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Retreat FAQs

General Retreat Information

How can I get information about a retreat?
Retreat schedules and descriptions can be found on our website, in our Newsletter, Quarterly Program Calendar, Residential Retreat Brochure and in the Inquiring Mind Journal. If you have reviewed the available information, including the information below, and still have questions, call the registrars at (415) 488-0164 x 252 or x 247 for additional retreat information.

Can I just come and stay at Spirit Rock to do a self-retreat?
Spirit Rock does not offer self-retreats. For a list of places that do offer personal retreats, click here.

Is it possible to stay extra nights before or after a retreat?  Spirit Rock does not have accommodations available either before or after a retreat.  If you are participating in two retreats that are back to back with only ONE night between, we can provide the extra night accommodation at a per night rate of $100.

Can I arrive at Spirit Rock early on the day my retreat starts?
You are welcome to arrive early, however the retreat staff will not be ready to check you in until 3:00pm. We do not have any luggage storage facilities for those arriving early. You may bring your luggage up to the check in area at the Council House in the upper retreat center. If you do arrive early, please park in the overflow parking lot to the right as you come into Spirit Rock. Do not park in the Daylong parking lot close to the Community Meditation Hall. You need to check in with the caretakers at the Welcome Hut so they can give you a parking pass for your car. Then, you can proceed up to the retreat center and check in with the retreat managers.

Is there a number where I can be reached in case of emergency during the retreat?

You can be reached at (415) 488-0164 x 262 in case of an emergency during a retreat. Please note that this is to be used only in the case of an emergency. No one monitors this line in between retreats. During retreats, you may need to leave a voicemail message, which the retreat managers will get to the retreatant as soon as possible.

Can I have a package sent to me while I'm on retreat?
Yes, though we do discourage this for short retreats. You can have the package sent to the following address: Your name, c/o SRMC-Retreat Manager's Office, 5000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, P.O. Box 169, Woodacre, CA 94973. Make sure to clearly mark the name of the retreat on the package to make sure it gets to you. The retreat managers will leave you a note when the package arrives, and you can pick it up in the retreat manager's office.

Can I be a volunteer at the retreat?
The only volunteer opportunity we have during a retreat is to be a work retreatant. We have two work retreatants per retreat--one for the kitchen and one for housekeeping. In order to apply to be a work retreatant, you need to have sat at least one 5-day retreat at Spirit Rock before. You should have at least average physical stamina, with no physical limitations. We also ask that you have the flexibility to work a variety of different tasks. Work retreatants are required to do 5 hours of work per day (not necessarily consecutive hours) in exchange for the full cost of the retreat. Work retreatants are still invited to offer Dana to the retreat teachers and retreat staff at the end of the retreat.

If you are interested in applying for a work retreatant position, click here.

What is a parallel retreat?
A parallel retreat is a smaller retreat with a maximum of 45 people that takes place in the Upper Walking Hall (UWH). Attendees use the same facilities as a regular retreat, except that the meditations take place in the Upper Walking Hall rather than in the main Retreat Hall. Parallel retreats provide a much more intimate environment for a retreat, and take place in parallel with another small retreat that is is held in the main Retreat Hall. All meals, residence halls, and common areas are shared by both retreats.

How do I know if a retreat is a parallel retreat?
Parallel retreats are listed in printed materials with a "(UWH)" after the name of the retreat which stands for "Upper Walking Hall."

What is a commuter?
Commuters attend the full retreat, including all meals, but you are not provided with overnight accommodations. You will need to arrange and pay for your own accommodations offsite. A list of accommodations near Spirit Rock can be found here. The commuter cost is lower than the resident cost. If a commuter option is available, the application and cost will be included on the same application as the wait list form. Unless you have a teacher's permission, you need to meet the prerequisite of having completed a minimum of one 7-day or two 5-day silent retreats as a resident before you are allowed to be a commuter.

Can I attend any retreat as a commuter?
The commuter option is not available for every retreat. It is up to the teachers to decide whether or not they will accept commuters on a particular retreat, and the option is only available once the retreat is full. Please check the website for commuter availability.

What is a lottery retreat?
For retreats where we expect demand to significantly exceed available space, a lottery is used to select retreatants. Lottery retreats open 5 months before the start of the retreat (please see our printed material or website for specific opening dates). The lottery is open for approximately a 30-day period. No preference is given to when you register for the lottery, whether you ask for a scholarship, or pay at the higher end of the sliding scale. Once the lottery enrollment period closes, all applicants are assigned a random number. The lottery process is a blind pull. Further details are outlined on the website for that specific retreat.

How do I know if a retreat is a lottery retreat?
Lottery retreats will be listed in printed materials and on our website with "(Lottery)" following the name of the retreat.

