Salt Spring Insight Meditation

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Attending our Residential Retreats

Taking a retreat is retreating from all the responsibilities and busyness of our day to day lives, into a supportive environment of silence and simplicity.  This means turning towards solitude and reflection while renouncing social engagement and improving our physical conditions, just as if attending a monastery.

For those planning to come to one of our retreats, please read down the list of details below.   If, AFTER reading through this list, you find you still have a question, then contact the registrar.  May we remind you that our organization is run on a strictly volunteer basis: our volunteers appreciate your assistance in finding out as much information as you can from the website before requesting personal correspondence.  Thank you.


If you would like a ride to the retreat, please email the registrar, who will put you in touch with others coming from your area, so you can arrange a possible ride.

Retreat Daily Schedule

Insight Meditation Retreat

6:00 am Wake-Up
6:30 am Sitting Meditation


8:00 am Work Meditation
8:45 am Sit with Instructions / Q & A
9:45 am Walking Meditation
10:30 am Sitting Meditation
11:15 am Walking Meditation
12:00 noon Sitting Meditation

12:30 pm LUNCH

2:15 pm ‘Guided’ Sitting Meditation
3:00 pm Walking Meditation / Yoga
3:45 pm Sitting Meditation
4:30 pm Walking Meditation / Yoga


6:30 pm Sitting Meditation
7:15 pm Stretch Break
7:30 pm Dharma Talk
8:20 pm Walking Meditation
9:00 pm Sitting Meditation
9:30 pm End of formal practice

Intensive meditation practice

All meditation retreats share the common aim of Buddhist contemplative traditions: to free the mind and heart from confusion, self-centeredness and struggle.

The opportunity of long hours of uninterrupted silent meditation practice allows us to cultivate moment-to-moment awareness that nurtures inner serenity and peace, insight into the nature of our experience while fostering emotional resources with which to respond more fully and usefully to suffering and stress (Compassion).

The main emphasis is placed upon developing attention, sensitivity and awareness through sitting and walking meditation.


A Day On Retreat

Retreatants spend the day practicing sitting and walking meditation, cultivating continuous attention to the changing nature of our moment-to-moment experience.

We practice alternating periods of sitting and walking meditation of approximately 45 minutes throughout the day, beginning around 6:30 am and ending at 9:30 pm.

Every day there is a period of meditation instruction, a period for questions and answers, individual or small group meetings with the teacher to discuss one’s own practice and experience, and a dharma talk, explaining the value and meaning of meditation in one’s daily life.

On retreats lasting more than 3 days, there is also an optional period of yoga, lead by Celeste Mallett-Jason, a local yoga instructor.

In the spirit of simplicity and silence, and as a gift to other retreatants, please refrain from other activities such as:

Reading and writing, taking photographs (except on the last morning), or anything more disruptive, anywhere on the farm.

Retreatants will also be assigned a daily job to assist with the running of the retreat. This work is a part of the practice and becomes work meditation. Jobs include helping with meal preparation and cleanup in the kitchen, housekeeping and grounds-keeping, and are given out at on-site registration.


Our retreats are held in silence.

Maintaining silence and reducing activity to a minimum is the best way to support your meditation practice while on retreat, by creating a calm, quiet and simplified environment with minimal distractions.   Spending time in silence is a very powerful way to support the deepening of meditative calm (Samatha) and insight (Vipassana).

Being together in this way allows us to explore a degree of solitude, while having the support of each other.   Silence fosters a sense of safety and refuge, even among people we do not yet know.  The momentum of days of quiet, without distractions or responsibilities, allows our hearts to release their guard and access levels of peace and tenderness not usually accessible to us.  In this calm, our busy minds settle and becomes clear and bright, revealing glimpses into the simple yet deep truths we share with all of nature.  When experienced for ourselves these insights are transformative and liberating.

This means that while on retreat you are asked to refrain from engaging in all forms of verbal and written communication with other retreatants and the outside world, including reading, writing, engaging in correspondence or telephone calls, text messaging and checking emails.   To encourage this, we invite you to relinquish your cell phones into our safe-keeping at the beginning of the retreat.

We are not able to provide Internet access to Retreatants.

The exception is taking notes to record your meditation experience, or sometimes to remember some teaching given in a Dharma Talk. All this supports the ability to calm the busy thought processes of usual daily activity.   Participating like this in the silence gives us more an experience of privacy and protection than isolation or loneliness.

Please respect this guideline, once the retreat begins.

You are still able to speak with the retreat teacher(s) when appropriate, to ask questions and discuss your meditation experience, and to contact or talk with the retreat manager, if there are any essential practical matters you need to attend to.


