Feed your soul - at one of South Africa's many Retreats

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Feed your soul - at one of South Africa's many Retreats
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In pursuit of physical wellness, we sweat and strain every day in gyms all over the country. But how much time do we devote to our spiritual wellness? How often do we need “get away from it all” to restore the balance so essential to our overall health? How often do we exercise our spiritual beings by taking ourselves away from the urban frenzy to indulge our selves and our souls in some peace and quiet, a little solitude and a large dose of tranquility?
- By Tony Ullyatt
Going on retreat
To retreat is to run away from the enemy – but only if you’re in the army. To retreat in the spiritual sense is to run towards the enemies within yourself who prevent you from enjoying the richness, complexity, and magnificence that reality has to offer us. 

A retreat is a spiritual business when you take a break from your routine, your work, your stresses and strains to replenish yourself spiritually. The main, though not exclusive, purpose is, in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s words, “To get in touch with the silence within yourself”. And to achieve this, there are several places where you can find a space, an atmosphere, and a process ideally suited to satisfying this need for internal stillness. 

All the retreats we shall be mentioning here are each rooted in their own particular spiritual philosophy, whether Buddhist or Christian, and you should bear that in mind when contemplating a destination. Although Buddhist retreats welcome members of all faiths, some Christian retreats prefer to welcome people of only Christian denominations. At the Buddhist retreats generally, the food is lacto-vegetarian, no intoxicating drinks are allowed, certainly not havens for recycled hippies or people in search of a place for a naughty weekend. A further point: retreats do not offer five-star luxury for yuppies – or anyone else, for that matter. Accommodation is functional but often relatively basic. At some retreats, you will be expected to wash your own dishes and cutlery after meals. 

The retreats

To begin, the Buddhist retreats. These are to be found in Natal, North-West, and the Western Cape. So, let us head south first, to KZN. 

A few kilometers from Ixopo in Natal is the Buddhist Retreat Centre, which overlooks the valleys and hills of Natal hinterland. It offers Structured Retreats, varying in length from a weekend to a week or more. As the name suggests, these retreats follow specific programmes and schedules. It also offers Self Retreats, which allow individuals to follow their own needs with meals times as the only structures in the day. Some individuals undertake their own Silent Retreats, sometimes a week or two in duration, during which they choose not to speak. For the first –time visitors, these highly disciplined processes may seem strange or even discourteous. 

Off now to North West Province. About 100 kilometers from Johannesburg, on the slopes of the Magaliesburg mountains, you will find the Emoyeni Buddhist Retreat Centre whose facilities and beautiful environment are most conducive to contemplation, meditation, and simplicity. Here too, you may undertake Conducted (Structures) Retreats or Individual (Self) Retreats. Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike are welcome, but it is essential to book well in advance as the Centre’s Zulu name means “Place of the Spirit”. 

Robertson in the Western Cape is our next destination, where we find the Robertson Dharma Centre. It is unique in being the only full-time residential Zen centre on the African continent. The Centre offers a variety of programmes, ranging from a daily practice schedule to monthly retreats, varying in length from two days to a week. Once a year, the Centre conducts a month-long retreat. The Centre’s vegetarian food is created by its own master chef. 

Then in Cape Town itself, you can find the Ronderbosch Zen Dharma Centre where regular practice and meditation instruction can be had. During these sessions, you will do both walking and sitting meditation as well as chanting. There is also a monthly non-residential Sunday retreat to which you should take your own lunch. Refreshments are provided. 

On to the Christian retreats. These may prove more suitable for those who seeking more familiar or predictable spiritual environment or for individuals seeking to further their Christian religious beliefs and practices. As with all other retreats, it is essential to make contact with the centres, establish what retreats they offer, and the costs involved as well as their day-to-day expectations of retreatants. Bookings are always essential, even for day visitors, if only to make provision for sufficient catering. It is also important to know what clothing to take with you on retreats, and what sort of weather you can generally expect.

Near Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, uMariya uMama weThemba Monastery and Retreat is run by Benedictine monks, known not only for the delicious liqueur they created bearing their name but also for their hospitality. Individuals and groups wishing to share the monks’ daily routines or to relish the peace of the monastery gardens can book a retreat throughout the year. For more serious spiritual questers, the monks also hold organized retreats of prayer and worship. Full board is available while the accommodation consists of singe or double rooms and communal dining area. Also consider the Marianhill Christian Monastery in Pinetown (tel: 031 700 4288). 

