FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions along with our answers. If we haven't covered your question here, feel free to send us a message.

Getting to us

Why Almeria?

We like it.  Here's what some of our guests say:

“Almeria feels like a hidden treasure.”

“To me, coming to Almeria feels like going back in time. It is a place that forces me to slow down and to value the things in life that are truly important.”

“The weather is wonderful.”

“The culture is so relaxed, coming from a big city, as soon as I arrive into Almeria I feel instantly more calm.”

“I love the humility of the people here, they are so generous, they really have time for one another.”

“Fresh figs from the trees all through the summer! Wow!”

“The people in la Hoya have so much life, so much vibrancy.”

“I love to come out of the evening meditation sitting and hear the flamenco music playing in the background.”

“It has an unpretentious beauty.”

“Where else in Europe could you live in caves, rent-free, with no trouble from the local authorities?”

What is your nearest airport?

Almeria airport (LEI).

What is your nearest town?

We live on the edge of Almeria town.

What is your nearest bus or train station?

In Almeria the bus station and train station are in the same place. It is called the estación intermodal de Almeria.

How do I find you?

As we don’t yet own the land that we are living on, we are not publicly publishing directions to the caves. If you would like to visit us please contact us, and we will come to meet you and show you the way.

Here is a map to el Cerro de San Cristóbal on the edge of Almeria town, where we will meet you.

How far do I have to walk?

From el Cerro de San Cristóbal to the caves is about a fifteen minute walk over slightly hilly, rocky ground.

Do you have disabled access?

No, sorry. For now, we are living on a rocky mountain. There is no wheelchair access, and those who struggle walking on uneven ground may find it hard to reach us.

Can I stay in town and still receive teachings?

Yes. If the conditions in the caves aren't suitable for you then we will be happy to recommend you a hotel or Airbnb in Almeria town. You will be welcome to use the meditation cave, join our group sittings, visit our library, or join us for lunch. If you cannot reach the caves, depending on availability, one of our teachers may be able to visit you in town to give you meditation instruction there.

Staying in the caves

What is it like living in a cave?

Here's what some of our guests say:

“Like a childhood dream.”

“Like being in your mother's womb.”

“It's great, I love it, like being cradled in my mother's arms.”

“After years of insomnia, in the caves I sleep so well.”

“For me, it's been the perfect environment to calm my mind.”

“It makes me wonder why anyone would live in an apartment.”

“Great, especially in this climate. Cool in the summer and warm in the winter.”

“So simple, so natural.”

Is there anything not so great about living in the caves?

Yes, of course. Nowhere is perfect.  Here are some things that our guests often don't love:

  • The background noise from the motorway.
  • The dust.
  • The insects - wood lice, mosquitoes, ants, sometimes fleas and ticks.
  • The compost toilet.
  • No hot running water.

Is it safe?

Yes, though there are some risks that you may want to consider:

  • The caves have no doors. Whilst none of our guests have ever had their personal belongings stolen during their stay with us, to avoid tempting any potential thieves, we suggest you not to leave any valuable or irreplaceable items unattended in your cave.  If you arrive with valuable possessions then during your stay we can store them for you in the cave of our guard dog.
  • We live on the edge of the local gitano community.  Whilst we maintain good relations with the community it is quite normal for the children to be suspicious of newcomers, and sometimes to be rude.  We try to use this as our chance to practice patience and loving kindness.
  • In the summer it can get very hot.  If you need to leave your cave in the midday heat we strongly advise you always to carry plenty of water with you.
  • Our dog, Berner, bites. He is very territorial, and so far, we have only known him to bite people when he is guarding his cave, thus we suggest you not to walk past his cave.  We walk him twice a day. He has never bitten a guest whilst on his walks, but nonetheless we suggest that if you are scared of dogs, you stay in your cave during his walking times.

What do I need to bring?

As well as all the normal things that you would bring to a meditation retreat - comfortable clothes, any toiletries or medicines that you may need, etc. - we suggest you bring:

  • A sleeping bag.
  • A torch or flashlight.
  • A small clock or watch (so as not to need to use your phone or tablet).
  • Shoes suitable for rocky ground.
  • A refillable water bottle.
  • Earplugs (if you are annoyed by background noises)
  • Insect repellant

Do you cover the cost of emergency healthcare?

No. We have basic first aid equipment in the caves, but for more serious accidents you will need to go to the accident and emergency department at the local hospital. Emergency healthcare is free to anyone with a European Health Card. If you don't have a European Health Card then we advise you to get sufficient health insurance before you visit us.

Do you have electricity?

No, we don't have electricity in the caves. If you need to charge any electronic devices during your stay, we suggest you to bring your own solar charger or power bank.

Can I use my phone or tablet?

We don't have electricity in the caves, and for the benefit of your meditation, we discourage you from using your phone or tablet during your stay.  In an emergency you are welcome to charge your devices in town and make any necessary calls from there.

Do you have internet access?

No, we don't have wifi in the caves. We suggest, for the benefit of your meditation, that you avoid using the internet during your stay. In an emergency you may connect to to the internet in one of the many cafes in town, or in the public library.

Do you have a toilet?

Yes. We have our own composting toilet.

Do you have a shower?

We shower from this communal hose pipe or from a bucket in the privacy of our own cave.

Food

Do you cater to special dietary requirements?

