General Retreat Information


What kind of retreats are offered?
 Our annual schedule, with descriptions, can be found on the Retreat Schedule page of our website. Listings include all planned retreats starting with January of the calandar year, when the new year's list is first posted. Please note that new retreats are occasionally added as opportunities come up throughout the year. Self-guided personal retreats are also available.

How do I register for a retreat?You need to register online by clicking on the orange "Registration" button that appears below your chosen retreat on the Retreat Schedule page and following the steps provided. If you have reviewed the available information, and still have questions, or are having difficulty with registration, please call Linda at Hermitage Reception 250-203-7091, or email her at retreats@thehermitage.ca

When should I arrive for a scheduled group retreat? 
It is best to arrive between 3 pm and 6:00 pm on the day of the retreat listed in the Schedule. This allows you to settle in to your accommodation, meet others attending the retreat, and relax before the start of the retreat the following morning. On that evening soup will be served at 6:00 pm and there will be a brief orientation talk, welcoming you to the Hermitage.

When do I depart from the retreat? It depends on the teacher's schedule but people usually leave around 11 am on the last day for a timely return home. We do try to cater to the travel requirements of our guests, so if you need to leave earlier that morning, or later, just let us know. 

Is it possible to stay extra nights before or after a retreat? The Hermitage does not have accommodations available either before or after group retreats. Staff has to clean accommodations and wash linens, and buy groceries and supplies in preparartion or the next group of guests.  If you are participating in back-to-back retreats however, we can provide the extra night's accommodation at a per-night rate of $85.00 for a kuti, $75.00 for a large tent, $60.00 for a small tent, and $50.00 for your own tent.

Can I just come and stay at the Hermitage to do a self-retreat?
 You can rent one of the Kutis (retreat huts) and conduct a private personal retreat at any time unless a scheduled group retreat is in progress. Private Retreats most often occur in the winter, which is a "down time" for the Hermitage. There is usually no cook on site during the off-season so you would be responsible for purchasing and preparing your own meals. To inquire when a kuti may be available and what the cost would be, please contact Linda at Hermitage Reception 250-203-7091, or email her at retreats@thehermitage.ca

Is there a number where I can be reached in case of emergency during the retreat? If you are attending a retreat at the Hermitage and it is critical to reach you, you can be reached at the Hermitage telephone number: 250-335-3377. If no one is available to take your call, there is an answering machine, which is normally checked once a day. Please note that this is to be used only in the case of an emergency. A secondary number is Linda at Hermitage Reception 250-203-7091.

How does a waiting list work? Once a retreat is full, we start a waiting list. If we have cancellations for a retreat, we offer these spots to those on the waiting list on a first-come, first-served basis. We will give you a deadline by which we will need you to respond before we move onto the next person on the waiting list. In the week leading up to the retreat, we will need a very quick response. At any time, if you'd like to be taken off the waiting list, please send an email to the Registrar at retreats@thehermitage.ca

If I'm on a waiting list for a retreat, what are my chances of getting in?
 That depends on whether there is a cancellation for that retreat. 

Retreat Registration

Can you save me a spot in a retreat?
 We cannot hold a spot in a retreat without registration forms and full down payment.



Can I apply for a retreat if I still owe money on another retreat? No. All previous pledge payments must be paid off unless you've made special arrangements with the Hermitage.



How do I know if I'm accepted into the retreat?
 Once your application forms and fee are received, you will be sent a confirmation letter with all the information you need, including travel details, what to bring, etc. We send out confirmation letters via email whenever possible, so please make sure we have yours. Remember to check your email regularly once you've sent in your registration forms. 

