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John Porter, an ad executive from San Francisco, had been around the globe to exotic locations and often stayed in posh resorts. Yet, while he was gearing up for his 2005 trip, he felt a strong desire to experience something different -- something more meaningful. His deeper journey led him on a week-long sojourn to a meditation retreat on Scotland's Holy Isle. There, John took courses to help him learn meditation practice, which he still uses almost five years later.

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Travel and Leisure Magazine recently rated their top ten worldwideretreats for learning meditation. Number one on their list was Ananda in the Himalayas, a spectacular 100-acre estate in Uttaranchal, India, which has wide views of the Ganges River, the Himalayan mountain foothills and the temple villages of Rishikesh and Hardiwar. Amenities consist of a 21,000-square-foot spa, meditation and yoga pavilions, a tea lounge, an antique billiards room and the former maharajah's palace.


Here, people will be given one-on-one guided meditation custom-made to their individual needs. Stretching, Buddhist meditation teachings, yoga and breathing exercises are taught in one-hour classes throughout the day. This retreat appeals to all types of people, including a good number of luxury travelers who have never visited a spiritual retreat till now.


Another place to learn meditation is the White Cloud Sanctuary in Santa Ana, Costa Rica. Just west of the San Jos capital, you'll stay in a one-person tile-roofed casita with its own kitchen, bathroom and living area, while enjoying breathtaking mountain views. This quaint 13-acre property amid the jungle mountainside can only take one person at a time, so you'll be completely alone in your rigorous study of Tai Chi and QiGong meditation. When you're not meditating, you can take a walk through organic vegetable gardens, horse farms and groves of mango, banana and papaya trees. Meals aren't included with this program, but you can purchase healthy food at the lodge.

A third destination to learn meditation is the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts. Located on a 200-acre property surrounding a grand mansion, you'll find 79 dormitory-style single and double rooms with shared bathrooms, dining facilities, outdoor Buddhist shrines and meditation spaces. For a more intense pilgrimage, you can stay at the Forest Refuge, a long-term retreat center set several miles back into the countryside. The practice here involves Vipassana (insight) and Metta (loving kindness) meditation. You'll sit and you'll walk, but your meditative practices will all be done in complete silence. Eventually, through silence, you will find insight and self-awakening.


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