Yes. The food that we prepare is usually vegetarian with plenty available for vegans. The local people sometimes offer us meat and fish that can be eaten by our non-vegetarian guests. Each day one of our guests volunteers to prepare lunch for the community. If the food isn’t suitable for you then you are welcome to prepare yourself something else from whatever you find in the kitchen. You can also buy your own food if you prefer.

Do you have a fridge?

No, but we use a natural method of convection cooling to keep our food fresh in the summer.

Can I eat dinner?

For the benefit of mediation, we strongly encourage our guests to keep the precept to abstain from eating after midday. If you struggle to keep this precept for health reasons then you are welcome to prepare yourself an evening snack.

Can I drink coffee?

Yes.

Can I smoke?

Yes, but we ask you to refrain from smoking in the caves.

Meditation

Can I sit on a chair?

Yes. We encourage you to sit in whichever way you feel comfortable.

Do I have to follow a timetable?

We ask all guests to attend our daily group sittings at 7am and 7pm daily.  Other than this you are welcome to practice according to your own timetable.

Can I practice my own method?

Yes.  We ask that you discuss your meditation practice openly and honestly with our teachers.  So long as they are satisfied that you are benefiting from your practice you will be welcome to continue.

Can I do chanting?

Yes.  We ask you not to disturb others with your chanting, but you are welcome to chant in your own cave.  If you would like to arrange group chanting please ask one of our teachers for a suitable time and place.

Must I keep silence?

No.  You are welcome to talk, though for the benefit of your meditation we encourage you not to indulge in too many unnecessary conversations.

We encourage all our guests to use their stay with us as an opportunity to practice right speech.  This means that we speak that which is true, timely, and beneficial.

If you would like to keep complete silence then you are welcome.  Just let us know.

I don't believe in Buddhism, can I still join you?

Yes, of course.  There is no need to believe in Buddhism to practice meditation.  The Buddha said that the Dhamma is ehipassika, which means that it is inviting you to come and see, inviting your investigation.  We welcome you to come and investigate for yourself the practice of meditation and any benefits it may have.

I have a history of mental illness, can I still join you?

Yes, of course.  Many meditators have a history of mental illness and find meditation a useful tool on their path. We aim to maintain a safe and loving environment free from shame and stigma around mental illness, in which you can relax and be yourself.

At the same time we acknowledge that we are not specialists in mental illness and we may not be able to offer everyone the specialised care that they need.  For this reason we encourage open and honest communication between students and teachers.

If you feel your mental illness to be affecting you currently, even in a subtle way, we ask you to be open about this with the teacher, so that they can guide you more effectively. If at any time you feel that your meditation is not giving you the support you need then we ask you to let the teacher know as soon as possible.  If you feel you need additional specialised support for your mental illness we encourage you to seek it. Likewise if at any time the teacher feels unable to give you sufficient support then they may advise you to seek appropriate support elsewhere.

Volunteering

If I join you as a volunteer do I still have to meditate?

Yes.  We ask as a minimum that you join our group sittings at 7am and 7pm.  We hope also that we can work with you to bring mindfulness and wise attention to your voluntary service.

If I join as a volunteer do I get free food and accommodation?

Our community is run on a purely donation basis. This means that all our guests - meditators and volunteers alike - are encouraged to contribute to the community in whatever way feels right to them.

As a long-term volunteer can I live in the caves and get a paid job in town?

Yes. We are happy to work with our long-term volunteers to find hours and conditions to help you balance your meditation and voluntary service with paid employment.

Can I stay for a period of volunteering followed by a period of meditation?

Yes. In accordance with our core values, meditation comes first. Whilst you are volunteering, we ask you to attend, as a minimum, our daily group sittings at 7am and 7pm.  You are very welcome, at any time to stop your voluntary work and give more time to your meditation.

Making an offering

If I offer money, how will it be used?

Donations made at this time will be primarily used for buying the land that we want, though we may occasionaly use donations for other costs associated with running the community such as food and other basic necessities.

Can I gift aid my donation?

At the moment we are still in the process of registering as a charity, so you cannot yet gift aid your donation.  We hope to arrange gift aid on our account as soon as possible.

How much should I offer if I stay with you?

We don't give any suggested amount for people to offer if they stay with us.  Instead we encourage all our guests to contribute to the community in whichever way feels right to them.

How can I support you if I don't have a lot of money?

There are many ways that you can support us if you don't have a lot of money.  One of the best ways is simply to come and meditate. You may also like to take a look at some of the ways you can come and volunteer or offer your time and skills, or you may like to encourage your friends and family to support us in whatever way they can.  If you have any other idea of how you would like to contribute to the community we will be happy to hear your ideas.

Other questions

Can I do yoga or martial arts?

Yes.  We ask you not to disturb others with your practice, but you are welcome to practice in the privacy of your own cave.

Can I go walking in nature?

Yes, of course.  We are located on the edge of town and the nearby hills are extensive and peaceful for walking.  If you go walking in the summer we advise you to take plenty of water with you.

Can I do art or write poetry during my stay?

Yes, your creativity is welcome.  We ask you to use your creativity in a way that is supportive of, rather than a disturbance to your meditation practice.

Can I bring my children?

Yes, though you will be in all ways responsible for them.

Can I bring my dog?

Yes, but please keep in mind that we also have a big dog.