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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get information about a retreat?
Retreat schedules and descriptions can be found on our website and in the Spirit Rock News and Schedule of Events. If you have reviewed the available information, including the information below, and still have questions, call the registrars at (415) 488-0164 x 234 for additional retreat information.

Can I just come and stay at Spirit Rock to do a self-retreat?
No. Spirit Rock does not offer self-retreats. Please visit Venues for Personal Retreats for a list of places that do offer personal retreats.

Is it possible to stay extra nights before or after a retreat?
No. Spirit Rock does not have extra night accommodations available either before or after a retreat.

Can I arrive at Spirit Rock early on the day my retreat starts?
Yes. You are welcome to arrive early, however the retreat staff will not be ready to check you in until 2:30pm. We do not have any luggage storage facilities for those arriving early. You may bring your luggage up to the check-in area and wander in the meadow.

Is there a number where I can be reached in case of emergency during the retreat?
Yes. If you need to be reached in an emergency during the retreat, the retreat staff office number is 415.488.0164 ext. 262. Office hours are 8:00am - 3:00pm PT daily. Please leave a message and know that it will take some time to get a message to you. Please let people know this number should be used only in case of emergencies.

Can I have a package sent to me while I'm on retreat?
We highly discourage this for all short retreats (10 nights or less). However, if you are attending a monthlong or 2-month retreat and you have a medical necessity, you may mail items to Spirit Rock. 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 ensure it gets to you. The retreat staff will leave you a note when the package arrives, and you can pick it up in the retreat staff office.

Can I be a volunteer at a residential retreat? - SUSPENDED until further notice
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 five 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. Please visit Work Retreatant Information for more details and the WR application.

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 meditation hall. Parallel retreats provide a much more intimate environment for a retreat and take place in parallel with another small retreat that is held in the main Retreat Hall. All meals, residence halls and common areas are shared by both retreats. Retreatants are not to "visit" the other retreat space and commit to one retreat or the other; switching retreats mid-retreat is not allowed.

**The UWH is located at the top of a long flight of stairs adjacent to the main meditation hall. It is not accessible by wheelchair or scooter. If you have mobility limitations such that you cannot climb a flight of stairs, this type of retreat is not appropriate for you. If you have concerns related to accessibility to the UWH, please call the Registration Department for more details before you register for a parallel retreat located in the UWH.

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

What is a retreat commuter?
Retreat 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. A sliding scale commuter rate will be offered and is lower than the residential rates. If a commuter option is available, it will be posted on the website of the retreat below the description. Unless you have a teacher's permission, you must meet the prerequisite. Completion of a minimum of one 7-night or two 5-night silent residential retreats before you are allowed to be a commuter, preferrably at Spirit Rock, or another Vipassana (insight) meditation center.

What does fragrance-free actually mean ?
Since many people have allergies, asthma or other chemical sensitivity to common chemicals and fragrances, Spirit Rock asks that all participants who attend any program to please refrain from wearing scented products (learn more here). Many have difficulty breathing, suffer from headaches and migraines, or experience flu-like symptoms. In order to make Spirit Rock accessible to all, we ask people to:

  • Avoid cologne, aftershave and perfume;
  • Avoid hairspray, hair gel and other strong-smelling hair products;
  • Wear clothes laundered in fragrance-free laundry detergent;
  • Avoid laundry softeners;
  • Use fragrance-free soap, lotion, shampoo and conditioner;
  • Avoid use of essential oils;
  • Test each product - many products are mistakenly marked “unscented” or “fragrance free” (but actually contain masking scents that can be very harmful)

What is the policy on drugs and intoxicants?
No intoxicants are allowed on campus including alcohol, chemical, and psychoactive/hallucinogenic plant-based drugs such as ayahuasca, psilocybin, and others. Prescription medications are permissible. It is important for retreatants that our retreat container is maintained to support the mutually shared space. On the first night of the retreat, when entering noble silence, practitioners will be asked to take the Five Precepts for the retreat, which serve as guidelines for living in community. The precepts are:

  1. Refrain from killing/harming any living creature
  2. Refrain from taking what is not offered
  3. Refrain from any kind of sexual activity
  4. Refrain from false and harmful speech
  5. Refrain from intoxicants including recreational drugs and alcohol
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