Far from being reserved to monks only, the practice of meditation allows one to connect with the self, through body and mind concentration techniques supposed energize you. In order to do so, what could be best than to get away from daily routines and seek spiritual retreat?
From a priory in Paris to a charity residence in Peru or a hillside monastery in Jinlong, China, Air France Travel Guide invites you to discover sites full of mystical and positive energy. To experience a retreat for several days in total immersion or only for a few hours of silent contemplation, follow the guide!
When the City of Lights clears up your mind
Weary of working hours, upcoming exams, troubled everyday life, loss of confidence, or pains of the heart and body? If you feel like you need a break from daily routines and refocus on yourself, head to the Abbesses neighbourhood in Paris, where the Benedictine nuns of Montmartre's Sacré-Cœur welcome you in the Saint-Benoît priory. There, your spiritual retreat could last any time between one and eight days. You'll find the modest comfort of about forty rooms arranged in a 1930s building at your disposal. A chapel is also accessible, housing an altarpiece beautifully sculpted by artist Jean Touret. Whether for full or half-board, you'll have ample time to meet people and re-energise yourself, in an atmosphere suitable for contemplation and prayer.
The silent heart of Thai monks
Between royal temples and blue lagoons, the former Kingdom of Siam opens up a bewitching passage to lonely travellers, apprentice trailblazers and merry night birds. About a two-hour drive from Bangkok, you will find this renowned vipassana meditation centre. This Buddhist practice consists in training the mind to fully grasp reality as it truly is. This deep and penetrating vision is freed from the suffering, attachment and ignorance the samsara is subject to. Taught according to the lessons of the late Satya Narayan Goenka, former Dhamma Dhanî teacher, this meditation technique pays particular attention to the body's physical sensations, as it tends to dissolve the negative thoughts and energies that hinder the spirit's good health.
Xuankong and the Hanging Temple
In China's Shanxi province, spiritual quests follow a path made of fragile wooden bridges hanging in the air, attached to the slope of Mount Heng. About 185 miles from Beijing, the famous Xuankong Monastery took up residence against the rocky slopes of the Jinlong canyon. Perched 246 feet above the ground, the structure lies on crossbeams fitted into the cliff. Only very thin red vertical wooden pillars remain apparent, giving the illusion that the temple has dangerously been resting against the slope for more than 1,400 years. Protected from the river's flood down below, amazed tourists gaze at the peaceful sacred mountains before entering the fabulous sanctuary. Inside, the three main traditional Chinese religions are paid tribute to: Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
The grace of African landscapes is a gift
In the peaceful Tulbagh Valley, you will find natural winding paths spanning the green South African plains. Close to Cape Town, the Winterhoek Mountains cover the lush and fertile vegetation over the seasons. Perfect for serene getaways and relaxing retreats, a small thatch roof and limewashed barn is surrounded with lush gardens and flourishing bushes. With free stranding units, garden rooms and a cottage for large parties, The Blue Butterfly offers necessary accommodation to provide spiritual fulfilment. Whether during a dreamlike trek or relaxing fishing trip, you'll be able to contemplate herds of wildebeests and zebras, as well as booted eagles and African golden weavers.
Quiet detour through Peruvian religious residences
The Santa Rosa de Lima foyer (a temporary residence provided by the church) of charity opened its doors 40 years ago in the Peruvian capital. It is by the Rímac River, embraced by surrounding rocky mountains, that Father Roger Duval chose to develop his green and flowery retreat. Created in 1936 by Marthe Robin and Father Finet, these areas are meant to provide men and women of all demographics a spiritual retreat (whether you're religious or an atheist, single or married does not matter). The kindly welcome of the foyer members make it a special place for rejuvenation. During six days, you'll devote your time between private and group prayer sessions, sacraments and daily conferences. Use your spare time to nurture your mind and relax your body.