Monthly Intensives

Shared Intention to Deepen Practice

Monthly intensives are a recurring event, held on the first Sunday of each month in our Discord community. The purpose of the monthly intensive is to encourage participants to gently stretch their boundaries and step outside of their comfort zone with the aim of deepening their practice. How this is achieved is up to each individual. An intensive might include any or all of the following:

When planning an intensive, feel free to be creative and make it enjoyable, but resolve to practice earnestly and challenge yourself.

To take part in the monthly intensive event, all you need to do is determine your intention for the day and commit to practice. However, participants can help support and encourage each other by sharing intentions, practice reports, invitations to sit together, questions, or anything else in the #intensives channel. We also offer a limited-access voice channel for intensives participants who would like to sit together (or alone) in silence.

Below, we offer some ideas for activities to engage in outside of meditation and a few sample schedules for an intensive period of practice. You may use these for inspiration, but we encourage you to be creative, mix and match, and make the intensive your own. Tara Brach also offers some helpful tips and resources for creating your own home retreat on her site. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the #intensives channel.

How often do you spend a day doing nothing at all? Probably not very often! Most of us fill our days with tasks—many of them distractions—from morning to night. Use the monthly intensive as an opportunity to set aside at least 3-5 hours—and if possible, a whole day—and simply do nothing, aside from your daily meditation. This will be more difficult than it sounds! Don’t distract yourself. You can move to a different room or go outside, but just be lazy and do nothing. Thinking is fine, but try to be aware that it’s happening. If you need to do anything, like prepare a meal or eat, then make sure to single-task and do it lazily. No rushing.

Spending time in nature can be a great mindfulness practice. We naturally become more relaxed, and the beauty and sense of awe that is so readily available inclines us toward gratitude and appreciation. We see impermanence and interdependence in action. Try to stick to slower, more casual activities. You could take a walk in a park, go hiking in the woods, or just lounge around by the side of a lake and do some sky gazing. Take advantage of whatever natural environment is available to you.

This idea probably comes as no surprise. Qigong and yoga can both be incredibly relaxing and meditative. For qigong, Eight Pieces of Silk Brocade is a popular sequence that almost anyone will be able to do with some practice. Plum Village Dharma Teacher Thich Man Tue also has a YouTube channel full of great qigong videos. For yoga, yin and restorative yoga sequences are very gentle and relaxing. Here is a yin yoga playlist from Yoga with Kassandra and here is a restorative yoga playlist from Yoga with Adriene. If you try these and they aren’t working for you, feel free to stop by the #yoga or #somatics channels to ask fellow community members for more recommendations.

Engaging in creative activities, like making art, playing music, or dancing can be a great way to fully immerse yourself in the present moment. If you have a preferred creative activity, then use that. Otherwise, consider something like mindful coloring, sketching, or watercolor painting. For musical activities, grab some percussive items from around the house (or hand drums, if you have them) and see what kind of rhythms you can come up with. You could also use your voice to improvise melodies or rhythms. For something somatic, try dancing or just moving the body around in space or on the floor. This is not a performance, so forget about making it “good.” Just try to immerse yourself completely in the activity.

Listening to Dharma talks or reading books about meditation and mindfulness can be a great way to use your intensive time outside of meditation. It can inspire us and help motivate us to practice earnestly. Dharma Seed has a massive collection of recorded talks, as well as many recordings of full retreats, which you could replicate on your own at home. AudioDharma is another similar site. If you would like to listen to readings of Buddhist suttas, there are several good resources listed at Reading Faithfully. For books, see our recommendations here. You can also read Pali canon suttas at Access to Insight or SuttaCentral, or Tibetan canon sutras in the 84000 Reading Room.

5:30—6:15 am Wake up, shower, get ready mindfully.
6:15—6:45 am Walking meditation (outdoors, if possible).
6:45—7:30 am Light snack, and mindfully prepare and drink a cup of coffee or green tea.
7:30—8:15 am Sitting meditation.
8:15—8:45 am Walking meditation (outdoors, if possible).
8:45—9:15 am Guided meditation (Tara Brach has some great ones).
9:15—9:30 am Walking meditation (outdoors, if possible).

Source: Half-Day At-Home Meditation Retreat | Chris Bailey

7:00 am  Zazen (Sitting Meditation)
7:30 am  Kinhin (Walking Meditation)
7:40 am  Zazen
8:05 am  Service
8:30 am  Breakfast
9:00 am  Work Practice
10:00 am  Break
10:30 am  Zazen
11:00 am  Kinhin
11:10 am  Zazen
11:40 am  Kinhin (short)
11:45 am  Dharma Talk
12:30 pm  Kinhin
12:40 pm  Zazen
1:10 pm  Lunch/Break
3:00 pm  Zazen
3:30 pm  Kinhin
3:40 pm  Zazen
4:10 pm  Kinhin
4:20 pm  Zazen
4:50 pm  Reading
5:00 pm  Snack/Break
6:30 pm  Zazen
7:00 pm  Kinhin
7:10 pm  Zazen
7:40 pm  Closing Vows and Bows
Source: Full-Day Schedule | Zen Center of San Diego
4:00 am Wake Up
4:30-6:30 am Meditate
6:30-8:00 am Breakfast Break
8:00-9:00 am Group Meditation
9:00-11:00 am Meditate
11:00-12:00 noon Lunch Break
12 noon-1:00 pm Rest and Interviews
1:00-2:30 pm Meditate
2:30-3:30 pm Group Meditation
3:30-5:00 pm Meditate
5:00-6:00 pm Tea Break
6:00-7:00 pm Group Meditation
7:00-8:15 pm Teacher’s Discourse
8:15-9:00 pm Group Meditation
9:00-9:30 pm Question Time
9:30 pm Lights Out

Source: Course Timetable | Vipassana Meditation

5:00 am Wake Up
6:00 am Sitting Meditation
7:00 am Physical Exercise
7:45 am Breakfast
9:00 am Dharma Talk
11:30 am Walking Meditation in Nature
1:30 pm Rest or Optional Guided Relaxation
3:00 pm Mindful Service
6:00 pm Light Dinner
8:00 pm Personal Study / Sitting Meditation
9:30 pm Noble Silence Begins
10:00 pm Lights Out

Source: Sample Schedule | Plum Village