Frequently Asked Questions


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

What is an Insight Retreat (residential, silent weeklong meditation retreat)?

These are in-person silent, Insight meditation retreat co-hosted by InsightLA and Big Bear Retreat Center. 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.


What is Dana?

The practice of Dana, the Pali word for generosity (pronounced ‘donna’), is a path to happiness. Giving is 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 can be offered to the teachers, retreat center, staff, and InsightLA.

Volunteers (Work Retreatants) are offered a space during retreats in exchange for their support and dana. Volunteers are still invited to offer dana to retreat teachers at the end of the retreat.


Teacher Dana:

Your fee for the Insight retreats goes to the accommodations, meals, and putting together the retreats through InsightLA and Big Bear Retreat Center. Teachers for Insight retreats are 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.


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 Retreat Manager 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 form and deposit. This retreat is being offered on a first-come first-served basis. If you’ve registered after the retreat is full, you will be notified within 48 hours and placed on the waiting list. If you do not have email access, the Retreat Manager will contact you by phone.

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.


What if I need to cancel?

Please notify the Retreat Manager by email or phone 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: 

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?


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 Program Ends on Departure Day

What is a typical retreat day like?

The daily schedule varies from retreat to retreat. However, a typical day 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
  • Guided yoga
  • 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 the Retreat Manager. 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?


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 our Retreat Manager with your specific needs / concerns / requests.


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


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 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 Scented Products:

Being mindful of some people’s allergies or sensitivities, please do not bring or wear scented cosmetics, soaps, or other products, including “natural” scents. Do not use fabric softeners or scented detergent in clothing worn on retreats. For resources about how to be fragrance-free, we highly recommend visiting EBMC’s site.

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.


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.


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

Please bring:

  • Unscented 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?

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.

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.


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:

Winter Driving Tips

It can snow in Big Bear from November to May. The months of heaviest snow are typically January and February. Since we are a heavily trafficked ski town with many visitors, the roads are regularly and quickly well maintained and plowed. Roads are typically clear within a day or two of a large snow storm, if not the same day. We’ve provided some recommendations and resources during our winter months.  

**During winter months, especially during heavy snow months, it is REQUIRED to carry snow chains in your vehicle for your safety. These can be purchased at the bottom of the mountain or in your local city, and can often be returned if unused. More details below.**


During our winter season, please be sure to check road conditions before driving: 

Caltrans offers resources on Winter Driving Tips and a Winter Driving Brochure.

You can also monitor Big Bear weather here on Ben’s Weather or The Weather Channel.


We have 3 main roads to Big Bear: the 330/18 through Highland (from the West), the 18 through Victorville/Hesperia (North), and the 38 through Redlands/Mentone (South/East). Please check road conditions ahead of time during winter months. All three are well maintained main highways. 


In the event of road closures due to weather, you will be able to receive a full refund or apply the  balance towards a future retreat. We will only offer a refund if the roads are closed due to weather.  Please let us know well in advance if you anticipate any issues driving in winter weather conditions. Please note there are 3 ways up the mountain and an alternative route may be necessary.  


During the winter months, we recommend not driving at night up/down the mountain to reduce  unfavorable or icy road conditions.  


Tire chains may be required to use for driving up or down the mountain. Please keep in mind weather may shift if you are here for a longer retreat. It is required to travelin the mountains with snow tire chains in the winter months. Tire chains range from $35 to over $100 depending on tire size. O’Reilly Auto Parts, Pep  Boys, AutoZone, and Amazon are all places where you can purchase chains. Many, such  as Pep Boys, will accept returns on unused chains. (You only need one set). Please inquire before purchasing. We strongly  recommend purchasing chains at the bottom of the mountain, as prices up here are much higher  and sometimes supplies run out on the mountain. The retreat center is not able to purchase chains  for guests. 


During snow conditions and icy roads tire chains may be required. Caltrans partners with approved private contractors to install your tire chains at the base of the mountain. They accept cash and cards (cash typically). Simply pull over to the service area on the side of the road and there will be many service providers on  standby to get you safely on your way. Fees range from $20-$40 typically. YOU MUST ALREADY HAVE A SET OF CHAINS IN YOUR POSSESSION. THEY DO NOT HAVE ANY FOR SALE. 


When chain controls are established, signs will be posted along the road indicating the type of  requirement. There are Three Levels of Chain Requirements in California:  

  • Requirement 1 (R1): Chains are required on all vehicles except passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks under 6,000 pounds gross weight and equipped with snow tires on at least two drive wheels. Chains must be carried by vehicles using snow tires. All vehicles towing trailers must have chains on  one drive axle. Trailers with brakes must have chains on at least one axle  
  • Requirement 2 (R2): Chains or traction devices are required on all vehicles except four wheel/all wheel drive vehicles with snow-tread/all-weather tires on all four wheels. NOTE: (Four wheel/all wheel drive vehicles must carry traction devices in chain control areas)  
  • Requirement 3 (R3): Chains or traction devices are required on all vehicles, no exceptions.


If you are expecting snow during your retreat, we generally have you covered once you have arrived. It is always a good idea to bring layers and warm clothes, along with good shoes for the weather. The center offers cleats with spikes to slip onto guest shoes to provide traction for all guests in snow/ice. We also offer gators to cover pants if hiking into deeper snow, and snow shoes for borrowing. All cabins have central heating. We also offer a few winter clothes for borrow at the dining hall. 

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

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