Typical Retreat Schedule at Bonnevaux

How to Meditate / Silence and Rhythm / Suggested Schedule


“I desire mercy not sacrifice.”  

Matthew 9:13


Before starting a retreat at home, ask yourself ‘Why am I doing this? Why now? What am I hoping for? Have I got something on my mind I need to be conscious of? (Retreat is not an escape from yourself but a deeper meeting with yourself).

This will help you be gentle and realistic in structuring your time each day. Making a retreat (doing less, being more) is a time we choose to enter more deeply into the spiritual work that is ours. Doing it will bring us to more self-knowledge. This then brings us further into the real mystery of God. It also leads us further on our journey of healing, becoming whole, knowing we belong – with everyone – in the community of humanity on our beautiful planetary home.

First, How to Meditate

Sit down. Sit still with your back straight. Close your eyes lightly. Then interiorly, silently begin to recite a single word – a mantra. We recommend the ancient Christian prayer-word “Maranatha”. Say it as four equal syllables Ma ra na tha. Breathe normally and give full attention to the word as you say it, silently, gently, faithfully and  – above all – simply.

The essence of meditation is simplicity. Stay with the same word during the whole meditation and in each meditation day to day. Don’t visualise it but listen to the word as you say it. Let go of all thoughts (even good thoughts), images and other words. Don’t fight your distractions: let them go by saying your word 

  • Faithfully: keep returning to it when you get distracted
  • Gently: don’t use force, be light 
  • Attentively: take the attention off everything else

Meditate twice a day, morning and evening, for between 20 and 30 minutes. If you are on retreat it will be easier to meditate midday as well. It takes to develop this or any discipline. But, feeling the support of a community, meditating with others and connecting to a living tradition will take you further than you can go alone.

What you are doing is, as it were, being launched into the prayer of Jesus. It is very difficult to talk about this without usingimages,but the prayer of Jesus is just like a rushing torrent flowing between Jesus and the Father. What we have to do is to plunge ourselves into that and be swept along by it. It is a torrent of love, not a torrent of words or images. And that is why we have to learn to be wholly silent. The mantra is simply bringing us deeper and deeper into that silence.

John Main, In the Beginning

We encourage you to visit WCCM.org where you will find many other resources to help you with your meditation practice. www.wccm.org

Silence, Solitude and Simplicity

You will want to give some thought to how much solitude you would like during your retreat and how silent your time of retreat will be.  This will depend on your circumstances.  

Do you have a room (your monastic retreat cell) or place where you can be during the retreat?  The mothers and fathers of the desert are quoted as saying “stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.”

If you live with others, family, you may want to explain and negotiate yourtime of solitude, silence and practice. Some of this may be done also by being out on contemplative walks in nature.

…when you have to return to your sitting, day by day, and learn to sit in silence, solitude and openness, then you soon discover that this calls for more and more love on your part, not just enthusiasm.  

John Main

Decide on a rhythm for your retreat day

With the above in mind you will want to explore a balance between times of meditation (we recommend that you meditate as a minimum 2 or 3 times a day during your retreat), times of reading, and times when you are doing something physical – toga, tai chi, cleaning at home, gardening,going for a walk, a jog, a bike ride etc.  

This retreat mightsimply be a time when you explore establishing asecond daily meditation.

We recommend that you steer clear of your habits of work at home, especially if you are often at the computer and mobile phone (how honest can you be about this?????).  If you are compulsive about cleaning, gardening, jogging,you may want to vary your habit so as to create space to listen to the Mystery of God in your life.  If you dive each day into your habitual rhythm of doing you will miss the point.

It would be advisable to turn your mobile off and put an unavailable autoresponse message for emails.

Try to limit your connecting online with Bonnevaux to the necessary minimum – we want to help you be “at home,” safe and centered as the Psalmist says “Be still and know that I am God.” 

The communications and schedule of our online contributions for your retreat are on the website. Depending on your time zone you may want to meditate with us online at 12:15 (French time). Any live webinar talks, discussions and Q&will also be recorded and posted a few hours later.

  • to join us for meditation at 12:15 French time click here
  • to connect to an online meditation group in your language & time zoneclick here

Creating a “space to meditate

Decide on the place where you will be happy to sit to meditate, read, reflect.  Place is your address (topos).  Where would you like to be in your home?  Up in the attic, at your favourite window?  Then consider how you want to establish “sacred” space.   Space is what we create – a space of expectation, like when we are waiting for the curtain to go up.  What will happen?  Will I resonate?  Will I understand?  Will it touch me?

Will you sit on a cushion, a kneeler or a chair?  What works best for your body?  Will you light a candle by an icon or a vase of flowers?  Or will you prefer a space empty of images — clean and tidy?

Meditation cushions (zafu and zabuton) and kneelers can be found easily on line.

Suggested Schedule

You may decide to be in silence all day or half day.  We usually do half days from waking to lunch and the silence continues from the last meditation of the previous day.

  • 6:30 meditation
  • 7:20 meditation and morning prayer (see below on structuring prayer/Lectio)
  • breakfast
  • time for reflection, being in nature, sleep, work/exercise
  • 10:00 talk and or Q&A
  • time for reflection, being in nature, sleep, work/exercise
  • 12:15 mediation and midday prayer
  • lunch
  • time for reflection, being in nature, sleep, work exercise
  • 15:30 talk and or Q&A
  • 18:00 meditation and evening prayer
  • dinner
  • talk and or quiet reading
  • meditation
  • sleep