To Retreat is to Meditate
#1 Doing a meditation retreat at home
One of the best ways to meditate at home is by doing a meditation retreat.
Don’t let the word ‘retreat’ scare you, it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself and others actually.
And, if anything, if you haven’t done a meditation retreat before, doing a meditation retreat at home may be a gentler and less confronting approach and introduction for you.
When you can’t leave home it’s the best place to be
Home really should be a retreat generally, a haven from the hustle and bustle.
But we tend to bring the hustle and bustle home with us or we create it. We have a list as long as our arm of the things we now have to do whilst home (none of which support true withdrawal or retreat).
We can overcome these perceived barriers to doing a meditation retreat at home and there are many reasons why we would do a meditation retreat at home, like the following:
- we can’t financially afford to go on a retreat somewhere else
- we’re not in a position to take time off from work or other commitments for a weekend, week-long or month long meditation retreat
- we feel a little overwhelmed, anxious or nervous about attending a retreat with strangers
- our minds run wild with thoughts of what will be expected of us at a meditation retreat
- we feel more comfortable in our own surroundings
But, if you can close the laundry door (though some daily chores can be useful for practicing mindfulness), switch off the TV and your phone, and choose not to be distracted nor drawn into external noise or thinking of the things you ‘should’ (there’s that pesky word again) be doing and doing them. It can be done.
It just takes the desire to do it, discipline and determination.
Ahead of the pack in your natural environment
Really, if you can do it, a meditation retreat at home has even greater benefits than being cloistered away somewhere in an environment that is not one within which you usually live.
If you can retreat whilst at home and practice in your everyday environment you are ahead of the majority.
The challenges for many who go physically on a retreat is that they find it difficult to transition and apply what they have learnt when they get home.
if you can attend a meditation retreat that’s great too. I’ve been on these too and they are invaluable and I’ve had profound insights and they have changed my life.
But, if there is a reason you can’t attend in person, don’t think that you can’t achieve or reap the same benefits. You can!
So as not to evoke resistance and panic, why not start with a 2-day weekend meditation retreat at home.
I’ve listed some things below to support you on your meditation retreat at home.
Setting up and supporting your meditation retreat at home
My top 12 retreat success tips
1. Create an uncluttered space for your meditation
But less clutter is good, and perhaps enough space that you are able to lay down or stretch.
Have what you may need at hand e.g. water or if it may become cool have socks or a sweatshirt at hand.
You may like a meditation cushion – see Tip Number 2. If not, roll up some towels to create height for when you sit.
2. Meditation Cushions
It’s definitely not a pre-requisite to a successful meditation experience, but it may help you to get a meditation cushion or two.
I say two because it’s best to have the knees below the pelvis i.e. a downward slant. So, cushions can help with posture and subsequently energy flow.
At the end of the day though, if you are new to meditation I think it’s best to go with what is most comfortable for you so you don’t lose motivation.
if you’re interested, you can check out my review What is The Best Zafu Meditation Cushion – 3 of the Best Reviewed!
3. Turn off your phone and other devices (and don’t touch it)
If the thought of giving your phone to someone to hold creates too much anxiety, just put it away and set an intention not to go near it. if you do, don’t beat yourself up, just let it go and put the phone away again.
2. Don’t watch TV (I imagine that your eyes are wide with fear at this point)
This is a very common distraction along with our phones and other devices. It has the ability to numb us or overstimulate. It takes us below thinking into a sluggish state or ramps up our thinking into areas we don’t need to go.
Our aim is to go beyond thinking rather than below thinking.
3. Don’t read or write
Any insights you may have you will remember so don’t worry about writing them down at least not during your retreat period.
4. Don’t speak
If you live with others perhaps you can bring them on board with you and make an agreement to not speak.
Often when in the company of others there can be a tendency to either want to tell others what’s going on for us or for others to want to offload onto us with their own experiences, insights or challenges.
This has the result of taking us away from our own experiences (or into our own heads) and/or can break into the progress we have made and theirs.
This is why meditation or spiritual retreats are often silent.
As much as this might evoke a sense of panic in you, it actually isn’t that difficult once the rule has been set.
And believe it or not, it can be really enjoyable and you will find that you don’t want to talk.
Personally, my opinion is that speaking is really quite over-rated.
5. Have your fridge and cupboards stocked (with healthy foods and drinks if possible)
You can use the preparation of food and eating as a time to be mindful.
Just cook, prepare your food, focus on each movement and sense perceptions. Whilst eating do the same – taste each mouthful, feel the texture etc.
Again, don’t speak. I recall when I went on my first retreat and I was at a table with others on our first meal together this felt very strange.
We generally feel compelled to speak if someone is next to or sitting opposite us – we have to be polite or it’s uncomfortable right. After that first meal, I have to tell you, it was a blessing not to have to generate conversation.
6. Don’t drink alcohol
For obvious reasons alcohol and other substances should be precluded as they can interfere with your experience.
7. Managing physical sensations or emotions
Sometimes on retreat, there can be a sense of a build-up of physical pressure or discomfort. I felt it in my stomach. I have to say it wasn’t pain per se. It lasted a few hours (I just watched it without any mental catastrophising or story around it and then it dissipated). This can be quite normal.
