RELIGION

12 Summer Getaways When All You Want Is Quiet

These spiritual retreat centers will give you a taste of the monastic life.
A Buddhist leader at California's Tassajara Zen Mountain Center leads a group through a meditation.
A Buddhist leader at California's Tassajara Zen Mountain Center leads a group through a meditation.

If you've ever felt a desire to leave the trappings of city life behind for the quiet beauty of the natural world, you're not alone. Humans have been feeling this pull for hundreds of years. 

For those who are religious, this inner search for purpose and direction has often drawn people to join monastic communities. Traditionally, these centers have been organized around the doctrines of a specific religious tradition or leader. The monks and nuns in these communities take lifelong vows to uphold and honor the rituals and practices of their order.

While the number of people entering monastic communities has decreased over the years, people are still drawn to the benefits of this kind of communal living. Studies show that both meditation and silence -- two practices that can be found in abundance at monasteries -- have positive effects on the brain. 

Today, many American monasteries and spiritual retreat centers have opened their doors to seekers of all faiths (and no faith) who are looking to step away from the routines of urban life to contemplate life's mysteries.  

With summer just around the corner, HuffPost Religion has put together a list of spiritual centers in the United States that offer guided retreats or short stays. From exploring native Hawaiin spiritual practices at Ala Kukui to taking a pledge of silence at Kentucky's Abbey of Gethsemani, here are 12 centers where you can temporarily unplug and spend some time turning your gaze inward.

 

  • Lama Foundation, New Mexico
    <a href="http://www.lamafoundation.org/info-about-our-spiritual-community" target="_blank">The Lama Foundation </a>is an inte
    The Lama Foundation is an inter-spiritual retreat center near the town of Taos, New Mexico. A group of about 8-15 men and women stay at the center throughout the year, but during the summer the Lama Foundation "welcomes visitors and pilgrims from all walks of life to join the community and connect with the land," according to its website. Guests can attend guided retreats or simply stay for some time in one of the center's rustic "hermitages."
  • The Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, California
    <a href="http://sfzc.org/tassajara/about-tassajara" target="_blank">According to its website,</a>&nbsp;<i></i>Tassajara was e
    According to its website, Tassajara was established in 1967 as the "first Zen training monastery outside of Japan." During the fall and winter, the center trains people who are seriously interested in entering monastic life. Between May and September, Tassajara is open for visiting students and guests. 
  • Ala Kukui, Hawaii
    Ala Kukui means "Path of Enlightenment" in native Hawaiian. This Maui County retreat space <a href="http://www.alakukui.org/a
    Ala Kukui means "Path of Enlightenment" in native Hawaiian. This Maui County retreat space bills itself as a "cultural center for native Hawaiian spiritual and intellectual advancement." The website states, "Our retreats offer passage into a community of traditional practitioners and a peaceful space for personal and group development."
  • Shambhala Mountain Center, Colorado

    Beautiful clouds around the Stupa last night. #shambhalamountain (Original photo by Greg Smith)

    A photo posted by Shambhala Mountain Center (@shambhalamc) on

    The Shambhala Mountain Center is located in the Colorado Rockies. According to its website, this retreat center provides "a safe and supportive container for exploring paths of deepened awareness, personal wellbeing and societal transformation." 
  • Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Massachusetts
    https://kripalu.org/
    The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health is located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. According to its website, the center offers visitors an "immersion experience of a yogic lifestyle." Nevertheless, the center strives to be "nondogmatic and nonsectarian" in its approach to wellness. The website states: "As an institution, Kripalu is dedicated to an honest and unfettered inquiry into all practices, philosophies, techniques, and approaches that produce thriving in the individual, family, community, society, and the planet. This includes the teachings of all the world’s religions and spiritual traditions, together with the amazing knowledge gained from science, psychology, and other endeavors."
  • Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky
    The Abbey of Gethsemani is likely best known for one of its most famous former residents, the journalist and Trappist monk <a
    nikonphotog via Getty Images
    The Abbey of Gethsemani is likely best known for one of its most famous former residents, the journalist and Trappist monk Thomas Merton. Today, the abbey opens its doors to visitors who would like to participate in "silent, unstructured and undirected" retreats. Speaking is limited to designated areas. "Communing with the Lord requires a measure of solitude, a stillness and an emptiness, a waiting on and attending to the Spirit," the website states. "Silence fosters and preserves the climate of prayer and is thus a fundamental part of the Gethsemani retreat experience."
  • Blue Cliff Monastery, New York

