In June, Acem held a weekend meditation retreat with 12 participants from six different countries. That in itself is nothing new. What is new is that the 12 participants were all staying at home in those six different countries during the entire retreat. One participant was 10,000 kilometers away from the instructors in Oslo, on a remote island in the Indian Ocean. Acem’s first online retreat was on.

The retreat offered everything a “normal” retreat would have: guidance groups, plenary meetings, yoga sessions, and long meditations. “At first I thought those faces in the tiny squares would never become alive to me,” one participant said when summing up the retreat. But at the end of the retreat, it felt very different. The retreat brought people closer to themselves and to others, regardless of physical distance.

A Zoom-based retreat is not without its challenges. People drop out when their internet connection goes down. Whereas Acem’s retreat centers are secluded and quiet, that is not the case for all urban dwellings in Paris or Hamburg. However, such issues did not put a dent in the overall experience, and the online version also has clear benefits. No travel means it is easier to negotiate into a busy schedule. All participants would do it again should the opportunity arise.

It will. Acem’s next online retreat starts Wednesday, July 29th.

(The faces in the illustration do not represent participants in the actual online retreat.)