For stressed-out city dwellers, silent retreats - may be the perfect antidote to the constant noise of busy, work-driven urban lives. Although these Walden-esque getaways are not for the faint-hearted (the retreats require days of solitude and zero interaction with technology, in most cases), their restorative benefits are many.
Increasingly, travelers seeking relaxation, balance and spiritual renewal are heading to meditation centers from the Berkshires to Big Sur in search of simplicity. If you're ready to completely unplug and recharge, you might want to consider taking a temporary vow of silence at one of the country's best spiritual centers.
Top picks in the U.S.:
1. Gonzaga Eastern Point Retreat House, Gloucester, MA
Located in a stone mansion on the scenic Massachusetts coast, the Jesuit-run retreat center offers silent retreats ranging from four days to one month in length. The spiritual rituals follow the teachings of St. Ignatius, and all retreats at the center are completely silent.
With single-room accomodations for up to 50 guests, the retreat house offers greater privacy than many other meditation and retreat centers. But the house fills up quickly -- plan on booking around six months in advance.
2. Green Gulch Center, Muir Beach, CA. Tucked away in the eucalyptus-filled valley inland from Northern California's scenic Muir Beach,Green Gulch Zen Center and farm -- an outpost of the San Francisco Zen Center -- follows the Japanese Soto Zen tradition. Visits make their way up the wnding Shoreline Highway for classes, short-term and long-term retreats (silent and non-silent), and organic farming apprenticeships, and all guests enjoy vegetarian fare grown on the Green Gulch Farm.
3. Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, NY. One of the largest retreat centers in the Northeast, the Omega Institute offers yoga, mindfulness mediation and silent retreats, sustainable living programs and a variety of workshops and speakers.
4. Kripalu Yoga Center, Lennox, MA The world-renowned Kripalu Yoga Center, nestled in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts, offers guests personal and organized retreats throughout the year, both silent and non-silent.Try starting out with a three-day silent yogic breathing and asana retreat in April, or if you're ready, create your own personalized silent retreat.
5. Breitenbush Hot Springs, Detroit, OR Breitenbush Hot Springs retreat center describes itself as a "place to bring life back into balance," and its rural location in a remote Oregon forest only adds to the peaceful ambiance. Enjoy soaking in natural hot springs, historic lodge, labyrinth and "Buddha's Playhouse." Enjoy silence surrounded by nature at this top-rated retreat center.
6. Mount Madonna Center, Watsonville, CA. Up in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco, Mount Madonna is a haven for yoga retreats, individual getaways, silent retreats and spiritual renewal. Guests can take advantage of miles of hiking, daily yoga classes, a hot tub surrounded by towering trees, vegetarian meals and group events.
7. Palolo Zen Center, Honolulu, HI. On 13 acres of conservation in the picturesque Waimao Valley, surrounded by wildlife, the Palolo Zen Center offers a silent retreat experience is a tropical vacation setting. The Zen Buddhist center has a residential facility for long-term guests and lodging for visitors. The center offers periodic silent group retreats, or sesshins, that range from three to eight days.
8. Esalen Institute, Big Sur, CA.Right on the breathtaking Big Sur coastline, theEsalen Institute has welcomed peace-seekers for over 50 years. Visitors can incorporate a silent regime into their personal retreat, or sign up for organized group silent retreats and intensive mindfulness meditation retreats.
9. Insight Meditation Society, Barre, MA.Founded to spread the method of metta("lovingkindness") and vipassana ("insight") meditation, Insight Meditation Society has evolved into one of the most active mindfulness communities in the U.S. Choose from two-day to three-month structured retreats at the Retreat Center, longer-term personal retreats at the Forest Refuge. Participants are asked to honor the condition of "Noble Silence" to facilitate deepened awareness and a peaceful environment.The society also has a center in New York City that offers retreats and day-long workshops.
10. Southern Dharma Retreat Center. This Hot Springs, North Carolina Buddhist retreat center offers meditation and silent retreats led by spiritual teachers. Enjoy the peaceful quiet of nature with miles of Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Asheville, NC. The small retreats feature a maximum of 30 participants and emphasizes a learning environment. Programs are open to both beginners and those who have been practicing silent mediation for decades.