Peaceful people joining a mindfulness session online, via laptop, smartphone and tablet

Can a Zoom retreat work?

Can an online retreat be as good as a face-to-face one – or are they simply different ways to connect with like-minded people and boost your mindfulness practice?

In this blog post…

  • Find out what attendees think about the effectiveness of online retreats and their benefits.
  • Hear from guest tutor Suzi Burns about her experience of joining The Moment is Now team at half-day online retreats.

Feeling connected

Can you still feel connected to others if you can’t meet face-to-face? Here’s what Jill, Emily and Kathleen say:

“It was so good to practice in a group again and we were able to join break-out sessions where participants could reflect on the practices and share their thoughts. So even though you were at home you still felt connected to the other attendees. I started the morning feeling frazzled and came away feeling calm, uplifted and optimistic. I would definitely recommend joining a Moment is Now retreat online…” Jill M

“Although the retreats are online, you still get a really good sense of connection and the team at Moment is Now are always so welcoming and friendly. The retreats are run over a three-hour session, the pace is perfect and you get to relax, reset and recharge in the comfort of your own home!” Emily M

“We could have our cameras off or on, but most people kept them on which was nice, as it made it feel like we were all there together … It encouraged me to book onto the 8-week course which had also gone online and I’ve loved being able to stay in the comfort of my home, while still feeling connected to the rest of the group.Kathleen Harkins, Kathleen Harkins Consulting


Variety is one of the keys to keeping everyone engaged on an online retreat. A good mix of presenters, each leading different practices, really helps – as does using break-out ‘rooms’ to allow participants to share their experiences.

“I recently attended a half-day retreat with Moment is Now held online and it was just what I needed! … There were three presenters who took us through guided mindfulness practices, meditation, body scans and mindful movement. The morning was so varied and interesting. Time just flew by.Jill M

“I’ve attended three online retreats, all of which have been fantastic. Each retreat has been different with great flow of wonderful practices, informal group discussion and the opportunity to hear from some great guest speakers.” Emily M

“We had lots of short practices and some chat in between about how we found each of the practices. The opportunity to share experiences like that helped us to realise we were all having the same struggles.” Kathleen Harkins, Kathleen Harkins Consulting


We can’t do our best for other people if we don’t look after ourselves. Emily describes attending an online retreat as “the ultimate act of self-care.” For others, dealing with the anxiety that sometimes occurs in life is a strong motivation for joining a retreat, whether that’s online or (in other times) face-to-face.

“For me, attending these super online retreats is the ultimate act of self-care. They enable me to stay motivated with my practice, be part of a mindfulness community and learn new practices, tools and techniques that help keep my wellbeing in check. I am already looking forward to the next online retreat!” Emily M

“Setting up a new business in the midst of a pandemic meant my mindfulness practice was all over the place and I was so in need of a retreat to give myself the headspace I needed. At a time when my anxiety was heightened, one of Gillian’s emails appeared in my inbox talking about doing the retreats online. I was pretty hesitant at first, thinking that’s never going to be anywhere near as good as a “real” retreat. I had however both attended and delivered some training via Zoom that went pretty well so decided to go for it.

“It was a dreary Saturday morning in January and I set up with cushions and a blanket on the floor of my spare room, my hot water bottle filled and the laptop on a chair in front of me. Gillian started with a short meditation to ensure we were all feeling present, and I did feel myself relax pretty quickly … It was such a lovely way to spend a morning and I definitely felt more balanced after it. Kathleen Harkins, Kathleen Harkins Consulting

“The online retreats have been an excellent way to reconnect with my practice. They have proven to be really beneficial for my mental well-being in terms of helping me deal with increased anxiety in these uncertain times. The instructor-led meditations and open group discussions worked well in a virtual setting and went some way to restoring that sense of connectedness, with myself and others, which has been somewhat lost/diluted recently.” James N

A guest tutor’s view, by Suzi Burns

Our thanks to Suzi Burns for giving us the following insights into the realities of an online retreat.

Top tip: If you’d like to know more about Suzi, take a look at her lovely website Burning Brightly Meditation.

A chance meeting (of mindfulness)

It was a chance meeting at Yellowcraig Beach during a not-so-locked down weekend in 2020. (But is there really such a thing as a chance meeting? I think the Universe is way smarter…) Gillian and I worked together in financial services a few years ago. Different jobs and career paths ensued but somehow the magic of meditation intervened with a reunion. A brief conversation about my meditation teacher training and The Moment is Now led to a socially distanced cup of tea and hours of chatting, reminiscing and all things mindful. Any opportunity of working with Gillian would be, and still is, an honour.

I have been lucky to be a guest teacher on two of The Moment is Now’s half day retreats this year. Zoom fatigue is real; however, Gillian works her magic and keeps everyone engaged throughout the sessions, me included. Gillian is wonderful at putting everyone at ease and quickly creating a safe and nurturing environment to explore mindfulness, meditate and ask any question.

Small group sessions, in my opinion, are wonderful as it is the closest thing to a workshop we can experience during these isolating times. The wonders of Zoom retreats (to me) are manifold:

  • You can stay in your pyjamas
  • You can settle in with your favourite tea and a blanket
  • You can close the room door for some well-deserved self-care and nourishment – and not need to worry about child-minders or hurrying through traffic if the session runs over!

A half-day Zoom retreat is the perfect weekend pick-me-up with like-minded people. Maintaining regular contact with a teacher or through events is a great way to keep practising. If you are reading this, you know meditation is a practice!

Gillian puts a lot of thought into developing engaging agendas for her half-day retreats. Her relaxed yet effervescent style creates an immediate connection with attendees. I personally appreciate her incorporation of poetry and love of nature into the workshops.

Gillian is adept at dove-tailing skill sets amongst the teachers. For example, I am trained in a number of different styles of meditation, such as mantra and visualisation, which allows for Gillian and me to complement each other. Other guest teachers have focused on different topics in the world of mindfulness including somatic movement. I discussed the incredible book The four agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz during my first workshop and I led a guided chakra meditation for my second session.

If you get the chance to learn and study with Gillian and her colleagues take it! An online retreat is a wonderful way to increase your knowledge and understanding of the importance and benefits of a regular meditation practice and how mindfulness can change your life!

Book your half-day online retreat

Stay connected mindfully…

… read about practices to help you feel connected to others in times of separation.

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