Information about the retreats we offer.
Our primary intention at True North Insight is to provide supportive conditions for the cultivation and development of tranquility, wisdom, kindness and compassion. Our retreats are based on Insight Meditation, emphasizing the application of mindfulness, meditative inquiry and other supportive practices. TNI offers teacher-guided retreats suitable for both new and experienced meditators.
Galilee Centre in Ottawa (www.galileecentre.com) in Arnprior, Ontario, is the site for most of our residential retreats. This lovely retreat centre overlooks the Ottawa River and borders a small old-growth forest. Most of the rooms are singles, with a few double rooms.
Schedule The daily rhythm of TNI retreats varies slightly from one teacher to another. A typical daily schedule begins at about 6:00 am and ends about 9:30 pm. The day consists of alternating periods of sitting and walking meditation using a variety of forms, including mindfulness of the breath, of body sensations and of mind, and the cultivation of metta, or friendliness. Teacher guidance is provided through instructions, guided meditations, daily dhamma (dharma) talks, and interviews that may be in small groups or individual.
Silence Most retreats are held in silence, offering the experience of solitude within the support of a group. Not intentionally communicating with others through speaking, notes, telephone or other forms of contact allows oneself and others to more readily settle into the flow of the retreat, and supports the arising of tranquility and insight. Within the silence there will be opportunity to meet with the teacher(s) and ask questions. The teachers and the retreat manager are available for your support when needed. Silence is usually broken near the end of the retreat to allow for a sharing of experience and to facilitate connection with others on retreat.
Noble silence fosters a sense of solitude and helps to provide a space for quieting the body-mind. It provides an atmosphere that supports and facilitates the inner unfolding of insight and the deepening of meditation. As a support for the inner and outer silence of all, retreatants must agree to refrain from reading, writing, listening to music, using cell phones or other electronic devices, or other forms of communication during the retreat, which includes communication with other retreatants, either by notes, eye contact or body language. This will allow you to be in community with others in a supportive, respectful way. Retreatants may communicate with teachers and manager when it is necessary. Individual teachers
might modify these instructions about maintaining silence at the retreat.
Ethical guidelines Retreatants are asked to practice the five traditional guidelines, or precepts, for the period of the retreat:
- I undertake the training to refrain from taking life.
- I undertake the training to refrain from taking anything that is not freely offered.
- I undertake the training to refrain from sexual activity.
- I undertake the training to refrain from telling lies.
- I undertake the training to refrain from using alcohol or any substances that lead to carelessness.
Meals are nutritious vegetarian with some dairy. The main meals of the day are breakfast and lunch, with a light offering in the evening. Galilee is able to accommodate sensitivities to gluten and dairy only. For those who have other food restrictions, the cook will provide a plain, non-gluten grain, a plain vegetarian source of protein (beans, lentils, etc.), and a plain vegetable.
What to bring Meditation cushion or bench (chairs are available at the centre), a blanket or mat for under your knees. The Galilee Centre provides bedding (sheets, towels, blankets, pillows, and pillow cases) and soap. Bring your toiletries, necessary medicines, indoor shoes or slippers, alarm clock.
Clothing We recommend that you come well prepared with clothing selected for comfort rather than style. Please do not bring clothing made of “noisy” fabrics such as nylon.
What not to bring As a support for inner calmness and silence, participants are encouraged not to read. It is therefore suggested you avoid temptation by not bringing any books, as well as no cell phones, beeper watches, candles, or incense.
As some people are particularly sensitive to odors and chemicals, you are asked not to bring or use any perfumes or scented toiletries.
Participation in TNI Retreats A teacher may ask someone to not participate in a retreat or to leave a retreat that has begun if, in the teacher's judgment, a person's participation or continuation in the retreat would not be in the best interests of that person or of the other participants.
Getting to Galilee Centre:
Carpooling: We encourage you to carpool to the retreat. This is a great way to get to know fellow retreatants, as well as to keep costs and our environmental impact low. It is possible to either propose a transport or request a transport when you register through our online registration form. We will do our best to match offers and requests.
