If you’re thinking of attending, or have already signed up for a meditation retreat I am so happy for you and I know that it will be an incredible and rewarding experience that you will remember forever!
Intensive meditation retreats (where participants meditate for a large part each day) can be absolutely life changing and beautiful…..and they can also be very challenging.
This article is intended to give you some advice (straight from the lips of a meditation retreat junkie!) that you will never read in your average meditation book.
These tips are my personal top eight ways to help you be prepared, be comfortable and get the most enjoyment and fulfillment out of your first meditation retreat.
Disclaimer: This is my personal advice based on what has helped me and each retreat is different so suss out whether it seems like it will be ok to follow my advice at the retreat you plan to attend and always do what feels best for you!
1. Meditation retreats are very likely to bring up your stuff, so be kind to yourself! Bring enough pillows and blankets so that you will be able to sit warmly and comfortably for meditation and be comfy at night when you are sleeping.
Hint: Before you leave imagine yourself on the retreat and think about what little home comforts you might wish you had …and then bring them! Bring everything you need so that will feel comfortable…..there is no need to be super austere to meditate.
2. Bring chocolate! It is much easier and enjoyable to have a chocolate stash on a retreat than to spend half your retreat fantasizing about chocolate and how you wish you had brought some!
If chocolate is not your thing bring a stash of whichever little treats you love!
3. Take a notebook and pen. You may have some amazing insights, realize incredible things about yourself and your life or learn some valuable teachings and tools you would like to remember whilst on retreat.
If you have a notebook and pen you can write them down and then once you know they are written down to remember later you can get back to focusing in your meditation practice.
4. Stay warm! If the weather is going to be cool check beforehand that there will be adequate heating at the retreat. If the retreat manger says that it might be a bit cold make sure you bring a hot water bottle and ask if you can bring a personal heater for your room if one is not supplied.
If it is chilly in the meditation hall you can bring the hot water bottle in with you to keep you warm while you sit. I have done this on some cooler retreats and it was a godsend….especially first thing in the morning (on some retreats the program starts about 5am and it can be chilly)!
5. Get a good spot! Arrive on time or even a little early to check in and register at the beginning of the retreat. As soon as you have registered go straight to the meditation hall and claim a spot to sit.
If possible, sit next to a wall so you can lean against it during the retreat if your back gets tight. You will be happy you did!
6. Lying down for meditation is not cheating! Lying down occasionally for meditation is a great way to help make the retreat experience more comfortable. If you are lucky enough to be a person who can lie down to meditate without falling asleep (some people can’t practice lying down meditation due to this) then take advantage of it!
Use the practice of sometimes lying down for meditation; either in the hall (if this is acceptable with the retreat leaders) or your room. It a great way to enable you to continue your meditation practice whilst being kind and caring to yourself.
7. If you’re used to having coffee everyday don’t detox from caffeine during your first retreat. Some retreats won’t serve coffee so if you are a coffee drinker find out if the retreat you’re going to does or not.
If they don’t serve it either stop drinking coffee a week so before the retreat so you body adjusts to being without caffeine, or bring some coffee with you on the retreat.
You don’t want to have any headaches, tiredness or icky feelings associated with caffeine withdrawal on your first retreat!
8. Do not make any major life changing decisions within 3 days of the ending of the retreat! This advice is usually given by meditation teachers at the end of a retreat but sometimes they forget or choose not to mention it and in my experience it is a very important point!
Whilst on retreat you will very likely have lots of realizations about how you simply must change your life in every way!
You will probably have lots of incredible and amazing revelations about how you will make positive changes in your life….quit your job, move home, become a Buddhist nun, or build a second story on your house.
I promise you whilst you’re on retreat they all seem like fantastic ideas! But make sure you wait three days after retreat before acting on them!
This is because when you are on retreat you are in an altered state of mind. Take time to get grounded and reintegrate into your day to day life and your regular state of mind before acting on anything to make sure you are making the right decision.
And please please also don’t make any major fashion decisions either straight after your retreat as you will have to live with these too!
I learned this the hard way when I once decided the day after a retreat that it would be a fantastic idea to my hair blonde! I walked straight into a hairdresser and told her to go for it…but my hair went orange and it was half destroyed as there were already other dyes in my hair….how I wish I had thought that one through!
Guys, I’ve learned the hard way so you don’t have to…if this article saves just one other person from a post retreat fashion mishap it will all have been worthwhile!
I hope you find these tips useful. I wish someone had given me this advice before my first retreat 12 years ago and I do hope they help to make your retreat experience a wonderful one.
May your retreat inspire you to continue to practice meditation so that you can receive all the incredible benefits it’s practice can bring!