d rather meditate without guidance or have specific topics you’d like to cover, The Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall is the ideal place to stage your own DIY meditation retreat. Inspired by Ayurveda, the spa offers one-hour guided meditation classes to help you set your intentions during your stay. Then you’re free to either find a spot on the hotel’s breathtaking slice of coastline and go it alone or book private meditation lessons. The hotel spa also offers treatments centered around rebalancing your energy, called Scarlet Journey, which includes guided meditation, a massage, a healthy lunch, and a relaxing clifftop hot tub.
The Scarlet Journey experience lasts four hours and costs £240 per person. You can also book private meditation lessons. Guests of the hotel enjoy free yoga classes, including mantra chanting.