Silent Meditation Retreat

I’ve wanted to do a meditation retreat, but between the cost and the time commitment, I’ve never gone. So I decided that I’d try to recreate the retreat experience in my home. I settled on a period of three days and, with lots of help from a friend, made up a schedule and ground rules.

Overall it was a good experience. I definitely had some trouble with distractions. Staying in my home made it easier to be tempted by the internet and books. Even cleaning was looking like a fun activity. But it was good to spend a lot of time meditating. I didn’t have any “breakthroughs” or anything, but I did have some productive journaling and introspection.

The main type of meditation that I did was a mindfulness meditation. I’ve been doing mindfulness meditation regularly but not daily for several years and typically do a 30 minute session. One of my goals was to find out what a longer mindfulness session felt like. In my original schedule, I planed to start at 60 minutes and then two 90 minute sessions, a 120, and finally a 180.

That first 60 minute session felt really long. The first 90 minute session was also on the first day and I was not able to complete it. I just couldn’t stay focused and it felt like my “attention” muscle was worn out. After that I changed the schedule to have 60 minute sessions. That worked better, but it was still difficult if I wasn’t fully awake at the beginning of the session.

On the third day, my second hour long mindfulness meditation went really well. I was able to stay focused and my mind was mostly clear. After most sessions, my mind feels a bit more clear and relaxed, both tired and energized. This session had that same feel, but to a much greater degree. I also felt a new sensation of being extremely focused and present. All my actions and even physical movements felt like I was doing them with 100% intention and I had no distracting thoughts. That effect lasted for about 10 minutes and was very cool.

Something that I didn’t like were the noises of my apartment. I’d like to try another day of meditation somewhere with no distractions and no noise.

What I did


  • No talking or texting
  • No internet
  • Minimum distractions
  • Meals mostly pre-prepared


All these meditations were performed sitting in a comfortable position with partially crossed legs. For me, there is a sweet spot of uncomfortableness that isn’t distracting, but also helps keep me awake and focused. So I don’t lay down because I’d fall asleep, but I also don’t get into the full cross-leg typical meditation posture because it gets too uncomfortable.

I keep my eyes closed and like a quiet but not dark room.

Mindfulness Meditation

The goal of this meditation is to be focused on your awareness of the present moment. I focus attention on the breath and try not to let the mind wander into thoughts of the past or future or into daydreams. If I am having difficulty keeping my attention on the breath, I’ll count out breaths up to five or ten and then repeat, or I’ll mentally say “in” and “out” along with the breath.

Awareness Meditation

Like mindfulness, but without focusing on the breath and just resting the mind. I use these to allow the mind to wander and observe where it goes. When a thought or feeling comes, I give that thought or feeling my attention and some time. I’ll follow a thought for a while, and acknowledge a feeling, and then try to let them go. I find this to be particularly helpful in introspection. I keep a paper journal by my side while I do this kind of meditation so that I can make notes of my thoughts. This can be particularly helpful for letting go persistent thoughts.

In my schedule I would often do an awareness meditation after a guided meditation to allow myself time to reflect on the ideas in the guided meditation.

Guided Meditation

Pre-recorded meditations with guidance. I was using meditations from the Calm app. These were 10-15 minute relaxation/breathing meditations with a “lesson” at the beginning and/or end.

Visualization/Reflection Meditation

Visualize an image or possible future during the meditation. This is like the Awareness meditation, except that I try to guide my thoughts and feelings toward a particular goal or idea. I use these meditations to help make decisions and find out how I feel about different ideas or courses of action.

I will also use these meditations to visualize a change that I want to make or a future that I’d like for myself. It can be motivating.

Loving kindness meditation

Directing positive energy to myself and then to others. I tend to lightly smile during this type of meditation to encourage positive feelings. Guided meditations will often use phrases like “let your eyes and lips feel a slight smile.”


I made a schedule for myself with the times that I’d be doing each activity. But I quickly found that this kind of schedule was fragile. If I didn’t start at the right time or something took too long or not long enough, the rest of the scheduled times were off.

So I decided that a schedule should be more flexible and just have the events and how much time I’d like to spend on each one. If there is extra time or I need a break, good activities for me are stretching, cleaning, and short walks. Really anything that is physical but not distracting is good.

Here is the schedule that I’d make if I were doing it over again.

Daily Schedule

  • [30 minutes] Visualization meditation on the goals and intentions for the retreat
  • [30 minutes] Guided meditation followed by an awareness meditation
  • [45 minutes] Breakfast
  • [60 minutes] Mindfulness meditation
  • [15 minutes] Quick walk or Yoga or stretching
  • [30 minutes] Visualization or reflection meditation
  • [15 minutes] Journaling
  • [30 minutes] Guided meditation followed by an awareness meditation
  • [15 minutes] Quick walk or Yoga or stretching
  • [30 minutes] Loving kindness meditation
  • [45 minutes] Lunch
  • [30 minutes] Nap
  • [60 minutes] Mindfulness meditation
  • [30 minutes] Yoga
  • [30 minutes] Guided meditation followed by an awareness meditation
  • [30 minutes] Visualization or reflection meditation
  • [30 minutes] Walk
  • [30 minutes] Guided meditation followed by an awareness meditation
  • [15 minutes] Journaling
  • [45 minutes] Dinner
  • [60 minutes] Mindfulness meditation
  • [15 minutes] Quick walk or Yoga or stretching
  • [30 minutes] Guided meditation followed by an awareness meditation
  • [30 minutes] Visualization or reflection meditation
  • [15 minutes] Journaling

This is a total time of 14 hours which should leave a couple hours of slack in the day. If doing this over multiple days, I’d stick with the same basic schedule. Provide variety by choosing different physical activities, different topics to reflect on and new guided meditations.


  • If you have a spiritual or philosophical topic that you would like to reflect on, the guided meditations can be replaced with lectures on those topics.
  • If you are going to use caffeine, I’d suggest timing that before the mindfulness meditations.
  • If you are more or less practiced with mindfulness meditations, you might change the duration of these meditations.

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