Frequently Asked Questions

Meditation

What is Meditation?

Meditation is a set of highly effective, proven tools to strengthen the mind and bring greater happiness to life. It is not a religion, though many traditions use the practice.

People have been using meditation for thousands of years to bring their lives into balance, to ease suffering, to discover happiness, and to live more compassionately.

How can meditation help me?

Meditation has been scientifically proven to:

  • Improve overall physical, mental, and emotional health
  • Decrease stress
  • Alleviate anxiety and depression
  • Manage chronic pain
  • Improve sleep

And that’s just the beginning….

View the research: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, American Heart Association, Mayo Clinic, Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of Neuroscience

Why do a meditation retreat?

Meditation retreats offer opportunities for deepened, focused, and extended practice under the guidance of expert teachers. A “momentum of mindfulness” and multiple insights can develop in a retreat setting that would be far more difficult to attain when one is in their “daily life” with all of the responsibilities, duties, and distractions that exist in that setting. During a retreat, everything is taken care of for you, so all you have to do is focus on your practice.

Insight Silent Resident Meditation Retreats

If you’d like a deeper dive into retreats, particularly in the West, we recommend visiting the articles and resources provided by Insight Retreat Center (IRC) and Gil Fronsdale: insightretreatcenter.org/publications/articles

 

What is an Insight or Vipassana Retreat?
(typically residential, silent and at least weeklong meditation retreats)

These are in-person silent, Insight meditation retreats (Buddhist-based practices, typically Vipassana retreats) at Big Bear Retreat Center. These are retreats hosted by Big Bear Retreat Center or co-hosted with another organization (see program details). In general, the structure of an Insight meditation retreat includes time for sitting meditation, walking meditation, rest, mindful eating, and Dharma talks to deepen your embodied understanding along with instructions and guidance, and short practice discussion meetings with the teachers to support you within the container of a silent retreat. All guests are asked to remain on the center grounds (apart from the hiking trails) throughout the duration of the retreat.

 

What is Noble Silence?

Each Insight meditation residential retreat is practiced in silence. Students and the community take the vow of noble silence typically at the opening session (after dinner) and end sometimes towards the end of the retreat. The teachers will share more about this practice during the retreat. This article by Gil Fronsdale provides more on the practice of silence on retreat

 

What is Dana?

The practice of Dana, the Pali word for generosity (pronounced ‘donna’), is a practice of giving and generosity, holding a eminent place in the teachings of the Buddha. Giving as a way to cultivate compassion and self-awareness. It is a practice of offering from the heart, to whatever capacity feels appropriate. During retreats, Dana may be offered to the teachers, retreat center, and staff.

Dana is not meant to be obligatory or done reluctantly. Rather, dana should be performed when the giver is “delighted before, during, and after giving.”

For more on the practice of dana, visit this article by Gils Fronsdale on the general practice of dana/generosity and this one for more on dana in the Western meditation communities.

 

Teacher Dana:

For retreats where teacher compensation is not included (indicated on website and program page). Your fee for the Insight retreats goes to the accommodations, meals, and putting together the retreats through the center. Teachers for Insight retreats are typically NOT paid ahead of time from these fees. Teachers are paid solely through Dana offered by students at the end of the retreat. All retreatants are invited to share dana with retreat teachers at the end of the retreat. The teachers will share more about this practice during the retreat.

Registration

How do I register for a retreat at Big bear Retreat Center?

Visit our Upcoming Retreats page for a complete list of available retreats at Big Bear. Contact the Guest Services if you have any issues.

How much does it cost to attend the retreat?

Learn more about retreat pricing on the Upcoming Retreats page – pricing is listed for each retreat.

How do I know if I’m accepted into the retreat?

You will receive an email confirmation upon receipt of your registration and payment. This retreat is being offered on a first-come first-served basis. If you’ve registered after the retreat is full, you will join the waiting list. If you need more support, please contact Guest Services.

Can I re-register if I have already cancelled?

Yes, if there is room. But, if the retreat is full, you will be placed on the waiting list.

Cancellation

What if I need to cancel?

Please notify the Guest Services as soon as you know that you are unable to attend. Please refer to the cancellation policy noted in each retreat whether a full or partial refund is available.

Our general Cancellation and refund policy for individually booked retreats: https://bigbearretreatcenter.org/cancellation-policy/ 

Can I transfer my deposit to another retreat?

Generally no. However, we may consider such requests on a case-by-case basis.

