Annual Winter Retreat
Four Establishments of Mindfulness
January 6-February 5
The four establishments of mindfulness are meditation practices that focus on four objects: body, feelings, mind, and phenomena — both our own and those of others —with a Mahayana motivation.
With this practice, we develop concentration and nurture renunciation and bodhicitta, strengthening our bodhisattva commitment to attain buddhahood as quickly we can.
You can also join us from home for the winter Retreat from Afar
Admission is by application. Register for the month-long in-person retreat here.
To qualify, you must:
- Be fully vaccinated against Covid 19, including boosters, and take a Covd rapid test before you visit
- Be in good mental and physical health
- Commit to living within the 5 lay precepts plus celibacy (refraining from killing, stealing, sexual activity, lying, and intoxicants) during the retreat
- Learn the specific retreat practice and stages of the path (lamrim) meditations in advance
- Be able to guide yourself through a 75-90 minute session five times a day
- It’s best if you can sit on a cushion, but chair seating is also permitted
- Commit to attend all sessions, pujas, and discussions unless you are sick
What Is It?
The annual Winter Retreat is a one-month group meditation retreat.
In the Winter Retreat, everyone meditates together, doing the same practice, for at least five sessions a day. At the beginning some sessions may be led, but soon everyone practices on their own in silence. We keep noble silence in the break times. However, the group may meet periodically for check-ins and Q & A.
Everyone shares in daily offering service tasks to maintain the retreat environment. This may include cleaning the kitchen and other buildings and assisting with meals. Snow-shoveling is a common activity for those who are able.
Ven. Thubten Chodron offers teachings twice a week or more. She is available for spiritual guidance as needed. Otherwise the retreat is managed by resident monastics.
We offer a beautiful retreat environment—peaceful setting, disciplined retreat structure, qualified spiritual guidance, and a supportive practice community. The chance to do long meditation retreat is rare, and we are delighted to offer this opportunity to others.
As His Holiness the Dalai Lama explains, “The purpose of the four establishments of mindfulness is to gain direct insight into the nature of our body and mind and to use this wisdom to eliminate the afflictions that bind us to saṃsāra.”
The value of your time in retreat is directly related to the level of your preparation beforehand. Please take the time to study these materials carefully.
- Teachings on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness:
- Visit the Abbey —here you will find information on accommodation, food, and clothing.
- More preparation resources will be available soon.
Winter Retreat FAQs
What is the daily winter retreat schedule?
The daily schedule typically includes four or five group meditation sessions of 75-90 minutes, and one individual study session. The first session begins at 5.30 am, and the last session ends at 8:15pm or 8:30pm. Retreatants are expected to attend every meditation session unless they are sick. The retreat on Four Establishments will include sessions to receive teachings—live or video—as well
There is time between sessions for reading, walking, yoga, or other activities to keep the body supple for extended sitting. Everyone shares in daily offering service tasks to maintain the retreat environment. We serve three meals daily, except on new and full moon days when we take the eight Mahayana Precepts together.
How much does it cost?
Like all Abbey programs, the retreat is offered on a donations basis (dana).
We invite aspiring retreatants to join in creating the resources to make the retreat happen. By making offerings, everyone works together to create the conditions for retreat. Your offering sponsors fellow meditators. Making your offering also creates merit, which is essential for overcoming any obstacles to doing retreat.
Each participant should raise or contribute at least USD 924 for the one-month retreat. There will be an opportunity to offer additional dana for teachings if you wish at the end of the retreat if you wish.
(Buddhist monks and nuns who wish to do the winter retreat may make an offering if they wish.)
Upon notification that your application has been accepted, please offer at least half of the dana to secure your place in the retreat. The remainder should be offered two weeks before the start date.
Learn more about the Abbey’s economy of generosity.
How do I sign up?
Complete the general long application form. Even if you still have doubts, this is the first step.
Half of the retreat donation is due upon acceptance of your application. The remaining donation is due two weeks before the start date. Your participation in gathering the dana to support the retreat shows that you are serious about doing retreat.
You can make a check payable to Sravasti Abbey, indicating Winter Retreat on the memo line, and mail it to: Sravasti Abbey, PO Box 447, Newport, WA 99156.
Sending the donation by credit card is fine, but please add 3.3% to offset bank processing fees. Indicate Winter Retreat in the comments box.
If family or friends send offerings on your behalf, please email our office to let us know that they are supporting you in gathering donations for the retreat.
Can I retreat for more or less than one month?
No. The Abbey is closed to the public for the three months of Winter Retreat. We ask that one-month retreat participants arrive before the start date, and leave together on the last day. There will be no early departures except in case of emergency.
Read the Visit section for information on transportation and what to expect at the Abbey.
Can I attend the retreat with my partner?
We have found that it is best if couples do not attend the Winter Retreat together. This gives you the space to retreat from attachments and really focus your attention on your own practice.
Can I come just to offer service?
Some people love serving retreats, and doing so brings lots of reward and merit. We especially welcome cooks during our retreat time.
Offering service attendance is by application. We prefer people who serve the retreat to have retreat experience and to be familiar with the Abbey, our schedule, and our way of managing food. Complete and send in the registration form, telling us what you would like to do. The Abbey office will get in touch with you.
Can I be in touch with my family?
We keep the retreat discipline strictly to give meditators the best possible conditions to work with your minds. For that reason, we curtail all contact with the outside world.
That means no incoming or outgoing phone calls, text messages, emails, or letters are permitted. Retreatants should make all necessary arrangements before the retreat begins.
In case of an emergency, your family can phone the Abbey. Telephones and messages are monitored regularly, so they will be able to get in touch with you if it’s necessary.