Preparing for Retreat

A meditation retreat is an opportunity for deepening your mindfulness practice in a sustained and powerful way. In the past, we deepened our understanding by attending residential retreats away from home. Now we have the opportunity to attend in a new online format. Since you will be doing this retreat from your home rather than with the support of a dedicated retreat center, it is important that you are aware of the unique benefits and unique challenges that come with virtual retreats.

The following guidelines will help you have the most successful retreat experience possible. (Note: We gratefully acknowledge that these guidelines were modified from ones that were offered to Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s Advanced Practitioners Program.)

  1. Setting up your Retreat Space
    • Please check all of your email folders (especially “All Mail” and “promotions” for Gmail users) for email notifications arriving from: admin (at)
    • If at all possible, set up a dedicated space for the retreat where you have internet access. Useful supplies include a chair and/or meditation cushion for seated meditation, a yoga mat and/or blanket for movement meditation or reclining practice. You may also wish to create a small altar with a candle, flowers, meaningful photos of loved ones or teachers, a statue, or whatever else helps you create a sense of “sacred space” for your retreat. If you share your space with others, let them know the hours you will be practicing in this space; you may even wish to put a sign on the door.
    • Find a place for walking meditation. This might include walking around the block or in a hallway or larger room. It is preferable not to have to navigate street crossings or traffic.
    • Time zones and scheduling: This retreat will be held in Eastern Time US and so the schedule may not be ideal for those in European, Pacific or other time zones. Eastern Time: 8:15 am – 8:15 pm (Central European Time 2:15 pm – 2:15 am; Pacific Time 5:15 am – 5:15 pm). We will be able to provide recordings of the main zoom sessions (each day: Guided Instructions, Guided Movement, Heart Practice and Dharma Talk). Participants will also join practice group meetings during the retreat that you are highly encouraged to participate in (only in-person/zoom).
    • Print this document prior to the retreat to keep it handy
  1. Considerations for Mindful Movement Practice
    • The movement practice offered is accessible to everyone and every body. If something does not feel supportive because of an injury you are welcome to modify and adjust and/or move at your own pace. 
    • Have enough space to lie down on the floor comfortably with legs extended and arms out to the side. If not coming to the floor, you may remain in the chair or even do some postures standing. If using a chair, make sure it is one without wheels.
    • If on a hard surface floor, use a yoga mat with a blanket on top for warmth and comfort.
    • Two firm yoga blankets (or sturdy blankets like quilts/ wool blankets) optional and useful.
    • Have enough space to stand and extend your arms fully above your head and all around you without touching anything.
    • Stand where you can easily hear the directions and see the demonstrations from the teacher on the screen (use “Speaker View” in Zoom).
    • Have a chair without wheels nearby that you can hold to help with balancing poses, or take a seated break from standing.
  1. Electronic Media
    • We will be using Zoom video-conferencing for our retreat. Please visit our Zoom Basics and Tips page to orient yourself to this technology before the retreat, and attend the Retreat Orientation and Zoom Open House to learn more about the retreat format and if you need additional assistance or would like to test your system.
    • Your retreat teachings and meetings will be delivered using an online video-conferencing system. Please make sure you are familiar with the system your retreat is using and have tried it out before your retreat begins. To support yourself and the group, before your retreat begins please close all other programs than the one that you are using for your retreat and turn off all of the notifications on your devices. If you need help with this, visit our Zoom Support page for more information once your registration is confirmed.
    • Set up an auto-reply for email and phone as if you were out of town letting people know that you are on retreat and will not be responding until the retreat is over.
  1. Meals
    • If possible, do all of your food shopping before the retreat begins.
    • Keep the meals simple, perhaps pre-preparing some food that can be eaten throughout the week. Example: a large pot of soup for dinners.
    • Consider writing a meal plan so you do not have to decide what to prepare for each meal.
  1. Navigating housemates, spouses, partners, and children in the home who are not on retreat
    • Have a conversation about your retreat time. Here are some things you might want to cover:
      1. Acknowledge that it will most likely feel awkward and strange at first, but a rhythm can develop that can work for everyone.
      2. Let them know that this is a silent retreat and see if you can get support in being in noble silence for the duration of the retreat. If necessary, you might want to discuss a specific time of the day to connect verbally so that the communication is contained.
      3. If possible, ask for support in having a quieter overall living space. Ask people to use earbuds or headphones or at least keep the volume low in a separate room. If it is not possible to get support for this, consider how to incorporate this into your practice.
      4. Discuss and post your retreat schedule.
      5. Suggestions if you have children
        • If you have children at home, silence may not be a realistic option throughout the entire day. In that case, you may wish to think about and discuss “mindful speech” practices at times like family dinners.
        • If they are old enough, talk with your kids about what you are doing and ask their input for how to create a supportive environment. Enlist them as allies.
        • With younger children, hold the time with them as part of your mindfulness practice. Consider choosing activities for your time together that support your mindfulness; for example: cooking or baking together, art projects, playing imaginative games, time in nature, storytelling or reading aloud rather than consuming media together.
    • Navigating those you live with will be part of the retreat and there will be opportunities to discuss this in your meetings with teachers as part of the practice.