Can I transfer my deposit to my partner or another person?

No.

General Retreat Information

What time do retreats begin and end? 

Generally, check-in is from 2 to 4 pm on arrival day and check-out 12pm on departure day. Please reference your specific retreat’s schedule for more up to date and specific information.

For Insight Retreats, our typical schedule is:

  • 2-4pm Registration Table Open on Arrival Day
  • 11am-12pm Program Ends on Departure Day

What is a typical retreat day like?

The daily schedule varies from retreat to retreat. However, a typical day for Insight meditation retreats is as follows:

  • All retreats are in silence unless specified otherwise.
  • Wake-up bell: 6 or 6:30 am
  • Alternating 30 to 45-minute periods of sitting and walking meditation
  • Yoga or open time for movement (sometimes movement offered, depends on teaching team)
  • Meditation instruction and daily dharma talk
  • Breakfast, lunch and a light supper are provided (also available through the day are bread, nut butters, and fruit).
  • A daily work meditation period, typically kitchen, housekeeping or grounds-keeping.
  • Periodic group practice discussion with the teacher(s).
  • Sleep: 9:30 pm.

What are the practice discussions with teachers?

Sometimes called interviews, these are an opportunity to discuss your meditation practice and retreat experience with a teacher. They usually occur in small groups with a teacher. Specifics will vary depending on the the teaching team.

What is Work Meditation or “Yogi Job”?

These are typically part of all of our meditation retreats. These are a daily 30 – 40 minute period of work as meditation practice. Jobs include helping with meal preparation, kitchen cleanup, housekeeping, grounds-keeping, bell ringing, and so on. Guests sign up for these upon arrival at the registration table.

Can I arrive early on the day my retreat begins?

Plan to arrive during the check-in period unless special arrangements have been made. Please reach out if you would like to request an early check-in.

Can I stay extra nights before or after a retreat?

This depends on our program calendar. Please reach out ahead of time if you’d like to request extra nights before or after your retreat.

Can I participate in less than the full retreat?

Requests for late arrivals or early departures must be approved by Big Bear Retreat Center and the teaching team before the start of the retreat. These are typically not allowed for residential Insight meditation retreats, to support continuity of practice for individuals and the community. However, these are sometimes considered on a case by case basis.

Is there a number I can be reached at during the retreat in case of emergency?

Yes. This will be provided in your registration materials.

Can I practice yoga during the retreat?

Yes. Some retreats will feature guided yoga or other mindful movement instruction. Additionally, there are a number of areas that can accommodate yoga. Keep mindful to avoid distracting fellow retreatants.

Can I have a package sent to me while I’m on retreat?

Generally, we ask that no packages be sent here, as the timing of the mail here in the mountains is extremely unreliable. If this is an emergency or very important – to receive a package while on retreat, please inform Guest Services. The Retreat Center is in a rural area and specific arrangements may need to be made to accommodate package deliveries.

Can I camp?

There is no camping available at this time.

Can I use my CPAP machine? Is there a place to plug it in?

Yes. Please reach out or indicate on your registration form so we can plan accordingly.

What happens in case of Medical Emergency?

In the event of medical emergency the retreatant will be taken to a LOCAL hospital or Urgent care facility as applicable. We are not able to accommodate requests to other facilities.

Wheelchair Accessibility:

BBRC currently offers wheelchair accessibility, but with limitations (we are hard at work improving this). We have a cabin that is ADA accessible. Please contact Guest Services with your specific needs / concerns / requests.

Smoking:

There is no smoking anywhere in the facility or grounds of BBRC. This includes electronic cigarettes.

Food

*If you have any extreme or important dietary conditions not mentioned here, or are unsure, please contact Guest Services at least 2 weeks before your retreat to coordinate and inform the kitchen. We do our best to accommodate everyone’s conditions and can discuss more ahead of time any special arrangements. 

What are meals like?

We serve delicious all vegetarian meals (breakfast, lunch, and a light supper) prepared by our talented chefs. Vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and serious allergy requests are always available. Please be sure to note this before arrival so our cooking team can adequately accommodate you. BBRC does not accommodate individual dietary preferences, unless medically necessary. We thank you in advance for gratefully accepting the food we offer.

Do you serve tea and hot water?

Yes, we offer tea, coffee, and hot water throughout the property.

I must eat meat for my health. What should I do?

We do our best to make special dietary accommodations, when medically necessary. Please contact the Retreat Manager if you have specific requests and/or concerns. Since you are sharing a cabin with others, we ask that you check in with us before your arrival.

