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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Do-It-Yourself Mini-Retreat for Counselors and Teachers

The following is a guest post by Jennifer Howd, adapted from her book Sit, Walk, Don’t Talk: How I Survived a Silent Meditation Retreat, and published here with permission from Parallax Press.  For more information about home retreats, including a list of suggested home retreat itineraries, visit

In the midst of trying to meet the seemingly endless needs of our students or clients, teachers and therapists often feel there’s no time to breathe or to reflect, let alone to focus on our own, personal needs. A silent meditation retreat can be a life-changing experience because we intentionally let go of our commitments and distractions and come face-to-face with ourselves. And, even though retreats can prove to be quite challenging—I assure you they’re worth it.

If you’d like to get a taste of what it might be like before committing to a longer silent retreat experience, and/or it’s not possible for you to attend a residential retreat right now—you can start by creating a mini-retreat at home. All you need is a clear intention and some self-discipline.

Photo by Stockimages for


I recommend spending at least two full hours in silence, distraction-free. Often, the best times to take a retreat are when we feel too busy to do so. Intentionally carve out the time you’ve decided to give yourself in silence, and put it on your schedule to make sure it happens.


It can be a radical gesture not to be doing something 24/7 and to take the time to just ‘be.’ A two or three-hour mini-retreat isn’t self-indulgent. It’s an essential part of self-care that can help you better serve your students or clients.


Listen to yourself and what you feel you need. Consider creating a schedule of meditation and mindful movement. Or you might simply want to sit quietly and rest and/or go for a long walk in nature.
Decide if you want to retreat alone or with a like-hearted friend or small group of colleagues. If you decide to retreat with others, make sure to cover ground rules and expectations before diving in.


Turn off your phone and unplug all other communication and entertainment devices. If you live with others, ask them to respect the period of silence and to please not disturb you. 

Dedicating time just for you isn’t self-centered. It’s self-centering. Letting go of everyday stresses and distractions can help you clear your head and reconsider your priorities, which will enable you to be more present and responsive to your students or clients.

Excerpted and adapted from Sit, Walk, Don't Talk by Jennifer Howd © 2017. Reprinted with permission of Parallax Press.

About the Author

photo courtesty Jennifer Howd
Recently featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition, Jennifer Howd is an author, editor, and a Certified Mindfulness Facilitator through UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. Her debut memoir, Sit, Walk, Don’t Talk: How I Survived a Silent Meditation Retreat, is published by Zen maste, Thich Nhat Hanh's publishing company, Parallax Press, and she posts about mindful living on The Huffington Post, as well as on her blog and social media channels. For more information, visit


related posts: 

Sit, Walk, Don't Talk (recommended book)

Worksheet: Increasing Your Ability to Be Present