These Are the 6 Best Gay-Friendly Silent Meditation Retreats

Written by | Wellness

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Speech is silver, but silence is golden — or so the saying goes. So, we found six places you can go for the gold.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by life’s seemingly endless babble of conversation and chatter, it might be time to get away from it all. A variety of places offer silent meditation and retreats. We checked out six such destinations offering programs for both beginners and more seasoned practitioners. They may provide the very first vacation where you’ll never once worry about a lull in conversation at the dinner table.

Garrison Institute

Looking for an LGBT silent retreat? Coming up April 14–17, the Garrison Institute will encourage members of our community to embrace silence, contemplation and action to delve into what is unfolding in our bodies, hearts and minds. The Institute is not-for-profit, non-sectarian, and located about an hour north of New York City on a beautiful 77,000–square foot former Capuchin monastery with enough space for groups of 175 people.


Esalen was founded in the groovy ‘60s in order to explore what author Aldous Huxley called “human potentialities.” In many ways, it became the center of what is now thought of as the New Age movement. Situated on 27 acres of California’s spectacular Big Sur coastline, Esalen is not only a retreat center but also an educational institute and intention-driven community that’s part of a worldwide network for people exploring spiritual possibilities. They recently hosted a New Year’s Silent Meditation Retreat, which was meant to allow participants to focus inward, connect with themselves and discover life goals and personal intentions for the year ahead. This was led by Mark Abramson, who described it as a week “spent in periods of noble silence.” Practices included “mindfulness meditation utilizing the rich, sensual experience of Esalen — with the sounds of the ocean, the feeling of the air, and the beauty of seeing the colors and textures as well as the rich experience of our bodies and minds.”

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Springwater Center

The meditation practices at Springwater Center — which is located on 220 acres about an hour south of Rochester, NY — originally had their basis in the teachings of Zen Buddhism but subsequently evolved beyond that. Today, their retreat formats include timed sittings, morning talks, short work periods where guests assist in preparing meals and cleaning up, and time spent appreciating nature, including the Center’s miles of walking trails, picturesque streams, rolling meadows, lush forests and a quiet reflecting pond.

Shambhala Mountain Center

People have been hiking the Colorado Rockies in search of Shambhala for over 40 years. The Center is 600 acres of lush forests, rolling meadows and, of course, those famous rocky peaks. Shambala’s seven-day mindfulness meditation retreat is co-sponsored by the Center of Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare and Society. It’s an immersive, teacher-led silent meditation based on mindfulness-based stress reduction principles developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The week includes instruction, individual interviews, talks by teachers, and guided sessions of meditation practice, movement exercises and mindful eating.

Cloud Mountain Retreat Center

Head to the dense forests of southwestern Washington state to find Cloud Mountain for retreats designed to explore the three pillars of Buddhism: ethical and moral behavior, generosity of giving, and the cultivation of wisdom. Most retreats at the center are held in silence; they range in duration from days-long beginner retreats to experiences for experienced meditators that can continue for several weeks. The complex at Cloud Mountain is located on 15 wooded acres. Quiet walks on the property feature a small lake, a fish pond, and visits from black-tailed deer, raccoons, and blue herons depending on the season.

Mount Madonna Center

Located on 355 acres of mountain-topped redwood forest overlooking California’s Monterey Bay, Mount Madonna Center hosts a variety of opportunities for individuals looking to quiet their minds. Their “Vipassanna” weekend retreats focus on a form of insight meditation described by the Buddha. It is meant to help practitioners develop wisdom, compassion and peace by learning to be mindful of the present moment and discover “the path to happiness.” These retreats include meditation instruction, silent sitting meditations, walking meditations and unique dharma talks. Despite the center’s title — as far as we know — our favorite Material Girl hasn’t gotten her Shanti on there yet. But when it comes to discovering the path to happiness, you never know who may show up.

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Last modified: August 14, 2019