How does a waiting list work?
Once a retreat is full, we start a waiting list. A waiting list application is required to be placed on the list. No fees will be charged until you are offered a spot and you accept it. As we have cancellations for a retreat, we will offer the spots. Once a spot becomes available in the retreat, the first person on the waiting list will be contacted. At that time, we will give you a deadline by which we will need you to respond, or we will move on to the next person on the waiting list. The week leading up to the retreat, we will need a very quick response. At any time, if you'd like to be taken off the waiting list, please send an email to Retreats@spiritrock.org or call the registrars at (415) 488-0164 x 247 or x 252.

How do I get on a waiting list for a full retreat?
Download the waiting list forms from the website, and send them in along with your payment. Once we receive your forms and payment, we will add you to the waiting list, and we will notify you of your status. We will not charge any fees until you get into the retreat. If you do not get into a retreat once it has started, all checks and credit card forms will be destroyed.

If I'm on a waiting list for a retreat, what are my chances of getting in?
We can't say what your chances are. It just depends on how many cancellations we get for that retreat. Sometimes waiting lists can move very quickly. We often do get last-minute cancellations, so the longer you are willing to wait, the better your chances of getting into the retreat.

Residential Retreat Registration

How do I register for a retreat?
You can register online by following the registration link that appears on the individual retreat page. If online registration is not available for the retreat in which you are interested, or if you would rather register the old fashioned way, you can download registration forms from the website. You need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer to be able to read these forms. If you cannot download the forms, you can email us at: Retreats@spiritrock.org and we will email or mail them to you. If you cannot send an email, please call the registrars at (415) 488-0164 x 252 or x 247 and leave your name, address, telephone number and the name or code of the retreat, and we’ll mail you registration forms. 

I want to register for a daylong and a retreat. Can I send in one check for both?
No. Daylongs, classes and benefits are handled in one department and residential retreats are handled in another. You can send in one check for any combination of daylongs, classes or benefits, but you must send in a separate check for retreats. If you are applying for more than one retreat, please send in a separate check for each retreat along with the corresponding application.

Can you save me a spot in a retreat?
We cannot hold a spot in a retreat without application forms and a minimum deposit.

Can I apply for a retreat if I still owe money on another retreat?
No. All previous Payment Plans must be paid off or you must make special arrangements with Spirit Rock before you can apply for another retreat.

How do I know if I'm accepted into the retreat?
If you have registered online, you should receive a retreat confirmation email within a few business days. If you are registering by mail, once your application forms and deposit are received, you will be sent a retreat confirmation email. The retreat confirmation email will include all the retreat details including arrival/departure times, travel information, what to bring, etc. We send all retreat confirmations via email, so please make sure to check your email regularly once you've sent in your registration forms. If we do not have your email, we will mail the confirmation letter to you. Do not make airline reservations until you have received a retreat confirmation from us. We are not responsible for fees associated with travel cancellations.


What do I do if I need to cancel?

Send an email to Retreats@spiritrock.org or call (415) 488-0164 x 247 or x 252 as soon as you know you'll have to cancel.

Do I lose any money if I have to cancel?
There is a non-refundable cancellation fee. Unfortunately, cancellation fees are not tax-deductible like contributions are. Cancellation fees vary depending upon when you cancel and can be found on the registration forms as well as in your retreat confirmation email. The earlier you cancel, the lower your cancellation fee. There are no refunds as of 3:00pm on the last business day before the retreat.

Can I sit less than the full retreat? Can I get a refund?
You are required to attend the full retreat. Any requests for late arrivals or early departures must be approved by the teachers before the retreat and are limited to emergency circumstances. The price of the retreat will not be discounted for missed nights. Please plan your flights accordingly, so you will be able to attend the entire retreat.

Can I transfer my deposit or payment to another retreat?
Transferring a deposit or payment to another retreat is not allowed.

Can I transfer my deposit or payment to another person or my partner?
Transferring a deposit or payment to another person is not allowed.

Retreat Format

What time do the retreats start and end?
Generally, the check in for retreats is from 3:00 - 5:30pm on the first day of the retreat. The retreats end by 11:30am on the last day. Specific times will be listed in your retreat confirmation email.

What is a typical retreat day like?
The teachers determine the schedules for each retreat, but in general, they are as follows: The day usually starts around 5:30/6:00am with a morning meditation and/or movement before breakfast. After breakfast and throughout the rest of the day, there will be alternating periods of sitting and walking meditations, possibly interspersed with some guided movement. Instructions will be given for sitting, walking and eating meditations.

