Skip to content

How a Home Retreat Differs from a Formal Retreat

Despite core similarities, a Home Retreat does not look like a formal residential retreat at a retreat center or monastery and should not be considered in that light. It’s true, a Home Retreat can be structured to closely resemble a residential retreat, but the intention for a Home Retreat is to learn how to integrate the realities of a lay life with the wisdom gleaned from formal practices. One uses everyday responsibilities, choices and distractions as the field for our practice. Everyday life is essential to the Home Retreat. Frequent use of Home Retreats trains the yogi and gives an unconscious permission to integrate and advance the techniques and wisdom gleaned into our Home Practice thus creating a continuous platform to deepen our practice.
When doing a Home Retreat one continues normal activities of daily living, but instead of fitting meditation practice in when it’s convenient, the practice becomes the primary focus.


Who Can Benefit from Home Retreat

Home Retreats are exceptionally valuable for two types of lay yogi. First is any yogi who, regardless of his or her retreat experience or level of wisdom, is motivated to make spiritual practice the central focus of his or her life. The second is a yogi who has done a number of longish retreats and finds that his or her lay life practice is under-supported between retreats.

Foundational Readings for Home Retreat

To best understand and make use of this Home Retreat Guide I suggest you read in Nyanaponika Thera’s The Heart of Buddhist Meditation with special attention to the section on sampajañña. Also very helpful is Bhikkhu Bodhi’s very short book The Noble Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering. These two texts will serve any yogi throughout the Path and both are especially useful for doing Home Retreats.
This particular guide relies heavily on the Mahasi Sayadaw school of Theravada Buddhist practice as a foundation, but because spiritual practice is not exclusive to any one tradition, this guide can be of service to anyone who is sincere in cultivating an integrated and effective meditative life. For anyone reading this guide who may be unfamiliar with Mahasi practice or Buddhist meditation practices, please use your own spiritual tradition’s language and apply these instructions to your practice where it appears a fit and useful.
Pali, the ancient Buddhist scriptural language, is used regularly in the text and frequently in the footnotes. Using Pali is not a necessary requirement in order to practice or study vipassanā (insight) meditation, but it does allow those who practice in this particular way to share a language. Sharing a language specific to meditation can have wide-ranging benefits; it can serve by reducing confusion when speaking with others regarding meditation practice while simultaneously creating community. When Pali is used in the text it has been chosen because there is no adequate English word or phrase to capture that word or that phrase’s precise meaning.
It will be especially useful to have a working understanding of these basic terms: satisampajaññasati-sampajañña, yogi, vipassanā and vinaya. Also, throughout the document the terms ‘focus’ and ‘attention’ appear frequently. These terms are interchangeable and have a general meaning. They are used to describe our attempts to bring meditative skills to bear in the moment. Sometimes they will mean very intensive laser-like concentration and sometimes they will mean a softer and more general understanding and approach to the situation being explored. The terms will be self-explanatory depending on the context being used.
The footnotes to this guide are intended to be more than a quick eye to the meaning of a word or to the context of a phrase. Mixed in the footnotes is a rich vein of information with links to commentaries and original texts, along with a few personal definitions and comments. These veins and threads offer the reader the opportunity to consult and study the necessary fundamentals of this meditation practice. It definitely provides a retreatant a way to best utilize the Home Retreat Guide.
Tip: Using the indexes and footnotes in this Guide will open doors to scriptural study and, for many, is a key to a better understanding of what meditation does and is about.

Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering, Bhikkhu Bodhi. the End of Suffering

End of Suffering: See Index.

Vipassanā: 1. In English vipassanā, mindfulness, sati, and insight, are often used interchangeably to describe the meditation practice of bringing one’s unfiltered attention to our experience at any of the six sense doors. The Pali term sati is also commonly used to mean vipassanā. allan cooper 2. Vipassanā, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India’s most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills. This non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation. (unknown) 3. Insight meditation (vipassanā): Attending to objects of consciousness with bare attention. 4. ‘The Noble Eightfold Path: Way to the End of Suffering’, Chapter Six, ‘Sammā-Sati’, Bhikkhu Bodhi.

Sati: 1. ‘Mindfulness’ is one of the Five Spiritual Faculties and Powers, one of the Seven Factors of Enlightenment and the Seventh link of the Noble Eightfold Path, and is, in its widest sense, one of those mental factors insperarperaly associated with all karmically wholesome and karma-produced lofty consciousness. Buddhist Dictionary by Nyanatiloka. 2. Sati, vipassanā and insight meditation are often used interchangeably in English. For the purpose of this Guide it is helpful to translate vipassanā to mean sati-sampajañña, and that sati and sampajañña as having different and distinct meanings. allan cooper.

Sampajañña: See footnote.

Sati-sampajañña: See footnote

Yogi: See footnote.

Vipassanā: See footnote.

Vinaya: (Basket of the Discipline). 1. The vinaya, literally meaning “leading out,” “education,” and “discipline.” It is the regulatory framework for the sangha or monastic community of Buddhism based on the canonical texts called the Vinaya Pitaka. Wikipedia. 2, In other words, the rules and conventions that all Buddhist monastics agree to adhere to when they are ordained. Code of conduct. Livelihood. allan cooper.