The Humanity of Shared Retreat Experience

For the past 15 years I’ve been part of our annual Fall Retreat.

This one was way different.

It was online.

For seven days.

I was skeptical.

When I’m doing intensive practice, I need help. I benefit from the rigor, accountability and discipline I only get when I’m in a meditation hall, shoulder-to-shoulder with others.

I doubted this format would work.

I assumed, like me, participants wouldn’t be able to maintain the perseverance required to work through the inevitable resistance and challenges that come up with intensive practice.

I assumed folks would get frustrated, distracted and tune out.

I was wrong.

A meditation retreat is a strange experience of being “alone together.”

By far, this was the most diverse retreat I’ve done.

The community of 200 was truly international, with participants from China, Africa, Europe, North and South America, Israel, Southeast Asia and Australia. It was made up of different ages, races, sexual orientations and identities, political parties and religions.

While each participant I saw in their little box on Zoom through the week was alone and intimately engaged in their personal journey, we also had our traditional practice groups.

These small groups meet throughout the week with teachers to share about challenges, difficulties, insights and observations along the journey.

The humanity of the shared experience blew open my mind and heart.

As each shared of their challenges as well as the awakening of wisdom and loving presence, there seemed to a deepening sense of our shared humanity.

If you’re at all intrigued with trying an online retreat, do give a go.

While there’s something lost in not being together in person, there is so much gained in the accessibility and diversity of being online with a global community.

Plus, you get to sleep in your own bed and if you want, you can do the whole thing in your PJ’s.

Now more than ever we all need to pause.

May you have all you need, internally and externally, to navigate the changes ahead.

Wishing you well,


Photo credit: Jonathan Foust, September 2019


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