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Staying In For a Virtual Retreat?

Here’s What to Do Beforehand

Getty/Inna Fetjukova

A virtual retreat doesn't have to be any less of a relaxing escape than a physical one. The space you retreat in (virtually or not) has an immense impact on your experience, prepare appropriately.


One of the best parts of a retreat getaway is the actual getting away. Away from the demands of everyday life, away from the dishes, the laundry, the chores that call to you from your home. These days, so much of our lives are spent in our homes that the idea of a retreat feels like a dream, the elusive, foggy type we can’t quite wrap our mind around.

A retreat offers a powerful container for growth and change. It’s a place ripe with intention, where there is space to focus wholeheartedly. So, in this time of physical distancing, we can still cozy up in community virtually. It just requires a different kind of planning.

Just as you would for any retreat, there are preparatory steps to take so your experience will be satisfying rather than frustrating. Try these ideas to enhance your virtual retreat.

Create a sacred space. Be sure to clear any clutter or piles of unfinished chores or work. Set it all aside so you can relax fully in the present. Let the people around you know that you are taking some space or invite them to join you if it feels appropriate. If you live in a noisy place, consider using a white noise machine to limit intrusive sounds.

Set the intention for the room. If you have enough ventilation, you may want to smudge the room with sage, light a scented candle, or diffuse your favorite essential oils into the air. You could also have a face mist on hand to use throughout the retreat. Clearing the energy and igniting inspiration through your sense of smell can help to create a shift in your awareness.

Gather what you need to feel fully cared for. Be sure to plan ahead so you have what you need on hand. You may want a yoga mat, a cozy sweater or throw, a journal and beautiful pen to write with, an eye pillow, or a mug of your favorite tea and some snacks. You will be well-served by not having to run out of the room to grab these things mid-retreat. Your retreat organizer will most likely provide a list of suggestions, so be sure to look for it in your welcome packet.

Think through your technology. Set yourself up with the appropriate ways to engage with the retreat. Connect speakers to your computer and adjust the sound so you will easily be able to hear what is being shared. Update any programs you are using, and although it might be tempting to slide in last minute, log on five to ten minutes early so you can be sure that all of your technology is working. Figure out beforehand how to get support from the retreat team if something goes awry while you are trying to connect.

Find a way to transition. In ordinary circumstances, retreats involve a fair amount of travel, often over great distances (See: Six Secrets for Planning a Retreat for a Group of Friends). This allows space for adjustment, anticipation, and preparation. Give yourself this time to transition both as you prepare for your retreat with the above steps, and also when the retreat is over. Don’t just jump back into the chores of your life. Plan on drawing a bath or engaging in something creative. Go on a walk or let yourself lay down and rest in order to process the information you have just taken in. Give yourself this gift by identifying and recognizing what it is that you need the most in order to transition.

Retreats are ultimately about self-care. You are choosing to participate in a way that is meant to nourish you on a deep level. With some planning and clear intention your virtual retreat can offer potent benefits.