If at all possible, set up a dedicated space for the retreat where you have reliable internet access (a direct EtherNet connection is best, or a strong WiFi signal).
Set up your meditation space with everything you need for comfort: cushions, chair, other supports. An altar can be helpful to ground and focus the space—a Buddha image, flowers, and a candle are common altar items.
Find a place for walking meditation. This might include walking around the block or in a hallway or larger room. It is best not to have to navigate street crossings or traffic.
Bookmark this page to keep it handy.
At first glance, doing a retreat at home, interacting with the teachers and community only online, may not seem like a “retreat” at all. For many of us, the thing that defines retreat is being somewhere other than at home! At Spirit Rock, the beauty of the land, the artfulness of the kitchen, and the stillness you can feel just stepping into the Main Hall are all part of what makes retreat so nourishing. People have always gone to nature, and to centers, temples, and monasteries away from the bustle of the city to devote themselves wholeheartedly to spiritual practice. So what is “home retreat”?
A home retreat is clearly not the same as a retreat on the Spirit Rock land and perhaps is best thought of as an entirely distinct practice. Home retreat shares core qualities with residential retreats, like the intention to devote ourselves fully to mindfulness and lovingkindness. But there’s one big difference: other people! When you’re on retreat at Spirit Rock, one of our primary intentions is to protect the retreat space. We use noble silence, the precepts, and the rhythms of communal practice to create the conditions for concentration and insight. In this protected space practitioners can go inward, become vulnerable, and devote themselves to practice mostly uninterrupted by logistical or interpersonal contact. The very definition of retreat may be something like protected space for spiritual practice.
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 Home Retreat
If your retreat includes mindful movement periods, consider setting up:
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 practicing on a hard surface, use a yoga mat with a blanket on top for warmth and comfort.
A yoga strap (or bathrobe tie, or a long neck tie) is optional and useful.
Two yoga blocks (or sturdy books) are optional and useful.
Two firm yoga blankets (or sturdy blankets like quilts or wool blankets) are optional and useful.
Have enough space to stand and extend your arms fully above your head and all around you without touching anything.
Stand where you can easily hear the directions and see the demonstrations from the teacher on the screen.
Practice where it is not windy.
Have a chair without wheels nearby that you can hold to help with balancing poses, or take a seated break from standing.
We use Zoom video conferencing for online retreats. Please visit Zoom Basics and Tips to orient yourself to this technology before the retreat, and attend the Pre-Retreat Technology Open House if you need additional assistance or would like to test your system.
To support your practice, we ask that you close all programs except Zoom and turn off all notifications on your devices. If you need help with this, visit Zoom Basics and Tips for more information.
Set up auto-replies for email and phone as if you were out of town.
If possible, do all of your food shopping before the retreat begins.
Keep the meals simple, perhaps preparing some food ahead of time. Example: a large pot of soup for dinner(s).
Consider writing a meal plan so you do not have to decide what to prepare for each meal.
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 practice time with a meal time 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 for 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.
During Home Retreat
We will be gathering for group sits, Dharma talks, practice discussions, and Q&A using Zoom video conferencing. The Zoom links will be posted on your retreat homepage, a link to which will be sent to those who have RSVP’d and committed to doing this retreat.
PLEASE DO NOT GIVE OUT THE ZOOM LINK TO OTHER PEOPLE. This is a retreat centered around our community and sharing the link with others would disrupt this.
We welcome you to be fully present with your camera on, as it strengthens the sense of community and the retreat container. However, if you need to go to another room or tend to other matters, please turn your video camera off. We’ve had feedback from previous retreatants and teachers that when they see movement happening during a discussion or sit, it is disruptive to the retreat container. If we see a distracting video feed, one of our retreat coordinators may reach out via private Zoom chat and request to turn off your camera.
Please don’t multitask while online with our community. Engage as fully as you would if we were in person.
Everyone will be muted when entering or exiting the rooms to cut down on feedback and extraneous sounds. You will be given the ability to unmute yourself at the appropriate time.
Please refrain from moving your laptop / tablet / phone around with the video camera on. This helps bring a quality of settledness to our online community.
While on Zoom, please don’t move around. Keep your phone or computer stationary to minimize distraction for others.
As with our in-person retreats, one of the requirements for this online retreat is to refrain from using electronic devices for anything other than retreat activities.
One of the transformative things that can come from home retreats is having time in your own living space in which you are not engaging in other technology and media. This alone is helpful in touching a different way of being in your life.
Staying Committed to Your Practice
One of the challenges of home practice is getting swept away and forgetting about formal practice. This is a normal challenge to have. It is very helpful to be open and honest about this with yourself and with your teachers. Self-discipline is supported by making the sincere intention to practice as fully as you would on a residential retreat, and engaging wisely and compassionately with the hindrances that naturally arise in practice.
When you begin the retreat, take a few minutes to consider what is calling you to this time of deepening practice. It may be to do this retreat for the benefit of yourself and those around you. It may be to undertake this retreat to deepen your presence, steadiness and compassion in difficult times. It may be to release your fears and become more loving, to contribute more to our world.
If you wish, you can light a candle or place a flower or inspiring image near you. Quiet yourself and inwardly create a strong and clear intention. Once you set your intention, you can recite it in your mind or write it down on a notecard and place it by the candle or image. Regularly during the days of your retreat, remember and reaffirm this intention.
Anytime you meditate, especially for longer periods, difficult energies will naturally arise. Worry, restlessness, sleepiness, frustration, irritation, and doubt are among the most common. Repeating thought patterns and unfinished business of the heart will also arise. These offer some of the very best opportunities for your meditation to deepen, and your wisdom and love to grow. Receiving these with mindful loving awareness, and inviting compassion for self and others, you can begin to trust your skill of mindfulness and your good heart to hold it all.
Remember, we are doing this together. We hope you will be supported by the shared intention among the participants. The teachers will dedicate their efforts to supporting you and your practice. We’re delighted you’re here.