When I sat down to think about how to create a retreat experience without physically arriving at Lutheridge, I began by thinking about what makes the AwakeningSoul experience what it is. Some of it can be replicated at home. Some can't quite be, but you can explore substitutes to get it as close as possible.
An undeniably large part of the retreat experience is the simple act of being somewhere other than home. The change in setting can open us up to change within. 

We can't fully replicate this at home, but we can make some changes to bring the same perspective shift that leads to that opening. 

Think about a place you love to be on retreat or vacation. Other than the latitude and longitude location, what is it about that place that you love? How does it make you feel to be there? Can you think of any ways to create that same feeling at home for a few days? 

Think about making some sacred space for your time "away". Can you set aside a room or even just a cozy corner with a comfy chair? Test drive a few spaces and see how they feel. Then, once you've decided on one, set it up with everything you'll need to be comfortable and engaged. For me, this is a stack of notebooks and good pens, a few art supplies, a stash of snacks and drinks nearby, and a blanket. I also like to set up a small altar to help hold the sacredness of the space. Usually this is simple - just a candle and a few small things that bring to mind whatever it is I want to focus on for my time apart. Some incense or an essential oil diffuser can also do wonders for making a space feel set apart. 

I know this isn’t possible for everyone but perhaps you can still go someplace by yourself or with a couple of well isolated friends who are also attending the AwakeningSoul gathering. Is there a retreat center near you that is offering overnight accommodations (most retreat centers are suffering and many are offering lodging and even meals for small groups and individuals)? Maybe someone you know has a cabin or house not being used in early November. A hotel? An Airbnb? Here is a list with a few ideas – just make sure there is a good Wi-Fi connection.
One of the things I miss most about in person conferences and retreats this year is having my meals provided. It's so freeing to not have to think about when or what I'll be eating. And not having to plan, shop, prepare, or clean up after any of it is even better. If there are others in your home who are willing and able to take on all things food while you're enjoying the conference, gratefully accept their service and move on to the next section.

For the rest of us who are accepting the sad reality that no one is going to send a catering crew to our homes for our "time apart" I recommend that you become the catering crew now so "future you" can relax and enjoy the conference. Plan a menu and prepare your meals in advance so that when the time comes all you have to do is pick a dish and reheat it. “Future you” will be grateful! Remember to prepare things for hospitality time and snacking as well. Here are a couple of hospitality recipes to help you feel like we are enjoying time together.
Honestly? For some, attempting to sleep in a new place is always a challenge, so you may be grateful for the chance to be on retreat and still sleep in your own bed. But maybe, like me, that change of location is an important part of the experience for you. If so, maybe you have a guest room you can sleep in instead? Or maybe just switch out your bedding to make the setting feel a bit different. 

The most important thing is that you get your sleep! This time apart will be just as demanding of your emotional and mental energy as if we were gathering in person. It will be tempting to catch up on things around the house when programming ends for the day. Resist! You're not really at home, remember? You're on retreat! Go to bed! Or, if you do stay up late, make sure it's because you're doing something that enhances the retreat experience for you – whether that is sitting on the back porch wrapped in a blanket looking at the stars, reading a new book, or journaling, or creating an artistic expression of your experience, or talking with new friends about the topics of the day (Yes, you can set up your own zoom meetings and create that time and connection if you want!).

But please don't stay up to clean the house or reply to work emails or any of that normal daily life stuff. It will all still be there when our time together is done. Trust me. 
The hardest piece of the retreat experience to replicate are the spontaneous social connections that are made. We have designed the weekend to include a variety of ways that you can connect with other participants – hospitality hour, informal evening gatherings, interactive workshops, The People’s Supper, and breakouts. However, we realize these won’t entirely make up for the chance to sit down at a random table in the dining room where you can meet new folks or strike up a conversation while walking from one event venue to another or sit up late talking by the fire pit.

So, if connection is an important part of being on retreat for you, you'll need to be intentional about creating it for yourself. You'll want to make sure you take full advantage of all we have planned. And if you find you need or want more, as I mentioned above you can always gather some interested folks and have a Zoom hang out of your own. You can even do this before with friends or after the conference! Any time you like!

So much gorgeous, authentic connection is possible (even through a screen) and we are all so in need of connection these days. Make sure your need to connect is getting filled!

Managing Screen Time
There will, by necessity, be a lot of screen time. To balance it out, remember to take some time to get up, move around, and stretch between sessions. Find some time to get outside each day if you can, or at the very least spend some time looking out the window. Taking in some full spectrum light and giving your eyes a chance to focus on some scenery that is further away will do wonders for screen fatigue. 

One of the benefits of retreat at home is that you can get up and move around while listening to sessions as well.

Listen to your body and do your best to give it what it needs.
Music is a huge part of the AwakeningSoul experience. The ensemble will, as always, offer amazing music - much of it written specifically for our community and our time together. We will have a portion of the ensemble creating music together at Lutheridge. Lindsey Blount and Charles Milling will offer their gifts via Zoom and pre-recorded video.

Fran is so gifted in inviting all to participate. In the virtual world, we won’t get the full sense of being in a chorus of 200+ voices. I hope that when Fran invites you to join in that you will. I anticipate that on Thursday evening this might feel awkward, but I hope that as the weekend progresses that you will be enthusiastically singing the songs that vibrate our souls. Singing apart together will connect us.

Think of it as singing along with your favorite band as you drive alone in your car. Don’t worry - we will have you on mute.  
For many a significant benefit of doing a retreat at home is not losing a day or more of work to travel. Loss of income for multiple days and the cost of travel can make going away for a retreat prohibitive. A virtual event allows folks who could never have said yes in the past to join us.

Yet the lack of travel may have an unexpected impact on some of you. I have always looked on the time that I travel to or from a retreat as part of the retreat - getting emotional distance from home and commitments as I drive in silence. It is a time of intentional reflection for me. If this is true for you, perhaps you might consider taking a long walk or drive to help you cross the threshold into (and out of) your retreat space. 
An Unexpected Bonus
Creating a retreat experience for yourself at home takes a bit more work than travelling to a retreat, but there's a hidden benefit. Once you've had this time in your home you'll find that the energy from the event lingers and you may find you're able to create pockets of time apart for yourself more easily than before. You get to take the conference home with you, literally! 

Together we can make this an amazing experience
Won't you join us for ...

AwakeningSoul 2020 - a Virtual Gathering
November 5-8

a sacred space of hospitality where we can find rest, respite, and renewal
abundant food for hungry souls; intellectual and spiritual nourishment that both challenges and nurtures

deep conversation, uplifting music, evocative art and spirit-filled worship, encouraging us to look deeply into our lives and choices, energizing us as we return to our communities
AwakeningSoul Is the collaborative partnership of Fran McKendree and Ann Holtz. Fran is a gifted musician based in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Ann is both a spiritual director and an independent consultant. She lives in Waynesville, NC. Together they have formed AwakeningSoul to offer spiritual events to feed hungry souls. Ann can be reached at annawakening@gmail.com or 865-414-8509.