Moving Retreats Online

Like everywhere else, in March 2020 Adhisthana was faced with having to radically change it’s approach to running events as we entered into a new reality of life during a pandemic.

Learning Curve

Moving to running retreats online was a big shift – our usual way of operating and running retreats was mostly redundant, but we held our first online retreat weekend in July – a study weekend for Order Members on Milarepa led by Saddhanandi, Saddhaloka, and Dhammarati. This was followed by an Order-Mitra event on the same material.

Our first week-long online retreat was Towards Insight – Three Myths. For this retreat, we were delighted to host Jnanavaca and Maitreyabandhu for a week, as they explored Samadhi and Prajna in the context of the three myths of self-development, self-discovery, and self-surrender. By this time the operations team had already learned a lot about how to run an online retreat well, and James had been continually improving the technical set up so it was straightforward for both the retreat leaders and the tech support team.

There were plenty of members of the operations team whose jobs changed significantly when Adhisthana closed. Those that had more capacity therefore, began to train up in new areas, one of which was learning how to run and oversee tech for an online retreat. We acquired skills and continued to adapt our approach, improving it each time.

Greater Capacity

Patrick joined the team in January, with part of his role being Tech Support. This means there is now an in-built capacity to run online events in the future. He is already showing a keen eye for detail. It’s clear he is well suited temperamentally to improve and refine the structures and systems which have been set up and will ensure Adhisthana continues to host retreats online with ever greater refinement, efficiency, and ease.

Throughout the last year, James has been working to improve the internet here, and although the system still has it’s foibles, and areas where the internet is less good, it’s now possible for a significant majority of the community to be on zoom simultaneously without a major compromise in quality.

Recently Yashodeva ran an ethernet connection under the shrine room floor, so it’s easy to plug into a stable connection while teaching in there. Ben also spent some time researching and adapting a beautiful cabinet, which makes setting up for online events much simpler, as everything is already stored and in place in the main shrine room.

The building project to soundproof the library shrine room and transform it into the connected shrine room was completed during the early part of 2021. This means we have a dedicated space for online retreats in the future, even when in-person events are using the main shrine room. The room is wired up to maintain a connection even if we have a power cut. We hope you will be able to join us for a retreat in there some time soon!

The Technology

We have greatly expanded and improved the equipment we use to run online retreats. As we are all adapting to this new way of being, we wanted to share with you our set up, so that hopefully you too can improve your online Dharma content.

Camera: We are using a LogiTech Stream Cam. If you’re thinking of using this, below are a few things you might want to know.

  • It as a good picture quality, although the auto-focus feature is difficult to disable.
  • It requires an adaptor to be plugged into a USB port (you can buy these cheaply, but don’t be caught out by not having one!)
  • It is simple to plug into the computer and start using straight away.
  • It costs about £125.00

Microphone: We are using a Blue Yeti microphone.

  • It has good sound quality, and settings which you can adjust for pujas, interviews or talks.
  • It is easy to plug in and use with your computer, attaching with a USB.
  • It costs about £100.

Lighting: We are using a Manfrotto Lykos Bi-Colour LED light.

  • It doesn’t come with a battery, so needs to be plugged in to use, but easily plugs in. Ours came with a universal adaptor.
  • The light can give a white light or a warm ‘Daylight’ or a combination of both.
  • it’s easy to turn on and adjust the brightness.
  • It is very powerful, we rarely have it higher than 11%.
  • It costs about £250. You can get lights that are a fraction of this price if you are just looking to light space. This light gives you a lot of control and can be used in multiple settings.

Other tech tips:

  • We are using a button system for Zoom called a ‘Stream Deck’. This device enables you to save commands as a button, so the person doing tech (or the leader if they are confident enough), can mute, turn video on and off, change the view, scroll through the screens etc very easily. It definitely makes it easier for our tech team, but it’s a luxury rather than a necessity.
  • We position the camera in the centre of the screen that is displaying the zoom window. This means when the person talking is looking at the screen, they look like they are looking into the camera. This is more engaging for those watching online.
  • We recently bought an adjustable table for the tech support team. This makes it much more ergonomic (and therefore sustainable) for them, and can be adjusted for sitting on the floor or on a chair. It can also be folded flat and tucked away under the tech cabinet when not in use.

We hope this is useful for you!