Preparing for retreat

Here are ideas, concepts, and things you can do to prepare for retreat and help your retreat experience.

What is a “meditation retreat”?

The idea of “retreat” is “the act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy; retirement; seclusion.” A spiritual retreat allows us to withdraw from the day-to-day world and concentrate on spiritual practices.

Here we are doing a meditation retreat. At each retreat, some of us may have a lot of experience meditating, some may have no idea about it at all, and we have all ranges in between. This page about meditation may be useful for anyone, to see the approach here at Khao Tham.

For some minds, or at some stages, we like to chew on some more details to give our monkey mind something to do so it will forget to bother us. There is some good general information about spiritual retreats at Wikipedia, and we have links to other selected pages and websites on our Resources page that may be useful.

General preparation

  • It is important to clear all commitments for the period of the retreat. All phone calls, e-mail, letters, tickets, flight confirmations, money-changing, visa extensions, etc. must be arranged and organised before the silent retreat, which begins on the 11th at 1pm.
  • A meditation retreat can be both mentally and physically very challenging. All participants must be in good general health, both physically and mentally.
  • The retreat is not suitable for people with mental disorders or drug addictions.
  • It is good to be well-rested before the start of the retreat.

What to bring

  • Loose clothing which fully covers the body, such as fisherman pants and t-shirts. Clothing must follow our dress code. Keep in mind that the weather here is normally hot, and often humid, so lighweight clothing works better.
  • A light jacket or sweater may be wanted in evenings. Also a light shawl can be handy in the non-rainy season, when it can get quite hot and humid.
  • Umbrella –
    A full-size umbrella is handy because it can double as a walking stick and also dog-deterrent.
    A smaller collapsible umbrella is handy because it doesn’t take much space; and if you ride to town on motorcycle it is easier to carry/put in a small pack.
  • Flip-flops or slippers that are easily removable — meditation hall, dining hall, temple, etc are no-shoe zones.
  • Personal toiletries (sanitary napkins or tampons, shaving gear, toothpaste and brush, etc.)
  • Towel
  • Torch: Night falls quickly in Thailand. You will need a torch. Check that the batteries are fresh, and you may also wish to bring extra batteries just in case.
  • Washing powder etc.
  • Mosquito repellent.
    • The “natural” repellents are pretty much ignored by mosquitos here. You will need repellent containing DEET to keep them away.
    • One person uses about two 50-ml bottles in 10 days.
    • Dengue fever is an issue here. It is carried by mosquitoes and can be serious enough to send you to hospital. (There are good hospitals right here on the island.)
  • You will need the above items, or prepare to be uncomfortable. Khao Tham may have spare batteries, mosquito repellent, etc., but usually does not because of limited funds. Bring your own, and even a little extra to help someone else!

What not to bring

  • Phones, laptops, and any other electronic devices, books, reading materials, any other distractions, are not allowed during the retreat.
    If you bring any of these, you must deposit them with the retreat staff for the duration of the retreat.
  • No see-through or revealing clothing please. Please see the dress code page for more information.

Preparing your mind

  • You may like to familiarise yourself with Thai culture, the rules at Khao Tham, and your teachers.
  • You may find it useful to learn ahead of time, the practices you will do, such as food reflection, chanting, Buddha prostration, and more.
  • At least one person was known to follow a modified form of the Daily Schedule prior to attending a retreat, to get his body and mind into the routine.
  • Another way is to just bring your accepting open mind, and take every experience of retreat as it is. You definitely do not have to have detailed knowledge about meditation in order to meditate! Meditation itself is simple: Just sit, and breathe, and be.


  • There are many things to do before each retreat, such as cleaning the dorms and kutis, town trips for supplies, arranging retreat materials, raking leaves, and more.
  • If you would like to come early and help (you may be able to stay at Khao Tham for this), please contact Tookata.
  • More on the Volunteering page.