In order to create an atmosphere and environment of safety and trust, conducive to meditation while in the close company of others, we request all participants observe the following practice guidelines:

Please respect the silent atmosphere throughout the buildings and farm.

Everyone is asked to contribute one period of work per day.

We encourage sensitive respect towards all living beings, and a non-harming relationship to all life forms.

Everyone is asked to take only that which is clearly given.  (Should you need something for your wellbeing, the retreat manager will do her/his best to provide it).

Everyone is asked to abstain from all sexual contact during their retreat.

No consumption of drugs, cigarettes or alcohol is permitted during a retreat at Stowel Lake Farm.

Facilities and environment

All our retreats are held at Stowel Lake Farm which is a certified organic farm of 115 acres.

A community of people live here, who believe in good service and in living in harmony with our world and who offer educational classes and retreats in their beautiful setting. This farm includes a large perennial garden, some greenhouses,and many acres of fields, gardens and forest.

This is a rural place.  It is dark at night – there are no street lamps.  The ground is somewhat uneven (gravel, grass lawns, patios, pathways  – no cement or tarmac anywhere).  Dew falls on the grass at night, even in summer.  It is very quiet, but at times there are frogs calling loudly and many birds singing in springtime.   Please come prepared for this kind of environment.

The main buildings are:
The Gatehouse, which serves as our Meditation hall;
The Barn: a fully converted barn which contains the kitchen, dining hall, and some chairs and couches in a common sitting room;
The Village, which contains many of the bedrooms, and also contains the Marley Room, which is used as a yoga room.

Personal Accommodations, Camping & Staying Off-Site

We offer very simple but comfortable, shared accommodations in a variety of buildings, cottages, yurts, etc. Rooms are mostly doubles, single-sex, and usually with people of similar age.

Single Rooms: We only have a few single rooms (out of 36 or so beds). These are allocated depending on the needs of the individuals on each retreat (rather than on personal preference, or on a first come, first served basis). Medical needs are given priority, followed by consideration of age. If you feel that you need a single room, please request this when registering, with an explanation of your requirements.

We regret we are unable to guarantee single rooms.

Rooms are assigned by the registrar before the beginning of the retreat, and we ask that you graciously accept the room that you are assigned.


During summer retreats, there is space for about 15 people to camp.

Staying Off-Site

There will be a limited number of spaces for those who live, or are staying in the neighborhood. For minimal disruption to the retreat, it is important that all retreatants participate fully in the retreat, following the scheduled hours and activities. If you choose this option, we request this commitment.

We further request that if you wish to stay off-site, you have attended at least one residential retreat of 7-days on a previous occasion.  (This is to ensure that you have experienced the sensitivity which accumulates with days of silent practice, and so will be able to protect that heightened sensitivity of those who are staying on-site, especially when entering and leaving the meditation hall).


We offer delicious, high quality, healthy and nutritionally balanced vegetarian meals that may include eggs and dairy produce. As much as possible we use organic products, including vegetables grown on the farm.

Breakfast and lunch are substantial meals, with a lighter supper of soup, bread and spreads.

Vegan, non-dairy and wheat-free/gluten-free options are available on request. Please inform us when you register.

What to bring

Please read this list carefully.

Please dress modestly, as an expression of respect for a place of spiritual practice. Loose, comfortable, casual, layered clothing & perhaps a shawl. (There are no laundry facilities available).

  • Footwear: Outdoor walking shoes or boots, slip-on shoes (no shoes in most buildings), indoor slippers for the Barn.
  • Raincoat and umbrella (except in August), sunhat, sunglasses and sunscreen (except in March and December).
  • Toiletries: unscented, please.
  • Flashlight (the main walkway is lighted at night, but not the gardens or the camping area.)
  • Earplugs.
  • Your own towel & wash cloth (the bedding for beds, quilts & pillows is supplied).
  • Food supplements or medication you take regularly:  enough for the length of your stay.
  • A watch or clock (which is not your cell phone).  Although there are bells to wake you up and mark activities during the day, having your own watch or clock supports you in turning your cell phone off, which we strongly encourage.
  • Your own meditation cusheon/zafu and/or bench if you have one. There are some meditation cushions and benches at Stowel Lake Farm, but not enough for the majority. There are lots of chairs, pads and blankets.
  • Chequebook, or sufficient cash for an offering of Dana for the teachers, the manager and yoga teacher at the end of the retreat.

