Getting to The Big Raise
Q: What’s the nearest station to The Big Raise (La Grande Raisandière in French)?
A: La Ferté-Bernard is the nearest station. The line is Paris Montparnasse-Le Mans. There is a train roughly every two hours. They leave from platforms 18–22 at Montparnasse.
Q: How much does the train cost?
A: The cost is €52.80 return or less if you have some sort of railcard.
Q: Is there a buffet car on the train?
A: Alas, no, so travel prepared!
Q: How can I get from La Ferté-Bernard train station to The Big Raise?
A: If you tell us that you are travelling on the 18:06 train from Paris Montparnasse on the Friday night, which arrives at La Ferté-Bernard at 19:55, or the 19:40 from Le Mans, which arrives at 20:04, then we will book you a place in a taxi, which will cost 20€ divided by the number of passengers.
Q: Can I travel from La Ferté Bernard and The Big Raise by bicycle?
A: Of course, yes. We do it all the time. It takes 20 mins to get up to the farm and 12 minutes to get back to the station! Don’t worry, the vertical climb is only 68m!
Q: Can I come by car?
A: We encourage participants to come by train because public transport creates less pollution than cars. If you come by electric car, you can charge it at the farm.
Q: How much do your weekend courses cost?
A: Our courses are donations-based, which means we offer participants the opportunity to leave a donation at the end if they want someone else to benefit from a course with us. This concept is called Dāna, which means generosity, charity or alms in Sanskrit. The idea is simple: if you feel you’ve learnt something during your time with us, then you donate so that someone else can enjoy the same benefits. A donation of 50€ per person covers our basic costs (food, electricity, water, train ticket for our assistant); 100€ allows us to replace broken or worn out gardening tools and to pay website costs; with a donation of 150€ or more we are able to invest in the house (new bathroom for participants, decoration of bedrooms etc.).
Q: Do you require a deposit to confirm a reservation?
A: Yes, we require a deposit of £30 or 30€ to confirm a reservation. This will be refunded to you upon arrival at the farm. However, if you cancel within two weeks of the start of a course, and we can’t find anyone to replace you, we reserve the right to retain your deposit to cover our costs.
Q: Can I bring my child with me?
A: Yes, if the child is over 10 years old and provided that the child does everything the adults do, including getting up at 06:50 to meditate at 07:00! There must be one parent per child.
Q: What sort of meditation do you teach at The Big Raise?
A: Our inspiration is Vipassana – concentration on the bodily sensations – which is the form of meditation that the Buddha taught. However, we actually teach Anapana, a form of meditation where you concentrate on your breath. Anapana is a stepping stone to Vipassana. If you do a ten-day Vipassana silent meditation course, you will spend the first three days practising Anapana.
Q: Are the meditation sessions guided and do you use mental images, mental mantras or music to help participants to concentrate?
A: There is some guidance before and during the meditation sessions, but, like the Buddha, we do not use mental images, mental mantras or music. This form of meditation is about you and your thoughts, nothing else.
Q: How long do the meditation sessions last?
A: The first meditation session will last about 45 minutes during which time you will be expected to sit cross legged with your eyes shut. If you need to change position during the meditation session, then please do so quietly and discretely so as not to disturb your neighbours. The second and third meditations will last for just under an hour. After each meditation session there will be a chance for people to share their experiences if they so wish.
Q: Can I have a single room or a double bed?
A: Everyone will sleep in twin rooms i.e. two people per room in separate beds. Some of the beds are doubles; some are singles. We recommend that you bring earplugs in case someone snores.
Q: Can I sleep outside in a tent?
A: Yes. From June to September we can offer you a place in a collective tent (or you can bring your own tent), a camping mattress, a pillow and a pillowcase. You’ll need to bring a sleeping bag.
Q: Do I need to bring a duvet, a pillow, sheets or a towel?
A: We’ll provide duvets, pillows and sheets. Please bring your own towel.
Q: Can I sleep at a hotel or in an Airbnb or similar?
A: Yes, you can, although there are none that we particularly recommend, and you run the risk of being late for meditation in the morning.
Clothing and shoes
Q: What sort of clothing should I bring?
A: Between October and April, you’ll need warm clothing and waterproof clothing. Sometimes the work outside can be a bit muddy so you also need clothes that can you don’t mind getting dirty. Ideally you should bring rubber or plastic boots because the field can be very wet, especially in the morning. Between October and April, you will feel much more comfortable if you have slippers for indoors.
Q: What is the dietary regime at The Big Raise?
A: All meals will be vegan during the weekend. The only exception is at breakfast, where there may be some butter because Blanche eats it! We only use organic ingredients. Our fresh food is always seasonal and local. Indeed, it often comes from our own garden. If you have any sort of food allergy, then please tell us at least one week before the weekend and we will make sure there are alternatives in place.
Q: Will there be wine or beer at meal times?
A: We will not provide alcohol during the weekend and we ask you not to bring alcohol. For effective meditation, it’s really good to limit alcohol consumption.
Q: I have a back/elbow/knee/neck/hand problem etc. Can I participate in all sessions?
A: Some activities carried out during the workshops (digging of the ground, transport of wheelbarrows etc.) are more physical than others, so please tell us when you arrive if you are likely to have difficulty doing certain activities or gestures.
Q: I am a wheelchair user. Can I still participate in one of your weekends?
A: Yes, you can. We have a bedroom on the ground floor for anybody who can’t use the stairs. Some of the more physical activities outdoors would be difficult but there will always be a way to participate. The one thing we would say is that it might be better to do a course during the summer months as the front yard, the field and the garden can get quite wet and muddy from October to April.