Bhavana Dhamma Retreats

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Bhavana Dhamma is the Forest Hermitage’s retreat house. It is surrounded by open fields on three sides, and backs onto Hampton Wood – the other side of which is the Hermitage. Being quiet, secluded and close to nature it’s well-suited to the uninterrupted practice of meditation. Each retreat at Bhavana Dhamma is led by Ajahn Manapo, who ordained at the Hermitage in 2000.

Please read these important points before continuing:

  • These retreats are challenging and so you will need to be in reasonable physical and mental health. You will spend many hours sitting still as well as walking each day.
  • You will need to have had some experience with meditation practice.
  • These retreats aren’t suitable for people with a serious mental illness, nor for people who are taking antidepressant medications.
  • If you have an alcohol or drug addiction, you will need to have stopped taking these substances at least one week before the beginning of a retreat.
  • Spaces on these retreats are very limited and so we need as much notice as possible if you decide to cancel your place so that the space can be offered to someone else. If the cancellation is simply due to a change of mind at the last minute, you stand less chance of gaining a place on a future retreat.

For those people who have never been on a retreat here, bookings open three months before the start date of each retreat. Previous Bhavana Dhamma retreatants can book at any time. Retreat dates and their booking opening times are found below.

To apply for a retreat please carefully read through the information below and then fill in the online application form. Please be aware that spaces are limited to about nine.

For information on personal retreats please go here.

Retreat DateTypeBooking Opens
16 - 18 February WeekendOpen
30 March - 2 AprilEaster 4 DayOpen
4 - 7 MayMay Bank Hoilday 4 Day4 February
8 - 9 JuneWeekend8 March
11 - 17 August7 Day Retreat11 May
14 - 16 September Weekend14 June
19 - 21 OctoberWeekend19 July
16 - 18 NovemberWeekend16 August
29 Dec - 2 Jan 20185 Day New Year29 September

RETREAT SCHEDULE: The schedule for the first evening is as follows:
Arrival: Bhavana Dhamma 6 – 7 pm (Directions here)
Orientation Talk: Bhavana Dhamma Kitchen 7.15 pm
Opening Meditation: Shrine Room 8 pm
Retreats finish at around 4:30 pm.


About the Retreats

Eight precepts Retreat participants live by the eight precepts. These are to abstain from: killing; stealing; unchaste behaviour; lying; using alcohol and drugs; eating after noon; listening to music and entertainments, and wearing jewellery and makeup; and using high and luxurious seats and beds.

Accommodation is mostly shared rooms. There are one or two single rooms which can be requested upon application.

Noble Silence You are asked to not engage in any talking with each other, or with anyone else, unless it is really necessary. Questions can be written down and put in the question box. These will be answered during the meditation sessions.

One Meal a Day In line with the original Thai Forest Tradition only one meal a day is eaten. This rule encourages simplicity and contentment with little and it gives us more time in which to meditate. Also, you should avoid using milk, soya milk, Ovaltine and Horlicks outside of meal time.

Diet All food served is vegetarian. Apart from this we are unable to accommodate any special diets.

Reading “There’s only one book worth reading: the mind.” (Ven. Ajahn Chah) You should avoid reading anything else while at Bhavana Dhamma.

Meditation These retreats focus very much on the development of our formal meditation practice. As walking and sitting meditation take up most of the day, these demanding retreats enable us to go deeper into our practice than is usually possible. The practice here is that of Samatha-Vipassana – calm and insight, which is supported by the development of loving-kindness. Mindfulness is developed at all times, not just when practising sitting and walking meditation, but also when eating, washing the dishes, vacuuming and so on.

Traditions Certain traditions form an integral part of the practice during these retreats and we ask everybody to follow them as best they can, These include morning and evening chanting, bowing to the principal Buddha image when entering and leaving the shrine room, being respectful of monks and nuns, and so on. Things will be explained in more detail when you arrive.

This should be modest and unrevealing. In hot weather women should avoid tight t-shirts or t-shirts with a plunging neck-line/short arms. If you can wear white, this is preferable (it’s symbolic of the moral purity of keeping the eight precepts).

Mobile phones
These must be handed in on arrival. They will be kept safely and returned at the end of the retreat.

Chairs are generally not used in the shrine room. There is a variety of cushions and kneeling stools which suffice for most people’s needs. If you really cannot sit on the floor we’d be willing to discuss a solution.

There is no charge for attending retreats. However, participants are welcome to offer donations as it is through these that we are able to keep both the Forest Hermitage and Bhavana Dhamma going and provide these retreat opportunities.

Other information
If you can bring a sleeping bag and pillow case please do. We can provide if this is a problem. You will also need towels and toiletries; waterproofs just in case (including reasonably shower proof footwear); comfortable shoes for doing walking meditation in; decent socks (shoes aren’t worn indoors); comfortable and loose fitting clothing to meditate in; and a torch.

Meditation Retreat Routine Example:

5:30am: Wake-up bell
6:00: Morning sitting
7:00: Tea, wash etc.
8:00: Work period
8:40: Meditation (walking and sitting) and Dhamma Talk
11:00: Meal, clean up, break
1:20: Meditation (walking and sitting with a tea break)
5:40: Break and hot drink
6:40: Meditation (walking and sitting)
8:00: Evening sitting and Dhamma Talk
9:30: Free time


If you have read through the information above and would like to attend a retreat please fill in the online application form.