What dietary restrictions do you accommodate?

Our kitchen and team do everything we can to support everyone’s dietary conditions to best be present and nourished on retreat.

We support the following dietary restrictions in daily meals:

  • vegetarian
  • vegan
  • dairy free
  • gluten free
  • allergies

Please ensure you indicate on your registration form the complete and up to date information of your dietary restrictions. Any changes we must know at least 1-2 weeks before your retreat.

We are not able to accommodate dietary preferences, daily changes to diet, and complex dietary restrictions. Guests are invited to bring supplemental foods for certain dietary situations and necessities. Contact us if you are uncertain, and we’re happy to help get you situated ahead of time Guest Services

What to Bring

Water bottle:

BBRC is committed to conserving water. Bring your own water bottle to help prevent having to wash glasses.

Linens: (optional)

We provide all the bedding and towels for your stay (self-service at check-in). Guests are welcome to bring their own linens if they prefer. All beds have twin-sized mattresses.

No Chemically Scented Products:

We ask that all retreatants not use chemically scented products during their time on retreat, including chemically scented shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soaps and abstaining from use of perfumes and colognes. This helps those that are affected by these products in the shared spaces. Products with naturally scented fragrances are acceptable (such as shea butter, coconut oil, and essential oils), especially if that is important to personal use during your time here. We will also have a dedicated space in the hall for scent-sensitive folks. If you need any unscented products, the retreat center has these on hand to lend. 

Please keep in mind this includes avoiding, as best you can, washing your clothes immediately before your arrival using chemically scented laundry detergents and fabric softeners. If needed, the center can provide washing machines and unscented detergent during your stay. 

Clothing for all weather:

Indoor temperature is controlled by forced-air heating. There can be large temperature swings between day and night so bring appropriate layers.

Bring an umbrella and rain gear in the Spring, and winter gear in the Winter.

Footwear:

Bring shoes that are easy to slip on and off. Most buildings are shoe-free. Ideally closed-toe shoes in case your work meditation is in the kitchen. For some, it can be helpful to bring indoor shoes or slippers. We also provide indoor-only slippers.

Self-reliance:

Bring whatever you need. We are not able to shop for items you may have forgotten.

Please bring:

  • No Chemically Scented toiletries: toothbrush/paste, shaving items, sunscreen, shower supplies, etc.
  • Medical and personal supplies: Tylenol/aspirin, cough drops, eye drops, melatonin or magnesium if you have a hard time sleeping in altitude, and lip balm.
  • Sunglasses and sunhat for walking outdoors.
  • Shawl or wrap for the mediation hall
  • Indoor “slipper” shoes or extra warm socks. (No shoes in most buildings.)
  • Flip flops for shower room
  • Flashlight or headlamp (and batteries)
  • Water bottle

Meditation Cushions and Mats (Zafus & Zabutons):

Zabutons (mats) and round cushions are provided in the meditation hall. Cushioned chairs are also available. The meditation hall floor is wood. Retreatants are encouraged to bring their own bench or special cushion if they prefer.

Hair Dryers:

If you feel you have to bring a hair dryer, it should only be used at times it won’t disturb others, typically right after meals for about 45 minutes.

Will I be able to do laundry?

Generally no. The center’s laundry facilities are not available to retreatants. To help conserve water, bring enough clothes to not have to do hand laundry if possible. If you have an extenuating circumstance, please contact us ahead of time to arrange.

Can I bring my Service Animal?

Trained service dogs in ADA-specified service are allowed. Please specify this on your registration or application form so we have maximum time to notify other retreatants, in case any have dog issues or allergies. Our Retreat Manager will also let you know our house rules regarding the care and exercising of your service dog.

Big Bear Retreat Center does not allow animals providing emotional support, comfort or therapy.

We ask that you reach out to us ahead of time so that we may coordinate with you accordingly.

COVID-19

Covid requirements at the center vary and may require vaccines, boosters, testing, and/or masking. Please reference your specific retreat communication and welcome letter for details. For more visit: https://bigbearretreatcenter.org/covid/

Winter Driving Tips

**Visit this page for more on winter driving and snow chains: bigbearretreatcenter.org/snow-chains-and-winter-driving

If you have any questions about the weather for your upcoming retreat or the best way to prepare before you arrive, please contact the guestservices@bigbearretreatcenter.org.

Contact Us

Connect with us at Big Bear Retreat Center.