Frequently Asked Questions


    • Are There Ongoing Classes?
    • Deciding to Attend Questions
    • Housing Questions
    • Meal Questions
    • Payment/Dana/Refund Questions


As of Jan. 2024, Shell is taking a sabbatical from offering the more intimate, local meditation workshop series. You can sign up for our NEWSLETTER to receive the most current updates, along with ongoing talks and meditations.


I’ve never meditated before, what do I do? While it’s helpful to have some meditation experience, even those who have never meditated before benefit greatly from attending a retreat. In fact, more than half of those who attend the daylong retreats, especially, are new to practice, and the teacher will be offering some guidance. If you are signing up for a longer retreat, it’s strongly recommended that you have some experience with practicing meditation, though it’s not a requirement.

Will I be sitting down all day? No; both the daylong and residential retreat schedules alternate 30-45-minute silent and guided meditation times, with 20-45 minute periods of walking meditation, along with longer meal time breaks.

Do I have to sit crosslegged? Not at all; most people sit in chairs or in the church pews at the daylong events.

Can I lie down in the meditation hall? Due to space and other concerns, we are not able to accommodate lying down in the hall, though there are chairs available for use.

What Is Noble Silence? As the retreat begins, you will be asked to honor what is known as ‘noble silence’ – a quieting of the body and voice that helps cultivate a calm and peaceful retreat environment. This powerful tool greatly enhances the deepening of concentration and awareness. Noble silence also fosters a sense of safety and spiritual refuge. By refraining from using cellphones, computers, or other communication devices during your retreat, you contribute to creating a supportive environment of silence and simplicity for all participants. In this spirit, we request that you please: 1. Turn off your cell phones for the duration of your stay. 2. Leave behind your laptops, iPods, iPads and other communication devices. 3. Keep your silence with friends and family members that are on retreat with you.

Is the entire retreat in silence? Yes, mostly. The teacher will be speaking and guiding – both guided and silent meditations, talks, etc., – throughout, but participants will be in silence. For the daylong retreats, participants will enter into silence beginning at 9:30 or 10 a.m., and will stay silent throughout the retreat (including lunchtime). For residential retreats, participants enter the silence at around 9 p.m., after the opening talk, and remain in silence throughout the retreat, until the closing ceremony. A retreat manager will be available on retreats via written note for personal needs as they arise. 

Is a retreat appropriate for me at this time? An intensive silent retreat can be an incredibly positive, beneficial, and life-transforming experience. At the same time, meditation practice does requires some stability of physical and psychological health. Especially if you have recently experienced considerable trauma, significant depression or anxiety, or are currently experiencing strong PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), a silent retreat may not be appropriate for you at this time in your life. A therapist can help you assess the wisest course duration for you, or if it’s best to wait a while before signing up. Daily life practice may be more beneficial meanwhile.

Is there an age limit? Yes, these retreats are for those 18 years and older. For teens, you can find wonderful retreats offered by Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (

What if I have a disability or chronic health issue? We welcome all who are genuinely interested in meditation and who wish to participate in our programs. If you have a disability or chronic health issue, it is important to let us know asap. 

Is it ok to cry in the meditation hall? Yes, absolutely … retreats often bring tears, and they are welcomed, and can be very healing. Just please be mindful not to verbalize the crying, and allow the tears to flow quietly, instead.

What do I wear? Comfortable, non-noisy clothes that are neutral-colored are the best option, especially clothes that don’t have a lot of writing on them, because this can be a distraction to others. Soft-soled shoes that you can easily slip on and off are also recommended. (Slippers are fine!) You might also want to bring along a separate pair of shoes for walking outdoors.

Can I smoke? Only in designated areas outside of the retreat space; there is no smoking allowed in the buildings or on the grounds. Lighting incense or candles in your room is also not allowed.

Can I bring my pets? Sadly, pets are not allowed on retreat.

TO LEARN MORE about attending retreats, please visit these links:

Article: What Is A Meditation Retreat Like?

Audio: Instructions for a Silent Meditation Retreat


Can I have a single room at the residential retreats? Yes, and no; it depends on the retreat center where we are offering the retreat. The rooms at the Bon Secours Retreat Center in MD are all single, with private bathrooms. The rooms at the Peterkin Conference Center in WV are shared. 

Can I have a single room at a residential retreat if I register for both beds in one of the rooms for two? This option is unavailable for our retreats with shared rooms. Our residential retreats usually fill with a waiting list, which means that if one person takes up two spaces (leaving an empty bed), it prevents another person from participating in the experience of retreat.

Can I attend a residential retreat program, but stay somewhere else? For many reasons, we are unable to accommodate this option.

Is camping available? At the Peterkin residential retreats, you can choose this option, and we can save you a designated bed, but because of limited space, the price will be the same. 


Are meals included in the fee for residential retreats? Yes, room and board, plus the full retreat cost are all included in the fee, save for the traditional teacher dana

Is lunch included in the daylong retreat? After the Covid-19 pandemic, we now ask that people bring their own lunch and snacks.


I owe final payment for a residential retreat, how do I pay my balance? You can pay your balance here.

What is teacher dana? You can find information about this important traditional practice here. 

What if I need to cancel? (We thank you for honoring our cancellation policies, and not asking for any exceptions.)

DAYLONG RETREATS: The administrative fee for cancellations made up to two weeks prior to the retreat is $35. Full payment is forfeited two weeks prior to the retreat, and we can no longer offer refunds for any reason, without exception. We also cannot offer credit or transfers, including transfer to live-streaming. If you register for online attendance, we are unable to transfer your registration to in-person.


  • 5-Day Retreat at Peterkin: The administrative fee for cancellations made up to 3 weeks prior to the retreat is $200. We are unable to offer refunds – for any reason – for cancellations made less than 3 weeks prior to the first day of retreat. We are unable to offer credit or transfers to other retreats.
  • Weeklong Retreat at Peterkin: The administrative fee for cancellations made up to one month prior to the retreat is $350. We are unable to offer refunds – for any reason – for cancellations made less than one month prior to the first day of retreat. We are also unable to offer transfers to other retreats.
  • 5-Day Retreat at Bon Secours: A non-refundable 50% deposit is required to save your space. Full payment is due 8 weeks prior the retreat. We are unable to offer refunds – for any reason, without exception. We are unable to offer credit or transfers to other retreats.

Can I transfer to another retreat? For many reasons, we are unable to transfer payments to future retreats.

If you feel so inspired, you can offer the fee as dana to support the teacher.

If you have any other questions, please Contact Us.