About retreats at BMIMC (FAQs)

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens on a retreat at BMIMC?

Short retreats (less than 4 days) follow a set schedule which usually starts at 6am and ends at around 8 – 9pm. Most of the day is spent in silent practice with alternate periods of sitting and walking meditation. Meditation instructions, talks about the Buddha’s teachings, and facilitated discussions are scheduled at various times during the course. Short one-on-one meetings with the teacher are available to those who wish to discuss their meditation practice privately.  Three meals are served – breakfast, lunch and a light dinner. A short mindfulness job period is set aside each day, usually lasting 45 minutes and includes jobs such as kitchen duties, washing up, sweeping areas and cleaning bathrooms. This gives meditators an opportunity to practice mindfulness during everyday activities. This service period is essential to the smooth operation of the Centre and allows us to provide our courses at affordable rates.

Longer retreats (from 4 to 40 days) follow a similar schedule and format to short retreats, though the day may start before dawn. Individual interviews with the teacher are scheduled for all meditators every one to two days. If the teacher is ordained (a monk or nun) it is customary to serve just two meals per day (breakfast and an early lunch) with no food taken after midday.[/accordion]

What are the behavioural guidelines on a retreat?”

A meditation retreat is a challenging undertaking which requires a degree of effort and self-discipline. It provides an opportunity to practise the teachings of the Buddha to cultivate sīla (morality or ethics), samādhi (concentration) and paññā (wisdom). The cultivation of sīla is fundamental to the practice as it provides a supportive foundation for developing concentration. All meditators at the centre are asked to follow the five training precepts. These are:

1. To abstain from killing living beings.
2. To abstain from taking what is not given.
3. To abstain from sexual misconduct.
4. To abstain from dishonest speech.
5. To abstain from intoxicants.

Retreats led by ordained teachers (monks or nuns) will usually include a further three training precepts:

6. To abstain from eating after midday.
7. To abstain from amusements such as singing and dancing, or adornments.
8. To abstain from using high or luxurious beds.[/accordion]

Am I able to communicate with others while I’m in retreat?”

Once the retreat begins, you will be asked to keep ‘noble silence’*. Maintaining silence throughout the retreat reduces distraction and assists greatly in developing continuous mindfulness and contemplation of body and mind.

Communication is limited to talking with the teacher in individual interviews, group discussions or interactions with staff regarding needs or concerns. Reading, writing and communicating with others in any way (including using mobile phones) is discouraged.

*In some weekend retreats noble silence may not be introduced until part-way through the retreat, e.g., after breakfast on the Saturday.

Can I use my computer, iPad or mobile phone?

We ask that you leave computers and devices at home and keep your phone switched off at all times during the retreat. Mobile phones can be stored in the safe during the retreat and the office phone is available to use in cases of emergency.

Please give our office number to a family member or close friend to use in case of emergency so that you do not have to check your phone. If you have fragile or dependent family members that you need to stay in contact with, please notify the office so arrangements can be made.[/accordion]

What should I bring?”

Bed sheets Insect repellent
Pillowcase Shoes that are easily slipped on and off
Drinking water bottle sunscreen/sunhat
Warm shawl or blanket for use in meditation hall Small clock or watch
WARM*, comfortable, modest, clothing Umbrella and/or raincoat
Towel Torch and batteries
Toiletry requirements for full stay Writing paper & pen for interview notes
Ear plugs for use if you’re a light sleeper Vitamins, medicines, dietary supplements required for full stay

*in Winter (April to October) this means thermal underwear such as long-johns, jumpers, polar-fleece jackets, windproof jackets, thick socks, woollen hat, gloves, scarf etc[/accordion]

[accordion title=”What if I have a chronic health issue, mental illness or disability?”]If you have a chronic health issue, mental illness or disability that might impact your life on retreat, please include details of this on your retreat application form.  This will help us assess the level of support you need and determine what we can realistically offer. Your information will be provided to the teacher and retreat manager and will be treated with the utmost respect and confidentiality.[/accordion]

How do I book for a retreat?

