Insight Retreat Center

FAQ (Online Retreats)

FAQ (Online Retreats)

We offer online retreats focused on insight meditation (Vipassana) and the liberation teachings of the Buddha. All retreats are freely offered. Our center is supported by donations from those who practice here, and it is managed entirely by volunteers.

Click on any of the menu items below for more information.

How do I register for a retreat?

Register online on our Online Retreat Schedule page. If you are not able to register online, contact the registrar listed for the specific retreat.

Cost: donation-based retreats

Our retreats are offered freely at no cost to anyone who participates. Most of the financial support for IRC comes from donations that participants offer at the end of retreats. Their generosity is what allows others to participate in future retreats.

Participants have the opportunity to offer an online donation for the teachers and for IRC Expenses. Teachers serve without compensation from IRC.

Refundable deposit

A refundable online deposit (credit card or Paypal) is required to reserve a space in the retreat. (See Online Retreat Schedule for amount).

Your credit card deposit will only be charged in two instances:

  1. You are accepted into the retreat and cancel after the cancellation deadline, which is three weeks before the start of the retreat. (see Online Retreat Schedule for date.)
  2. Or, you are accepted into the retreat and do not attend.

If you’d like to give a donation, you will need to do that separately on our Donation page.

Retreat lottery

All applications that come in during the first 3 weeks of registration are entered into a lottery.  There is no advantage to applying immediately when registration opens. 

  • Results of the lottery are communicated by email by the date listed on the registration page.
  • Those not selected in the lottery, or that register after the lottery, are placed on the waiting list.
  • Note:  Unlike our Residential Retreat lottery, where if an applicant isn’t selected in the lottery, their probability of getting accepted increases with each subsequent retreat they apply for.   With Online Retreats, your chances of being selected in the lottery are always the same.

How do I know if I’m accepted into the retreat?

You will receive an email confirmation upon receipt of your registration form and deposit. We will inform you if you have been accepted to the retreat within two weeks after the lottery deadline. If the retreat is full and you registered after the lottery deadline, you will be placed on the waiting list.

Can I re-register if I have already cancelled?

Yes, if there is room. But, if the retreat is full, you will be placed on the waiting list.

How does the waiting list work?

When a retreat fills, a waiting list is started. If a cancellation occurs, the next applicant on the waiting list is notified. To be taken off the waiting list, please contact the Registrar — their contact information is listed in your in your IRC retreat emails or on the Online Retreat Schedule.

What are my chances of getting into a retreat if I am on the waiting list?

  • It can vary with each retreat, but generally, the first number of waitlist applicants have a good chance of getting into a retreat, especially if they can be flexible with time, and can accept a spot in the last 2 weeks before the retreat starts. You have nothing to lose by staying on the waitlist.

How will I know if I’ve moved up on the waiting list?

You will receive a waiting list status update 4 weeks prior to the start of a retreat.

How do I get on a waiting list for a retreat that is full?

Register online and make a deposit. The Registrar will add you to the waiting list and give you notification of your status.  Your deposit is refundable.

Will I be charged the deposit while I am on the waiting list?

No, your credit card will not be charged at any time while you are on the waiting list.

What if I need to cancel?

Notify the Registrar by email or phone as soon as you know that you are unable to attend.  The registrar’s info can be found on the Online Retreat Schedule page, or your confirmation email.

Do I lose my deposit if I have to cancel?

If you cancel before the refund date (stated in your registration materials) you will not be charged the deposit.  If you cancel after the stated date, you will be charged the deposit and it will be donated to the IRC Fund.

Can I transfer my deposit to another retreat?

No, deposits are not transferable to other retreats.

Can I transfer my deposit to another person?

No, deposits cannot be transferred to another participant.

What is a typical retreat day like?

The specific daily schedule varies from retreat to retreat. However, a typical day includes:

  • An early morning sitting around 6am or 7 am (Pacific time)
  • Morning meditation instruction
  • Alternating 45-minute periods of sitting and walking meditation until bedtime
  • A daily dharma talk
  • There are times in the schedule when tasks of daily living may be done as an integrated part of mindfulness practice.
  • Periodic individual or group practice discussion with the teacher(s)

What are the practice discussions with teachers?

These are an opportunity to discuss your meditation practice and retreat experience with a teacher. They may occur in small online groups or one-on-one meeting with a teacher.  Sometimes retreats one week or longer have one-on-one meetings.

What is Noble Silence on an Online Retreat?

Retreatants are asked to commit to being silent during most of their retreat, and only speaking if it’s necessary. If you live with others, please explain to them the following and ask them for their support.  If speaking with them is necessary, make it part of your mindfulness practice.

Keeping our attention internal and being silent, is an important support to the practice of mindfulness while on retreat. It means not communicating with others (except when necessary), by speaking, using notes, phone, email, or internet. It includes quieting the mind by not reading, writing or listening to news and entertainment. Notes to the teachers and retreat managers are an exception. There are opportunities to talk with teachers during practice discussions and Q&A sessions, as well as chances to interact with other retreatants during the retreat Opening and Closing sessions.

Can I participate in less than the full retreat?

Full participation is for those who aim to immerse in the full retreat as much as household responsibilities allow.   Some retreats have an option to audit. (See next question)

Can I audit the retreat?  

The teachers may accept a varying number of experienced practitioners who would like to audit the retreat.
Auditors do not have practice discussions with the teachers.  Prerequisite:  at least one previous insight retreat.

Auditor Status is available for those willing to participate under any one of the following conditions: (if there is space)

  1. If the retreat is full, and they are willing to participate without practice discussions with the teachers
  2. If they can only participate partially due to other responsibilities.
  3. Those who aim to fully immerse in the retreat, but prefer to do so without practice discussions with the teachers.   

    :  Some retreats may offer optional Drop-in Groups for auditors with an additional teacher.  Check the retreat title to see if this option is available (the title will include “auditor support”. )

Learn More About Auditing a Retreat

My Time Zone doesn’t allow me to attend all the sessions, can I still participate?

The recorded talks/instructions will be available shortly after they are given Pacific Time.  You can listen to them when it’s appropriate for your time zone.    Time Zone Converter

Is it okay to lie down during sittings?   

Yes, if there is a physical condition that necessitates it. 

Phones and Internet

To allow the full potential of meditation practice it is important to give the mind as much break as possible from phone, email and internet usage, though you will use them in specific ways to participate in the retreat. In registering, you agree to limit your use of these devices as much as possible.

Reading, writing and other activities

Retreat practice is a valuable time to keep the attention inward.  To take advantage of this special time, we encourage participants not to read or pursue other activities during the retreat.

Using Zoom for an online retreat:  Zoom is very easy to use.  If you’re new to Zoom, here are some resources to learn how to use it before the retreat:

The daily schedule varies from retreat to retreat.  All retreats are in silence unless specified otherwise. A typical day usually includes the following:  

  • The day is centered on 45 minute periods of sitting meditation alternating with walking meditation, starting usually around 6:00 am and ending at 8:30 pm.  
  • A daily instruction period and a dharma talk. 
  • Periodic individual or group practice discussion with the teacher(s)

These are a few resources to get you started:

The  9-part series, Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation by Gil Fronsdal  is a great way to establish a meditation practice.

Email the registrar for the retreat you are interested in.  See the Online Retreat Schedule

For general questions: