I have been yearning of late to renew my meditation practice. Simultaneously, I noticed that several friends were taking a hiatus from Facebook to focus on family and other interests during the holidays. When I put these two thoughts together, the idea that most readily presented itself was to take time off from Facebook and use that time rather to cultivate my practice.
Further reflection brought to mind the fact that even when I have done meditation regularly at home, I always feel more encouraged and inspired in a retreat setting. But, given the constraints of my current caretaking role, participating in a retreat at some physical place like Furnace Mountain Zen Retreat Center is not feasible. Then I recalled that once I participated in a “virtual retreat” that was really successful and helpful.
The premise behind the virtual retreat is that participants in various locations agree to meditate for certain amounts of time each day for a period of days or weeks. To bring solidarity and morale to the practice together, there is a host who facilitates the virtual communication about the retreat (this was done via e-mail in the one I did years ago), and with whom participants check in daily to report the times of their participation.
So I asked my partner, Nate, who lives two states away, if he would like to participate with me in a virtual retreat for the next 12 days. He embraced the opportunity to support each other in our practice, and agreed. We joked that I should make it a Facebook event, which was funny given that the initial thought was to replace social media time with meditation time.
But upon greater consideration, I do see a great deal of merit in using Facebook as a hosting tool to open this retreat to anyone, anywhere, who would like to be involved. I suspect that the encouragement of a virtual community of others committed to a 12-day renewal of practice could be helpful to many.
If you would like to join us, simply go to my Facebook page and sign up by commenting on the link to this blog or posting on my wall. Then, starting today, you pick your own time and place for sitting. When you sit is totally flexible and up to you. The amount of time you are committing to per day is very small, and increases incrementally every three days, according to this schedule:
Dec. 26, 27, 28 – 15 minutes
Dec. 29, 30, 31 – 20 minutes
Jan. 1, 2, 3 – 25 minutes
Jan. 4, 5, 6 – 30 minutes
Each morning on my Facebook page, I will put up a wall post that reads “Virtual Meditation Retreat Sitting Time Check-in.” After you do your daily sit, any time in the 24-hour period, just comment under that day’s post what your time period was (i.e. 8:45-9 a.m.) as a way of showing your participation and encouraging the rest of the group in their practice. You may also write a short comment if you like.
I will also create a discussion group for anyone participating who would like to talk about meditation, and decide together on intentions we may wish to focus on as a group in our daily practice. Involvement in the discussion group is optional.
If you miss the first day of the retreat, today, please join in whenever you like. If you miss a day along the way, do not worry and feel free to stay with the group when you can. If you have to drop off before the ending date, that is fine too.
Nate and I are going to coordinate our sitting to be simultaneous. If you would like to do this with us or with a close friend, that would be great. If you already have a daily practice, and would like to show support for this group by joining, please do! It will help us all.