    A photo posted by heidiologies (@heidiologies) on

    Blue Cliff Monastery was founded by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. The website states, "Blue Cliff is a place to quiet the mind, look deeply, and enjoy the wonders of life within and around us through the practices of sitting meditation, walking meditation, mindful eating, deep relaxation meditation, and sharing togetherness."
  • Ghost Ranch, New Mexico
    <a href="https://www.ghostranch.org/explore/our-story-mission/" target="_blank">Ghost Ranch </a>is a spiritual center owned b
    Ghost Ranch
    Ghost Ranch is a spiritual center owned by the Presbyterian Church (USA) that is open to people of all faiths. It hosts a number of guided retreats and conferences every year, with programs that range from devotional writing to faith-based eco-activism.  The website states, "People from all over the world come to work together in creation care, to paint, write poetry, to hike, ride horseback, to research globally renowned archaeological and fossil quarries or simply to rest and renew their spirits." 
  • Spirit Rock Meditation Center, California
    Spirit Rock Meditation Center is a Buddhist retreat space dedicated to vipassana, or insight meditation, a form of meditation
    Spirit Rock Meditation Center is a Buddhist retreat space dedicated to vipassana, or insight meditation, a form of meditation that pays close attention the sensations that the body may be experiencing. The website states, "We provide silent meditation retreats, as well as classes, trainings, and Dharma study opportunities for new and experienced students from diverse backgrounds with a willingness to develop their own practice."
  • St Mary's Sewanee, Tennessee

    A photo posted by Saraiwender (@mrswender) on

    @mrswender
    This spiritual center began as a convent for a group of Episcopal Benedictine nuns.  For the past 25 years, St. Mary's has offered retreats for people who are interested in developing their spirituality. The website states, "Whether you are interested in a Centering Prayer, Mindfulness Meditation, Spirituality-based retreat or would like to participate in one of our monthly noon-time Lunch and Learn series, we offer a program for spiritual resurgence and reflection for your journey of faith."
  • Mepkin Abbey, South Carolina
    Mepkin Abbey is home to a group of Trappist monks, a sect within Roman Catholicism. The abbey gives visitors the opportunity to set their own agenda for their stay, while emphasizing "silence, personal prayer and reflection," according to its website. Participants can also participate in the abbey's public prayer services or turn to the monks for spiritual mentoring. Visitors can also sample the community's oyster and shitake mushrooms, which are grown by the monks and reportedly sold in grocery stores throughout the Low Country region.
  • Monastery of Christ in the Desert, New Mexico

    The Monks who call this place home are vegetarians and live completely off the grid. Can I sign up? 😐

    A photo posted by Denise Malagari Heebner (@oxfordhaus) on

    Overnight guests at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert are required to stay at least two days and two nights. It's a requirement that helps people "settle down from life’s hectic pace and to fit into the monastic rhythm." Meals are reportedly done in silence, except for spiritual reading or music. In a letter to guests, Rt. Rev. Philip Lawrence, the Abbot in charge of the monastery, writes, "As a community of Benedictine monks we follow St. Benedict’s rule which asks us to treat each guest and visitor as Christ would be treated. It is, therefore, our special privilege to have all people of whatever faith or belief, ethnic, or cultural background to come to our beautiful canyon and find a place of silence, solitude, and peace as the guests of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert."
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