Reserve the entire retreat time as a break
Schedule from the first morning through to the last afternoon for your at-home retreat. Mark it on your calendar. Tell your friends and family that you will be busy during this time. Treat this retreat just as you would any other retreat.
Get your household on board
If you live with others, and especially if you have children, going on a retreat at home can be a challenge. Try to get everyone to agree to respect what you are doing. This includes not speaking to you too much if you decide to maintain silence during your retreat. If you have children, it can be worthwhile to add some time into your retreat schedule to specifically spend with them (see below). This way they get the benefit of retreat as well!
Create a schedule to suit you
Just like an in–person Lifeflow retreat, create a schedule. Activities include exercise, meals, attendance at the classes (theory, guided meditation, deep relaxation and yoga), time for meditating and time for resting. Sticking to this schedule will help you to keep the retreat atmosphere over the length of the retreat. Aim to have two periods of exercise each day. This may include a walk in your local area, park, or somewhere close by in nature, some more yoga stretches or movement meditation, or an ‘at-home’ workout that works for you.
Include in your schedule some “Do-Nothing-Time.” This might be time sitting outside if the weather is nice, a chance to soak up the sounds around you, reflect, and cherish the rich experience of ‘being’.
Plan your meals
Planning your meals ahead of time will mean that you will have all the necessary food available with no need to go dashing out to the supermarket mid retreat. You might like to cook before the retreat to minimize preparation time, or you may enjoy the preparing of each meal as a mindfulness exercise during the retreat – this will work particularly well if you enjoy cooking. Aim for healthy nutritious food to enhance your time in retreat.
If possible, turn off your phone and disconnect from emails and social media. Time away from screens and the constant need to keep in touch will be valuable and add greatly to your retreat experience. If you do need to check in with the world then put this in your schedule and minimise the time you allow for this.
Prepare your space
Undertaking your retreat in a neat, clean home will help set a positive tone. Plan to spend some time cleaning up before you begin your retreat. If possible clear away clutter and electronic devices in the bedroom so you can sleep restfully. And elsewhere in the house, put away anything that reminds you of work or things you may be feeling stressed about.
Have all the items you would normally bring on a retreat handy such as pen, notebook, yoga mat, suitable chair, stool or cushion for sitting meditation.
And a few specific suggestions for a retreat at home
Here are some specific suggestions for structuring a retreat at home. In summary, it is built around the schedule that we use at Tara Hills retreats. Please take what you can, adapt where possible (particularly the timing for the different seasons), and leave what won’t work 😊
Morning – before the Zoom session
- Rise when it suits you, sleep-in if you need to
- Once you are up, then in any order:
- Light exercises and simple meditations – listen to a guided meditation recording if you need to (e.g. washing meditation, body scan, simple breath). If feeling sleepy, allow it to come.
- Walk in park, along beach, whatever nature is available near your home. Or even a morning cup of tea in the garden.
- Breakfast – where possible practising mindful eating. If you have a garden space where you can eat, and the weather is kind, then try having breakfast there 🌞
After the Zoom session
- Some light exercise, or even mindful chores – washing dishes, cleaning etc
- If you do want to read anything, try that now. It’s best if it can be reading relating to either the retreat or meditation in general.
- Another meditation in the late afternoon
Late afternoon, into the evening
- Light evening meal, followed by in any order:
- A gentle walk to take in the sunset colours
- Star gazing informal meditation
- Short meditation
- Attempt to go to bed before 9pm
- If problems falling asleep, try body scan
- If wake up and can’t fall back to sleep, don’t keep rolling over and over in bed. Use the time to either:
- Formally meditate … try a longer one, perhaps 45 minutes
- Informal stargazing meditation
- Movement meditation … eg Breathing-the-Ball outside in night air
- Night walk
- Light reading by a soft incandescent lamp.