October 29, 2021


Minute read

Planning Your Own Meditation Retreat (without the cost)

Have you found yourself dreaming about an escape, a holiday, or just time away from your delightful, but time-consuming kiddos? While it may not be tropical or come with one of those drinks with umbrellas, a meditation retreat may be just what you’ve been dreaming of. Or at the very least, it might be what you really need. The best part? You don’t need to jet off to a monastery, you can create your own Vipassana retreat from the comfort of your home.  

The challenge with many holidays is that we end up increasing our stimulation levels, even if we are doing a bunch of exciting, fun activities. A Vipassana provides you the opportunity to truly restore – and will save you lots of money. Even organized retreats are free!

A Vipassana retreat is generally a 10-day, meditation-focused get-a-way and requires participants to abide by some strict guidelines. But, an organized retreat is not the only way to go. You can hit “pause” from the comfort of your own home and, as a result, your “retreat” may actually be more effective because it’s more customized. I’d even argue that it will allow for better integration into your daily existence. 

What is Vipassana? 

The name of this almost 3,000-year-old practice translates to “seeing thing as they are.” And if you’ve ever attended one, you might be nodding fervently that, indeed, this practice helps us to see things as they are.

The idea behind the practice is to allow for a greater relationship between the physical body sensations, subtle body, and the mind through self-observation.

Through this observation, the hope is that practitioners will better understand their thoughts, feelings, sensations, judgments, and abandon their “impurities.” 

Abandoning these self-imposed, suffering-inducing impurities eliminates our impeding thought patterns and unhelpful beliefs – resulting in the opportunity for transformation

Sounds like an awfully large load for someone looking for a Sunday get-a-way. 

In addition to all those lovely, but lofty changes, attendees are asked to practice brahmacharya, or abstinence. That abstinence includes everything from having sex to speaking falsely, from consuming any sort of intoxicant, to even killing. Yep, that means that Vipassana retreats don’t offer “wine yoga.” Sorry folks.

The idea behind abstinence is to eliminate things that may upset our nervous system and cause overstimulation. Eliminating those distractions allow self-observation to happen. This preliminary calming of the mind is followed by a cultivated “mastery” of it — adhering its attention to the ebb and flow of the natural nasal breath. With the mind calm, steady, and untempted by extraneous stimuli, it’s able to observe sensations and thoughts with the perspective of an outsider. 

Vipassana, But Make it Accessible

But experiencing the “authentic” version of this practice — giving up sex, alcohol, and so on — may sound a bit overwhelming. While I’m all about finding, experiencing, and exploring the most authentic version of a practice, there are some cases where a gentle scaffolding in, or even a modernization, is more effective.

In this case, I believe that you can gain a lot of value by curating your own, modern, meditation retreat from the comfort of your own home. And you can still make it a week, but you can also do it over a weekend or even over just a few hours on a Saturday morning. 

The best part of curating your own personal retreat is that you can wear whatever you’d like and can craft the perfect retreat for YOU! 

Your meditation retreat doesn't need to be complicated

5 Steps to Creating Your Own Meditation Retreat

So, if you’re ready to create your own at-home meditation retreat, here are the five steps to make it happen:

1: Establish Your “Sankalpa”

Whenever you dive into a new practice, you should do so with intention. What is your “why” for doing this thing? You hopefully want to build a better relationship with your mind and “transform” yourself, but what is your why for coming to your retreat? What do you want out of it? Get specific with details. I find writing down my Sankalpa, or highest intention, is always a brilliant way to bring things to fruition. And what better time than this?

2: Make it a Date With Yourself

Whether your curated meditation retreat is a week, a weekend, or a few hours — make it official. Plan it out and mark it down on all your calendars as though it were that $3,000 yoga retreat you wanted to book in Bali last year. Worried you won’t be able to carve out the time? Make a deal with yourself that you will donate that amount of money if you fail to attend. Planning ahead will also prevent unnecessary decision-making and make it more likely that you stick to your plan and avoid distractions on the day of the retreat. 

3: Plan Out Your Meditation Retreat – And Have Fun With It!  

