A few weeks ago, I wrote about the benefits of setting up a home retreat. In this post, I’d like to explore ways you can create your own retreat at home. There’s no single “correct” way to set up a home retreat. What’s most important is to figure out what benefits you hope to gain from your retreat. Then you can create a format that fits your needs.
Inquire Within: What to Consider in Creating a Home Retreat
One of the keys to creating a relaxing home retreat is to plan ahead. Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you identify how to put it together:
- How long would you like to retreat? If you’ve never done it before, you might want to start with a half day or full day.
- Would you like your retreat to be centered around yoga or meditation or both? Yoga practice can be a wonderful companion in a meditation retreat. It helps unwind the tension we often experience when we’re spending more time than usual in sitting meditation. If you’re going to include yoga practice, you’ll want to consider how to schedule meals so that you’re not practicing yoga within two hours after eating a full meal.
- Do you want to include recorded guided meditations or dharma talks? If so, you’ll want to choose these beforehand and cue them up so that you don’t have to fuss with setting them up during your retreat.
- In a full-day home retreat, you’ll probably want to include at least one meal during your retreat and another after you’re finished.
- What do you need to set up your space? Get out your yoga and meditation props so that they’re easily accessible.
- Do you want to practice on your own or invite a friend? If you invite a friend, meet beforehand to decide on the schedule, how you’re going to handle meals and recorded instructions or talks. Divvy up the retreat responsibilities so that you are both contributing.
How to Honor Your Intentions and Create a Home Retreat
- Once you’ve decided on the length of your retreat, you can work out a schedule. Decide when you’d like your retreat to start and end. Then decide how long you’d like each practice to last. For example, if you’re doing both sitting and walking meditation, decide if you’d like those periods to last, say, 20, 30 or 45 minutes each, or a combination of times. Then decide how long you’d like to practice yoga—60 minutes, 90 minutes, etc. In a day-long retreat, you can schedule an active morning yoga practice and Restorative afternoon practice, for example. Then set up your meditation periods, break periods, etc. Write out your schedule ahead of time, so that you don’t have to think about it once you begin your home retreat.
- Schedule a break or two, depending on the length of your retreat. We all need time to tend to daily responsibilities such as caring for our animal companions, washing dishes, etc. You may want to allot a longer-than-usual amount of time for meals or snacks, so that you can practice mindful eating. A home retreat gives you the opportunity to tend to your daily tasks with mindful care.
- If you’re including a meal in a full-day retreat, make it ahead of time, so that you can simply heat it up when you’re ready to eat. A pot of soup or stew is ideal in cooler weather. In the summertime, you can assemble a salad. Then give your attention to the process of eating. Mindful eating can be immensely pleasurable.
- If you’d like to include a dharma talk or meditation instructions, decide where you’d like to plug these into your schedule. You may already have a favorite source for instructions or dharma talks. My favorite is dharmaseed.org. The free Insight Timer app also has lots of guided meditations and shorter talks.
Unplug Your Devices
It seems odd to say this after I just suggested a few online sources for instructions and talks. But it’s really important to give your devices a rest during your home retreat, unless you’re connecting to talks or instructions. Our devices, useful as they are, can be a major distraction.
On our recent home retreat, my spouse and I agreed not to play our daily New York Times Spelling Bee. We knew it would be too easy to spend entire meditation sessions trying to come up with words.
On multi-day retreats, we agreed that we could look at email every few days in order to clear out spam. We both set up vacation messages so that we wouldn’t have to answer emails until after our retreat.
Full-Day Home Retreat: A Sample Schedule
Here’s one way you might structure a full-day retreat:
- 7:00 am: Wake up, enjoy tea or coffee
- 7:45 am: Sitting meditation
- 8:15 am: Walking meditation
- 8:45 am: Yoga practice
- 10:00 am: Breakfast (make it simple!)
- 10:30 am: Rest and/or mindful daily tasks
- 11:30 am: Sitting meditation with optional instructions
- 12:00 noon: Walking meditation
- 12:30 pm: Sitting meditation
- 1:00 pm: Walking meditation with optional mindful snack
- 1:30 pm: Restorative Yoga
- 3:15 pm: Sitting meditation with optional dharma talk (Feel free to sit with your back supported when you listen to a talk.)
- 4:15 pm: Retreat ends or further sitting
This is just a sample, to give you an idea as to how you might set up your own home retreat. You can tweak it in any way that suits your needs. You may want to start and/or end earlier or later. Or you might want to increase your yoga practice time and decrease your meditation time, or vice versa. Remember, this is your retreat.
If you find your home retreat to be valuable, you may want to do it once a month, once a quarter or once a year. You can always tweak your schedule before each retreat to suit your needs. But once you’ve decided on a schedule, it’s helpful to stick with it.
Prepare to Turn Inward
Preparation is key. The more detailed and thoughtful your preparations, the easier it will be to let go of logistics. This will free your mind to turn inward. You’re committing a day to invest in your wellbeing. You can make the most of it by doing all your planning beforehand.
Once you start, relax into it. One of the most profound benefits of practice is the development of equanimity. Equanimity is a state of resilience and ease no matter what is happening. At times, your home retreat may feel like a slog. At other times, it may feel relaxed and easeful. Let go of expectations. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to retreat at home. Remember, home retreat is a time to restore your energies. Relax into the process.