Meals are eaten in meditative silence, and every retreatant participates in work meditation sometime during the day, either in the kitchen or with housekeeping. There will be a dharma talk in the evening. There are also individual and/or group practice meetings with the teachers periodically. The day usually ends around 9:30/10:00pm; however, the meditation hall is always open for those who would like to continue their practice. All retreats are in silence, except when noted as a workshop-style/study retreat; this will be noted in the retreat description on the website.

What are teacher practice meetings?
Teacher practice meetings (sometimes called practice interviews) are a chance to check in with the teacher, discuss your practice and ask any questions you may have. Depending on the teachers, the length of the retreat and the number of participants in the retreat, there will be group and/or individual practice meetings. Group meetings are with participants of like experience to the extent possible.

What is Work Meditation?
The daily retreat schedule includes a period of "work as meditation practice." Work meditations include helping with meal preparation and cleanup in the kitchen, housekeeping and "temple tending." When you check in on the first day, you will be offered multiple options to choose from. Choose as your physical ability will allow. There are no work meditations for 2-day retreats.


What are the accommodations like at Spirit Rock?
The accommodations consist of double and single rooms in four residence halls that are each two stories. Roommates are same gender only. Men and women, or couples, do not share a room. Each room has its own sink and mirror, as well as shelves, hangers, and small storage area for your belongings. A pillow, blanket and bedspread are provided. If it is convenient for you, please bring a sleeping bag or bed linens for a twin-sized bed, a pillow case, and towel set. However, if you are travelling from afar or by airplane, linens (sheets and towel sets) are available onsite for you at no charge. You do not need to reserve these ahead of time. Community bathrooms are shared with others on your floor. There are individual/private stalls in each of the bathrooms with one or two sinks, depending upon the building. The rooms are adequately heated in the winter. Although there is no air conditioning in the residence halls, there is air conditioning in the meditation halls.

Can I have a single room?
Traditionally in the monastery, one takes whatever accommodation is offered. Spirit Rock has both double and single rooms, and we ask participants to take the accommodations assigned to them and practice with whatever situation they find themselves in.

There are also a limited number of Supporter Rates on each retreat; a Supporter Rate does guarantee a single room accommodation. The higher rate helps support our scholarship fund for those that need the financial assistance to attend retreats here at Spirit Rock.

What is a chemically sensitive building?
The chemically sensitive building has no carpeting, and the bedding is largely made of natural products. All buildings are cleaned with environmentally friendly cleaning products.

What are the meals like?
Nutritious, balanced vegetarian meals are served during the retreat. Most (about 95%) of the food served at the retreats is organic. When dairy products or wheat are served, alternatives are provided. Since we cannot accommodate individual food preferences, we ask you to eat the meals that are served. However, for those who have medical dietary restrictions and need to supplement our meals with supplies they bring with them, both a refrigerator and microwave are available. We do our best to provide alternatives that suit the needs of those with restricted diets due to medical conditions. If you have medical dietary restrictions, please let the cooks know when you check in at the retreat.

Will there be snacks available?
There will be some food in the refrigerator in the dining hall for those who need dietary supplements. In addition, we provide cheese, plain tofu, hard-boiled eggs, and nut butters as extra protein sources for those who feel they need additional protein to what is offered at our meals. If you'd like any specific snack food, you should bring it with you. We have limited storage space for dry goods and refrigerated items, so please be sensitive to others who need to use this space because of dietary restrictions. Tea is available 24 hours a day.

Will coffee be available during the retreat?
We do not offer coffee unless it has been donated by a retreatant. If you would like regular coffee, you should bring it with you, pre-ground, along with a filter. Hot water will be available 24 hours a day.

I must eat meat. What should I do?
You can bring pre-cooked canned meat or fish, deli-style meats or canned items. There are cupboards and a refrigerator in the dining hall with limited storage. There are no facilities for cooking meat or your own food.

What to Bring

What should I bring to a retreat?

The climate is changeable, so bring a variety of loose, comfortable, casual, layered clothing. Bring outdoor walking shoes as well as slip-on shoes. Bring hat and sunscreen in the spring/summer and/or rain gear in the fall/winter for outdoor walking. A flashlight or head lamp is a good idea. To be respectful of some people's allergies and sensitivities, please leave behind any scented products (including “natural” scents). You may also want to bring a shawl. It’s a good idea to bring ear plugs if you’re sensitive to noise.

Do I need to bring my own bedding?
Not necessarily. If it is convenient, you could bring a sleeping bag or bed linens for a twin-sized bed, a pillow case, and a towel set. If you are travelling from afar or by airplane, linens (sheets and towel sets) are available onsite for you to borrow during the retreat at no charge. Blankets, bedspreads and pillows are provided.

What if I forget to bring something to the retreat?
The retreat managers have a variety of products available in the manager's office for purchase in case you forget something. In an emergency, the retreat managers may be able to get what you need that is not otherwise available in the manager's office.

