Lately I’ve been dreaming of returning to a little cabin I stayed in last November at Windhorse Farm in New Germany, NS. Just saying her name – Sweetwater – makes me feel relaxed. Sweetwater. Ahhhhhh.
It was my first solo retreat, and I fell in love. Alone in nature in my little hobbit hut with just the basic necessities – a small wood stove, hot plate, a jug of fresh water, a bed and a table – was freeing. The simplicity gave me space to breathe and go inward.
I’m a city girl but this weekend retreat awakened a neglected desire to be in nature. Being away from the hustle and bustle and over stimulation the city creates and emanates was just what the doctor ordered.
The more I practice yoga, the more I crave stillness and silence. Time to connect with the inner teacher. Luckily, there are a number of retreats in Nova Scotia that welcome seekers of all faiths who want a quiet place to practice or those who just need to get away from it all and recharge their batteries.
Many of the retreats in Nova Scotia are Shambhala Buddhist centers. Shambhala International, which is based in Halifax, links a worldwide network of Buddhist meditation centers, retreat centers, and monasteries founded by Tibetan Buddhist teacher the Trungpa Rinpoche. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is the present spiritual and executive head of the organization.
I’m very much looking forward to my next experience at one of the wonderful retreat centers or forest getaways in Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia Retreat Options
- Windhorse Farm
New Germany, NS, 1 hr, 18 min from Halifax
Surrounded by 200 acres of mature, sustainably managed forests, Windhorse Farm is an ideal place to unwind and relax in nature. Solitary and group meditation practice is a fundamental part of Windhorse. The contemplative and meditation practices are drawn from the Shambhala Buddhist tradition. Windhorse also offers a wood-fired sauna, The Kami Shrine and 20 kilometres of marked trails. I spent my entire weekend alone exploring the trails, writing, enjoying the sauna and practicing yoga.
- Milk Lake Shambhala Retreat
Middlewood, NS, 1 hr 20 min from Halifax
Milk Lake is a rural retreat centre nestled in rolling farm country on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. Three large cabins offer quiet seclusion for retreat or time alone for meditation and contemplation. Milk Lake is owned by Shambhala International.
- Namaste Nova Integrated Wellness Retreat
Newport, NS, 45 min from Halifax
A 100 year old farm house converted into a B&B on 135 acres of mixed forest and cleared land, with a 10 acre lake on the back of the property. Miles of hiking trails, animals (two dogs, six cats and four horses), and an option to explore Bodytalk, a holistic therapy that allows the body’s energy systems to be re-synchronized.
- Big Hill Retreat
Baddeck, NS, 3 hr 51 min from Halifax
Offers three secluded log cottages set on 200 acres of private land to explore with many kilometers of walking trails. It’s 12 km from the village of Baddeck – the beginning and end of the world famous Cabot Trail. Guests are invited to visit the family’s homestead which includes an active pottery studio (see Big Hill Pottery ) and organic garden where there are often extra vegetables for guests. There’s also a pond available for swimming and fishing.
- Buddhayana Forest Retreat
River John, NS, 1 hr 57 min from Halifax
During the Summer months Buddhayana Forest Retreat offers free temporary, self directed, intensive meditation retreats, in the Buddhist ascetic forest tradition. Buddhayana is a non sectarian Buddhist retreat center. It offers 16 retreat cabins and a Meditation Hall. Those on retreat gather each morning in the Meditation Hall to practice silent group sitting and walking meditation and then go to their cabins and the surrounding forest for personal solitary practice.
- Gampo Abbey
Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton, 5.5 to 6.5 hours from Halifax
Gampo Abbey is a Western Buddhist monastery in the Shambhala tradition. It offers in-house retreats for a week or two. Under the spiritual direction of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Gampo Abbey is guided by the Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and principal teacher Acharya Pema Chödrön. The daily schedule at the Abbey provides a retreat-like environment aimed at providing four hours of meditation practice and service (work) each day. It also offers cabins for solitary retreat for those who are interested in doing a retreat for a week or longer and who have a solid meditation practice.
- Birchdale Lake
Yarmouth County, NS, 3 hours from Halifax
Built a century ago, Birchdale Lake offers a remote setting in south west Nova Scotia. Situated on 56 wooded acres, the property surrounds one of four connected lakes. It includes the original log lodge, cabins, a woodworking shop, kitchen, office and two connected octagonal buildings that house the library and chapel built by monks. There are six cabins around the edge of the lake with full baths and wood burning stoves. Three of them have fireplaces. There is no electrical service. Each has gas lamps and a two-burner gas hot plate. The main cooking facilities being located in the kitchens at the lodge and kitchen/office. The Birchdale environment encourages creativity, exploring nature, and Yoga and meditation practice.
- Dorje Denma Ling
Tatamagouche, NS, 1 hr, 50 min from Halifax
Dorje Denma Ling is Canada’s only Shambhala International residential program centre. It is open year-round for individuals or group who want to spend time in a self-directed, individual meditation retreat. The retreats are open to all levels of practice. Meditation instruction is available for beginners. Tuition is $50 per day which includes accommodations and meals.
What are your favorite retreat spots? Recommendations are always welcome. Please send them my way.