Interested in a Working Holiday?
You are welcome to join us here in the south of France for a working holiday from July to November, especially if you are interested in finding out more about mindful working meditation. The principle is very simple: your accommodation and meals are free in return for 5-6 hours’ work daily (except Sundays) while you volunteer with us.
Even though the main meditation activity of this holiday is working meditation, every day, time is allocated for the personal meditation practice of your choice : sitting meditation by the lake, walking meditation in the vineyards, equine-guided meditation by a paddock, writing meditation under the oak trees…and full instructions on how to make the best use of these types of meditation is available to volunteers.
We live deep in the heart of rural Gascony, in the foothills of the Pyrenées mountains, less than 2 hours from the Spanish border, from the ski slopes and from the Atlantic ocean. Our 200-year-old farmhouse and its 20 acres sit on the edge of a typical Gascon village. We live here with our 4 cats and 5 horses (at last count).
Ours is a very lively region (probably due to the copious amounts of excellent wine produced here) especially in the summer, with a large choice of festivals, fiestas, fairs and fetes to attend each weekend. There is a vibrant small town less than 4 km from our house, with all amenities including several bars, restaurants, tabacs, pharmacies, a supermarket, a huge swimming pool (open July and August) and a fresh food weekly market.
Our working meditation volunteers live in a separate wing of the house, in single or double rooms, sharing a shower room. Meals are taken with us and with our other guests – we host equine-guided meditation workshops in the summer season. Our volunteers work 6 days a week, Mo-Sat for 5-6 hours, usually in the mornings to avoid the worst heat of the day. They have the rest of the day free to explore the region – there are loads to do and discover. We don’t usually expect help with the cooking but appreciate help with getting plates and cutlery into the dishwasher after meals.
There is always work to do on a farm like ours involving maintenance and renovation of the house and land and caring for the horses. The work is physically demanding and requires the ability and energy to engage in manual activities for five hours each day.
Information about our Working Meditation Retreats
Where do you sleep?
Our volunteers stay in a separate wing, with private access, which means you can come in as late or as early as you like if you decide to go to town for a drink after dinner. Bedding and towels are provided. The dog and cats are frequent visitors, and sometimes the horses too – don’t be surprised if you open the kitchen door first thing in the morning to come face to face with a horse waiting hopefully for a carrot or an apple.
What do you eat?
We eat standard Gascon fare with combined with excellent Gascon wine. Gascony is renowned for its gastronomy and for the longevity of its inhabitants so we tend to stick to what has worked for them for the last 800 years. We buy fresh fruit and vegetables from the market if we do not grow it ourselves, and meat, fish and poultry direct from the farmers.
Gascon fare has a distinct Spanish taste to it, probably due to the influence of our Spanish neighbours. A typical lunch (our main meal of the day) would consist of a full-bodied traditional paella and maybe some freshly picked French beans, lightly steamed and flavoured with home-grown thyme (depends on what is growing in the potager at the time). We are on first name terms with several of the wine producers in the region and try to combine our meals with the perfect wine to compliment the day’s dish.
The lunchtime meal is the best part of the day for us when we have time to sit down with our visitors and talk about everything under the sun. We mostly eat outside and on the rare occasion that the weather lets us down we eat in the kitchen or dining room. We do not require help with the cooking but appreciate help filling the dishwasher and cleaning up afterwards. Volunteers help themselves to breakfast and dinner from the kitchen at a time that fits in with their personal meditation practice.
We have shared some truly unforgettable meals with our volunteers, we learn as much from them as they do from us – if not more! – a rare privilege that we do not intend to deprive ourselves of anytime soon.
What can you do during your free time?
Activities near us
This is holiday country; the rest of France come down here in the summer to get away from the cities’ pollution and stress, so there are loads for tourists to discover and do. But if you would prefer to read a good book in a deck chair by the lake, you are most welcome to do this too.
Walking – there are several good footpaths accessible from the house. There are several lakes within walking distance as well as the Adour river in the valley below. The house is surrounded by meadows, vineyards and woods with boar and deer. Nature lovers will find a lot to delight them.
Cycling – the French are bicycling fanatics and cyclists are treated with respect.
Activities in nearby towns
- Fishing (bring your own equipment)
- Tourism: bastide towns, cathedrals, markets, museums, gardens, wine cellars and co-operative
What can you learn here?
We offer a variety of learning opportunities. Most importantly, you can learn more about meditation, the various practices and the extensive benefits.
You can learn more about the care and handling of horses (based on natural horsemanship principles). You can learn some French or English or improve your ability to speak either language. You can learn more about winemaking and wine tasting and once again, time permitting, you can join us on visits to local cellars and winemakers. You can also learn lots about gardening, including vegetable gardening and orchard managing. Depending on the time and length of your stay, you will meet local people, other volunteers and guests from all over the world. We considering meeting people and exchanging views and ideas to be the most valuable learning opportunities.
