photo by Six Senses spa resort, Fiji
Mindfulness has become a cultural preoccupation. It was recently featured on the cover of Time magazine and scientific studies abound, espousing its benefits for every aliment, from dealing with anxiety to losing weight and lowering your risk for diseases.
The good news is that, at its heart, mindfulness is a very basic concept—it’s just about awareness and being present. This component of Buddhist meditation traditions, as well as yogic teachings, has been embraced in Western culture since the 1960s. Our lives continue to operate at breakneck pace, this act of simply being in one’s own head has become more remarkable, and necessary, than ever.
Part of the power of these practices is that they can be undertaken anywhere. Meditation retreats—from silent retreats where days are spent without speaking, to those incorporating mediation into the practice of yoga asanas—have traditionally been bare bones in order to remove our focus from material things.
Those seeking the most in-depth understanding of the practice can attend retreats from the greats of the meditation world, such as Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village in France, or the Dalai Llama’s Eleven Directions in India.
But for those who want to embrace the self-improvement and transformative state of mind while also feeling soothed by luxury surroundings, there are plenty of options. From India to the tropics, there are wellness retreats that cater to every type of meditation and mindfulness.
Here are a few of our favorite places to clear your mind, while also soothing your senses.
CHIVA SOM, THAILAND
This pioneer wellness destination spa has long been the retreat favored by celebrities, with everyone from Kate Moss to Madonna celebrating the greatness of the place since it opened in the 1990s. The setting is certainly luxurious, with Thai pagodas sprinkled across seven acres of lush greenery, and rooms outfitted in natural woods with cream and gold accents.
The retreat offers a multitude of approaches, or paths, when it comes to finding ways to heal—incorporating health and wellness trends that have helped keep the retreat at the forefront of relaxation. Chiva Som’s meditation practices are incorporated into its yoga programs, but the retreat also offers customized options.
Widely hailed as one of the best spa retreats in the U.S., Miraval is a great choice for those seeking mindfulness bliss, offering an extremely comprehensive selection of experiences and traditions. The retreat incorporates Buddhist, Indian, Native American, and Western traditions for healing, offering exotic treatments like a Himalayan Sound Bath or a course on making Buddhist Malas. Some of their specialized mediations include transcendental meditation, transforming pain through conscious attention and love, mindful relationships, and meditation techniques for mindfulness.
The accommodations are also conducive to relaxation, with muted tawny interiors dotted with lavender and turquoise accents, embracing the surrounding desert landscapes. The resort has a new set of suites known as the Retreat, ideal for those looking to enjoy complete privacy and comfort.
SIX SENSES, FIJI
When it comes to luxury and relaxation, Six Senses are the experts. This long-standing spa resort chain has mindfulness built into their ethos, and they offer a great option for someone looking to meld the physical relaxation element of the spa with relaxation for the mind.
Their resorts around the world offer the Six Senses Integrated Wellness program, focused on whole-body health. This incorporates guided meditation and yoga, which can be practiced at any of the resorts. One is the newly-opened resort in Fiji on Malolo Island, offering an idyllic tropical setting along the water and an entire wellness village, with activities such as singing bowl meditation, and wellness doctors available to help guide guests in their quest for wellness.
LE MONASTÈRE DES AUGUSTINES, QUEBEC
This retreat offers a different take on mindfulness, uniting Western and Eastern traditions in the stunning surroundings of a converted historic monastery—not a Buddhist, but a Christian one. The Augustine sisters here were long famous for their progressive viewpoint focused on wellbeing, and in a unique concept the retreat has incorporated modern global healing techniques into a Christian historic site in Old Quebec.
The beautiful turrets and stone walls of this old structure have been restored lovingly with contemporary glass, and the interiors are radiant with whitewashed walls, stone, and wood. This resort offers everything you’d expect from a wellness retreat in Thailand or India, offering reflexology, green juices, and massages. The programs on offer embrace mind, body, emotions and spirit, offering mindful eating, meditation and yoga, reflexology, and breathing courses.
No time to retreat to a retreat? Relax and unwind with these top meditation apps.
From short three-minute guided meditations to open-ended ones, there’s a variety of content on Calm. You’ll also find soothing bedtime stories, breathing exercises, and a section for kids, too.
THE MINDFULNESS APP
Get into a meditation routine with The Mindfulness App, which offers reminders to practice and integrates into other health apps. There’s a five-day guided intro, and both guided and silent sessions ranging from three minutes to 30.
Billed as an ideal app for an intro to meditation, Headspace offers guided meditations and lets you connect with other users to help each other stay on track.