And then there are many places throughout the country that bring spirituality into the realm of wellness, offering meditation as well as all the obligatory accoutrements of New Ageism: massage, yoga, aromatherapy, reiki, astrology, palmistry, reflexology, and much besides. Here the quest for spirituality often is rarely the primary focus, falling a long way behind the sheer indulgence of luxuriously pampering the body (and the inevitable costs that go with it). In addition, there are countless hydrotherapeutic spas, wellness centers, labyrinths, and sacred places scattered all over the country, from rustic African settings to urban-chick hotel complexes and wellness centers. With more than enough venues to cater for the broadest range of tastes, needs, and incomes, can you really afford to keep your body finely honed and tuned in the gym and let your soul, your spiritual core become weak and enfeebled through lack of attention?

Contact details:

The Buddhist Retreat Centre, tel: 039 834 1863 or visit their website.
The Emoyeni Buddhist Retreat Centre, tel: 014 574 3663. 
The Robertson Dharma Centre, tel: 023 626 3515 or visit their website.
The Ronderbosch Zen Dharma Centre, tel: 021 686 3698. 
The uMariya uMama weThemba Monastery and Retreat, tel: 046 622 8111.
Have a question?
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Comment(Anonymous) - 13 August 2015 @ 21h37
i am looking for christian retreats in Gauteng
Comment(Anonymous) - 13 August 2015 @ 21h37
i am looking for christian retreats in Gauteng
CommentIndi Alexander - 11 June 2015 @ 10h27
Free retreat for 65 year pensioner in johannesburg please
CommentSheldon - 08 May 2015 @ 06h57
I would like a guidance, locally/african/far east, of 3-6mth bhuddist/monestry retreats or similar named locations and contact persons locally (jhb) for my future plans and then see where to from there.
Commentagrinette - 27 January 2015 @ 14h15
Am looking for Christian retreat eastern cape other than the one in grahamstown
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CommentTshidi - 22 November 2014 @ 18h48
Hey do you have any in Gauteng
CommentThando Patson Dlamini - 17 November 2014 @ 11h05
where can I get a place where I can seek God in prayer and fasting in South Africa. I am from Swaziland
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CommentDuane - 10 September 2014 @ 06h30
Any weekend retreats in and about cape town
CommentKathy - 24 April 2014 @ 11h28
I am looking for a website that offers all christian retreats for the month. Do you know of any?
CommentFelicity - 28 March 2014 @ 10h30
I am looking for a Christian based retreat in Pretoria area where I can receive spiritual encouragement and healing.
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Comment(Anonymous) - 09 January 2014 @ 21h49
I am looking for a Christian based retreat in Kwa Zulu Natal where I can receive spiritual encouragement and healing.
CommentMary-Ann - 07 January 2014 @ 09h09
Are there any retreats that you know of in SA where it is requested that nobody speak; ie it is a completely silent retreat?
CommentThandiwe - 23 August 2013 @ 12h35
Do you have any christian retreat in Gauteng
CommentFrank - 08 August 2013 @ 11h31
where do i find a christian retreat for the weekend in Gauteng
Comment(Anonymous) - 05 July 2013 @ 14h02
Are there any christian retreats in North west province for a single person.
Comment(Anonymous) - 05 July 2013 @ 14h01
Are there any christian retreats in North west province for a single person.
Commentbuhle - 13 June 2013 @ 12h24
Are ther christian retreats venue in Gauteng
Comment(Anonymous) - 04 June 2013 @ 21h50
Looking for a Christian resort in SA
CommentCathy - 12 March 2013 @ 15h47
I am looking for a Christian Retreat Centre which is in the Peninsula, Cape Town
Comment(Anonymous) - 26 February 2013 @ 16h24
Is daar 'n christelike retreat venue in Gauteng
Comment(Anonymous) - 26 February 2013 @ 16h24
Is daar 'n christelike retreat venue in Gauteng
Commentjp - 23 January 2013 @ 09h38
do you find christian retreat in durban and surrounding areas
Comment(Anonymous) - 22 January 2013 @ 18h55
Do you have any yoga retreats surrounding the eastern cape?
CommentTazz - 16 January 2013 @ 16h09
Where do i find there Christian Retreat ....??
Commentderyn - 20 November 2012 @ 03h56
do you have any retreast in or surrounding the eastern cape
Comment(Anonymous) - 04 November 2012 @ 18h06
are there any retreat centres in the Garden Route?
Comment(Anonymous) - 15 May 2012 @ 07h20
are there any Christian retreats in the western cape?
Commentnatashia - 26 December 2011 @ 20h50
do you have any retreat centres in the eastern cape?
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