Plan your meditation retreat like you would a wedding or birthday party. The small details matter. It can be helpful to jot down your schedule for each day, or whatever period of time you decide upon. Include your meals, writing, reading, walks, and your times of formal seated practice in your plan. The sit practice is a great foundation for the day, so think of the other practices as supporting actors to the lead character of your meditation time. When planning your schedule, keep it realistic. If you’ve never done an extended meditation practice, maybe start with a lighter schedule.  And if you’re unfamiliar with any of the below practices, please see the links with deeper explanations. And if meditation is brand new to you, we’d recommend you try out our free 7-Day Introduction to Meditation program!

As a place to start, here is an example schedule for a one-day at-home meditation retreat:

6-7am: Establish and write down your sankalpa – settle in for a seated meditation

7-8am: Walking Meditation or Phoneless Walk

8-9am: Nourishing Breakfast 

9-9:45am: Seated Meditation

9:45-10am: Walking Meditation

10-10:45am: Tea Meditation

10:45-11am: Walking Meditation

11am-12pm: Gentle Yin Yoga practice

12:00 – 1:00pm: Nourishing Lunch

1-2pm: Inspirational Reading

2-2:15pm Walking Meditation

2:15-2:30pm Journaling 

2:30-3:30pm: Seated Meditation

3:30-4pm: Yoga Nidra Practice 

4-4:15pm: Walking Meditation

4:15-5pm: Gentle Yoga

5-5:30pm: Seated Meditation

5:30-6pm: Walking Meditation

6-7pm: Nourishing Dinner

7-7:30pm: Seated or Supine Meditation

7:30-8pm: Tea Meditation

8-8:30pm: Warm Bath 

9pm: Bedtime

4: Set Yourself Up For Success

Aside from planning out your schedule, set up your environment so that you will be as successful, prepared, and unbothered as possible. Decide not only on your location, but invest a bit of time in tidying it up, ensuring the temperature isn’t too hot or too cold, that there aren’t any strange aromas, and that you will be able to be undisturbed. That means communicating to your family that this special date will be happening, and making them aware of their boundaries that day. Gather any tools or props that will be a part of your retreat, be they journals, cushions, candles, blankets, or sweaters. Create a space and environment that is appealing and makes you want to nestle into your cushion. You may also choose to map out your meal plan for the day and pre-make your meals. Dals, veggie kitchari, crudité with avocado, nuts, and fruits are some of my favorites to have pre-made and lined up for ease during the day. 

5: Make Your Meditation Retreat A Family Affair, Or Don’t

Communicate to your family that this event will be happening. If they can handle it, you may choose to invite them, but let them know this is an event that you are taking seriously. Educating them and sharing with them why you’re doing it and why it’s important to you may entice them to join in. If they do not choose to participate, however, make sure that they know the boundaries and that you will need their help in being silent during the event. Turn your phone on silent, turn off notifications, and if it’s helpful, lock your phone in your car. A timer will be incredibly helpful – but you don’t want to feel tempted to use your phone to check email. This is a decision you will have to make. 

– – –

Scheduling these types of retreats is an important way to keep yourself, your mind, and your nervous system in check. You might even think of them like your regular dental cleaning or eye check-up — but for your brain!

And if you really need convincing to take the time “off,” know that this downregulation of your nervous system is the single most important key to your brain and body’s ability to function at their best. In other words, by taking this time off, you’ll actually work, feel, and function better.

And no amount of tropical margaritas can do that. 

About the Author: Laura Araujo

Passionate about accessible education and evidence-based wellness, Laura founded The MAPS Institute, an educational wellness editorial and platform. Aside from her passion for research and educating, Laura is a classically trained vocalist, sound therapist, and a practitioner and teacher of Ashtanga and Restorative Yoga. She is the creator of the MAPS (Mindfulness, Activation, Purpose, and Surrender) philosophy and is in continual pursuit of helping her students and herself find balance amid the chaos around and within them. When not sifting through Nature Magazine, complaining about their paywalls, she enjoys trying new wine varietals, experimenting in the kitchen, riding her bicycle (sometimes cross-country), and spending time with her husband Charlie, cockapoo Miles, and expected baby girl, Ella.  Click here to follow the MAPS Institute on social media.



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