Peace and quiet is hard to come by in New York City. Even trying to zen out in a yoga class can prove quite difficult with all the sirens, shouting and nondescript music perpetually playing in the background. On the other hand, leaving the island will cost you. You can rent a mini cabin in a mystery location for $165 per night, or you can take the A train down to the Rockaways for a free, all-inclusive meditation retreat.
This might sound too good to be true. After all, nothing in New York is free–especially not a weekend stay in a beach house on one of the most popular beaches in the city. But thanks to donations and sponsorships from companies like Nature’s Path and Eden Food, anyone can sign up for the retreats and workshops hosted at Rockaway Summer House.
This weekend, those who don’t want to partake in the typical hot-dog-eating, sparkler-waving 4th of July festivities can spend four days, for free, at Summer House meditating and discussing Buddha’s teachings.
Summer House opened in December and is a collaboration by nonprofit Buddhist Insights and creative collective Rockaway Summer–all founded by Giovanna Maselli (you may remember her from a previous project involving a palm tree patch). “It was my priority that we don’t only teach meditation, but we teach compassion and we teach how to be a good living being in the world,” Maselli said.
The large, white beach house hosted weeklong retreats during the winter, when the Rockaways are comparatively empty, and this summer is hosting nearly one retreat per week. Upcoming ones will have themes like surfing and meditation, African spiritualism, and Sufi meditation.
“Our expertise is Buddhist meditation, but we’re also bringing different contemplative practices,” Maselli said.
The retreats and workshops are open to anyone who is interested in spending a day or few meditating with Buddhist monks, nibbling on organic, vegetarian fare and learning about sustainable living. The house can accommodate up to 20 overnight guests and everything from the mattresses to the soap has been carefully curated with ethics and sustainability in mind.
One caveat that might prove difficult is the limited phone use and limited conversation rules. “When you go on retreat and you’re actually focusing on the mind and you want to see how your mind works, it’s easier to do it in a silent environment where you actively don’t communicate with other people for whatever extent of time,” Maselli explained.
If you’re a little skeptical, here’s one attendee’s experience. Spoiler alert: she didn’t become the next Buddha.
There are still spaces open for the summer retreats and workshops. All you have to do is RSVP and take the A train down to Beach 67th Street.