Do I need to bring my own meditation cushion?
Not necessarily. If you would prefer your own cushion and require any special sitting supports, you may want to bring your own. There are enough zafus (sitting cushions) and zabutons (floor mat/cushions) for everyone. However, if you require many special cushions, we do ask that you supplement with your own. There are a limited number of back-jacks, meditation benches, and gomdens (block-style sitting cushions).

Financial Aid

Please see the Financial Assistance and Scholarship Information page.

Retreat Cost/Payment

How does the sliding scale work?
There will be a sliding scale price range listed for each retreat. You can pay any amount within that range that you can afford. Please pay at the highest level of the sliding scale that you can afford. This allows others who need to pay less the opportunity to attend. Whatever you pay above the lowest end of the sliding scale is a tax-deductible donation to Spirit Rock.

When do I need to pay for the retreat?
Payment for retreats is due at the time you apply. If this is financially impossible for you, you can request a payment plan when you register. Complete information on payment plans is included with the registration forms.

What's included in the price of the retreat?
The price of the retreat includes accommodations (unless you are a commuter) and all food. The teachers and retreat staff are supported by donations, which you will have an opportunity to give at the end of the retreat (see section on Teacher and Staff Dana below, for more information).

Can I pay by credit card?
Yes, either through online registration or when sending in the registration forms.

Teacher and Staff Dana

What is dana?
Considered priceless, these teachings have been given freely since the time of the Buddha. That 2500-year tradition is being continued to this day at Spirit Rock. The cost of retreat registration covers only room and board plus administrative overhead. None of the registration fee goes to teachers or to the retreat cooks and managers. Their ability to continue offering these retreats depends solely on donations from retreat participants. This tradition of making offerings to those who make these retreats possible is called dana, which is the Pali (the language of the Buddha) word for generosity. There will be an opportunity to offer dana to teachers and retreat staff at the end of the retreat.

How much should I give for teacher and staff dana?
It is really up to you to decide how much you would like to give for teacher and staff dana. Giving dana is one of the practices taught at Spirit Rock, and how much you give depends on the value of the teachings, your desire to support the teachers and retreat staff in continuing to offer these teachings, and how much you can afford. The teachers and retreat managers will talk about dana at the end of the retreat. We do not accept teacher and staff dana before the retreat. Please bring a checkbook, cash or credit card so you'll be able to make your donation at the retreat.

Can I pay dana with a credit card?
Yes, you can pay your teacher and staff dana with a credit card at the end of the retreat.

Getting To and From the Retreat

How do I get to Spirit Rock?
Spirit Rock is located at 5000 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Woodacre, California, 94973. Map and driving directions

Is it possible to get a ride to the retreat?

If you need a ride to a retreat, please visit the Online Bulletin Board for Ride Sharing. Rides leaving the retreat will be coordinated by the retreat managers at the end of the retreat.

How can I get to Spirit Rock?
Spirit Rock Meditation Center is located about 45 minutes north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Map and driving directions

Getting to the Retreat by Airplane

Spirit Rock is easily accessible from both the Oakland and San Francisco International Airports. Please allow 2 to 3 hours to get from the airport to Spirit Rock.

From the Oakland Airport: The Sonoma County Airport Express (707-837-8700) transports passengers between the Oakland Airport and the San Rafael bus station. For door-to-door service to Spirit Rock, we recommend Western Eagle (415-533-4466) or Radio Cab (415-485-1234).

From the San Francisco Airport: The Marin Airporter (415-461-4222) bus transports passengers between the San Francisco airport and the San Rafael bus station. For door-to- door service to Spirit Rock, we recommend Western Eagle (415-533-4466) or Radio Cab (415-485-1234).

Getting to the Retreat from the San Rafael Bus Station

By Cab: You can take a cab from here to Spirit Rock. Cabs cost approximately $25-$30. From the bus station, it is a 20-25 minute cab ride to Spirit Rock. Cabs are usually waiting at the bus station, however, between 7:30-9:00am and 1:30-3:00pm each weekday, there are not many cabs available, so you should call ahead and reserve one if you need one during those hours. You can call Marin Happy Cab Company at (415) 455-4555 to make a reservation or for more information.

By Shuttle: The West Marin Stage from the San Rafael bus station to west Marin, everyday except Sunday. They will drop people off at the Spirit Rock entrance. For a schedule and prices, visit their website or phone (415) 499-6099.

Sometimes local retreatants offer rides from the San Rafael bus terminal to Spirit Rock. Click here for information on carpooling.



© 2014 Spirit Rock - An Insight Meditation Center
PO Box 169 • Woodacre, CA • 94973