Mindful Schools Guide:
How to Prepare for Virtual Retreat
In our 101 and 201 courses, educators learn that a mindfulness practice is not something that we “achieve” and then check off as complete. It is an ongoing process of learning and investigation into ourselves and our experience. As we cultivate awareness over time, and through more dedicated periods of practice like retreats, we deepen our understanding of what it means to be an embodied educator. This is a foundational element of the Mindful Schools Domains of Mindful Teaching framework (see pg 4), supporting us to approach our work with young people with curiosity and compassion.
Since you will be joining us virtually, our faculty will create a retreat container that is both firm enough to hold your experience, and also flexible enough to meet our varied living circumstances.
We look forward to practicing with you soon.
Setting Up for Home Retreat
Carve out time and space for yourself. It is helpful to make as much space as you can for yourself to participate fully in practice. To the extent they are possible for you, we recommend the following to help you participate fully in the day:
- Let others in the house know your intention to participate without interruption.
- Clarify the household schedule & responsibilities with co-caregivers if needed.
- Turn off or manage devices, messages, and notifications; clarify with anyone who might need to be in touch what level of emergency would constitute an acceptable interruption.
- Set up an area for seated practice in whatever posture is supportive to you (e.g. floor, cushion, chair). If you would like some guidance about setting up a sitting area and props that may support your posture, see this video.
- Wear comfortable clothing that allows you to move freely.
- Prepare a meal or snack ahead of time.
- Bring a journal and writing implement for our reflection period.
Below is our approximate schedule for retreats (in Pacific Time), which include both silent and guided practices as well as interactive elements to connect with each other as a community.
8:00–9:20am PT: Welcome, Orientation, and Connection
- Opening practice and orientation to virtual retreat
- Opening talk from Mindful Schools faculty
- Reflection and connection with our community
9:20–11:30am PT: Main Practice Period
- Guided practices (with options for seated, standing, or lying down postures) and movement practices. Includes a 15-minute break with options for self-guided movement such as stretching, walking, eating, etc.
11:30–11:55am PT: Practice Q&A
11:55am–12:05pm PT: Break
12:05–1:00pm PT: Reflection, Journaling, Sharing, and Closing Words
Community Agreements for Interpersonal Interactions
We ask that all retreat participants review our Agreements for Interpersonal Interactions, below.
Being in community is a supportive way to practice mindfulness. It also requires great care, as we each show up with different patterns, habits, and biases based on our differing life experience.
We offer the following agreements1 to:
- help bring mindful awareness to our interactions
- create an environment where we can notice, name, and transform our biases
- ensure that all members of our community are able to bring their whole selves as freely and safely as possible to all of our discussions
We ask that you reflect on these carefully and use them as a support for both personal and interpersonal growth as you move throughout our programs.
1 We gratefully acknowledge the work of Visions Inc. and the East Bay Meditation Center from which these agreements are adapted.
- TRY IT ON: Be willing to “try on” new ideas or ways of doing things that might not be what you prefer or are familiar with. This helps us move past habitual patterns of how we think and see the world.
- SEEK UNDERSTANDING INSTEAD OF AGREEMENT: Approach interactions seeking to better understand others, rather than convincing them you’re right. “I don’t understand” instead of “I disagree” helps you learn how the experience of others differs from yours.
- PRACTICE SELF FOCUS: Attend to and speak about your own experiences and responses. Do not speak for a whole group or express assumptions about the experience of others. Everyone is responsible for taking care of their own feelings and communicating their needs.
- PRACTICE “BOTH / AND”: When speaking, substitute “and” for “but.” This practice acknowledges and honors multiple realities based on our differing life experiences.
- MOVE UP / MOVE BACK: Encourage full participation by all present. Take note of who is speaking and who is not. If you tend to speak often, consider “moving back” and vice versa.
- PRACTICE MINDFUL LISTENING: Try to avoid planning what you’ll say as you listen to others. Listen with your full attention, and try to maintain awareness of your body as you listen. Be willing to be surprised, to learn something new.
