Spiritual retreats for the new year
Dhanakhosa in Stirlingshire, Kagyu Samye Ling in Dumfriesshire and the EcoYoga Centre in Argyll offer chances to escape
Want to make some real changes to your life in 2013? With some world-renowned retreat centres based right here in Scotland, the road to enlightenment may be closer than you think. Words: Rhona Taylor
What are your resolutions for life after the Hogmanay hangover subsides? Drink less and exercise more? Stop smoking and start saving? How about facing 2013 with a real challenge for a new you, by resolving to take the time to find some new, positive ways of thinking and looking at life. Sounds like a daunting task? Fortunately, in Scotland the journey to spiritual enlightenment need not be a long one – there are some excellent retreats within easy access of Glasgow and Edinburgh to help to kick-start your transformation. And while you may not change your life in a weekend, you’re bound to come away refreshed, relaxed, and maybe even feeling a little lighter.
This friendly and relaxed Buddhist, meditation and yoga retreat centre is housed in a former hotel on the shores of Loch Voil in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. The centre’s varied programme of courses and retreats is open to everyone – from experienced, practising Buddhists to complete beginners – or anyone who simply wants the time and space to gain a new, clearer perspective on life. All the courses focus on making Buddhist practices and teachings relevant and appropriate to the modern world, and include meditation, discussions and activities related to the theme of the retreat – options include yoga, hillwalking, Tai Chi, photography, painting, communication and introductions to Buddhism. Retreats vary from weekend breaks to more in-depth, week-long courses. Accommodation is in single-sex dorms, and there is a rota for work duties including washing up and helping the cook to prepare the vegan meals.
Dhanakhosa, Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, dhanakosa.com; 01877 384 213. Introductory retreats cost £30 for a weekend or £75 for a week plus a suggested donation of up to £145 (weekend) or £340 (week). Includes meals; concessions available.
Kagyu Samye Ling / Holy Isle Project Kagyu
Samye Ling, on the River Esk in Dumfriesshire, was the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre in the Western world when it opened in 1967, and is now open to everyone for day visits, short breaks and courses or longer retreats. Courses are focused on activities such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga or Tai Chi, while there is also a range of longer retreats. The centre is also home to a Tibetan tea room and shop that are both open to day visitors, while accommodation for courses includes dorms, camping and single or twin rooms.
It is strongly affiliated with the Samye Ling Centre is Holy Isle, just off the beautiful island of Arran in the Firth of Clyde, with a spiritual history dating back to the 6th century. Retreats on the island take place in the Centre for World Peace and Health in the north, while the south of the island is home to a closed Buddhist retreat. Courses include Christmas and New Year retreats, and the project recruits volunteers who can stay on the island at a reduced rate in exchange for helping out with tasks such as gardening and maintenance. Guests are also welcome.
Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery & Tibetan Centre, Eskdalemuir, Langholm, Dumfriesshire, samyeling.org, 013873 73232. Weekend workshops cost £63; week workshops £73 (concessions available) plus accommodation (dorms £24 pppn; twin rooms £57 per room per night) including meals.
Holy Isle Project, Lamlash Bay, Arran, holyisland.org, 01770 601100. For rates see website.
The ecoYoga Centre near Loch Awe in Argyll has been transformed from an outdoor centre into a comfortable space for practising yoga – great for anyone looking for a little more luxury. As well as yoga, the emphasis at the centre is on relaxation and sustainable living – the centre generates its own electricity and water comes from a natural spring nearby. The centre runs a variety of retreats with different yoga teachers, and are suitable for beginners as well as the more experienced. Types of yoga include Ashtanga and Iyengar, which are taught in the centre’s purpose-built glazed studio overlooking the River Liever. Accommodation is in well-appointed, comfortable bedrooms, while most of the food comes from the centre’s garden when available; most dishes are vegetarian although fish is sometimes served. The centre is also available for short holidays outside the retreat times.
Inverliever Lodge, Ford, Argyll, ecoyoga.org, 01546 810259. One-week courses from £775 pp.