What to Expect at Our Silent Multi-Day Residential Retreats

Doing an online retreat?
Please see our Online Retreats information page to learn more.

Multi-Day Residential Retreats are teacher-led silent meditation retreats. Your instructors will explain how silent retreat practice works to support you in having a deep immersion in the practices of mindfulness and compassion. The daily schedule will include gently guided sitting and walking meditation, morning teachings, mindful movement, body awareness practices, and some compassion cultivation and loving-kindness meditations.

Our multi-day retreats are conducted in the non-religious style of modern mindfulness and compassion training with no special beliefs needed or formal ritual. We honor that Buddhism and other contemplative wisdom traditions deeply inform and support this modern meditation-based movement: they are among the "roots" of this work. Our lead teacher, Tim Burnett is also a Buddhist teacher and lineage holder and he includes talks and practices from the Buddhist tradition and beyond. To enjoy the talks from past retreats visit the Roots Homepage

NOTE: we also offer Residential Trainings in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC). These are 5-day residential forms of these 8-week classes and are much more interactive. They include meditation and periods of silence but are not a silent meditation retreat. Please see What to Expect at Residential Trainings for more information.

Structure and Participation

Four Daily Practice Sessions

  • Mindfulness and compassion practices are offered in four blocks daily: early morning, morning, afternoon and evening.
  • Participants are expected to attend all sessions and follow the printed schedule you will receive on site as fully as possible.

Practicing in Silence

  • After the initial orientation and introductions on the first evening of the retreat our Residential Retreats are held in silence.
    Please see our Detailed Residential Retreat Guidelines below for more details.
  • Participants are expected to follow guidelines around silence and participation.

Interpersonal Safety

  • Mindfulness and compassion training programs involve our personal stories and emotions. Instructors work with the group to establish clear guidelines for safety.
  • Participants are expected to be as sensitive and responsive to these guidelines and the needs of fellow participants as fully as possible.
  • Please do not take photos of other participants or make any recordings or videos of the retreat.

Retreat Center Chores

  • Several of our venues keep costs down, reducing your registration fee, by asking that event participants wash dishes, sweep floors, clean bathrooms, and do other chores around the facility. Final camp clean up chores before leaving are also done.
  • Participants are asked to do chores as fully as they are able. If you have physical limitations we will help you find a suitable chore assignment.

Retreat Schedule

  • Please Arrive and depart on time:
          Arriving late will cause stress as you will miss the orientation.
          Leaving early means you are offloading your camp clean up chores on other participants.
  • Follow the retreat schedule as fully as you can.  Schedule pages will be passed out upon arrival.
  • Honor times of silence noted on the schedule: no reading, writing, or using devices. See below for more on silence practice.

Stay on Campus Even Between Sessions 

  • Please stay on campus unless invited to take an off-campus break by the instructors.
  • Please do not use recreational drugs or intoxicants during any part of the retreat.
  • Participants are asked to focus their energies and attention on the instruction and curriculum in order to get the most benefit from the week of training and in consideration of all participants.
  • Session participation is mandatory unless other arrangements are made in advance with the Instructors.
Thank you, following these guidelines creates a strong and seamless container from which the whole group benefits.


We are honored to support each participant in their meditation practice regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, race, color, gender, gender identity, sexual identity, age, physical ability, political affiliation, or religion.

Important Note about Audio/Video Recording  during Retreats

  • Audio/video recordings of our instructors may occasionally be created for certification and training purposes during this program. These recordings will include only our instructors in the photo frame (though they may pick up student voices at some points in the recording) and are for internal use only.

Detailed Residential Retreat Guidelines

Your instructors will go over these guidelines in detail at the orientation meeting on the first evening of your retreat.

Silence Practice

Silence practice helps us settle more deeply into the retreat experience and gives space to others to have the experience they need to have. This practice includes:

  • Not speaking to other participants including close friends or partners you are attending with.
  • Not using technology of any form.
  • Not reading books, magazines, flyers, or any reading materials.
  • Not writing, including not doing journal writing (exception: see "The Notes Board" below).
  • Reducing interpersonal contact through the eyes or other body language.
NOTE: Emergency contact information to share with loved ones is included on our Samish Island Campground  Info Page. The camp staff and Mindfulness Northwest instructors will make sure you receive messages promptly while your phone is off.

The Notes Board

At our silent retreats we do offer a means to communicate essential information to the retreat leaders by leaving them a note. Please:

  • Only write notes about essential and immediate concerns that affect your well-being while at the retreat.
  • Please refrain from writing notes to compliment the instructors. There will be opportunities to express your appreciation of the teachers' efforts after retreat.
  • Please do not write notes to express preferences about the menu (go directly to the kitchen if there are food allergy concerns please) or to offer praise about the food. We will thank the cooks after we break silence at the end of retreat.
  • Recognize that writing a note is choosing to disturb your own practice and has an impact. Consider whether you really need to write the note. If you’re sure please go ahead, if you are not: please wait.

Following the Schedule Completely

  • Please communicate with the retreat leaders ahead of time if you are concerned about your physical ability to follow the schedule.
  • It’s much better to be “in the room” with everyone even if you are tired or discouraged. It is okay to modify your practices (example: lying down when we are doing seated meditation).
  • Letting go of our preferences about where to be when is a great process of learning. When it’s time to come to the meditation hall, please come.
  • We use a system of bell signals to help you know when it’s time to come to the meditation hall without using watches or phones to check the time. This helps us settle more fully into the schedule.

Upcoming Multi-Day Residential Retreats

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