Sacred Bhutan


Walking and Meditation in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

Nov. 20 – Dec. 6, 2022



TEACHER: Susie Harrington assisted by Kathy Cheney

COST: $6,240 plus $930 for the round-trip flight from Bangkok to Paro. For more detail, please go to the Registration and Cost tab to the right.
Information about Retreat Dana

LOCATION: We will spend our days trekking through Bhutan. Trip begins and ends in Bangkok, Thailand (see itinerary).
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  • THE RETREAT

    This trip is a rare opportunity to travel behind the scenes in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, a country steeped in centuries of Buddhist life and practice. Bhutan is one of the few countries in the world that has successfully resisted the wave of globalization. The country was quite isolated from the modern world until the 1960's, and residents enjoy a culturally intact lifestyle, complete with well-preserved festivals, traditional food and dress, and traditional architecture.

    Our focus will be on the active monasteries and temples that arise from the landscape everywhere. Monastic life is active and strong in Bhutan, and we will practice in many of these monasteries, listen to the chanting monks and nuns, and meet with the local Rinpoches and Khenpos who guide monastic life. Many of the temples that we will visit are remote, inaccessible by road, and infrequently visited by tourists.

    Rice and barley terraces line a sparkling river

    On most days we will walk – visiting remote temples, exploring villages, or hiking from town to town. We will stay in comfortable and interesting Bhutanese lodges. The trip includes an overnight trek with a night of 'luxury camping', many remote temples and hermitages, and stunning views of the Himalaya range.

    We will support our journey and enrich our experience throughout by allowing time for individual practice, sharing experiences and reflections, and opportunities to practice in the temples and monastic communities we visit. Midway through the trip, we will spend three nights at Ogyen Choling Palace deep in the Bumthang province of Bhutan. The trip will culminate in an overnight trek to Bumdra Monastery and the famous Taksang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery, built directly into a vertical cliff.

    Stupa in the mountains

    You do not need to be a seasoned meditation practitioner to join this trip, although some previous meditation experience in a mindful tradition will be helpful. An interest in developing a spiritual practice and an interest in Buddhist teachings are both important prerequisites for this trip.

  • ITINERARY

    Sunday November 20 - Travel Day
    DAY 1: we will gather in Bangkok late-afternoon and start getting to know one another.
    DAY 2: we will fly to Paro and visit our first temple.
    DAY 3: we will drive to Chele La where we will see spectacular views and visit the Kila Nunnery temple.
    DAY 4: we will drive to Punakha with various stops along the way.
    DAY 5: we will hike through villages and farmland, and end up at Chorten Nebu Monastery.
    DAY 6: we will drive to Phobjikha Valley to explore and visit another monastery
    DAY 7: we will drive to the Bumthang province, the spiritual heart of Bhutan and stay in the Chumey Valley.
    DAY 8: we will spend the morning at Tharpaling Monastery and hike to KiKiLa Pass.
    DAY 9: we will drive to the Tang Valley, visit the Pema Choling Nunnery and arrive at the Ogyen Choling Palace where we will stay for three nights.
    DAY 10: we will settle in for a day of practice.
    DAY 11: we will hike to a remote cliff temple that is also a long-term retreat place.
    DAY 12: we will drive to Chokhar and visit Bumthang’s most treasured temples.
    DAY 13: we will take a flight from Bumthang to Paro
    DAY 14: we will begin our overnight trek to Bumdra monastery.
    DAY 15: we will trek back to Paro visiting other remote monasteries including Taksang Monastery.
    DAY 16: we will conclude our retreat journey in Bhutan, returning to Bangkok. (Tuesday, December 6th)

    Prayer flags flutter over a sea of clouds

    Please click here for a more detailed itinerary pdf and description of our activities each day.

  • ABOUT SUSIE & KATHY

    Susie will guide practice sessions and integrate dharma teachings into the trip. She has had many years of experience as both a teacher and a guide. Kathy will take care of logistics and provide personal support. Kathy is an experienced retreat coordinator and has supported beginning and experienced meditators on retreat and in daily life. We both carry the intention of supporting you in your outer and inner journeys, and we will provide as many options as possible to accommodate the group’s interests and individual needs.

    Susie Harrington has been practicing Buddhist meditation for more than 20 years, focusing on Insight Meditation since 1995. Susie began teaching the Dharma in 2005 under the direction of her teachers Guy Armstrong, Jack Kornfield, and Gil Fronsdal. She has also practiced with and been influenced by a number of Tibetan teachers. Believing nature to be a natural gateway to our true selves, Susie frequently offers retreats in the natural world. Her teaching is deeply grounded in the body, emphasizing embodiment of our practice in speech and daily life. She is a graduate of Hakomi Therapy (a somatic psychotherapy modality). She has been an outdoor professional for over 30 years, including years as a river guide, mountaineering guide, and backcountry ranger. She teaches residential and wilderness retreats throughout the Four Corners area and internationally. This will be the fifth trip to Bhutan Susie has led.

    Kathy Cheney was introduced to Buddhism at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and has studied and practiced meditation Insight and Soto Zen traditions since 2000. She has sat retreats at Spirit Rock, Gaia House, and other centers. Kathy has taught meditation to children and adults in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Hawaii. She has managed meditation retreats and coordinated programs for Spirit Rock, the Aloka Vihara nun’s community, the Abhayagiri monastic community and is the operations manager for Sacred Mountain Sangha.

