The MWS Podcast 55: Pete Mallard on the Barn Retreat

Pete Mallard is the manager of the Barn Retreat near Totnes in Devon. He talks about the Barn, what it does, the ethos behind it, the value of going on retreat and how all this might relate to the Middle Way.


MWS Podcast 55: Pete Mallard as audio only:
Download audio: MWS_Podcast_55_Pete_Mallard

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About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

8 thoughts on “The MWS Podcast 55: Pete Mallard on the Barn Retreat

  1. I appreciated Pete’s straightforward account of his meditation history, especially his admitting to ‘getting cross with his students’ as a result of his (TM) meditating, with insufficient structure to help him integrate the mental material that meditation loosens, and brings into consciousness to be worked on.

    I had the same experience (several times over)of making the same mistake: meditating, but thinking that feeling calm was evidence of integration. Although I felt ‘calm’ and ‘spacious’ after meditating, my nearest and dearest told me I was irritable, defensive and over-sensitive!

    On retreats, the talk rather disquieted me. I’ve not attended many retreats, and those I’ve attended have been both helpful and – at the same time – quite unsettling. Helpful, because the time alone encourages reflection, and I face myself more directly than when caught up in my numerous other roles and routines. Unsettling, because I can’t shake off the feeling I have of being selfish, in taking my concerns away privately to dissect, and sometimes disclose to strangers. I feel it to be a small betrayal of those I love, and who love me, that they aren’t there to participate in and contribute to whatever insights I gain, or small transformations I experience. And a small betrayal to open up to strangers about issues that I have not fully opened up about, or not as directly, to my own loved ones.

    When I get home after a retreat I experience a reticence to share much of the retreat experience with my wife and family. I think this is to be expected after an opening to oneself, and of oneself, in the company of others . Pete gave an illustration of the depth of ‘heart-connection’ experienced by two participants who were strangers to each other at the outset.

    This also concerns me a little: a close friend of mine met a woman – hitherto a complete stranger – on a psychodrama retreat (he was already in a long term partnership with another). They developed a deep bond , married precipitately within a few months, and he moved with his new bride to buy and refurbish an isolated cottage, intending to begin a joint business venture based on the property. Within three weeks they quarreled bitterly about how the roof should be restored, with slate or concrete tiles. They divorced some few months later, having, separated at the cottage after an excoriating argument – never to meet or communicate directly again.

    So the privacy and reticence concerns me (and, I think, members of my family), and the potential for emotional regression, turbulence, and unhealthy or unwise attachments. It may be ‘the price one pays’ for change, but it seems to me that it may be paid vicariously bythe family too, and that seems somehow wrong. This is a personal view, and it probably says a lot about the state of my mind, and my hang-ups. But I wonder if it’s something that bothers others?

    1. Hi Peter
      Thanks for sharing your concerns about opening up to others on retreat.

      The Barn is definitely not a therapy centre! As a retreat centre we give people the opportunity to remove themselves from their normal day to day life; to stand back and reflect on a personal level without the intervention of (or need to explain anything to) others. Our daily sharing is referred to as a ‘check in’. It is an opportunity for everyone to see how others are in the moment. If someone is quiet, or curt, or irritable etc, then they can let it be known and, moreover, know they’ve been heard. The purpose is to give everyone a sense that it’s normal and okay to be how they are. Some even ‘pass’ saying merely they would rather be quiet. The question ‘How are you in this moment?’ discourages opening up of deeper ongoing personal issues.

      The check-in is not an interactive exercise (as in psychodrama etc) and does not go deeply into anyone’s condition. We ask others not to comment, but to allow the speaker to be merely heard and acknowledged.

      The overriding purpose of the check in is to allow everyone to feel safe, in that they are not judged. This then allows them to fully settle and engage in the retreat process, where they can comfortably be themselves, and reflect personally on how they meet the world.

      best wishes, Pete

  2. Hi Peter ( & Pete)
    I think in relation to your comments, Robert’s suggestion that the terms ‘selfish and selfless’ are unhelpful for me is helpful. I’m not sure you can always really effectively separate caring for yourself and caring for others. I can only speak from my own experience, but I like to think (and have been told at times by my partner and friends) that going on retreat helps me to engage with the world a little bit better. You have said yourself on this site Peter that your family have seen a change in you in a positive way in the last year or so in the way you react with each other. Could going on retreat have played a part in that?
    I can fully support what Pete said about the Barn. I’ve been there on several occasions and the times that are set up to share stuff are conducted with great sensitivity. People can say as little or as much as they want to in a very supportive non-judgemental environment without comment.

    1. Thanks Barry, like Pete above your reply helped me put things in a better perspective. It’s a valid comment that my ‘inner work’ has been made much more meaningful since I began to make better sense of the middle way, and the retreats have contributed very much to that progress, as others have told me, and as I’ve noticed myself, and trusted my judgement. Pete/Peter :)

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