What not to bring

  • Cell phones
  • Computers
  • iPods
  • Beeper watches
  • Clunky jewelry
  • Rustly clothing (in the meditation hall).
  • Bedding (you may bring your own if you prefer it, but it is not required if have chosen in-house accommodation).
  • Reading and writing materials.
  • Scented products.(As there are those people with acute chemical sensitivity, and recognizing everyone becomes increasingly sensitive on meditation retreats anyway, please be careful not to bring any scented toiletries, perfume, or clothing carrying scent. These can cause allergic reactions in fellow retreatants. Your particular care is requested. Thank you.)

What time do retreats start and end?

Start times:

Registration takes place between 3pm and 5pm on the first day. A light evening meal is served at 5:30 pm. The retreat begins at 7.30 pm with an opening talk. Please arrive on the first day and stay for the entire length of the retreat.

Ending Times:

Retreats of 2 to 3 nights will end about 2:45 pm on Sunday, and longer retreats end by 11:00 am on the last day.

How do I get to Stowel Lake Farm?

Click here for directions.

Our Full Address:

The Gatehouse at Stowel Lake Farm, 190 Reynolds Road, Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada, V8K 1Y2

Travel to Salt Spring Island

  • From: Vancouver, the Lower Mainland

Ferries from Tsawwassen: Either:Directly to Long Harbour, Salt Spring Island, on the Gulf Islands ferry, Orvia Swartz Bay and transfer there for Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island, having purchased a Through Fare at initial time of ticket purchase.

Float planes from Richmond, Vancouver airport south terminal directly to Ganges Harbour. Cost approximately $90 one way (20 minute flight). Carriers: Salt Spring Air, Seair or Harbour Air. Google them for schedules.

  • From Victoria, Ferries from Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour.
  • From mid and north Vancouver Island ferry from Crofton to Vesuvius. See for schedules.
  • From Washington State: Either: Ferry from Anacortes to Sidney, BC, and a 15 minute drive north to Swartz Bay ferry terminal, and ferry to Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island. Or: up I-5 into BC and follow signs for Tsawwassen, Ferries for Victoria, Gulf Islands. See first option above Or: Port Angeles to Victoria, on the Coho ferry. From Victoria, drive north up Highway 17 to Swartz Bay ferry terminal, and ferry to Fulford Harbour, Salt Spring Island.

Washington State ferries are at

Travel to Stowel Lake Farm Once on Salt Spring Island

  • From Long Harbour

Follow traffic into Ganges, and right on through town on the main road. Up Ganges hill away from the town, heading south, and continue for 4 k, around a sharp blind bend, and immediately turn LEFT onto Cusheon Lake Road. First RIGHT onto Stewart Road. At stop sign, continue straight forward onto main road (Beaver Point Road), which immediately takes a left-hand bend, and right away turn RIGHT onto Reynolds Road.

  • From Fulford Harbour

Follow traffic up hill but at top of hill (150 m) take first RIGHT, Beaver Point Road. Drive 2 k and turn RIGHT on Reynolds Road, the first road on the right past the Lake.

  • From Vesuvius

Follow traffic into Ganges, and right on through town on the main road. Up Ganges hill away from the town, heading south, and continue for 4 k, around a sharp blind bend, and immediately turn LEFT onto Cusheon Lake Road. First RIGHT onto Stewart Road. At stop sign, turn LEFT onto Beaver Point Road, then RIGHT onto Reynolds Road.

Once on Reynolds Road, Stowel Lake Farm is the first habitation you come to on the RIGHT after coming down the steep hill. Drive in and park by the BARN.

If you need to be picked up at Fulford Harbour, off the 3:00 pm sailing, please let us know.

Which ferries should I aim to take for arriving & departing?


If coming via Fulford Harbour, we recommend you take the 3:00 pm sailing from Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour on the day your retreat starts.

If coming via Long Harbour or Vesuvius ferries, the drive to Stowel Lake Farm is about 30 minutes, through the town of Ganges, so allow time for the drive. See BC Ferries website under ‘Southern Gulf Islands’ for a complete schedule of sailings.


After a 5 to 9 day retreat the retreat ends by 11:00 am, so you will be able to catch the 11:50 am, or 1:50 pm Fulford Harbour sailing to Swartz Bay terminal.  If you are travelling on to the mainland (Tsawwassen terminal) from Swartz Bay, the 11:50 am sailing from Fulford connects with the 1:00 pm sailing from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen, and 1:50 pm sailing from Fulford connects with the 3:00 pm sailing from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen.  
If you are planning to take the afternoon sailing from Long Harbour Ferry to Tsawwassen, there will be time for that. (The exact time of its departure varies slightly depending on the season).
If you are travelling to mid and north Vancouver island, the ferry from Vesuvius goes throughout the day on a regular basis.