Cancellations

Do I lose any money if I have to cancel? Yes, unfortunately. Payments received prior to the retreat for which you are registered, are spent on food, staff, and other expected costs of that retreat long before the retreat begins. For this reason we cannot afford to refund money once registration is complete. However, we do have a Cancellation Policy. We will return payment under two conditions: (1) If you cancel at least 15 days (two weeks) prior to the retreat, half (50%) of your Retreat Payment will be refunded; (2) If for some unforeseen reason, the Hermitage has to cancel a retreat, we will return your full payment. For the same reasons if you leave the retreat before it is over, your fee is non-refundable.

Can I sit less than the full retreat? Can I get a refund or pay less for attending only part of a retreat?
 No. You are required to attend the full retreat. People coming and going during a retreat, or attending only part of a retreat, is found to be disruptive to others, and is of little benefit to yourself. Any requests for late arrivals or early departures due to extenuating circumstances must be approved by retreat teachers ahead of time. The price of the retreat (based upon the number of nights listed in the rates schedule)
 will not be discounted for missed time, or for showing up late. Please plan your travel time accordingly, so you will be able to attend the entire retreat. 


Can I transfer my deposit or payment to another retreat? Transferring a deposit or payment to another retreat is usually not allowed, but exceptions are made. Please email Linda at retreats@thehermitage.ca

Can I transfer my deposit or payment to another person or my partner? 
Transferring a deposit or payment to another person is usually not allowed but exceptions are made. Please email Linda at retreats@thehermitage.ca

Retreat Format

What is a typical retreat day like? Retreat teachers set schedules for each day according to their preference, but in general, they are as follows: The day usually starts around 5:30 or 6:00 am with an optional morning meditation before breakfast. After breakfast and throughout the rest of the day, there will be alternating periods of sitting and walking meditations, possibly interspersed with some guided yoga. There usually will be a Dharma talk (instruction on meditation, etc) and instructions will be given for sitting and walking meditations, for example.
 Some teachers prefer "group meditation" but as a general rule at the Hermitage, we encourage “private meditation, alone in the midst of nature” – a method established originally by the Buddha. This allows individuals to sit according to their own pysical abilities, and their own personal "timing," without disturbing, or being disturbed by others in a group. Meals are normally eaten in mindful silence, except on the last day, and each retreatant participates in some Karma yoga work sometime during the day, either in the kitchen or with housekeeping. There are also individual interviews with the teachers periodically, although depending on the nature of the retreat, not all teachers give private interviews. The day usually ends around 9:00 pm, however, the meditation hall is always open for those who would like to continue their practice. 

What are teacher interviews? Teacher Interviews (darshan, sometimes called an ‘audience’) are your opportunity to check in with the teacher to discuss your personal practice and ask any questions you may have. Since everyone is different, meditation must be tailored to each individual. With some exceptions based on the teacher, the length of the retreat, and the number of people in the retreat, the private interview is normally a feature of our retreats. 

What is Karma Yoga?
 The daily schedule includes a period of mindful work which is intended to be used as meditation practice. Jobs include helping with meal preparation and kitchen cleanup, housekeeping, and grounds-keeping. Part of the concept in Karma Yoga is service to others as a form of spiritual practice.

Accommodations

What are the accommodations like at the Hermitage?
 Our main accommodations are small, single bed meditation huts called "Kutis," which are the equivalent of monk’s cells in a monastery. A pillow, sheets, blanket, and mattress are provided, so the kutis are really quite comfortable. Each has a heater – either electric or propane. The more distant "eco-kutis" are not electrified but have propane heat. We also offer (at slightly cheaper rates) a number of canvas tents, large and small, set on wooden platforms. The larger tents have made-up beds but you must bring your own bedding (only a bed and mattrass are supplied) if you wish to occupy one of the smaller tents. There are no heaters in any of the tents, which means that they are only usable in the warmer weather season (May to September), but in all other regards they are are clean and comfortable, more spacious than most store-bought camping tents. Bathrooms consisting of toilets, sinks and showers, are shared with others in a centrally located washhouse. 