See Booking for a retreat

Do I get a refund if I cancel my booking?

We recognise that people withdraw from retreats for a variety of reasons beyond their control and wherever possible, this is taken into account. However, we are also conscious that people on the waiting list are often unable to fill the available place at short notice. The Centre also incurs costs for unfilled places on retreats. Our cancellation policy therefore encourages an early upfront commitment to attend courses once booking has been made.

Cancellation Policy

  • For Courses up to 4 days: where cancellation is prior to two weeks before retreat, payment is refunded less a $100 cancellation fee. No refund is given for cancellations made less than two weeks before retreat.
  •  For courses exceeding 4 days: if cancelling more than 30 days prior to the retreat, 75% is refunded. If cancelling within 30 days of the retreat, no refund is given.

What is Dāna?

Dāna is a word from the Buddhist scriptures in the Pali language meaning “giving” and it describes the practice of generosity that has kept the Buddha’s teachings alive for over 2600 years.

There is no charge for the teachings, as these are given freely in accordance with the Buddhist tradition. Teachers’ travel costs are sometimes covered but teachers are not paid for their teaching or time at the Centre. Some teachers are entirely reliant on dana for their livelihood.

At the end of each retreat we invite students to make an offering directly to the teacher in addition to the set cost of the retreat which covers just the running costs of the Centre.

Tax deductible donations can also be made directly into the BMIMC building fund to support the Centre’s building program.[/accordion]

[accordion title=”Is it OK to join the retreat late or leave early?”]We ask that all students, regardless of their level of experience, commit to attending the full duration of the course. Late arrivals and early departures can be unsettling for other meditators and may place additional demands on volunteers supporting the retreat.[/accordion]

Food & Accommodation

BMIMC’s catering policy

All food is vegetarian. Meals are served buffet style and the vast majority of dishes are gluten free. Meals are usually cooked by volunteers or donated, so we are not able to cater to specific dietary requests. However, a simple meal of rice, steamed vegetables and tofu can be prepared for people on restricted diets. There is a visitor’s fridge to store supplementary food items but there is no access to cooking facilities.[/accordion]

What kind of accommodation is provided?

Accommodation is in single rooms with shared bathroom facilities, and central heating. Women and men stay in separate areas.  Mattresses, doonas and pillows are provided, but you will need to bring your own bedding. Sitting mats, cushions, benches and chairs are provided in the meditation hall, which is centrally heated. The Centre is located on a sloping site and unfortunately is not currently suitable for wheelchair disabled or the frail aged. If you would like information about transgender and intersex accommodation please contact our office.[/accordion]

Travelling to and from BMIMC

Travelling by train

Medlow Bath is situated in the Blue Mountains one station west of Katoomba, about two hours by train from Sydney Central. The Centre is about 10 minutes walk from Medlow Bath station.

For train timetable information please see the Transport NSW website. Please also be aware there is often trackwork on the Blue Mountains line on weekends, so it’s best to check the Transport NSW site when planning your trip.

If you need a lift from Medlow Bath station, please call us beforehand and leave your name and arrival time. Upon arrival, leave the station via the eastern end (the Sydney end) of the platform, walk down the pedestrian ramp on the left hand side and wait for pick-up on Railway Parade in the car parking area near the Rural Fire Service building.

Please note that travel to the Blue Mountains by train (and most public transport in Sydney) requires an Opal card, a prepaid electronic ticket. To travel you need to acquire an Opal card (obtained from newsagents and other outlets).

Travelling by car

Traffic on Friday afternoons and weekends is usually heavy so please allow as much time as possible if you are driving at these times.

The visitor car-park is located at the the bottom of the Centre off Medlow Lane. Upon arrival, you are welcome to park temporarily on Rutland Road while dropping off your bags before moving your car down to the lower car-park. This may be easier than carrying your bags uphill.