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February 25, 2020

10 Steps to create a solo retreat in your own home


My recent silent meditation retreat showed me the power of truly disconnecting for a few days. 


In our busy lives, filled with jobs, families, commitments, connections, all threaded together by our multiple digital screens, we are always “on”, constantly buzzing along with the cacophony of our lives.  There is a real power to switching completely “off”, to having no distractions and focusing solely on the present moment, even if it’s just for a few days. 


Finding time for yourself, to slow down, and to focus on your own present moment is more than self-care, it’s soul-care. We all need it!  A yoga or meditation retreat can provide the conditions for you to do this.  A retreat is an opportunity to find immensely restful silence and peace, to deepen your yoga and meditation practice, to connect with yourself.


We can’t always get away to a retreat centre. But with some inspiration and a little preparation, we can all create our own solo retreat at home.  


And actually, creating your own personal retreat at home is perfect in the winter when it’s nice to stay warm and cozy at home. And it’s perfect if you have a few days holiday and don’t feel like traveling anywhere.


Give yourself the gift of a personal retreat in your own home. Follow these 10 steps to make the most of this opportunity.


1) Plan It In Advance

Carve out the time, whatever amount time works best for you, and schedule it. Advance planning will make your retreat easier and more successful, and will give you something to look forward to. Set the time, any amount of time, a few days, a weekend (from Friday evening to Sunday evening), even a full day of a home retreat is blissful and beneficial.


2) Prepare For It

Get ready for your retreat by doing the following in advance, so that everything is ready for you when your retreat starts, leaving you with nothing to look for, nothing to worry about:  

  • Ensure the other people in your home will be off on their own mini vacation elsewhere. Or if your home is a constantly busy place, find a friend who will be away for a few days and ask to borrow their home. Borrow a cottage. Or check out Air B and B to find a studio apartment close to home.
  • Find a friend to take care of your pet if you have one
  • Turn your home into a retreat space by tidying and decluttering, removing any unnecessary distractions such as that pile of bills to be paid, put fresh sheets on your bed, and why not treat yourself to a bouquet of beautiful flowers. 
  • Gather all the things you would like to have to create a sacred retreat space (see below) such as candles, incense, meditation cushions, yoga mat and props, inspiring images, essential oils.
  • Get the ingredients together to prepare simple but delicious and nutritious meals, or better yet prepare your meals in advance for the entire weekend/retreat.
  • Stock up on high quality tea to sip during rest periods
  • Decide on the clothes you will be wearing during the retreat, choose simplicity, ultimate comfort and coziness.
  • Choose a book that is inspiring and relevant to your intention (see below for some suggestions)
  • Get a journal (and I like using a coloured marker to write with).
  • Plan your yoga practice in advance, get a few books, make yourself some notes of what you'd like to practice.  Avoid your devices during your retreat!  Trust your inner teacher, trust that you will find the practice your body needs. 
  • If you’d like to listen to some inspirational talks during your retreat, download some podcasts prior to the retreat so that you don’t have to search for them. Make sure the topic is inspirational and supports your intention for the retreat.  Look for recordings of your favourite teachers, or try http://dharmaseed.org/talks/ .


3) Set Your Intention

Knowing why you want to do a retreat and setting an intention will give you something to focus on, and will clarify what you hope to get from your retreat. It will make your retreat more powerful and the benefits more long-lasting. Set your intention (finding more peace, more joy, finding healing or forgiveness, finding clarity on a difficult issue, finding your purpose, setting goals, etc.) and keep it in mind when preparing for your retreat.


4) Check Out

Turn off all devices (computers, phones, TV, tablets). Let close ones know what you are doing, and not to worry if you don’t call them back right away. If you need to use your phone as a timer or to listen to podcasts you have downloaded, put it on Airplane mode and commit to not using it for anything other than that. Do not give in to temptation to check your emails or social media!!!


5) Create a Sacred Space

A retreat is sacred personal time, so honour yourself and prepare a special sacred space, like a peaceful sanctuary. You deserve it. Create an altar, a focal point for your practices. This can be any low table where you can place your candles and incense, any images, statues, flowers and any other items that you have gathered for inspiration and support during your retreat. Place your meditation cushions close by. Ensure that your yoga mat is rolled out and your props are close at hand. 


