How To Prepare For An Online Silent Retreat

New to multi-day retreats?
Please review also our Residential Retreats information page.

About our Online Retreats

The daily schedule allows an integration of committed meditation practice, teachings, and your life at home.

We will be away from the screen for most of the afternoon.

We have found this format leads to an engagement with this work that is both deep and realistic.

We aren't simply "moving" our retreat from in-person to Zoom. Rather we have reinvented a home-based retreat. Students report that the format is nourishing and supportive.

Approaching Online Retreats

Below are a few suggestions to help you create an optimal retreat experience online, realizing each participant has a unique home situation.

1. As much as possible, create a separate, quiet space away from family and distraction, even pets if they might distract you or other participants.

2. Plan to “unplug” from your phone, clocks, or any other electronic device unless using it to connect to our virtual retreat room.

3. Minimize or eliminate as many tasks and activities as you can. Normally we would be in a retreat setting to allow for an immersive experience. Retreating at home offers the benefit of being able to practice mindfulness skills in your regular environment while it offers the potential challenge of home distractions.

4. We suggest that you prepare your household members ahead, letting them know you’ll be practicing silence during this time.

5. See an online retreat as an opportunity to integrate mindfulness practice and your daily life instead of as a way to "get away" - it helps to see this as a different kind of thing from an in person retreat at a retreat center.

6. Resistance and wanting things to be other than they are can be a part of all contemplative practices. Please accept that the day will unfold in the way that it does and much is beyond your control. If things are busier or in some way not to your liking in the environment as you do the series of practices offered, please accept things as they are and know that there is benefit. 

We ask that you:

1. Sign in a little early.

2. Turn cameras on once the retreat starts.

3. Maintain silence and focus as possible during practice times: refraining from speaking, reading, writing, or using other devices.

This all contributes to creating a strong and seamless container from which you and the whole group benefits, even virtually.

    Upcoming Multi-day Online Retreats

    • No upcoming events

    Quotes from Participants

    "I was surprised and delighted by how easily a sense of community developed in the online format."

    "I learned that a retreat isn’t really about going away. It’s about giving permission and time and space to just practice."

    "This format pushed me to establish a space for daily practice that works!"

    "I never expected an online retreat to compare with live, but I got so much deep practice and insights."

    "I felt deep relaxation which is important during these trying times."

    Please scroll down to the bottom of the page for more detailed notes from our participants.

    Upcoming One-day Online Retreats

    Reports from Online Retreat Participants

    We invited participants to give their honest accounts of what it was like to join Mindfulness Northwest for a 5-day Online Mindfulness Retreat.
    Below is what they shared with us exactly as they wrote it. 

    The retreat was great because it allowed me to practice in my ordinary life. It was also a challenge for the same reason but it's an experience that I recommend. I felt deep relaxation which is important during these trying times so I encourage others to engage in an online retreat to see what they will experience. 

    - Tiana

    What I’ve become aware of is that a retreat isn’t really about going away.  It’s about giving permission and time and space to just practice.  Skillful, kind teachers and a supportive community of attendees are key, but the beautiful setting is optional.  When you can open yourself to the magic that is mindfulness, wherever you are becomes a place of almost unbearable beauty.  It becomes its own sanctuary.    I never expected an online retreat to compare with somewhere like Samish Bay, but I got so much deep practice and insights---that are associated with my own home.  Thank you.

    The extra free time in the afternoon was a lovely addition to the normal retreat schedule.   I certainly found mindful ways to work in the yard or the house or the kitchen.  It really was a wonderful way to bring the retreat into my real life 

    - Carol

    I started out skeptical, but was surprised and delighted by how easily a sense of community developed in the online format. In some ways, I felt like I got to know the other participants better than in a traditional retreat. I did find it difficult to keep practicing in the break-times with no one else around; perhaps a bit more explicit instructions or support for that would be useful for online retreats. It was not the same as an in-person retreat (of course, because it wasn't that!) but neither was it worse or better - just different. As with in-person retreats, I felt very quieted, calmed, and grounded by the end. And it was very cool to get to be at a retreat with people from all over geographically!

