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October  Retreat
on Holy Isle

7-14 October 2023

The Sitting Out Retreat

The natural world & the natural mind

For almost 20 years Alistair has been leading meditation retreats on the beautiful Scottish Holy Isle off the coast of Arran. This year he's doing something different there.  

After discovering the power of 'sitting out' practice, Alistair is leading a radical practice week for people who have done a fair amount of meditation and are looking to 'cut to the chase'. 

Sitting out practice involves staying put in a 2m x 2m spot out in nature for longer and longer spells. We start with an hour or two and build up to one big sit at the end of the retreat. You don't have to sit still, but you are encouraged to be in nature for a long time with minimal distractions. No phones, no conversations, not many options: just opening more and more deeply to the miracle of your human mind. 

"Sitting for a long time out in the natural world is like a revelation", Alistair says, "You're not doing anything in particular, but gradually - within the framework of the practice - the mind becomes more and more obvious. And by the end, I felt transparent..."

Doing this practice in the potent landscape of Holy Island and held within the supportive cradle of fellow retreats promises to be a unique chance to experience the mind in its natural state. 

What is 'sitting out' practice?

  • Sitting out is a form of very simple but very profound mind-magic. 

  • You stay put in a 2m x 2m spot in the natural world for long periods, simply watching the mind and watching the world. 

  • There is no particular meditation instruction - everyone finds their own insight as the practice unfolds

  • Traditionally done for 24 hours, this course is going to build up slowly to one magnificent 10-hour session on the penultimate day of the retreat

  • The practice is best done in the natural world with just a bottle of water for sustenance, so it requires wet-weather gear. 

  • This retreat will be held as a group though the 'sitting out' sessions are done on your own. We will meet at the start and end of the day to compare notes and practice together. 

  • This is a chance for more experienced practitioners to get back to the 'wild roots' of outdoor-living yogis. But with a warm meal and hot shower at the end of the day! 

  • Please do consider coming but also recognise that it does involve long stretches of time practising outside! 

About Holy Isle

Holy Island is a stunning granite outcrop in Lamlash Bay off the isle of Arran in West Scotland. It's been a holy site since the times of Celtic Christianity when St. Molaise lived in a cave here. In the last few decades, it's been a place of Buddhist-inspired contemplation under the auspices of Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche. But the World Centre for Peace and Health where this course takes place is open to all faiths or none. It's a uniquely nurturing place for practice and draws people from all over the world.

You can watch an aerial tour of the island here.

What to expect from a Mindsprings Retreat

  • Our first evening together on Saturday is a chance to arrive, enjoy some food and get to know one another. Most people are tired from travel and we'll have an early night after some relaxation. 

  • The daily schedule for the Sunday-Friday is fairly similar

  • We start with some gentle stretching and a silent sit before breakfast. This is a great way to start the day. 

  • Before our  delicious breakfast, Alistair will lead us in some t'ai chi on the beachfront which is optional. But does involve hugs - which everyone seems to love. 

  • Throughout the week the schedule will vary as we build up our 'sitting out' sessions.  

  • After supper, there is a further chance to practice together and integrate what we have learned during the day. 

  • Generally, it's light's out and silence after 9.30pm - so early nights, though you could go for a moonlight walk!

  • We often explore silence on the Island and one full day of silence somewhere in the middle. It's a very friendly silence and, again, many people love this element of the retreat. 


About the teacher

Alistair is a broadcaster, psychotherapist and meditation teacher.


He's worked for the BBC for more than 20 years and works as a UKCP-accredited therapist in East Sussex. Since 2004, he's run Mindsprings, his therapeutic meditation organisation which teaches body-based and Buddhist solutions to many of our everyday problems.


Mindsprings offers popular meditation-based courses on many subjects:

  • helping people with anxiety, dissociation, stress.

  • working with mental health in the LGBTQ community.

  • exploring the growing field of embodiment and somatic practices.

  • teaching Buddhist practices for mental health and well-being


Alistair teaches in England, Wales, Scotland, Belgium, Ireland, Sweden, Iceland and the Netherlands.


Alistair will be leading this retreat supported by Kirsty. We will begin each day with some gentle embodiment practices and practice together communally before heading out on the Island to practice our 'sitting out' sessions. There will be a gathering at the end of the day after soup. . 


Rough timetable:

On Saturday 22nd at 7.30 pm, we have a welcoming circle after soup and the beginning session of the retreat ending around 9pm. 

Then from Sunday to Friday:

7am- 8am: Early morning yoga + silent sit  

8am-9am: Breakfast break

9am-6pm: Practice (this will vary throughout the week)

6pm -7.30pm Supper time 

7.30pm-8.30pm: Group practice

Team and schedule

Food, Accommodation and Pricing

One of the greatest joys of Holy Isle is the fantastic food harvested directly from the biodynamic and organic gardens that surround the centre. The resident kitchen team will be providing delicious vegetarian food throughout. There will be breakfast, lunch and supper and tea and snacks available throughout the day. Vegan and wheat-free diets are also catered for.