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Self Compassion and Some Silence

Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

£249 single ensuite, £189 shared ensuite, fully catered

9th - 11th Feb 2018: Sorry, sold out!

2nd - 4th March 2018: 1 shared place left

Arrivals from 4pm on the Friday, retreat will start at about 7.30pm. Finish at 12pm on Sunday but there is an invitation to go and have lunch together in Hebden Bridge before heading home. Please note: there is a cat who lives on the premises!


'If it feels like a struggle, it's not self compassion' - these are the very wise words I heard during a Mindfulness Based Self Compassion Intensive Retreat that I went on in July 2017 with the leaders in this field, Kristin Neff and Chris Germer. I learned so much from that retreat that I wanted to incorporate some of the meditations and exercises into a weekend retreat here in the UK.

This weekend will keep Serenity Retreat's ethos of 'do as much or as little as you like' very close to its heart. We'll be encouraging you to spend the weekend really tuning in to what it is you need to do for yourself. Maybe that will be coming along to all the meditations, maybe that will be to do no meditation but to sleep (and sleep and sleep) or maybe it will be to wander into Hebden Bridge (which won the Market Town of the Year Award in 2017 - lots of lovely little independent shops, cafes and restaurants) - whatever you feel is right for you. We will be in silence on Saturday until after lunch and then again on Sunday morning until after breakfast, that's the only thing that is sacred in terms of 'rules'.

There will be meditations focused on how to breathe kindness into ourselves, how to send compassion to others as well as ourselves and the opportunity to create our own wishes for wellness that can lay the ground for a personal Loving Kindness practice. We'll also do some guided visualisations around safety and friendship.

So many of us struggle with an Inner Critic (the judgemental voice that just goes on and on - and on), so we'll also take a look at meeting this voice, seeing if we can establish what its real message is and then taking steps towards turning that voice into an Encouraging Coach.

There will be some mindful movement, lots of periods of rest (we're big fans of rest here at Serenity Retreat), a good 3 hour chunk of scheduled free time on Saturday afternoon (although in reality, it's all free time, use the timetable in the best way to serve you) and some periods of Doing Nothing (that's always an interesting exercise!).

Rooms are simple and twin-bedded with ensuite shower and toilet. Some are allocated for sole occupancy (£249) and some for sharers (£189).

Food will be vegetarian, plentiful and filling. If this is feeling like something you'd like to do you can use this booking form. A deposit of £50 will save your place.

Hope to see you there!

The bedrooms - simple, functional, clean.

The lounge and dining area (or the meditation space, depending on numbers!)

The meditation space

Walking, for those who want it. But either way, it's set in a lovely spot with great views over Hebden. 10 mins walk into town, 20 to get back (it's up a hill!).

New Year 30th Dec '17 - 2nd Jan '18 (3 nights)

£250 all inclusive - sorry, sold out!

This year our New Year Retreat will be held in North Wales again (a ten minute walk to the beach and twenty minutes back....!) and the cost is £250, donations welcomed. We have 22 places available and we are always sold out so do book early. A £50 deposit reserves your place and is refundable up until 30th November (minus a £20 admin charge).

The Venue

We used Noddfa, Penmaenmawr for the first time for the 2017 New Year and we had fabulous feedback, particularly about the nuns - they are so very hospitable, and the food - delicious, just like Grandma would make! Added to that, the house was warm and we had the place to ourselves, so plenty of room to move around. We loved it, so we're really happy to be going back there this year.

What to Expect

There will be a timetable that includes periods of sitting, mindful walking, mindfulness movement, periods of Doing Nothing and some instruction about mindful eating during mealtimes. There will be a teaching each evening. If you want to bring a book, or some drawing, or some writing - please do. Our focus is on opening up to the silence. We'll stress that there is no obligation AT ALL to follow the timetable. Instead, we'll encourage you to tune in to what your body needs: feeling tired? Rest. Feeling hungry? Snack. Need to move? Go walking. Don't feel that you have to follow our timetable. It's there if you feel that you want to do it, but it's not compulsory by any means. The most important thing is that you commit to the silence on New Year's Day! Other than that, you are very welcome to do as you choose.

What's the Big Deal about Silence?

Someone asked me (Kim) this a few weeks ago. I answered as best I could at the time but thought that it was a great question. Why would we voluntarily become silent? What is the point? Many of us live alone and are silent a lot anyway, why would we choose to expose ourselves to more, when we could have the opportunity to be making new friends and socialising?

I’m pretty sure you all have your own reasons for turning up and entering the silence, so what I’m about to say speaks only for me. Maybe it’ll resonate, maybe not ;)

My friend, Janine, announced she was doing a silent retreat some years ago. I remember being horrified - you can’t speak?! Or read?! Or write?! But I was also at a point when I was questioning a lot of what my mind was telling me. So I turned it around - what was so terrible about not being able to speak or read or write? And it’s then I realised that I was terrified of what might turn up if I was left alone with my own head. I thought that Pandora’s box might be opened, a huge can of worms that I would be unable to put the lid back on. That wasn't my experience. In fact I realised that my fear of looking within was keeping me trapped in all sorts of subtle ways.

