Service Retreats at the Forest Refuge

A service retreat at the Forest Refuge provides an opportunity for long-term practice alongside daily service (e.g., in the kitchen or with housekeeping). In undertaking a service retreat you are offering IMS a form of dana (a heartfelt donation) through your efforts. Service retreatants play an important role at the Forest Refuge, helping us to ensure the smooth functioning of our retreats for all, therefore, there is no nightly rate for those who participate in this form of practice.

Service retreatants stay at the Forest Refuge and take part in all aspects of long-term retreat, including meetings with teachers and group dharma talks. Periods of service activity are conducted in silence (except when it is necessary for assigned activities) and allow these retreatants an opportunity to apply mindfulness to activity.

Service retreatants follow the same retreat guidelines as other Forest Refuge participants. These retreats are scheduled in calendar-month blocks and participation is limited to experienced meditators.

Service activities can be physically demanding at times and require the ability and energy to engage in solitary manual activities for five hours each day. Flexibility in accepting service assignments is essential.

We are now accepting applications for the 2023 calendar year. Please submit your applications and be sure to include your first and second choice of months. Due to the popularity of this program we will be collecting applications through July 1 and once the applications have been reviewed, we will notify you of your assignments by July 15, 2022.


We  have an opportunity for the month of August, 2022 to support a sight impaired yogi in navigating the Forest Refuge,  helping with meals and small tasks. This is a wonderful opportunity to support the sangha and deepen your practice. 

Service retreatants maintain a full daily retreat schedule that combines periods of service with sitting and walking practice. Service times can often be adjusted to suit both individual and departmental needs.

A typical daily schedule might look like this:

5:00 am – Wake up
5:30–6:30 am – Personal Practice

….. 6:30 am – Breakfast …..

7:30–9:00 am – Personal Practice
9:00 am–12:00 noon – Service Practice

….. 12:00 noon – Lunch …..

2:00–3:30 pm – Personal Practice
3:30–5:30 pm – Service Practice

….. 5:30 pm – Light Dinner …..

6:00–7:00 pm – Personal Practice
7:00–8:00 pm – Dharma talk
8:00–10:00 pm – Personal Practice

During a service retreat, days off for more intensive formal practice, as well as for personal chores and laundry, can be scheduled with the service supervisor.

Service retreats are scheduled in calendar-month blocks, starting on the first of the month. Positions are available for one month or for two consecutive months within a calendar year. Once you have committed to a service retreat, we count on your participation. If you must cancel, please let us know as soon as possible so we can find a replacement.

In undertaking a service retreat you are offering IMS a form of dana (a heartfelt donation) through your efforts. We greatly value this form of service. There is no nightly rate – all that is required is a non-refundable $50 application processing fee. This amount will be deposited or charged only when an application is confirmed. If you cancel your retreat, your fee will support our scholarship funds.

Service retreat applicants must be eligible to sit at the Forest Refuge. To apply for a service retreat, complete both the Forest Refuge Application and the Forest Refuge Service Retreat Application.

Forest Refuge Service Retreat Application (PDF)

Forest Refuge Service Retreat Application (Word)

Please submit your completed form(s), together with the $50 processing fee (payable to IMS) to:

IMS Forest Refuge
Attn: Service Retreat Program
1230 Pleasant Street
Barre MA 01005
Phone: 978-355-2063
Email: fr@dharma.org

If your Forest Refuge application is not accepted, we will return your service retreat application fee. If you are accepted into the program, and later cancel, your fee will support the Forest Refuge Scholarship Fund.

We look forward to sharing the practice with you in this way – thank you for your generous offer to serve.