6) Use Rituals

Rituals will help to ground you in your retreat and in your practice. They will make it more powerful and personal. Create your own rituals, or take inspiration from these easy to implement ideas.

  • Energetically cleanse your sacred space: light a sage smudge stick and fan the smoke around your space to clear out any negative energy, then burn some palo santo to bring in positive energy. 
  • Light a candle or some incense as an opening ritual to start your retreat. This will create a sacred space, a clear separation between your retreat time and your everyday life. 
  • As part of your opening ritual, declare and write your intention, keep it on your altar during the retreat time.
  • Choose an essential oil that will support your intention for the retreat: each day use a few drops in a diffuser or on an organic cotton ball placed by your mat or meditation cushion.
  • As a closing ritual, chant OM and ring a singing bowl or some chimes to signal the end of your practice and to send your beautiful energy out into the world to support others. Be sure to give thanks to yourself for the self-care gift you’ve just given yourself.


7) Follow a Schedule

A bit of gentle rigour is required in order to get the most benefit from your home retreat. If you don’t have a schedule, your retreat could turn into an unstructured staycation (which is not a bad thing, but not the same as a retreat). Create a schedule for yourself in advance, print it out and follow it just as if you were at a retreat centre. Keep an eye of the time, or relax and let a timer with a gentle bell or singing bowl sound keep track for you. This is particularly helpful to let you know when a meditation session is over. Create a schedule that will fit your own needs, or here is a sample schedule you could follow for a mindful yoga and meditation retreat, helping you to stay focused on the present moment.


7:00 - 7:30 Sitting meditation

7:30 - 8:30 Gentle yoga, including some slow sun salutations, end with a long savasana

8:30 - 9:30 Breakfast

9:30 - 10:15 Sitting meditation

10:15 - 10:45 Walking meditation

10:45 - 11:15 Sitting meditation

11:15 - 11:30 Walking meditation

11:30 - 12:00 Sitting meditation

12:30 - 1:30 Lunch

1:30 - 3:30 Free time to rest, read, or other inspirational activity

3:30 - 4:30 Mindfulness yoga

4:30 - 5:00 Sitting meditation

5:00 - 5:30 Walking meditation

5:30 - 6:00 Sitting meditation

6:00 - 7:00 Dinner

7:00 - 8:00 Listen to a dharma talk podcast or other inspirational talk previously downloaded

8:00 - 8:30 Sitting meditation 

8:30 - 9:30 Restorative yin yoga, try 3-5 long-held, relaxing poses followed by savasana

Go to bed early and sleep like a baby.


8) Make Time for Inspiration

Use your afternoon free time to read an inspiring book, journal anything that comes up for you during the practices, take a walk in nature if it's close by (but don’t forget you are on a retreat and try not to interact with anyone you come in contact with), or any activity that inspires you or helps you to develop your creativity.  


9) Just Be Here

The retreat is your opportunity to step away from the stresses and challenges of your everyday life. A few days to be free from the usual distractions such as your devices, your family, your pets, your work, and even conversations, and to reconnect with yourself. So make the most of this opportunity by being present and aware of every aspect of the experience, enjoy each moment, and just be here. Remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, today is a gift.” 


10) Carry it Forward

End the retreat by reflecting on your intention and any thoughts you may have noted in your journal, and reflect on how you will take your new learnings and experience back into your daily life. Know that your retreat has brought you immediate benefits such as peace and relaxation as well as new insights and ideas, and trust that the benefits will carry forward and you will be better prepared to face any challenges that may come your way in a more balanced and grounded way.



Some suggested books to read on your retreat:

Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness PoemsPhyllis Cole-Dai (editor)

Bringing Yoga to Life - Donna Farhi

Loving Kindness - Sharon Salzberg

Divine Beauty - John O’Donohue

The Gifts of Imperfection - Brene Brown

Braiding Sweetgrass - Robin Wall-Kimmerer

The Desire Map, A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul- Danielle Laporte



5 Easy Meditations and How to Get Started

7 Essential Yoga Poses for Every Practice

5 Essential Techniques for Every Pose

Empower Your Practice with Rituals



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