PEERING INTO THE FUTURE OF RETREATS
Spirituality & Health|Mar/Apr 2021
Retreat centers are ready to invite guests back onto their properties, but what that means may be vastly different in 2021 and beyond, even after the pandemic is under control.
BRANDI-ANN UYEMURA

Spirit Rock Meditation Center is a nonprofit residential retreat in Woodacre, California, based on Insight Meditation. Sean Feit Oakes, the center’s community dharma leader, says prior to COVID, “thousands of people would come every year on retreats, from a few days to a few months, and live at the center. It’s a beautiful, comfortable place to do a retreat.”

But the center hasn’t been open since March 2020, instead switching entirely to online programs. “It’s different. ... It’s not the same. But [retreating at home] has this other powerful element that it’s being integrated to the rest of your life. You can have a strong spiritual practice in the midst of your life as long as you carve out some time.”

Oakes says online programs are providing a much-needed salve, and that the center plans to open in-person sometime in the fall of 2021. At that point, he predicts that “it will be an experiment in how the virtual and in-person will weave together. Like any organization we are evolving with the times.”

Sensei, a wellness program partnering with the Four Seasons Resort on the island of Lanai, Hawaii, has closed four times since opening on November 2019. Sensei’s president, Kevin Kelly, says, “The staff here has been quite seasoned for opening.”

This experience has taught the retreat to be flexible and to ride the wave of the unknown.

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