After a 2 or 3 day weekend retreat
the retreat ends by 2:30 pm on a Sunday afternoon, so you will be able to catch the 3:50 pm Fulford Harbour to Swartz Bay terminal. This connects with the 5:00 pm sailing from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen on the mainland.

If you are planning to take the afternoon Long Harbour to Tsawwassen ferry, departure times vary depending on the season, but you will need to leave the retreat after lunch to get to the terminal in time, and so miss the finishing session. We encourage you to stay for the entire retreat if at all possible.

Can I be picked up from and taken back to a Ferry terminal?

We will pick you up from the 3:00 pm Swartz Bay to Fulford Harbour sailing on your arrival at Fulford Harbour. If you need to be picked up, please contact the registrar via email the day prior to the retreat start day. We cannot pick people up from the other terminals, but may be able to help you arrange a ride with another retreatant.

We will arrange a ride back to Fulford Harbour or another terminal, when you depart, at the end of the retreat.

What work will I be asked to contribute?

We request that everyone offer 45 minutes per day, helping with the running of the retreat. This yogi job may be dish washing, helping the cooks with meal preparation, or some house cleaning, table wiping etc. These Yogi Jobs are a crucial part of the retreat, and your assistance is much appreciated. This work is a part of the practice and becomes work meditation.

If you are unable to do a work session, or can offer only light work, it is important that you inform us when you arrive at the start of the retreat.

These yogi jobs are given out at on-site registration.

Can I come for just part of a retreat?

Retreatants are asked to participate for the whole retreat, starting at the first day and staying until the end.
Continuity and steadiness are essential factors in the deepening of one’s own meditation, and maintaining a stable and calm environment for all participants.  People become increasingly sensitive during these retreats, and comings or goings affect the whole retreat container, so we endeavour to keep such disturbances to a minimum.
If any changes need to be made, this is discussed and arranged with a teacher.

Can I go out while I am on retreat?

All retreatants are asked to remain on the Farm for the duration of the retreat. Walking on the local road is fine.

Experience has shown that it can be very disruptive to the intensive practice of meditation, for oneself and for others, to leave the sensitive retreat environment.

What activities other than meditation may I take part in?

One’s own mindful movement, such as yoga, tai chi or qi gong, may be practiced outdoors or in the Marley room, or upstairs in the Barn, during designated walking periods, or your own free time, so long as the space of other retreatants is respected.

Yoga is offered every day in the Marley Room, on retreats running longer 3 days, by Celeste Mallet-Jason

In the spirit of simplicity and silence, and as a gift to other retreatants, please refrain from other activities such as:

Reading and writing, taking photographs (except on the last morning), or anything more disruptive, anywhere on the farm.

Is there access for people with disabilities?

The meditation hall (Gatehouse), the Barn (dining area), yoga room and teacher meeting rooms are all in different buildings, and access drives and paths between buildings are unpaved. Therefore the site is not wheelchair accessible, although those with some mobility limitations may well be able to manage.

Please inform us of your requirements when registering. We may need to discuss the possibilities of your attending a retreat here.

What does the price of the retreat cover? ‘DANA’

By registering and paying for your retreat, you will be offered: Simple accommodations, mostly shared with one other person, or possibly your own room.
Delicious vegetarian meals, some snacks and refreshments.

The registration fees only cover the actual expenses incurred.  i.e. per diem use of the facilities on Stowel Lake Farm; Your food and payment of the cooks for the labour; the teacher’s travel expenses; promotion and a few miscellaneous incidentals. Any funds accumulated over and above these expenses (a minimal amount) is allocated to those requesting financial assistance to attend a retreat.

None of this money goes directly to the teachers. Their ability to continue offering these retreats depends solely on donations from retreat participants.

This tradition of making an offering to the teachers is called DANA, the word in Pali (the language of the Buddha) for generosity. According to the Buddha, generosity, or sharing what we have, is one of the central pillars of a spiritual life.  So we encourage students to make an offering to teachers in addition to the registration fee. This opportunity is given at the end of the retreat and can be paid by cash, cheque or via online payments (PayPal or interac email banking, for Canadians). Sorry, no credit cards.

As The Salt Spring Insight Meditation Community Society is not a charitable society, unfortunately your contributions are not tax-deductible.

How do I register and pay for a retreat, and what happens if I have to cancel?

For registration and payment for a retreat, please choose the retreat you are interested in at this page

For cancellation policies please click here