We work too much.
I don’t know many people who aren't over worked, over stressed and over scheduled. Getting away for a 3 or 7 day silent retreat is not a luxury many of us with jobs, families, and a laundry list of obligations can afford.
If our intentions are good and we are thoughtful about it, we can find a way to create a retreat that integrates into our work and family life. Building a workday retreat can be fun, rejuvenating and adaptive to your needs.
Thursday Evening: Preparation is key to a successful workday retreat. Our sample retreat lasts from 9pm Thursday until 10am on Saturday. First, let your family or other personal relations know that you are going to be clearing the table of electronic communication for this day and a half period. Second, attend to any obligations you might have to clear the deck. If the cupboards are bare, shop on Thursday evening. If you have books to return to the library and clothes at the dry cleaner, attend to these obligations.
Thursday 9pm: Turn off your cellphone, close the laptop and set an intention that the next 39 hours will be dedicated to your practice. Make some effort that is meaningful to you to signify the beginning of your retreat. Ring a bell, light some incense, say a prayer. There is no right or wrong way, just whatever resonates with you. Sit for 30 minutes of meditation.
Thursday 9:30pm: Sleep
Friday 5:15am: Wake, shower, dress
Friday 5:45am: Sit three periods of 35 minutes of meditation broken up with 5 minutes of kinhin (walking meditation.)
Friday 7:40am: Mindfully eat breakfast. Meals during this retreat are a wonderful time to express gratitude for the abundance of food we have in this country. Immerse yourself completely into the experience of eating.
Friday 8:00am: Collect yourself and leave for work. View the commute as an opportunity to mindfully travel. No music, no phone calls, just enjoy the trip fully and completely.
Friday Midmorning: Meditating at work can be hard but make an attempt to find 10 minutes to hide in a stairwell, close the office door or steal away to a quiet place. Additionally, create a trigger that will remind you to take a mindful breath. Example: When your email notification dings let go of distracting thoughts, bring your attention squarely to your breath for a brief moment and then return to your job.
Friday Lunch: If you have the luxury of an hour long lunch sit in meditation for 20 minutes, mindfully eat your lunch and conclude with 20 more minutes of meditation.
Friday Midafternoon: Again, find 10 minutes to steal away and meditate.
Friday 5:00pm: If possible, conclude your workday with 10 minutes of meditation. Mindfully commute.
Friday 6:00pm: Upon arriving home sit for 35 minutes, mindfully eat dinner, spend a few minutes attending to any family obligations.
Friday 7:30pm: Sit three periods of 35 minutes of meditation broken up with 5 minutes of kinhin (walking meditation.)
Friday 9:30pm: Sleep
Saturday 5:15am: Wake, shower, dress
Saturday 5:45am: Sit three periods of 35 minutes of meditation broken up with 5 minutes of kinhin (walking meditation.)
Saturday 7:40am: Mindfully eat breakfast.
Saturday 8:00am: Sit three periods of 35 minutes of meditation broken up with 5 minutes of kinhin (walking meditation.)
Saturday 10:00am: Your retreat has concluded. Take a few minutes to create a little bit of a ceremony recognizing the end of your retreat. Journal about the experience, write a haiku, ring a bell. Again, there is no wrong way to do this.
This sample should give you some sense of how to create a space where you can really stretch your practice and get the rejuvenating effects of a retreat while attending to your daily obligations. A workday retreat can happen mid-week and end at 8am, on the second day in the afternoon, or go through the weekend. Please modify as you see fit. A good tip is to write up a schedule and do your best to stick to it.
May your practice go well.
Anthony A. Cernera, M.Ed.