Driving directions - Ottawa: Take Hwy 417 West to 17 West. Take exit #180 toward Carleton Place/Arnprior. Turn right on RR-29. Turn left on Madawaska Blvd., which will become Madawaska St (CR-1). Turn right on St. John St. North which ends at the Galilee Centre, 398 John St. N, just after Arnprior Hospital.
Driving directions - Toronto: Take Hwy 401 to exit 623, Hwy 15 North toward Smiths Falls/Ottawa. Continue to follow Hwy 15. At Smiths Falls, continue on Hwy 15/29 to Arnprior. Turn left on Madawaska Blvd., which becomes Madawaska St. (CR-1). Turn right on St. John St. North which ends at the Galilee Centre, 398 John St. N, just after Arnprior Hospital.
Driving directions - Montreal: - Take 40 West/Hull, which becomes Hwy 417 West, then 17 West. Take exit #180 toward Carleton Place/Arnprior. Turn right on RR-29. Turn left on Madawaska Blvd., which will become Madawaska St (CR-1). Turn right on St. John St. North which ends at the Galilee Centre, 398 John St. N, just after Arnprior Hospital.
Photos: Barbara Koch
True North Insight offers financial assistance as part of our commitment to make the Buddha's teachings accessible to all, regardless of means. Financial assistance is awarded on a first come, first served basis. We offer partial scholarships: one per person, per year.
You can apply for financial assistance through our online registration form or you can fill out this form Financial assistance request form and mail it in.
All retreats require a deposit when registering, even if you are applying for financial assistance.
Retreat Fees and Dana
TNI is dedicated to offering affordable rates to all. Our retreat fees are on a sliding scale, which allows retreatants to pay according to their financial means. There are three rates, Low, Mid and High, with some scholarships available. The Low rate covers the minimum expense of holding a retreat. The High rate helps ensure TNI’s viability as an organization. The deposit is included in all of our fees.
Please pay by check, credit card or money order. Please make your cheque or money order payable to TNI, or include your credit card information on our online registration form.
Please note that the retreat fees pay for your room and three meals a day. This does not include payment to the teacher. Following the 2,500-year-old Buddhist tradition, the teachings are considered priceless and so are offered freely. At the end of the retreat you wil be invited to offer dana, or donations, to the teachers, the retreat manager and TNI.
The Practice of Giving
"Generosity brings happiness at every stage of its expression.
We experience joy in forming the intention to be generous.
We experience joy in the actual act of giving something.
And we experience joy in remembering the fact that we have given."
Dana is an ancient Pali word meaning “giving” or “gift.” Dana is at the heart of the 2,500 year old Buddhist tradition. Going back to the days of the Buddha, he and the monastic community offered the teachings freely to lay people, as a form of dana. In turn the lay community, through their generosity, or dana, ensured that their teachers’ basic needs for food, clothing, shelter and medicine were provided.
When the Buddha would give a public discourse, he usually began with teaching on the importance and the benefits of dana. The act of giving itself is of immeasurable benefit to the giver; it opens up the heart, diminishes for a moment one’s self-absorption and places value on the well-being of others. The simple gesture of offering a flower, an act of service or a kind thought can in fact be a sincere form of practice. The size or value of the gift is of little importance; the key is that the act of giving itself is the natural expression of a connected and loving heart.
True North Insight continues this tradition and practice of dana in our organization. The teachers, the members of the organizing committee and Board of Directors generously offer their time and skills with very modest or (for the most part) no remuneration, so that the Buddha’s teachings can be offered to relieve suffering and create peace in our world. The fee you pay to attend a TNI retreat covers the basic costs of a retreat; none of your registration fee is payment to the teachers leading the retreats. Teachers offer the teachings with a spirit of generosity and trust that their lives and work will be supported by those who are receiving the life-giving teachings. This is a real expression of the truth of interdependence.
At the end of each retreat, a dana talk is given as an invitation to participate in the rich tradition of giving. Your practice of generosity to the teachers, the retreat manager and True North Insight enables the teachings to continue and the practice community to thrive.
Listen to dharma talks on generosity:
Molly Swan (in English)
Pascal Auclair (in French)
Photo: Barbara Koch