Happy in the Heart: Practices to Generate Joy

Friday, Aug 24 to Sunday, Aug 26 (2 nights)


$310, $370, or $425 depending on room
Please note this does not include dana.

“The cultivation of happiness is one of the most important skills anyone can ever learn. Luckily, it’s not hard when we know the way to water and nourish those wholesome seeds, which are already there in our consciousness.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Especially in times of struggle or difficulty, it’s so important that we not lose sight of joy in our lives. As the Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn so often reminds us, “Suffering is not enough.”

In fact, one of the greatest gifts of meditation practice is that it can help us to train our minds and hearts to generate even more joy and happiness in our lives, no matter what circumstances we may be experiencing in any moment.

The Buddhist teachings in particular not only show us that creating even more joy in our lives is possible, but give us ample instructions about how to do it.

During our time together, we’ll be gently exploring a variety of these teachings and practices, and tapping into the abundance of joy that has been residing all along in the heart, just waiting to be awakened.

In order to nurture a sense of stillness and deep listening, silence will be maintained throughout the retreat, as we experience a variety of dharma talks, silent and guided meditations, and walking meditation on the grounds. Check-in will begin at 4 p.m. Friday, and the retreat will end at 3 p.m. Sunday.

The Teacher: Shell Fischer, founder of Mindful Shenandoah Valley, is a full teacher and senior practitioner with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C. (IMCW). She offers 25 years of experience in mindfulness practice and study, and was trained in the Meditation Training Institute of Washington, D.C., by IMCW’s founder and guiding teacher, Dr. Tara Brach – one of the nation’s leading Insight teachers. Shell’s main focus is to help people nurture an abundance of kindness and compassion for themselves and others through the practice of mindfulness.

The Venue: Claymont Court is a unique, intimate old mansion nestled on 369 acres of forest and farmland in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of West Virginia, less than 40 minutes from Washington Dulles International Airport, less than 90 minutes by car from Washington, D.C. or Baltimore, and less than 30 minutes from Winchester, VA. The 16,000-square foot mansion, built in 1840 for the Washington family, is on the National Register of Historic places, and includes numerous walking trails throughout the surrounding farmland, forests, and orchards.

The retreat center is committed to using green technology, and most of its excellent organic cuisine is made from fresh, local produce. Guests can enjoy meals in the mansion’s wood-paneled dining room, long sunroom, or on the big outdoor porch that stretches across the whole back of the house – all of which look out onto the grounds. Vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free options are available upon request.

Some testimonials about the food from participants of the past retreats at Claymont :

“Excellent, great variety!”
“So delicious and plentiful!”
“Couldn’t have been better!”
“Loved the food! (Ate too much).”

Guest Rooms: The mansion’s comfortable, unique rooms include towels, sheets, pillows, and blankets for guests. **This retreat is limited to 40 participants. 

New to retreats? Click here to read an article Shell wrote about attending retreats.


Incredible experience! I loved everything about it; perfect!

I could not have asked for a better first experience at a silent meditation retreat. This was life-changing!

Excellent – awesome food, excellent teacher, and perfect relaxing atmosphere.

I loved everything! I had no idea what to expect, and for the first time in ages I was able to take a weekend completely for myself with zero guilt. I feel so relaxed right now.

So beautiful. Spending a weekend at this mansion is more than what I could have expected.

The setting was beautiful, and the combination of silent sitting and walking provided me with just the right silence I was seeking.

I loved everything! The fantastic teacher, the beautiful house and grounds, and the healthy delicious meals. I wanted to weep several times as I took in and practiced loving-kindness, respect, and prioritizing well-being. I can’t think of anything I’d like to see improved.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom, your personal examples, and your energy. Your guidance and encouragement was inspiring and helpful.

Well organized, beautiful setting, wonderful teacher.

Just thank you, thank you, thank you!!

The wonderful, thoughtful, balanced, considered answers to questions helped me, even though I’d not considered the questions!

I would highly recommend this wonderful retreat.

Very wise, caring people who answered questions with compassion and insight, and created a feeling of safety and comfort throughout.

The teachings were outstanding: insightful, humorous, and wonderfully gentle. 

I feel so blessed by your teachings, your presence, and your willingness to share your own processes for “walking with” yourself.

Thank you for a wonderful weekend! I wasn’t sure how well I’d handle all the sitting, but I felt very comfortable and got so much out of the talks and guided meditation. I’m feeling very joyful today!

Thank you for the space and opportunity to just be and rediscover some lost parts of myself.

REGISTRATION: (for full retreat, including room & board)

A 50% deposit is required: You have the option of paying the full fee upfront, or making a 50% deposit to reserve your place at the retreat. Full payment is due two weeks prior to the retreat.

Refund Policy: If you cancel more than four weeks before the start of the retreat, your deposit will be refunded minus a $50 administrative fee. We cannot offer refunds for cancellations made less than four weeks before the retreat unless we are able to fill your space. If we are able to fill your space, the administrative fee will be $100 and the balance will be refunded. There is no refund if you decide to leave the retreat early.

When considering rooms, please remember that this is an old mansion, so … the upper and lower level rooms are nice and cozy and were likely meant for staff, while the main level rooms were built for the family, so … higher ceilings, better views, etc. 
$310 Shared room of 2-5 in upper or lower level of mansion OPEN
$370 Shared room of 2-5 in main level of mansion OPEN
$425 Single room with double bed FULL

*If a room you’d like is FULL, you can email Shell about getting on a waiting list. (And if all the rooms are FULL, this means the retreat itself is FULL.) There are always openings, especially closer to the retreat date. *A deposit is NOT required to get on the waiting list. Please also remember to include a phone number in your email.

*Traditional dana (generosity) offerings at the end of the retreat are appreciated and support the teacher.



NOTE: The retreats listed here have been entered by the retreat organizers. For any questions, use the contact information listed on the retreat page. Please do not contact the Buddhist Insight Network.