March 31, 2024 – The four-episode series focuses on retreats held by the Goenka network, teaching a popular meditation technique called Vipassana. Participants follow a strict schedule, waking before dawn and meditating silently for 10 days, 10 hours per day. They eat just two vegan meals each day. Meditation and mindfulness have many known health benefits, including helping to process trauma and manage anxiety, improve eating habits, and ease chronic pain. While many participants say Goenka retreats changed their lives for the better, The Retreat tells the stories of individuals whose mental health deteriorated during a 10 day retreat – or for some, after several 10-day retreats. 

Some spent time in psychiatric units, and two participants whose families spoke to Marriage, took their own lives.

She interviewed nearly two dozen people who had attended Goenka retreats in different countries, including the U.K., the United States, France, India, and Australia. According to these former participants, retreat staff all over the world had a similar reaction when they were approached with mental health problems. “They’re going to be telling you the same thing, which is keep meditating even if you’re in severe emotional distress,” she told NPR.