    - Amanda

    Though I knew it was not going to be the same as an in-person retreat I tried to approach it that way as much as possible. This did help in terms of really clearing out my schedule and setting expectations for others (especially family members). It was very hard on my wife because I intended to maintain as much silence as I could, and even knowing why I was not talking, the fact that I wasn't frustrated her. As someone who struggles to establish a consistent meditation practice at home, this format really pushed me to establish a space that could work (however imperfectly), which I expect will help in the future. There was still a sense of community, though the connections to others seemed to work differently. Missing were things like the sounds of others nearby (since for the most part everyone is muted except the leaders), but in other ways the Zoom format was more personal (both because you see little glimpses of others' lives and because most of the time when I looked at the screen I noticed faces and facial expressions more than I would "in person").

    - John

    I'm about three days back from attending Mindfulness Northwest's virtual five-day Roots of Compassion retreat and I am still feeling the effects of that amazing experience. I was, admittedly, skeptical that doing a retreat over Zoom would be able to replicate the retreat experience that I'd had on Samish Island and - wow! - was I pleasantly surprised. It was absolutely different in some ways. I had to keep an eye on the time and I had much more responsibility for how I spent the time between sessions. And I believe that's part of why the effects have held so strongly for so long once I got back home. (True confession: I rented an Airbnb and attended the retreat from there.) Going on retreat in a space devoted to that experience, alongside others all doing the same thing is amazing but it makes it a lot easier to not maintain the practice of being mindful when you return home. At least that had been the case for me. But I have had five days' worth of experience creating a retreat frame of mind for myself, learning what circumstances make me more vulnerable to distraction and some tools for avoiding that. I'm planning to do the next retreat from home and I think it's going to be an amazing boost to my ability to carry my practice into all facets of my life. I now believe that doing retreats on my own (with the guidance of amazing teachers via Zoom) is as important, if not more important, than doing them in the more classic retreat setting.

    Thanks so much for Tim and Carolyn for their wise and patient teaching. It was a profoundly meaningful experience that I look forward to building on in the coming months.

    - Laura

    The roots of compassion retreat was an extremely rich experience for me. The combination of solitude, quiet and thoughtful guidance from Tim and Carolyn created a sacred container for me to connect to my meditation practice more deeply. I feel like our group connected in a way that was almost more profound than what it would’ve been if we were all together in person. Seeing everyone in their own spaces was especially intimate. I don’t feel like I missed out because the retreat was online. I feel like because it was online I got to have a really special experience.

    - Leanna

    I thought it was great to bring the support of a 5-day retreat to my house, and get to practice stillness and meditation for extended periods with all the usual distractions. I struggled at first to let go of the unfolded laundry, unfinished projects, unread e-mails—but the guidance from the teachers and the companionship of the other meditators kept pulling me back to the present and I really enjoyed the week. It was so valuable to experience the benefits of meditation in the same space where I had struggled so long to make time for myself every day.

    - Nikki

    During the 5-day online Deep Winter Retreat I felt safe and supported by Tim and Carolyn, both caring teachers. The structure of the retreat was well balanced,  and the additional resources provided were extensive. Mindfulness is a very useful practice that continues to change every moment in my life for the better. I highly recommend a retreat if you're looking to deepen your practice.

    - Brie

    The Roots of Compassion 7-day retreat continues to be wide, deep and manageable. The insights I received during the retreat and now two weeks later is centering on choosing more compassionate freedom for myself and how it spills into my life and work.

    I feel this tremendous blessing could only have surfaced in the deep and loving container (online worked perfectly!) co-created by the teachers and my fellow retreatants. I'm quite certain the benefits will  be exponential.

    - Margaret K., Bozeman, MT

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