During our time together we WILL have the possibility of reading, writing, drawing etc. We welcome this simply because we don’t need to create extra stress for ourselves when we first meet silence. You’re welcome to read and write and draw - but we can be very interested in the moment BEFORE we pick up the book, the journal, the drawing etc. Why do we feel the need to distract ourselves? Is something going on that feels uncomfortable? Can we possibly sit with that feeling and turn our minds towards it? Even for 2 seconds? After we’ve turned towards the feeling that’s going on for us, we may find that we’re quite curious about what’s going on and want to investigate further. Or we may decide that we absolutely DO want to distract ourselves and that’s perfectly fine. The thing is to have some curiosity about the whole thing. We call this ‘friendly curiosity’.

If we decide to investigate the bodily experience, then our intention isn’t to work anything out or get to the bottom of anything or analyse it, although we may have some insights in that direction, our intention is simply to give our bodies the gift of our 100% complete attention in this moment of discomfort or whatever it is that we have going on for us. In the West we have become very used to moving away from discomfort as we’re told over and over again (by the media and society) that we shouldn’t have to experience any unpleasantness and that if we do (and this message can be quite subtle) then we are in some way ‘failing’. This is not true. We are simply living.

But I can tell you that until I’m blue in the face. The only way to see if this is true is to come and find out for yourself....

This is a great way to introduce yourself to the practice of silence. Especially suitable for those who have never experienced a silent retreat before. It's not as intense as a full on Buddhist retreat but still retains the magic that silence can bring. It's such a great way to start the year!

What's Included

The price includes:

Please go to our Booking Page if you'd like to reserve your place.

Other UK Retreats

I have been to a number of retreats now - all slightly different. Here are my recommendations based on my own experience. They are not profit-making retreats and as a result, they are all reasonably priced. They are groups and people who are looking to create an environment in which you can be still and stillness brings its own profit... Mostly in Twickenham and St Leonards on Sea

Janine is my closest friend and my greatest source of support. She has a calm and clear manner and practices what she preaches. We've both been discovering the value of honesty over the years and it's one of the things that I love most about her. I'm not surprised that her day retreats are so popular. You'll know what I mean when you meet her. I have noticed that those people who walk the walk in this meditation and mindfulness game are very easy to be around..... She runs Day Retreats at weekends and she runs 8 week Meditation and Mindfulness courses during the week. If you live in either Twickenham or St Leonards I would check her out :) Mostly in London and Buckinghamshire

My very lovely friend, Michael, runs these retreats. We have co-hosted retreats in the past. He has a kind, gentle and clear-seeing manner and I have sent many guests to his meditation group and to his retreats and they are incredibly positive about the experiences. The retreats are a little more relaxed than traditional Buddhist retreats. UK-wide

Zenways do a 3 Day Intensive Zen Retreat. 3 days of working very rigorously with the question 'Who Am I'. It's not run like a full on Buddhist retreat but it IS full on. We put all our beliefs and notions about who we are under the microscope. As a part of the process we have the opportunity to shed a lot of unhelpful thought tendencies and the possibility completely exists for us to come up with an answer to the question that not only satisfies us but is beyond anything you could ever imagine or think ;) Mostly Wales but also UK-wide

They do all sorts of different retreats so do have a look and see if there's something that grabs your attention (and do it!). Run along stricter Buddhist guidelines so expect early starts, chanting and lots of meditation. They do a version of Zen Retreat above although they call it the Western Zen Retreat. It's similar but a bit less intense and run over 5 days. They do other retreats too. I've done the Silent Illumination and Shattering the Great Doubt retreats and I recommend them all. Devon

I did my very first retreat here. They have all sorts of teachers from all sorts of backgrounds so timetables etc are all slightly different. There is an emphasis on silence, though, and it's generally run along Buddhist guidelines.

Our average review score is 5 and we're proud!

We've been reviewed in the Guardian 10 Wellbeing Retreats

As well as The Times as a 'Top 50 Spa Holiday':

"It’s great for solo travellers interested in spirituality and personal growth or just pure relaxation, and tends to attract people who have started to question their lives and who want to live more meaningfully".

National Geographic Traveller. We're featured in the Top 5: Meditation retreats in Europe.

Queen of Retreats reviewed us too! Check out our page.

Metro had this to say:

Set up by Zen meditation teacher Kim Bennett, Serenity Retreats are aimed at solo travellers looking for self development. The week long retreat has an easy-breezy approach and while there are mindfulness walks, guided meditations and excursions on offer, nothing is compulsory. "Our emphasis is on giving our guests space", Bennett says. "Our accommodation is on the beach and we encourage guests do nothing other than watch the sea and the mountain for a restorative effect".

And thanks to Jane Alexander and the Daily Mail Travel Section for this article. Not sure we would call ourselves chic, though!

Serenity Retreat

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