For years, my “things to try” list has included attending a yoga and meditation retreat. Countless times I’ve found myself perusing the retreat schedule at Flowering Lotus Meditation Center in Magnolia, Mississippi, ultimately unable to make it work with my vacation time or off days. Then of course the pandemic hit, eliminating my chance to participate in an in-person retreat for the foreseeable future. Dashed were the visions of dharma talks and vegan temple food that were dancing in my head. (For the record, I’m not vegan, but I do love many vegan dishes and work them into my weekly menus as home.) Determined to begin 2021 on a healthy note, I was inspired to create an at-home retreat which I’ve returned to every month or so — complete with, if not vegan, at least vegetarian, meals. Below is a sample of the schedule. This plan can be easily abbreviated to a morning or afternoon, or extended over a full day to a weekend with just a few simple tweaks (which I’ll explain later).
- Chose a day or weekend when you don’t have anything else to do, so that you are not rushing around or clear your schedule.
- Dedicate a space in your home for your retreat and inform family members or housemates that you will need some uninterrupted time for your retreat (or invite them to join you). The space can be as simple as a corner in your room. Include fresh flowers or plants, symbolic and serene artwork, your preference of incense, essential oils and candles (a combination or all three) a yoga mat or towel, a cushion or pillow and a blanket and books or a yoga block. The goal is to create a space that is both peaceful and inspiring.
- Plan your menus and shop in advance for any food you plan to cook and eat during the retreat.
- Decide on the meditations, yoga classes and talks that you will use during the retreat and bookmark them on the devices you plan to use.
10:30 a.m. Yoga
- Yoga with Adriene has a lot of free online classes
- Locally you can schedule your retreat around live stream classes at Magnolia Yoga Studio
11 a.m. Meditation
11:30 a.m. Dharma (or Dhamma) Talks
- We listened to several of these brief talks by Thanissaro Bhikkhu at Metta Forest Monastery in California
- Again, Insight Timer is a good free resource and has a lecture library
11:45 a.m. Mindful Cooking and Lunch Break
- Here we listened to mellow music while chopping fresh vegetables and herbs, talking and cooking together. We made black eyed pea soup with onions, carrots, spinach and spices, since it was New Year’s Day, but a hearty veggie bowl with grains or any other vegetarian or vegan fare is good. Take the opportunity to slow down and cook with mindful intention. Consider the many people, such as the farmers and other workers, who labored to bring this food to your plate and send gratitude to them as you prepare and eat your meal.
- Consider a silent meal, but as long as you eat mindfully, it’s all good.
1:15 p.m. Outside Time or Quiet Contemplation
- Go for a brief walk or if you have a yard, do a little barefoot mindful walking or plant tending (that’s what we did)
1:30 p.m. Dharma (or Dhamma) Talks
1:45 p.m. Meditation
2 p.m. Yoga
- We did a high-energy session here, to balance out all of the peaceful, calm energy cultivated throughout the morning and after lunch.
2:30 p.m. Neighborhood Walk or Nature Hike
- A walk through our neighborhood and an ice-cream treat at Creole Creamery ended our retreat on a sweet note and it felt a little rebellious, too.
- A visit to your favorite park for a nature walk or hike would also be a great ending to your retreat. Some of my favorites are Audubon Park, City Park or the Couturie Forest trail (in City Park).
- Tweak the times, talks, meditations and yoga classes to reflect wherever you are in your personal practice.
- Extend the retreat by simply repeating the blocks of meditations, talks and yoga classes throughout the day or weekend. Incorporate different styles of meditation (walking, eating), as well as tea ceremonies or meditative drawing for example to mix it up.
- Be compassionate with yourself throughout the day and take breaks if you need to, so that this is a positive and uplifting experience.
If you decide to create your own retreat at home, share in comments or email Melanie at firstname.lastname@example.org.