How I turned an apartment into a monastery

Adam Novak
5 min readDec 1, 2022


Imagine locking a monk in a room for a week with just a couch, a shower, and a fridge.

Now imagine that monk is you.

This is effectively what happens when you turn your apartment into a monastery. I’ve done it twice now, and I’m here to share an honest review.

My friend Joe and I first completed a 7-day silent meditation course in his Knoxville, Tennessee apartment in December 2020, and my friend Sohum and I just finished a 2-day course last weekend in SF. We took inspiration from the 10-day Goenka-style Vipassana retreats which I’ve sat and served nearly a dozen and have written about elsewhere on my blog. In these cases of Joe, Sohum and I, we didn’t have a full 10-days to devote to an official course, so we just created our own.

Here’s how.


Preparation for the extended monastic living is an essential step.

Post-Costco run

We set up a whiteboard with the daily timetable laid out, calculated each meal and set them aside in the fridge, and communicated with each other in advance on what to do if certain circumstances arose. Understandably, we turned off all the devices we could. We only used the TV for evening discourses and an iPad for audio files, and alarms throughout the day. Setting up a number of repeating iPad alarms in advance in place of a manual gong ringer was quite helpful to keep the course flowing smoothly. Oh, the beauty of automation.


Without the meditation hall of a real monastery, we turned to the living room. We kept it simple and just took out the couch cushions and both faced the same direction to meditate.

Living room turned Dhamma Hall

Meditation in this format won’t be as focused as it might be in a large group sitting with more salient vibes. After the 2-day course, Sohum noted that cultivating mindfulness in his own familiar and ordinary home was more challenging than it was at a Vipassana center. As an outsider to the apartment, I did not feel this drawback to meditation as much. Regardless, we were able to conduct each meditation session in complete, sustained silence, as if it actually was a monastery.


Meal preparation came in clutch. It helped in two ways: we knew we had enough food to last us the whole course, and we didn’t have to break up our focused mindfulness with the chaos that is cooking.

Your average meal at a makeshift monastery

Although packaged and wrapped meals are not the sexiest food on the planet, they’re certainly one step in the direction of monastic renunciation.


Buddhist monastics are known for following the 10 Precepts, so we followed them too. In order to follow the 9th precept, roughly translated as “not sleeping on luxurious beds,” turning the apartment into a monastery meant sleeping on the floor.

Floor sleeping was surprisingly alright. Some people are actually big proponents of it because sleeping on a firm surface like the floor is good for your back. Sohum, Joe and I can all testify that tossing aside your comfy bed and taking to the floor brings out a sense of humility. If you are going to floor sleep, just make sure to vacuum beforehand, and if you don’t have fluffy carpet, bring some padding.


Sohum, Joe and I closely followed the timetable throughout the entirety of each course. At 5am we were out of bed meditating in the hall, and at each of the three hour-long group sittings we were sitting with closed eyes and crossed legs. We repeated this lifestyle for days on end, without too much difficulty, even without a teacher or organization over our head.

Speaking from personal experience, having a friend by my side is extraordinarily helpful in keeping me disciplined. If I had been alone, I might find myself lying down on the couch instead of meditating at times. The peer accountability system alongside with the silent nature of monastic living locks you into an interesting bind where neither person can vocally express any thoughts to give up and which makes it likely that you’ll be successful. Although silent meditation is a personal journey, it can still be experienced together, and it’s probably better that way — especially for leveraging discipline.


Given that the apartment had little space, it was great that there were few people at the course. The first time it was only Joe and me in the apartment, and the next time it was only Sohum and me. It also worked out well that their roommates were gone for the duration of the courses. Monastic life in a small space could easily become stuffy and crammed with too many people, especially when outsiders who want to invite friends over and speak are living there too.

One downside of such small space is that you have to make a concerted effort to go outside and walk around. No one was meant to stay inside one insulated box all day long (flashback to COVID), and even though it can feel easier to just not leave the place, you definitely should. Unfortunately, leaving the apartment does mean leaving the peacefulness of your makeshift monastery, so it’s best to outline a quiet walk around your property to maintain your state of mind. Just make sure to take it at least once a day and get your daily dose of non-filtered oxygen.


Even after the 48 hours of monkhood concluded last weekend and we were allowed to talk again, Sohum and I preserved the silence for some time. Several days of monasticism had placed us in a deep, sacred mental quietness, even though it all took place in an ordinary set of rooms.

Several days after we depart, I get a text from Sohum that reads “Feeling equanimous today.” We both walked away from a weekend of meditative silence with slightly more patient, calm, and balanced minds—even though we were just two dudes living in room 636 at The Landing.

Who knew apartments could be turned into monasteries?

Monastic bloopers



Adam Novak

Monastic Living | Language Learning | Responsible Technology