Work Retreats at the Forest Refuge

A Forest Refuge Work Retreat provides an opportunity to use work as practice, to develop and apply mindfulness to daily life activities in addition to formal meditation sessions.

Work retreats are scheduled in calendar-month blocks.

Work retreatants follow the same retreat guidelines as other Forest Refuge participants, but with longer periods of activity where mindfulness can be integrated into action. A work retreatant can still engage in formal practice and benefit from dharma talks and interviews with the teachers.

Silence is maintained except for any necessary communications with work supervisors and teachers. Otherwise, there is no interaction with staff members or others on retreat. Participation is limited to experienced meditators and requires a high degree of self-reliance.

Your service as a work retreatant is an essential aspect of the smooth functioning of the Forest Refuge. Flexibility in accepting work assignments, usually in the Kitchen or Housekeeping department, is important.

Work can be physically demanding at times and requires the ability and energy to engage in solitary manual activities for five hours each day.

If you don’t see an opening during the month(s) you wish to be a work retreatant here, feel free to still apply, and on acceptance you will be placed on a wait list.


Work retreats are currently available for every month in 2021. Due to the increasing popularity of our work retreat program, we receive many applications for these openings. To better ensure equal access for all, we will hold applications received for the next year’s work retreat openings until late June.  Applicants for 2021 work retreats will be notified by July 15, 2020.

Work retreatants maintain a full daily retreat schedule that combines periods of work with sitting and walking practice. Work 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 – Work Practice

….. 12:00 noon – Lunch …..

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

Days off for more intensive formal practice, as well as for personal chores and laundry are given during a work retreat. These are scheduled with the work supervisor.

Work 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 work 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 work retreat you are offering IMS a form of dana (a heartfelt donation) through your work 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.

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

Forest Refuge Work Retreat Application (PDF)

Forest Refuge Work Retreat Application (Word)

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

IMS Forest Refuge
Attn: Work Retreat Program
1230 Pleasant Street
Barre MA 01005
Phone: 978-355-2063
Email: fr(at)

If your Forest Refuge application is not accepted, we will return your work 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.