On Online Silent Retreats


Meditation practice should include extended periods of silent practice. These retreats help build capacity for practice while deepening it.


When you have to spend a bunch of money and make arrangements and travel to a residential retreat center for a week, there are oodles of moments to practice, but also to think and to build expectations. There might be a notion that the idyllic location—maybe a monastery in the mountains or by a lake—has qualities that are transformative even without a week of silence. And there's truth in that. Maybe it better positions you to practice. Regardless, what it does do is give you a different environment for your thoughts and your practice, which is important.


The Benefits of Online Retreats

When making new memories, we do so with relatively greater ease when those new memories can be connected to existing ones. It's just like habit stacking. Stack the new habit you're trying to cultivate onto an existing one and you have a better chance of it actually becoming a habit.


You probably know where I'm going with this: retreat experiences in environments that already have memories attached to them become attached to the existing memories. Your ability to recall your retreat experience is bolstered when the retreat experience is connected to an experience that, you might say, has already been installed in your mind. This availability of the retreat experience will help you meet whatever challenges and obstacles you tend to face while at home (which might also be your workplace!), aka, the location of your retreat.


It can be easy to go to a beautiful venue, with like-minded people and few external distractions, to meditate all day long and not have any eye contact. It's delightful to not feel you need to put your personality on in the morning. You hand over your phone, and there's no music, no journaling, and no reading, for days. Everyone should experience it. As sublime as it might sound, though, there are many obstacles, and you might not know what they are until they cross your path for the day or for the practice. Whatever the nature of the obstacles, you have as they say, nothing but time to work through them.


At home, however, you know some of what you're up against, well in advance. From people who do their best to support your efforts and might fall short to the reality that you might have to do some things, to the crashing, crushing sounds that accompany the truck that picks up the recycle bins, there's little idyllic or otherworldly about it. You're constantly faced with the realities of your life and you must make choices about how you're going to handle them.


The Ultimate Deep Work

If you've taken a class or a webinar with me, you might recall the idea of deep work, which comes from Cal Newport (I also recommend his A World Without Email). Deep work is simply doing one thing at a time, for a focused period of time without distractions. No email, other tabs open, etc... When you're accessing a retreat online, you have to resist the temptation to check your email or peek at a notification or read or listen to music. It's the ultimate deep work . . . of being . . . while doing . . . nothing.


Ease Into It, Starting Today

You're thinking: How on Earth can I not check my email or social media or listen to music for an entire day/days, while in my home, where I'm surrounded by accessibility to such things, not to mention I have notifications on the devices that talk to me all day long!?!? Well, this part won't surprise you—turn off your notifications. Now. Maybe put your phone on dark mode so it's not so visually appealing.


Next, schedule small chunks of time—15 minutes—where you have a task you've decided to work on or complete, and you do so as deep work. You close all other tabs, don't look at emails, don't listen to a podcast or anything else, and don't get up because you've decided it's the perfect time for a few sets of push-ups (my personal favorite). Sit there and do the thing you intended to do for 15 minutes. Maybe just once a day. Maybe next week you do it twice a day.


Finally, add at least 10 minutes of mindfulness practice to your day. Here are a few tracks to choose from of varying lengths.


Join Me for a No-Cost Retreat

If you're currently taking a course with me, your retreat is a required part of it, either between weeks 6 & 7 or 7 & 8.

  • If you have a mindfulness practice or you're starting one, you can attend a mini-retreat of 3.5 hours (3 are in silent, guided practice—deep work!) on February 26, from 10am - 1:30pm, Eastern.

  • If you've taken MBSR, you can join the mini-retreat and/or you can join the full day retreat on February 19, from 9am-4:30pm, Eastern.

The best way to convey your interest is to just hit reply and tell me which one you're interested in and we'll go from there.


To recap: Try 15 minutes of deep work/day and 10+ minutes of mindfulness practice/day, and let me know if you're interested in a retreat.


May ease find you . . .

mm