What Is A Self-Retreat?

With a few group retreats under your belt you may want to consider doing a self-retreat. So, what are the differences between these forms of retreats?

The most obvious one is that in a self-retreat you meditate all alone, as opposed to group retreats where you have meditators all around you. Let's explore what the self-retreat has to offer...

First you have to consider where to do the retreat. If you do it in a spiritual community, they would normally provide suitable facilities like a remote cottage and all your meals. A common alternative is that the community does the shopping for you and you prepare the food yourself.

Another approach is to do self-retreats at home in your apartment or house. A disadvantage of doing retreats at home, is that you don't have access to a meditation teacher whenever needed. Often during intensive meditation practice meditators make significant progress which naturally gives rise to questions.

As a novice meditator it's not recommended to do intensive meditation practice on your own. Intermediate and advanced meditators are better prepared for this form of practice.

Meditation At Its Best

I love self-retreats and have done about 20 of them in my own apartments. The retreats have ranged from 3-11 days. I usually have a routine to wake up early and meditate for a few hours before eating breakfast. On an average, I would put in about 10-12 hours of meditation per day.

Every action such as eating, washing up and showering should be done mindfully.

Without any people around there's no talking which calms the mind and deepens the meditation practice.

So, what's the charm of meditating all alone for days on end? It's great practice, totally free of charge (as long as it's done at home) and you can do it whenever it suits your schedule.

By committing to a self-retreat, you really put yourself on the spiritual path. In my experience self-retreats really boost determination and self-esteem - you have everything to win!

As I've already mentioned I usually discipline myself and wake up early in the morning during self-retreats. When you meditate all alone you have to motivate yourself which can be challenging a times. By setting a schedule there's less room for distractions.

During group retreats there's a lot of mental energy supporting you. As a self-retreatant, you must depend on yourself which at times feels like running uphill with the wind pushing you back.

If your place happens to be noisy, then that's another challenge to embrace.

The First Self-Retreat

Stock up on easy-to-prepare foods and cook some the evening before starting the retreat. This way you won't waste as much time cooking. Try eating smaller servings than what you normally do throughout the retreat. It's not to punish or harden yourself but to reduce the negative effects of digestion. Digesting a big meals makes you tired, smaller meals are much preferred.

If you can't let go of your food cravings, eat 4-5 small meals per day. Whenever you feel tired after eating, take a short nap. The alternative would be to spend hours meditating, struggling just to keep awake, which is a waste of time and energy.

Relaxed Attention

Meditate for 5 hours per day in 30-45 minute blocks. Alternate between walking meditation, standing meditation, sitting meditation and lying meditation. This approach reliefs physical aches and pains. It also makes for balance between concentration and mental energy.

Whenever you need a break get some fresh air or read a spiritual book, mindfully.

Keep everything nice and easy, don't push too hard. The whole point of a self-retreat is to give relaxed attention to your every movement, feeling and thought. Relax and let it flow naturally.

Don't forget to switch off the phone.

Best of luck!

Related:   Retreat Preparations   Mahasi Retreats   Meditation Retreats

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