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Cultivating the Heart-Mind with Serenity and Insight - 10 Day Silent Meditation Retreat, Varroville (near Sydney) , NSW , Australia

Malcolm Huxter

August 30, 2019 - September 8, 2019

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Ten days (9 nights with 3 and 6 nights options) silent meditation retreat.

Ten day option -Friday 30/8/19 till Sunday 8/9/19 (3-nights option – Fri 30/8/19 till Mon 2/9/19 and 6 nights option – Fri 30/8/19 till Thursday 5/9/19)

Training and practise in mindfulness, focussed attention, loving kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity

Meditation Teacher: Malcolm Huxter

Yoga Teacher: Lisa Brown

Onsite Manager: Amy Dempsey

Venue: Mt Carmel Retreat Centre in Varroville on St-Andrews Rd past Campbell town outside Sydney. Here is the link to venue: http://carmeliteretreats.com.au/

Dates and times: All three options begin Friday 30/8/19 at 4pm.   Three-night retreat finishes lunchtime Monday 2/9/18 or as required by participants. Six-night retreat finishes Thursday 5/9/19 at lunchtime or as required by participants. Ten-day retreat finishes Sunday 8/9/19 at lunchtime or as required by participants.

Numbers of retreatants: The whole retreat is limited to 31 participants. In order to provide consistency, 18 places will be reserved for 10 day retreatants up until 3 weeks prior to the beginning of the retreat (9/8/19).  

Fees for 9 nights (10 days) option: $1280 + dana for private ensuite room. Share* = $1165 + dana.

Fees for 6 nights (7 days) option: $900 + dana for private ensuite room. Share* = $820 + dana.

Fees for 3 nights (4 days) option: $610 + dana for private ensuite room. Share* = $560 + dana.

*”Share” involves sharing with one other person who is a partner and/or a friend. The share arrangements need to be organised by the retreatant.

Food: The venue has a meat and fish menu for their residents and they will cater for vegetarian, vegan (dairy free) and general non-coeliac gluten free diets.


In Buddhism, one Pali term that is often used for meditation is citta bhavanaBhavana means “bringing into being” or “cultivating” and Citta (pronounced as chitta) translates as heart-mind, which implies both reason and intuition. Citta is also considered as the aware part of a person or the subjective knower of experience. Citta bhavana therefore translates as cultivating the heart-mind.

From a Theravada Buddhist perspective all meditation involves some form of effort, mindfulness and concentration or focussed attention. The effort involved with meditation is not the same as strain or struggle. The type of effort required in meditation can involve rousing enthusiasm, energy, and commitment to persist. It can also involve knowing when there is too much energy or enthusiasm and letting go or letting be.

One way mindfulness has been defined is: to remember to be attentive to immediate experience with care and discernment (Bodhi according to Sharpiro 2009). In meditation, concentration is the gathering together, collecting, focussing and placing of attention. It is the stabilising, centring and unification of attention.

In the Buddhist traditions there are two aspects of meditation: serenity and insight. A feature of insight meditation is enquiry into the nature of experience. With insight meditations we enquire into experience asking what is happening and how it is happening in order to gain understanding. The features of serenity meditation include stillness, quietude, calm and clarity. Insight and serenity work together. When our minds are settled and clear with serenity, we are more able to see clearly and understand with insight. As we progress towards awakening we thrive with the support of four heart qualities: benevolence, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity.

During this retreat you will be invited to cultivate serenity, insight and four heart qualities. We will focus on the development of mindfulness, focussed attention, kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity.

Mindfulness is considered as a meditation practice, a core therapeutic process and a coping skill. Mindfulness has become a powerful psychological strategy for an array of mental health presentations as well as a practice to increase psychological wellbeing. Mindfulness has also been shown to enhance effectiveness in areas that include parenting, education, relationships, the workplace and more. Some of the core contemporary third wave approaches that use mindfulness include: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).  

Developing focussed attention or concentration is a key component of most meditation practices as well as many psychotherapeutic interventions. When cultivated systematically it can result in relaxation, a calm mind, a peaceful heart and profound transformations in consciousness.

The health and relationship benefits of compassion and loving kindness are becoming evident with current scientific research. The development of therapeutic and educational approaches such as Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT), Cultivating Emotional Balance (CEB), Mindful Self Compassion (MSC) and Rick Hanson’s Positive Neuroplasticity Training (PNT) are gaining popularity with therapists and educators because they work to reduce mental and emotional suffering. The four heart qualities also help to harmonise interpersonal relationships, increase wellbeing, peace, joy and generally enhance functional agility in our complex modern world.

Why it is helpful to attend retreats?

Silent retreats are opportunities to focus on cultivating the heart-mind and awakening psychological freedom.   They provide the external circumstances conducive to inner transformation, peace and harmony with oneself and others.

