Getting ready for an online retreat
Here are some suggestions to help you get the most out of your online retreat.
Depending on your circumstances you may not be able to follow all the steps, so please take this as a guide only.
Reserve the entire Easter break
Schedule from Friday morning through to Monday lunchtime 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 (11am & 4pm), time for meditating and time for resting. Sticking to this schedule will help you to keep the retreat atmosphere over the 4 days. 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 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.
Detailed outline for a restorative retreat
Here is a possible structure for a retreat where the core aim is to release fatigue and restore balance. The operating principles are allowing oneself to sink, sleep and enjoy the natural pleasures of the senses.
Morning (First light 6 am, dawn 6:30am)
- Rise when it suits you, sleep-in if you need to
- Eventually rise and ablute, then in any order:
- light exercises and simple meditations (washing meditation, body scan, simple breath) followed by short tantra visualisation of your choice. 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.
- Mindful eating, perhaps in garden if weather is kind.
- Mindful laziness … take your time.
- No reading at this time.
- Depending on available time before 11 am online class, consider a series of breath or mantra meditations (20-30 minutes) interspersed with slow-walking meditation, and a yoga or similar exercise session. If feeling sleepy, allow yourself to nap.
- After the 11am-12pm class prepare and enjoy the main meal of the day, aiming to finish by ~ 2pm
- After lunch, in any order:
- Yoga nidra, using MP3 guide if necessary.
- Pleasurable reading of uplifting or light entertaining literature
- Mindful laziness
- short meditation, walk or light exercise returning in time for 4 pm online class
- Walk to observe sunset at ~ 6:30pm
- Light evening meal, followed by in any order:
- Light reading
- 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 Breath-the-Ball outside in night air
- Night walk
- Light reading by a soft incandescent lamp.
Contemplation - The Highest Blessings
Not to associate with fools, to associate with the wise and to respect those worthy of respect.
To live in a suitable location, to have acted wisely, and to be well-directed.
To be cultured and knowledgeable, to have a good craft and highly trained discipline, and to speak pleasantly.
To have a good family and a peaceful occupation.
To be generous, act ethically, be free from blame, and help others.
Not to overwhelm the senses with drugs and to hold to clear, ethical decisions.
Respect, humility, contentment, gratitude, and the opportunity to study the teaching.
Patience, freedom from arrogance, healthy aspiration and the opportunity to discuss the teaching.
Self-discipline, insight, realisation and integration of the teaching.
A mind free from being driven by the world, sustained in a balanced, secure and clear state, strong and centred.
These are the highest blessing for those who can fulfil their work and so move contentedly, purposefully and meaningfully through life.