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Welcome to Your Retreat

A Message from Jack Kornfield

When a widespread difficulty like the Coronavirus pandemic grows, it becomes important to draw on our inner strength. It is the time to pause, reflect and bring wisdom, courage, and care to ourselves and those around us. We human beings have survived for a thousand generations, helping one another and inspiring each other. We know how to do this. Instead of getting caught in collective fear and anxiety, we can remember to take a breath, center ourselves, and take practical precautions and protections, but calmly and in the spirit of love. Each of us can contribute to the well-being of ourselves, our communities and our world. As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh explains: When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates if everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive. Let us practice together in these difficult days so we can be that person.

This is a powerful time to create a home retreat for yourself if you can create the space. The purpose of a retreat is to follow a formal rhythm of practice that allows you to center yourself, tend your body, quiet your mind, see the present circumstances with clarity and freedom, and open your heart. It will take some dedication to do this, and we will show you how to set it up. By choosing to let go of the usual habits of distraction, online time, unnecessary busyness and tasks that can wait, you can make this a beneficial and healing time. Though initially, a home retreat may feel unfamiliar or hard, you will gradually find yourself settling in and feeling grateful for the rewards. Now is the perfect time to draw on the inner strength of meditation and deepen your capacity to live amidst it all with awareness and compassion.

Note if you had planned to attend a residential retreat: For many, the home retreat has been transformative in ways not experienced in residential retreats. Our homes tend to be places where our habits are strongest; the momentum of unconsciousness can be strongest in the home environment. The possibility of bringing awareness to this aspect of our lives is very powerful. While individual experiences are quite varied, it does allow us to deeply integrate our spiritual path into our living space, creating the visual and temporal reminders of path and practice in our own homes.

We look forward to supporting you on this retreat. If you choose to attend, if at all possible, we are asking that you commit to the retreat with the same integrity you would bring to a retreat in a residential setting.


Preparing for Your Retreat

1. Setting up your Retreat Space

If at all possible, set up a dedicated space for the retreat where you have internet access.

Find a place for walking meditation. This might include walking around the block or in a hallway or larger room. It is preferable not to have to navigate street crossings or traffic.

Print this document and the retreat schedule prior to the retreat to keep them handy.

2. Considerations for Movement (Yoga) Practice

Have enough space to lie down on the floor comfortably with legs extended and arms out to the side. If not coming to the floor, you may remain in the chair or even do some postures standing. If using a chair, make sure it is one without wheels.

If on a hard surface floor, use a yoga mat with a blanket on top for warmth and comfort.

A yoga strap (or bathrobe tie, or a long necktie) is optional but very helpful.

Two yoga blocks (or sturdy books, encyclopedias anyone?) are optional, but also very helpful. Two firm yoga blankets (or sturdy blankets like quilts/ wool blankets) are optional and useful.

3. Electronic Media

We will be using the Zoom video-conferencing and a landing webpage which will be on the Spirit Rock website for our retreat. Details about how to use Zoom will be covered before the retreat begins. To support yourself and the group we ask that you close all programs except Zoom and turn off all of the notifications on your devices. If you need help with this, please let us know.

Set up an auto-reply for email and phone as if you were out of town.

4. Meals

If possible, do all of your food shopping before the retreat begins.

Keep the meals simple, perhaps pre-preparing some food that can be eaten throughout the week. Example: a large pot of soup for dinners.

Consider writing a meal plan so you do not have to decide what to prepare for each meal.

5. Navigating housemates, spouses, partners, and children in the home who are not on retreat

Have a conversation about your retreat time. Here are some things you might want to cover:

Acknowledge that it will most likely feel awkward and strange at first, but a rhythm can develop that can work for everyone.

Talk about noble silence and see if you can get support in being in noble silence for the duration of the retreat. If necessary, you might want to discuss a specific time of the day to connect verbally so that the communication is contained.

If possible, ask for support in having a quieter overall living space. Ask people to use earbuds or headphones or at least keep the volume low in a separate room. If it is not possible to get support for this, consider how to incorporate this into your practice.

Post your retreat schedule.

It may work better for you to switch a sitting time with a mealtime to limit interactions in the kitchen.

Suggestions for if you have children

If they are old enough, talk with your kids about what you are doing and ask their input on how to create a supportive environment. Enlist them as allies. 

Feel free to ask the Teachers about your specific situation. Navigating those you live with will be part of the retreat and we will be checking in about how this is going during the retreat. Don’t worry if it gets weird and challenging. We will learn together how to turn toward such challenges with our practice.

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