Retreats provide a break to recharge and remember what is important in our lives.   For professionals, such as teachers or therapists, retreats give us the opportunity to refine the skills we teach to our students and clients. Meditation retreats provide an opportunity for personal stress management and self-reflection. They often clarify life’s directions so that there is renewed vitality and enthusiasm towards that which is important. These personal gains help individuals become more effective in what ever they do including their professional roles.   For those therapists who wish to use mindfulness, compassion and loving kindness in therapeutic settings, retreats provide the opportunity to deepen therapeutic skills and understanding of these interventions. In some mindfulness and mindful compassion approaches (e.g. MBSR and MSC) attending cloistered silent residential retreats are essential qualifications for teacher training programmes. 

General aims of the retreat:

  • To provide the opportunity to experience first hand the cultivation of insight, stillness, serenity and the heart qualities (loving kindness, compassion,   appreciative joy and equanimity).
  • To free oneself and others from psychological suffering and cultivate wellbeing and genuine happiness.  
  • To enhance the skills and understanding of anyone wishing to develop these qualities as well as provide new ideas for therapists, programme leaders and other professionals who already use mindfulness, compassion, loving kindness and related skills as part of their therapeutic and coaching repertoire.

Who is this retreat for?

This silent residential retreat is for anyone who has had some prior experience with meditation and wishes to enhance and practise his or her skills. The retreat is suited to the general public as well as health care practitioners, therapists, educators, programme leaders and it will partially fulfil CPD requirements for some professionals. For those with aspirations to teach, this silent retreat will also partially fulfil requirements for teacher training in programmes such as Mindful Self Compassion (MSC) and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

What will the retreat involve?

The first three days of this retreat will focus on training in the cultivation of stillness, serenity and loving kindness. During the next three days we will open to the cultivation of insight with compassion. The final three days will include attention given to equanimity and appreciative joy. Please note the order of topics may vary. There will be evening talks and workshop style morning instruction with Mal as well as morning yoga sessions with Lisa. Short individual interviews with Mal will be possible after Monday.

Mal will draw on his training in ancient Buddhist as well as the contemporary psychological practices. This retreat will involve evening talks, morning guidance and discussion, optional yoga sessions, time to sit, walk, move and be silently present.   It will also involve the opportunity for 1:1 meetings with the teacher (Mal) if required after Monday. Silence will be encouraged but not enforced.

Though in silence, participants will have the opportunity to question, comment and discuss about the practices during workshops style morning guidance sessions. All experiential exercises will be voluntary and there will be an opportunity to practice daily Yoga sessions taught by Lisa Brown. On the final day some of these exercises will involve pairing up with another and engaging in interpersonal meditation practices.

The Venue:

Mt Carmel Retreat is a peaceful and semi-rural sanctuary of 300 acres with birdlife and walking trails, 45 minutes outside of Sydney, near the Minto train station. All ensuite bedrooms are spacious and you can have the option to have your own private room or share with one other person who is a partner or friend.

The fees for this retreat (outlined above) will cover food /accommodation and contribute towards the teachers’ accommodation and transport. The fees include an option for dana.

In accordance with Buddhist traditions, the fee for this retreat is dana based. Dana refers to the economy of generosity where the teachings are given freely and those who receive the teaching have the opportunity to reciprocate with a financial gift that they feel is suitable, after the retreat has finished. 

Teacher: Mal Huxter (MAPS, AABCAP) is a clinical psychologist in private practice. He is the author of “Healing the Heart and Mind with Mindfulness.” Routledge 2016. http://www.amazon.com/Healing-Heart-Mind-Mindfulness-Ancient/dp/1138851353

A practicing psychologist for 27 years, he has been teaching mindfulness and the four heart qualities to the general public, a range of cultures, clinical populations, therapists and other professionals since 1991. He began training in Buddhist meditation practices in 1975, living in Thailand as a Buddhist monk for two years in the late 1970’s.   As well as Theravada he has trained in other Buddhist and spiritual traditions.

Yoga Teacher: Lisa Brown is a Psychologist, Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) facilitator, Yoga teacher and mother to four children, two dogs, two horses and a goat. She currently works in private practice in Bellingen and Coffs Harbour, and facilitates Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction groups and Trauma Sensitive Yoga classes. 

Website:  Lisa’s website

For detailed information about the retreat, email [email protected] or phone 0431768299 (please note Mal will be unavailable on his own retreat from around mid May till late June 2019). For questions about the logistics of the retreat email [email protected] or phone 0401044232


Mt Carmel Retreat Centre
247 St Andrews Rd,
Varroville (near Sydney) , NSW 2566 Australia
+ Google Map
+61 (0)2 8795 3400


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