You will have every afternoon and Sundays off, so you will have lots of time to explore the region and learn more about the history and culture of Gascony. We know the region very well and are happy to point you in the right direction and provide you with maps and travel books as needed.
How do you get here?
Getting here is easy. There are 4 international airports within less than 2 hours’ drive from us: Pau (40 min), Lourdes/Pyrenees (40 min), Toulouse (100 min), Bordeaux (90 min) as well as Biarritz, just more than 2 hours away. From Lourdes and Biarritz you can take a train to Pau and from Pau, there is a bus to Nogaro. From Bordeaux, you take a train to Mont de Marsan and the bus to Nogaro. From Toulouse, there is a train to Auch and then a bus to Nogaro. Buses only provide a limited service on Saturdays and generally do not operate on Sundays and public holidays. Coordinating arrival times at the airport with train and bus departure times can be a challenge, so it is best to sort this out in advance. We will come and pick you up from Nogaro. Many of our guests have also used blablacar.fr successfully, at a fraction of the cost of buses and trains.
How does it work on a daily basis?
A typical day may look like this :
- 7h00: Wake up and breakfast
- 7h30: Personal meditation practice
- 8h00-13h30: Working Meditation – including a 30-minute tea break mid-morning.
- 13h30 to 14h30 : Lunch
- 18-19h00: Personal meditation practice
- 19h00: Dinner
How can you contact us to get more info or make a booking?
To ask about availability, please send an e-mail to email@example.com with your e-mail address as well as a short description of yourself and your abilities and the reasons why you want to volunteer. A photo will be appreciated. If you have a horse, please send a picture of the horse too. If we have availability, we will send you a confirmation e-mail asap. Once you have committed to a working holiday, we count on your participation. If you must cancel, please let us know as soon as possible so we can find a replacement.
Anything else you need to know?
Terms & Conditions
As we want to make sure you enjoy your time with us and to make everything run smoothly we have a few T’s and C’s. Have a good read below and make sure that you understand and accept them. Booking a working meditation holiday with us means that you confirm that you will abide by them. Any questions, send us an e-mail.
We accept volunteers from the age of 21 years and older – there is no upper age limit. A reasonable understanding of either English or French will be useful. The work is physically demanding, the fitter you are the more you will enjoy it. Please note that we are not offering you a job, you will be staying and working with us as a volunteer, which means we can not organise work permits or visas for our volunteers.
What is included in your Working Meditation Holiday?
- Single or double accommodation, bedding and towels
- 5-6 hours’ work Monday to Saturday
- 3 full meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner usually eaten al fresco
- Unlimited wifi internet access
- Pick-up (and drop-off) from Nogaro
What should you bring on a Working Meditation Holiday?
- Suntan lotion, sun hat, sunglasses, swimsuit
- Work clothes, sturdy footwear for walking while exploring the region and to protect your feet around the horses and a good pair of gardening gloves
- Casual clothes for meditation practice
- Water and windproof jacket – it does occasionally rain here, even in summer. If you are coming in winter, remember we are in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, it snows here in winter, so bring lots of warm stuff
- Wash kit
- Your computer/phone/i-pad to access the internet
- Pyjamas/dressing gown as the bathroom is shared
- Insect repellent, personal first aid kit and any medication you might need
(List not exclusive)
If you for some reason or other can’t make it to your working meditation holiday, please let us know asap by e-mail. We reserve the right to cancel working holidays under seriously exceptional circumstances – we will let you know asap by e-mail.
We reserve the right to terminate any volunteer’s retreat without explanation if their behaviour is causing offence or impairs the health and safety of others or of the animals, causes damage to the property, if the quality of their work does not meet our requirements or if for some or other reason they are unable to work.
We can not stress enough how absolutely essential it is to take out a suitable travel and medical insurance policy! especially one that covers working with horses. Medications and treatment can be very expensive in France and it is best to have full cover for accidents and illness. If you are from the EU we recommend that you bring an EHIC card. Remember that your EHIC may not pay for all your treatment or medications; You may need to top it up with additional insurance. Also, our insurance policy does not cover the personal possessions of our volunteers against loss or damage.
We do not post pictures of our volunteers on social media nor do we publish anything about them online without their express permission. Even with their permission, we withhold their personal details. We expect our volunteers to adhere to the same standards.
We try our best to provide you with a working meditation retreat exactly as described here, but all sorts of circumstances out of our control may cause us to change the program and set-up. As most of our work happens outside, the main culprit is the weather. The information above was correct at the time of posting, please check with us for any recent changes.
If any of the above sounds appealing, please let us know asap. We would appreciate an e-mail telling us a bit more about yourself, what you expect from a working meditation retreat and what you can contribute. We are looking forward to hearing from you!