  • COVID REQUIREMENTS & PASSPORTS

    As Bhutan gradually reopens to tourism the requirements change periodically. We will update registered participants as we learn more from our in-country tour guide. The country of Bhutan currently requires full vaccination including boosters, and a five-day quarantine for incoming travelers. Our tour guide expects that this quarantine requirement will be lifted soon, and the current itinerary does not account for a quarantine. If we need to quarantine then our trip would begin approximately three days earlier and we will quarantine in the Gangtey Palace Hotel in Paro, Bhutan. Because the country of Bhutan charges differently for quarantine days there will be a minimal change in trip cost.

    We would hold those quarantine days as a retreat, sitting together in a beautiful shrine room at the hotel. All our needs will be met at the hotel. We strongly advise you to register for the retreat even with this uncertainty as there are limited spaces. If we add days for quarantine purposes, and you choose not to or are unable to attend, your deposit and Bangkok to Paro plane fare will be fully refunded.

    Due to the possible schedule changes, do not purchase non-changeable/refundable airline tickets until you receive a clear go ahead from us. You will need a passport valid at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip. After you register, we will send more logistical details about travel, vaccinations, and what to bring. Please feel free to contact Kathy by email if you have any questions.

    Kathy Cheney
    KC007

  • WEATHER & FOOD

    We will be visiting Bhutan at the very end of fall and the beginning of winter, when crowds are small, and the weather is sunny and cool. The weather is typically pleasant, although a bit of clouds or rain here and there is a possibility. Once the sun goes down temperatures drop sharply and can reach freezing overnight. You will want warm, toasty clothes for this trip. We will send a What to Bring list as the trip gets closer.

    Bhutanese food is usually locally grown, unprocessed and healthy, with lots of vegetable dishes. Rice, potatoes, and chilies are the primary staples. Meat, poultry and seafood are usually options, and vegetarians can be easily accommodated. We will most likely see Tibetan, Indian, and Chinese influences in the food, including Tibetan momos and thukpa noodles. The national dish is ema datshi, a spicy blend of chilies and yak cheese. If you have special food requirements these can probably be accommodated, especially common ones like gluten-free and no-dairy. Be sure to let us know about special food requirements well in advance.

  • REGISTRATION & PAYMENT SCHEDULE

    A note on cost – The Bhutanese government sets the fees for travel in Bhutan and has chosen to charge more, have fewer tourists, and maintain a high quality experience for visitors and residents alike. There is a set fee for tourists, which includes local guides, lodging, meals, and transport. It is one of the ways they have opened up their country to us, without sacrificing the value they place in their own culture.

    Cost
    $6,240, plus $930 airfare for RT Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan. Single supplement $750.

    What is included (basically everything!):

    • Lodging, including the first night in Bangkok
    • Three meals a day, starting with dinner on November 21
    • All activities on the itinerary
    • Transportation
    • Purified drinking water
    • Domestic airfare (Jakar to Paro)
    • Round trip airfare from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan (This flight will be arranged for you, and you will pay the outfitter $930, through Sky Mind Retreats)
    • Bhutan Visa - (we will arrange this for you)
    • Carbon offsets for the carbon impact of flying from the U.S. to Bhutan

    What is not included:
    • Teacher support for Susie. In the spirit of offering dharma teachings without charge, Susie has chosen to not be paid for this trip. You may make an offering of teacher support to her before or after the trip, and donations are tax deductible.
    • Round trip airfare to Bangkok. (You will arrange this on your own.)
    • Final night stay and meals in Bangkok.
    • Alcohol
    • Optional tips for local guides
    • Medical insurance, as required by Bhutan. (See travel insurance in Cancellation Policy, below.)


    Payment Schedule

    Due with Registration: $1,000-non-refundable deposit
    plus $930* for Bangkok-Paro flight
    June 1, 2022 $1750
    July 15, 2022 $1750
    September 1, 2022 $1740 – includes $40 visa fee

    *
    We will be making reservations for our round trip flight from Bangkok to Paro, as soon as the minimum number of ten people have registered. Once the reservations have been made, this amount ($930) is nonrefundable, unless someone else registers to take your place and we are able to transfer the reservation. Reservations must be made far in advance, as it is the only national airline to serve Bhutan.

  • CANCELLATION POLICY

    Please read carefully
    Because we must make non-refundable deposits in Bhutan, we have the following cancellation policy. You will be making nonrefundable deposits for the trip expenses, and we cannot refund payments except according to the following cancellation policy.

    The $1000 deposit is non-refundable, and, once plane reservations have been made, the $930 airfare is non-refundable. Refunds can be made as follows:

    • For cancellations between June 1-July 14, 50% of the first payment ($875).
    • For cancellations July 15-August 31, 50% of the first two payments ($1750).
    • For cancellations September 1-September 15, 50% of first three payments ($2,625).

    After Sept. 15, 2022 no refunds can be made. If Sky Mind Retreats needs to cancel the trip for any reason, all fees, including the deposit, will be returned. Plane flight costs cannot be reimbursed.

    Prayer flags with snowy peaks

    TRAVEL INSURANCE
    Things happen! It is required that you purchase trip insurance, which will reimburse your trip cost if you cannot travel due to injury or illness. The Bhutanese government requires all travelers to purchase medical travel insurance, and most of these policies include trip cancellation. Be aware that you usually are required to purchase the policy shortly after you register for the trip and make your first payment in order for the trip cancellation insurance to be effective. Please read carefully the benefits for different plans and you might consider the 'cancel for any reason' clause available in some plans.
    Two companies that we like are:
    Worldwide Trip Protector, www.travelinsured.com or 1-800-243-3174.
    World Nomads, www.worldnomads.com