Dear Cynthia,

A friend is doing a 10-day Vipassana retreat right now, and I wondered what your take is on this kind of intensive retreat – they meditate about 11 hours/day for 10 days. There is no communication between retreatants until the 10th day. I know you advise your students to do no more than 2 hours/day unsupervised, and your Wisdom Schools have about that much meditation in a day. You have warned about meditating too much at times as well. So what’s your opinion on a Vipassana-like approach?

Thanks for your thoughts.


Vipassana retreats are just fine; they exist within a long lineage and an immediate totally supportive theological and praxiological context. Christianity has no such tradition (until you get to the very experienced ancient desert hermits), and less of a supportive context that makes clear what’s being ventured and why. So it’s a bit more of as stretch in a Christian context, although this context is slowly being woven. But the two-hour limit is basically Thomas Keating’s recommendation for INDIVIDUAL daily practice without being under the immediate supervision of an experienced guide. Centering Prayer immersion retreats basically double that limit—in the post-intensives, even more—but again, in a prepared and supportive context. You’ll be in good hands. So flat back and let yourself be held.

All blessings,