So you’ve finally saved up some holiday time and now you’re torn between pursuing enlightenment in retreat and finally making that long-desired trip to France. Relax. You can have your brioche and eat it too. France is a country where the dharma is flourishing, and there are centers to be found from Brittany to Burgundy, from Dordogne to Provence. Many of these offer teachings and retreats in English (often significantly less expensive than their American counterparts), either because the teacher speaks English or because the students are international. Listed below are just a few of the hundreds of centers of all sizes that dot the splendid French landscape.
Dharma Network Association (www.dharmanetwork.org) organizes Vipassana courses and retreats in Paris and throughout France, often with English-speaking teachers. Their calendar of events is generous and appealing. One of many highlights this year is a Vipassana retreat led by Venerable Bhante Henepola Gunaratana in the Paris area, scheduled for August 6 to 15.Telephone: 011 33 1 43 28 09 11.
If you’ve got the time and you really want to use some of it to sit,Centre Vipassana France, an S. N. Goenka center, offers ten-day silent retreats amid the green hills of Burgundy, in a former children’s summer camp. Of course, you won’t actually get to talk to the person you’ve been smiling at for nine days until the course is nearly over, but the crowd is pleasantly international and the taped audio and video teachings by Goenka are in English. Some of the teachers who lead retreats are English-speaking—you may want to inquire before you pick a date. Accommodations are dormitory-style, men on one side, women on the other. The vegetarian breakfast and lunch are taken in silence. This intensive, well-organized program is offered year round and is always full, so book early. Check out the website to learn more about the retreats themselves if you are not familiar with this kind of meditation. Be sure to ask for a map when you reserve – the center is particularly well concealed.Centre Vipassana France, Le Bois Planté, Louesme, 89350 Champignelles. Telephone: 011 33 3 86 45 75 14. www.dhamma.org.
Plum Village, Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh’s center, is divided among several different locations in beautiful southwest France. Look for the town of Ste. Foy la Grande on your map. The perfect place to cultivate gentle mind, it offers teachings and retreats year-round in English, French, and Vietnamese. Thich Nhat Hanh’s Zen lineage emphasizes mindfulness and kindness in daily life; families are welcome. Single men can contact the Upper Hamlet at 011 33 5 53 58 48 58; single women can call the Lower Hamlet at 011 33 5 53 94 75 40 or the New Hamlet at 011 33 5 56 61 66 88. Couples and families may contact any of the above. There is also a temple, Son Ha Temple, but it does not accommodate guests. Addresses and all relevant information may be found at www.plumvillage.org
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