Retreats offer an opportunity to slow down, stop, step out of the push and pull life we all have. They can be weekends, 5- or 10-day periods that offer quiet, meditative practices, guided by skilled teachers of mindfulness. Some retreats are based on Buddhist teachings of mindfulness. Others are secular and grounded in our current understanding of mindfulness practices.
A typical retreat is silent. Some retreats keep silence during meals. Silent retreats encourage “guarding the senses”. That means we set aside our typical habitual go-to activities that we use to distract ourselves: reading, writing, and using our technological devices. The intent is not to be oppressive; it is to open up the many opportunities to listen to our inner dialogue and how we experience that in our bodies. In a Stay@Home retreat, we can arrange with family or friends how we wish to hold the space for a silent time to practice. Time can also be arranged to interact with the family as part of one’s practice. Meals may have a few minutes of silence at the beginning and/or end with silence at the end. Washing up, cleaning the house, other chores and activities can be organized with periods of silence, depending on one’s partner’s comfort and/or the age of children in the home. It is more important to see this time as a dedication to (re)connecting with our everyday life as it is – completely in contact with its wonderful messiness!
Retreat schedules can vary depending on the length and intention of the retreat. Wake up bell is rung at 6 AM Most retreats tend to have “Noble Silence”: no talking etc. after 9 PM. This gives us a chance to settle into our rest period so we can sleep soundly and deeply. Lights out is usually at 10 PM. A sample timetable for a typical day is listed below. It can be modified to fold around a work or typical home day/weekend.
Sample Retreat Schedule
01:30 – 2:15
Meditation* – silent
Talk by Teacher
Outdoor walking meditation
Talk by teacher
Talk by teacher
Noble Silence, candlelight walk or optional free sit
*Meditation periods: 25 mins sitting, 10 minutes walking, 25 mins sitting