Setting Up a Retreat at Home

Sharing Lama Shenpen’s advice on home retreat, from her booklet about practising at home. During this difficult and uncertain time due the coronavirus pandemic, several of Lama Shenpen’s students are using their time at home for retreat purposes, practising alone together. 

“Often students of the Awakened Heart Sangha do retreats at home. A retreat is a period of intensive practice lasting anywhere from half a day to a week or more.

It is a very good way of creating a special place and time for strengthening and renewing your practice. It is important to set yourself a timetable in advance with some periods of formless practice, some recitations and some study and reflection. It is good to include some walking meditation also.

Setting boundaries means that you give your word in the presence of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to practise in a certain place for a certain time without being distracted by the usual things we fill up our time with such as talking, using your phone, watching television and doing chores.

For the time of the retreat we commit ourselves simply to focus on study, reflection and meditation until the end of the specified period and we commit ourselves to the programme we have laid down for ourselves. It might be easier to do this at home after having experienced the discipline of a group retreat. On the other hand this might be the best way of preparing yourself for a group retreat.

Often students of the Awakened Heart Sangha set themselves a home retreat during a time they know a group retreat is going on at the Hermitage and in this way can feel they are participating from home. Often the recordings of teachings that I give at the retreat are made available online as the retreat is in progress which increases that sense of actually joining in with the rest of the Sangha from home.

A sample schedule might be:

7-8am Liturgy and meditation
9-10am Meditation
10.30-12pm Study
2.30-4.30pm Meditation with a walk outdoors
4.30-6pm Meditation
7.30-8.30pm Liturgy and meditation

Personal retreat boundaries might include no use of your phone, no opening mail, no talking to anyone outside other than in emergencies. No reading of anything other than Dharma books previously chosen for study purposes. No visiting other houses, or use of the car, except in an emergency.

It is good to tell others in the Sangha that you are doing a retreat at home because it reinforces your intention. It also inspires others to do the same thing themselves.”

Lama Shenpen Hookham

This is an excerpt from Lama Shenpen Hookham’s book ‘Mandala of Sacred Space: Setting up your Practice at Home’Available here or it can be purchased directly from the Sangha for members of the AHS.

During this time of uncertainty, the Awakened Heart Sangha are providing more ways for members to connect together online. Many members are undertaking retreats as part of self-isolation or social distancing and joining in with the several meditation sessions a day are broadcast live.

Find out more here about how to join the AHS and become of student of Lama Shenpen and join the Living the Awakened Heart Training – the structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme in Buddhist meditation, reflection and insight. The training, which is open to all, brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a Western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more at

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