Solo Zen
September 25, 2017 4:40 PM   Subscribe

Some Zen monasteries and other meditation centers and will host paying visitors who want to spend time in silent but *independent* retreat (who want to follow the center's general principles but not its schedule or group activities). Do you know one like this that you recommend?

I've noticed some places allow this approach, and I'm wondering if anybody here has experience with one that offers very simple, very affordable private rooms.

I'd want to spend a week or so in the same place as – but not directly participating in group activities with – people who are living ultra simply and quietly.

I'd be fine following principles such as modest dress and no speaking, and I'm already strictly vegetarian (since birth) and open to radically minimal eating. But I'd want no commitments in terms of group meditation or other activities. I'd spend most of my waking hours either silently working in my room or walking outside.

• Ideally eastern U.S., but open to elsewhere

• Not Omega, Kripalu, or their ilk – something MUCH more simple & affordable (more like $300 a week than like $1000+ a week)

• My favorite spiritual focus would be either Buddhist or a very progressive flavor of another religion

Thanks for your help!
posted by kalapierson to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The Forest Refuge of Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA. The link is to the page with the fee structure. There is a teacher component but these are individual retreats. These folks have a long history with me, going back to the 80s and there has never been a scandal. I feel really lucky to have had them pointed out to me.
posted by janey47 at 5:20 PM on September 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

For something completely different, have you considered the Maetreum of Cybele?
posted by heatherlogan at 5:23 PM on September 25, 2017

Not a progressive religion, but I have done retreats at Catholic convents. I was left to myself and no one asked about my religion. I'm an atheist. I'm suggesting this because nuns are often very socially liberal and the weekly price is often less than $400 including food, room, and in my experience beautiful grounds.
posted by songs_about_rainbows at 5:55 PM on September 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner SC may well fit your bill. I've been there several times, and it is a great place to foster contemplation and solitude. From their official website:
A private retreat offers one the opportunity to set one's retreat format while emphasizing silence, personal prayer and reflection. Retreatants are also invited to join the monks in their public prayer as often as desired. Spiritual Mentoring for a 30 minute meeting with a monk and the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation are available.

Rooms in the brand-new St. Francis Retreat Center include a bed, desk, reading chair, and private bath. Bed linens, towels, and soap are provided. Married couples can be accommodated in adjoining rooms.

Retreatants take their meals together in a dining facility adjacent to the monastic community’s refectory, with the same vegetarian diet and observing the same silence as the monks. During the main meal at noon a book is read aloud by one of the monks for the benefit of all.

Retreatants may attend any and all prayer services in the Abbey Church and have a designated section in the monastic choir to accommodate them, if they so desire. One of the monks assists the retreatants with the order of prayer so as to facilitate their full participation.
There is no charge for private retreats, but you can make a donation to the Abbey if you so choose.
posted by Roger Pittman at 6:21 PM on September 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was struck by the possibility of independent and retreat, and smiled at the joining of the two into one. Thinking "outside the box" here, what if the retreat was situated on a mountainside, or perhaps a river's edge? There are endless possibilities on VRBO that would make the perfect starting point. Requiring and making the location special can get in the way of real work. So, simple is better! It could really be anywhere and for that matter in any moment. The flowing of nature may help open some doors often left closed. Perhaps you might consider starting there? Good luck!
posted by cookiemaster at 7:04 PM on September 25, 2017

These are fantastic suggestions, many of which I didn't know about!

Please keep them up – thanks so much!

FYI, I'm allllllll about retreat experiences and I'm lucky enough to usually have them without paying (at artist residencies/colonies). In this question I was inspired to find other places that have an agreement about silent contemplative environment but aren't selective-application-based (meaning they have way more flexible scheduling and don't involve months of waiting between an application and a yes response).
posted by kalapierson at 9:44 PM on September 25, 2017

Huge thanks to Roger Pittman for the tip about Mepkin Abbey, which is still the most perfect-sounding-for-me of all the possibilities I've found in this vein. Today I finally succeeded in booking a future Mepkin retreat (their retreats are now so popular you have to catch the new dates just as they open on the website). I can't wait to see what it's like. <3
posted by kalapierson at 7:29 AM on July 6, 2018

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