- HONOR CONFIDENTIALITY: Take home learnings but don’t identify anyone other than yourself, now or later. If you want to follow up with anyone regarding something they said in this session, ask first and respect their wishes.
- PASS IF YOU WISH: You can say “I pass” if you don’t wish to speak. If someone else chooses to pass, respect their wish rather than trying to change their mind.
- ACKNOWLEDGE WE ALL HAVE BIASES: We can assume that we are all going to say things that reveal our biases. We are all learning about our own patterns of thinking and believing that are inherent in being human. Consider some of the ways to address bias, harm, or challenge on the next page.
Norms for Addressing Bias, Harm, or Challenge
A great gift of being in community is we can help reveal patterns we may not see on our own, through mindful and engaged dialogue with one another.
We are committed to helping one another be our best selves. Therefore we agree to support one another when we notice bias or harm by calling each other in and by agreeing to be called in by others. This is often uncomfortable for both the person calling in and the person being called in. We will name our observations plainly and with much kindness.
PRIVILEGE IMPACT OVER INTENT: If words or actions cause harm, acknowledge the impact on others and then be responsible for tending to your own feelings. Focusing on our “good intentions” or seeking validation or comfort from someone who feels harmed is often more hurtful than the initial interaction as it denies the impact on the other person.
REFRAIN FROM BLAMING OR SHAMING SELF & OTHERS: Practice giving skillful and compassionate feedback without blaming or shaming others. When receiving feedback, practice having a growth mindset without needing to defend, or feeling defeated or ashamed. We are all still growing.
We use the following framework when we witness harm or experience harm or challenge personally:
- PRESS PAUSE: Consider pressing pause to slow down, allow yourself to feel the impact in your body, take a breath, and make space for clarity to arise.
- DECIDE ON APPROPRIATE NEXT STEP: Among some of the things to consider is naming an “Ouch,” asking a question, or letting it go.
- I’m curious. What was your intention when you said that?
- I am having a reaction to what you said and I want to let you know why.
- I need to share how your comment just landed for me.
- I need to take a break from this conversation. I want to continue but I need to take care of my feelings.
- I’m noticing ___. I feel ___ about that. Would you be willing to ____?
- ASK QUESTIONS:
- I want to see if I’m understanding you correctly.
- It sounds like…
- I’m hearing that…
- Are you saying…?
- If I’m understanding you correctly…
Zoom Call-In Instructions
Set Your Zoom Profile Name
Example: Mia Arakaki (she/her) on Maidu Land*
* Invitation to Acknowledge Indigenous Land: In their zoom profile names, our faculty will acknowledge the indigenous land from which they are calling. We invite you to do the same if it feels appropriate. You can visit this website https://native-land.ca/ as a reference.
Zoom Call-In Number
Zoom instructions may be found in your confirmation email. You will also receive a 1-hour reminder on the day of the event.
5 Hours, Live Online, Guided by Faculty
- Silent Practice, Movement, Journaling
- Connection and Interaction in Small Groups
- Q&A with Faculty
Reflections From Virtual Retreat:
“Wow today was amazing! It’s always hard to know how to adequately sum up these experiences, but the highlights came from so much of what was taught and shared by each teacher in ways that were unique and also complimented each other.”
“It was such a great feeling to be a part of a thriving Mindful Schools. Each of the teachers led remarkable sessions today. We loved the combination that you put together––sits, movement, small groups (interaction) and Q and A.”
“You all are amazing! Everything was so skillfully planned with such love. Thank you for holding this space.”
“After a challenging year for us all, it was amazing to be with members of the Mindful Schools community, and I look forward to more online AND in-person retreats! I am always reminded, post-retreat, how beneficial and necessary these experiences are… I didn’t quite know how I would feel about being online for 5 hours after spending so much of my daily life on the computer and on Zoom; however, I was so pleasantly surprised by how special the experience was. I would not change one thing about your format! Thank you all for your tenderness and your kind attention in putting this together for our community!”