It’s a good idea to start preparing early because silent meditation retreats usually last a few days and would require participants to do things that most people are not used to doing on a regular basis. For example, avoiding conversations and use of gadgets, sitting in meditation for longer periods, or getting up earlier than you may be used to. Here are a few tips to help you prepare before your retreat begins.
1. Try to meditate longer on a daily basis to prepare yourself for the more extended meditation sessions during the retreat itself.
2. Get used to spending time away from technology or gadgets because turning over cell phones and electronic devices to the retreat manager or teacher is quite common during silent meditation retreats.
3. Start eating healthy if you haven’t done so yet. Cut down on junk food, caffeine, sugary and salty food, fatty or oily dishes, and so on. Get used to eating smaller portions so your body will not be shocked when the retreat begins. It’s also a good idea to talk to the retreat organizers regarding your dietary restrictions, for example, some people are gluten intolerant, vegan, etc.
4. Make sure you are physically and mentally fit to take the retreat. If you have health issues, speak to your doctor before signing up for any retreat. Don’t forget to bring your medications and other health paraphernalia.
5. Decide on your preferred posture and get used to it. Because the meditation sessions are going to be long, you need to choose the posture you are most comfortable with—and using what tools—and to get used to doing that for long periods. “Tools” would include cushions, zafus and zabutons, mats, accessories, etc. If you have a favorite gear you have been training with, like a bench or chair, bring it with you. Preparation would also entail doing daily stretching exercises so you’re flexible and physically strong when the retreat happens.
6. It’s a good idea to get used to the retreat’s daily schedule way in advance, so make sure to ask the organizers for a copy of the program or schedule ahead of time so you can practice.
7. Bring comfortable clothes like loose shirts, track pants, yoga pants, footwear, and so on. It’s best to check with the retreat organizers as to which items will be provided at the venue, for example, will there be blankets and pillows, bath towels, and slippers? Bring enough clothing to last you the whole period, in case you can’t wash your clothes while you are there. Prepare for both hot and cold temperatures, just to be sure. A final word on clothing: Bring shawls, ponchos, or hoodies—anything that will help you get comfortable.
8. And finally, get your home in order. This would mean setting things up so pets are fed and plants are taken care of, all due bills are paid, and your email’s auto-reply function is activated. Give your family and friends an emergency contact number, just in case. Protect the valuables you are leaving behind, and make sure that your mind is peaceful while you’re on the retreat.