Disclaimer here: You need to make the decision whether it is a medical condition that requires professional medical assistance.
Our emotions can build up too. if you feel emotions, just feel them in the body (you can usually find where they sit) and watch them again without the mental stories associated that keep it alive. Again, don’t try to resist or avoid but don’t engage mentally with them.
8. Tell others if you have to that you are going on a meditation retreat
So, if you feel it is necessary, tell those who need to know that you are going on retreat or away for a couple of days if that is easier or just say you won’t be available for whatever period of time you intend on taking.
Also, no-one needs to know you are staying home either if you don’t want to say.
If no-one needs to know and it won’t cause distress to others if they can’t get you, just go AWOL.
9. If you live with others
I understand that not everyone lives alone so this can be challenging. So, perhaps you can bring them on board to do the retreat with you? Can someone look after your children for the weekend? Can your partner or others spend the weekend away?
If none of these are possible for you, take the moments that you can, whenever and wherever you can.
10. Draft a Schedule
It could be helpful to keep yourself on track to draft yourself a daily schedule that includes:
- Wake up time. Early to rise is good. 6.00am is reasonable. Though I would allow flexibility with this – sometimes we just need to allow ourselves to sleep.
- Specific meal times (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Allow time for preparation and clean up (both of these tasks can be used as mindfulness activities). Eat after you do your moving or sitting meditations.
- Include morning and afternoon tea/snack times.
- Include moving meditation before you try a sitting meditation. These don’t necessarily have to be lengthy sessions, but at least 3/4 a day would be good. At a minimum it is good to stretch particularly prior to a morning meditation. Moving Meditation can help with loosening the body and readying yourself for extended sitting, to release some pent up energy and in fact can help you to balance. See my article Is Yoga Meditation? 4 Activities You Never Knew Were Meditation for some moving meditation options.
- In between your eating, meditation and moving meditation ‘just be’. You could introduce some mandala colouring or painting but I think you will find that surprisingly there won’t be alot of time for this or you will be happy to just be – perhaps you will walk and watch or observe the mind. In these quiet and still times we can have profound insights. If you do choose to introduce some mandala painting or colouring just make sure that you watch your mind and try not to get caught up in too much thought or at least identify with the thoughts.
- Decide on a bed time. Often on retreat, we wake up early and we retire to bed early. If you are waking up early, it might be ok that you go to bed 9.00pm (remember, no writing or reading).
- Schedule in your bathing and hygiene routines. Again, you can use these activities as a time to be mindful. To learn more about mindfulness, you might like to read my article What is mindfulness practice? The path to happiness!
11. If you get off track
As with my previous advice, if you slip up, don’t let it overtake you. Accept what is, let it go and then move on.
The key here is to be gentle. The ego (mind) will do anything and everything in its power to re-engage you with it, so, just watch it (don’t resist), be the observer, see it for what it is and let it go.
12. Supporting audio or videos (highly recommended)
Now, I know that I said switch off the TV etc, but in this instance I’m making an exception.
When you go on a retreat, there are periods of silence yes, but at other times there are periods where a teacher will guide you through your meditation or what you may experience.
The first time I did a retreat at home, I did it with the support and guidance of Eckhart Tolle’s Deepening The Dimension of Stillness: A Retreat on the Essence of Who You Are.
I’ve provided a little more information on this program below.
If you haven’t heard of Eckhart Tolle he is a world renowned and respected teacher.
Cost: This package is only $55.96 only a fraction of the cost of attending one of Eckhart’s retreats which can cost up to $1500 or any other retreat you might attend outside of your home.
Description: Where do great ideas come from? What is the source of true happiness and fulfillment? Where can we find peace? In a word: stillness. With two bestselling works now considered spiritual classics, Eckhart Tolle has helped millions worldwide to break free from identification with thoughts—and enter into the freedom and joy of what he calls stillness, our essential nature. Deepening the Dimension of Stillness invites us to take the next step from occasional glimpses of spiritual awakening that more and more of us have experienced into a new, empowered, and lasting way of being in the world. Join Eckhart for a transformational retreat dedicated to fulfilling what he considers our ultimate purpose in life, as we explore together.
Finally, It’s available in CD or DVD format. I purchased the CD format but in hindsight I would get the video. At least then you have the option of either just listening or watching as well. It might also help with feeling more connected if you can visually see a person and hear the audience.
For help with your retreat at home buy Deepening the Dimension of Stillness here.
Final words of encouragement
If you find some of the tips too difficult choose those you think you can do. I would rather you do what you can than ditch the idea altogether because you think 1 or more are impossible for you at this stage.
As I said, it is possible to retreat at home, you can do it and if you do it once, I’m pretty sure you will want to do it again and again.
Meditation, stillness and quiet do become a little addictive and we can end up craving it.
It’s a great alternative if you can’t get away.
I wish you the best of luck!
if you feel that I’ve missed anything in my list of supporting your meditation retreat at home or you have any questions, please comment below. I will do my best to help you.
I’d also love to hear how you got on with your meditation retreat at home.