Planning for a Retreat
I am off to a meditation retreat shortly … and inner and outer adventure!
I posted earlier Embarking on a Meditation Retreat.
On a meditation retreat we commit to letting go and doing nothing (well, nothing as we normally would) .. and this is a fantastic way to release our routine responsibilities, labels and activities.
To facilitate this transition to a new way of being .. it is really important to handle what needs to be handled in your ‘real life’ before you depart. A retreat can be challenging on so many levels .. just sitting for long periods is challenging enough .. but in that vacuum of silence that you find yourself immersed in, stressful thoughts seem to bubble up and explode as if from nowhere, and many worries are going to be around unfinished household projects or unpaid bills.
Distractions are standard when on retreat .. but we can reduce some anxiety by having a checklist of – What To Do Before Leaving on Retreat.
Over the last few days I have been assessing what needs to be done on a practical level and have made a little checklist below:
Understand The Environment
I Googled (as you do) the expected weather at the retreat center. I looked at the long-range forecast and the ‘expected’ average temperature, I also asked my online tribe by posting some questions on social media – and received some great advice from those living close by. I am finding it a challenge to get my head around leaving the height of Australian Summer (ie. 105 degrees) to a location that will be at the height of Winter (with a high chance of snow on the ground). It means that I have to source some more appropriate footwear and find my stored winter jackets .. and I really should invest in some new meditation pants (my current ones might fall apart they are so worn).
*Understand the weather. Print a picture of the location to remind you (if you are currently somewhere completely different)
*Shop for essentials
Make sure you are fully aware of all travel requirements. I am heading overseas, so I need to ensure that my Passport meets requirements as some foreign governments require visitors to carry passports with at least six months validity beyond their planned stay, and you may be refused entry if you do not comply. Same with a valid Visa. Take a copy of all your documents and have a spare set left at home or with someone you can contact if need be.
Do you need foreign currency? How about a Credit Card? there are various options available and you need to do some research to find what suits you best.
Travel insurance .. having had friends recently stranded on an Island due to volcanic activity, I will never again ponder the value of travel insurance. I have also gotten a travel wallet where I am filing everything needed as it comes to hand; and a checklist to tick off before I head to the airport:
*Travel Insurance details
*Cash for short-term needs
*Itinerary in a travel wallet
*Copy of all documents to be held at home/with family
*Checklist to mark off before leaving to airport
I have checked with the retreat center and been advised that various meditation cushions/seats and stools (and yoga mats) will be provided. I would love to take my own meditation cushion, but the weight of those things makes it difficult. If these items were not available at the retreat center, then I consider finding a local school or centre that I might hire or purchase.
Now, if your retreat prefers for you to be seated on the floor with a cushion, and this is not something you currently do – NOW is the time to start preparing your body (and mind) for that posture. Familiarise yourself with how to sit in the way that is being taught/expected – and generally it is all about keeping your spine straight (notes here and here). No doubt long periods of sitting are going to be challenging for anyone, even long time practitioners, but you can ease the transition by starting now and readying the body to relax and soften while at home.
*Equipment to take
*Posture/Walking/Yoga practice requirements
Lists to Leave
I shall have someone in my home while I am away .. and I want to make their time as comfortable and relaxing as possible, so I am preparing a checklist of ‘lists’ :
*Contact Numbers: write out a list of important contact numbers (people close by, family members, emergency utilities, vet, neighbours, police, hospital etc) and my own travel details
*Keys: where are the spares? who needs them? do you need to have more cut?
*Household routines: for my gorgeous dog; when to feed, exercise requirements, food supplies, cuddle time, favourite toys and a warning that he likes to sleep on my feet (on my bed). Also the council bin collection times and any appointments for tradesmen etc already set.
*Food/Supplies: where to find supplies in the overstuffed and disorganised cupboards (which I may or may not have time to resolve before leaving), how the microwave and various machines work (ie. the juicer).
*Wish List: a short list of what I hope will be the case on my return .. floors cleaned, bins emptied, mail collected and ready for review, fresh milk and bread in the fridge, garden watered, washing off the line.
*Start comparing flights and any other travel requirements. Check discount flight offers, specials, tours you might want to take, time zone changes – lock it in!
*Check your calendar, your partner/children/schools/best girlfriends calendar to make sure you are aware of anything that you need to do, or address, before heading off on retreat.
*Collate all bills and make sure nothing is going to be cancelled in your absence
*Inoculations – some countries will suggest you become a pin cushion before travelling .. Hepatitis, Rabies, Malaria .. these can often have time frames of effectiveness so check with your doctor early.
*Medical/personal hygiene requirements. Travelling with prescription medication often means also taking a doctor’s letter or copy of the prescription. Recently we were pulled over by customs when one of our party had a large-ish quantity of vitamin supplements. There is nothing more unsettling than being tucked away at a retreat and finding that you forgot toothpaste, and the closest shop is an hour away. Also check airport security requirements for aerosols and liquids etc.
*Power supply requirements – and chargers for any phone/laptop/camera needs
*Assess any urgent maintenance that needs to be addressed
*Sitters – Identify if you need a House or Pet Sitter
*Security – review of house, personal items put away for safety, office files secured
*Clean up – I want to empty and clean the refrigerator, mop the floors, clean the bathrooms etc
*Gifts – I am going to be taking some small gifts with me for my hosts, and what I have in mind will need some time to prepare – schedule sufficient time for this!
*I always change the bed sheets before I leave .. because there is nothing more welcoming and homely than coming home (tired from long travel) and knowing that your personal space is clean and ready for you.
Next up .. Preparing Yourself for a Retreat