What are the meals like? Nutritious, balanced vegetarian/vegan meals are served during the retreat. Please read up on our Hermitage Cuisine on this website, which also includes some pictures also of dishes served. If you have any medical dietary restrictions, please let the cooks know when you check in at the retreat.



Will there be snacks available? 
If you require any specific food between meals, you should bring it with you, although it is strongly recommended that you avoid the distraction of snacking unless there is a medical reason for dong so. We have limited storage space for dry goods and refrigerated items, so please be sensitive to our limitations. Tea is available 24 hours a day.



Will coffee be available during the retreat? While a choice of caffeinated and decaffeinated teas are available all day, coffee (caffeinated) is only served at breakfast. Most meditation teachers however will advise you against the use of caffeinated and sugary drinks because they spike your energy levels and can interfere with meditation.

Remember, the Hermitage is a no smoking environment. 
Please don’t even think of coming to the Hermitage unless you are smoke-free.
 Tobacco and marijuana are equally forbidden, as is alcohol.

I must eat meat. What should I do? 
Try an online search for a retreat centre that serves meat. No flesh is served at the Hermitage. Nor are there any facilities for cooking meat here.


What to Bring

What should I bring to a retreat?
The climate can be quite changeable, so bring a variety of loose, comfortable, casual, layered clothing. Bring outdoor walking shoes as well as slip-on shoes. Bring a hat and sunscreen in the spring/summer and/or rain gear in the fall/winter for outdoor walking. Bring your toothbrush and personal toiletries. Gumboots are good in the winter. You will need a flashlight and an alarm clock. Please be respectful of some people's allergies and sensitivities, and leave behind any heavily scented products. You may also want to bring a shawl for meditation and your own familiar meditation cushion if you have one. It’s a good idea to bring ear plugs if you’re very sensitive to sounds.



Do I need to bring my own meditation cushion and/or yoga mat? There are a number of meditations cushions provided; however, there are sometimes not enough for everyone. So, if you can easily bring your own cushion, please bring it. The same goes for yoga mats.

Hermitage and Teacher Dana

What is Dana? Considered priceless, the teachings of the Dharma are meant to be offered freely. An understanding of the need to support both the precious teachings and those who offer them has been embedded deep within Buddhist cultures for over 2,500-years. This support in the form of monetary donations is called dana, which translates to "generosity." The "Perfection of Generosity" – developing a Generous Heart – is considered the first step on the Bodhisattva path, the Path of Awakening. Unfortunately the true meaning of Dana is poorly understood in the Western world. For our first eight years, the Hermitage operated on a donation-basis only but sadly, it eventually became necessary to charge minimal fees to cover the costs of our retreats. These days we keep our costs very low – our registration fees only pay for food for the retreat and cover small stipends for a few staff members. Almost all of our Dharma-teachers depend solely on Dana; whether they can continue to offer retreats depends entirely on donations they receive from you, the retreat participants. At the end of the retreat, you will have an opportunity to offer Dana to your teacher and, if you wish, to the Hermitage's resident monastics.

How much should I give for Dana? This is a frequently asked question that is difficult to answer. In the true spirit of Dana, you should give as much as you can possibly afford. Offering Dana is a personal "spiritual practice" and thus requires a deep look into yourself — what do these teachings mean to you? How valuable are they for you? What can you truly afford in expressing your gratitude and support for what your teachers and places like the Hermitage offer to the world? At the end of the retreat you will be given an empty envelope and the donation is private, and if you prefer, anonymous.

Note: If you value these retreats, and if you value the Hermitage your personal support is paramount. We cannot stress this enough! The Hermitage is a not-for profit establishment belonging to the Dharma Fellowship, a small Western Buddhist society that functions through an elected Board of Directors, entirely focused on making available a place of refuge where people can learn, study and practice meditation, we hope for the greater betterment of the world in which we live. We need your charity to keep the Hermitage going. It is that simple. We thank you, we thank all our donors, every one of you who practices generosity to support the Hermitage and its work!