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5 cheap (or free) ways to go on a meditation retreat


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Photo: Stocksy/Lumina

If the thing preventing you from packing up your comfiest leggings and going on a meditation retreat is the price tag, before you resign yourself to a mindfulness staycation (courtesy of your smartphone), try adding the word “scholarship” to your search.

It turns out there’s an abundance of financial aid available to meditators as centers across the globe that are attempting to become more inclusive. “We’re committed to ensuring that these teachings are widely available,” says Andy LeSavage, marketing manager at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. “Money [shouldn’t be] a barrier to practice.”

An Internet deep dive returned a number of programs and places such as Spirit Rock. But taking advantage of the sliding scales, scholarships, and other discounts available is kind of like being able to order off the secret healthy menu at Panera Bread—you can only do so if you know they exist.

Here are 5 healthy travel hacks that can make your next meditation retreat more affordable.

Spirit Rock Affordable Meditation Retreats
Photo: Instagram/@spirit_rock

1. Apply for a retreat scholarship

Believe it or not, spiritual scholarships are plentiful in the world of meditation. Most require a fair amount of digging and a lengthy application process. But if all goes as planned, you’ll find yourself enjoying a pro-bono weekend of forest walks, vegan eats, and (of course) meditation.

Where should you look? Explore financial aid offered by Shambhala, the Omega Institute, Spirit Rock, and Siddhayatan, for starters. Both their full and partial scholarships fill up fast, so check back on the reg for best results.

Pro Tip: Have a go-to instructor you consult for all things meditation? Reach out to them regarding smaller, teacher-led retreats. Many typically offer one or more scholarships.

Meditation Retreat Center
Photo: Zen Mountain Monastery

2. Become a fellow at a meditation center

Meditation fellowships are on the rise and ready to help you infuse your 9–5 with mindfulness. If you’re selected, the meditation center will invite to take up residency, commit more time to your practice, and connect with other like-minded folks. Some, like the Hemera Foundation’s Art Fellowship, even set you up with two (yes two!) mentors—one for your meditation practice and one for your artistic endeavors.

Where should you look? The Hemera Foundation offers fellowships for artists, educators, and healthcare professionals at meditation centers across America—from Colorado to California, New York, and beyond. A retreat plus a gorgeous backdrop? Yes, please.

Pro tip: Many centers also offer work retreats. So you can split your time between helping out with housekeeping and cultivating your own practice.

Vipassana meditation retreat
Photo: Instagram/@jengler7

3. Go all-in with a free vipassana retreat

Yep—excluding airfare, your first retreat through the Vipassana Meditation Center, which has nearly 180 locations around the world, is 100 percent on the house. The tradition is one of the oldest forms of meditation in India, and an intensive course includes 10 days of meditation with step-by-step instructions. In the ancient Indian language of Pāli, the word “vipassana” means “seeing things as they really are.” Intrigued yet?

Where should you look? Head right to the Vipassana website to sign up for the location nearest you. Or make it journey with a far-off destination that meets all your #travelgoals.

Pro tip: Unsurprisingly, these complimentary retreats tend to fill up fast. Get ahead of the game by applying a year or more in advance.

Yogaville Ashram Meditation Retreat Fall
Photo: Yogaville

4. Opt for a shared room at an ashram

Basically the DIY of the retreat world—ashrams give you the opportunity to custom tailor your schedule with yoga classes, group meditations, vegetarian meals, and plenty of hiking trails. Plus, you can stay for as little as $75. Just prepare for rustic, camp-style bunk beds.

Where should you look? Start by consulting your search engine about the ashrams nearest to you.

Pro tip: Just like retreat centers, most ashrams also offer work retreats. If you like the idea of bartering for yoga and meditation, this program was pretty much made for you.

ocean-yoga-meditation-retreat
Photo: Pixabay

5. Give your retreat fund the crowdsourcing treatment

If you’ve ever used Kickstarter or similar platforms to launch a creative endeavor, you know that asking others for help can be a powerful tool. This time, try asking your loved ones to invest in your well-being instead of your next big project.

Where should you look? The Offering Bowl is a good option. Just rent the space on their site (for free), set a goal, and watch your numbers grow.

Pro tip: Every campaign lasts six months, so don’t wait until the last minute to start promoting. Share your goal on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, stat

Have you heard that we’re leading our second Well+Good Retreat in the Hudson Valley this August? Email experiences@wellandgood.com to book your spot, ASAP.

Originally published October 26, 2017; updated June 25, 2018

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