Service Retreats at the Retreat Center

We currently have service retreat openings for the following retreats for 2022/2023:

There are currently no openings for 2022, but our full 2023 schedule for service retreatants is now open for applications.

A service retreat provides an opportunity to practice at the Retreat Center 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 Retreat Center, 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 Retreat Center and participate in all aspects of the 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.

Participation in service retreats is limited to experienced meditators (minimum of one 7-day retreat at IMS is required). 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.

While at IMS, all service retreatants observe five ethical guidelines or training precepts. This is essential for creating a safe retreat environment that supports the cultivation of awareness and kindness.

Please refrain from:

  • harming any living being
  • taking what is not freely given
  • sexual activity
  • lying, gossiping or using harsh language
  • the use of intoxicants

Silence plays a vital role in the development of mindfulness. Service retreatants maintain noble silence except for necessary communications with their project supervisor and course teachers. They do not otherwise interact with staff members or other course participants.

We accept two service retreatants at a time, scheduled to correspond with the majority of Retreat Center courses. Service retreats for weekend courses, however, are generally not available. Service retreatants are welcome to arrive a day before a course begins, space permitting. If you would like to extend your retreat time in this way, talk to us about arriving early. Arrival or departure during retreats is not possible.

Our Registration department arranges all Retreat Center service retreats and participation is on an application basis – see the Application Process section below.

Service retreatants maintain a full daily schedule of formal meditation and service-as-practice. Service times can often be adjusted to suit your individual needs within the needs of the IMS department.

A typical daily schedule might look like this:

5:00 am – Wake up
5:30–6:30 am – Meditation practice

…. 6:30 am – Breakfast …..

7:30–9:15 am – Meditation practice
9:15 am–12:00 noon – Service practice

….. 12:00 noon – Lunch …..

2:00–3:15 pm – Meditation practice
3:15–5:30 pm – Service practice

….. 5:30 pm – Light Dinner …..

6:15–7:15 pm – Meditation practice
7:15–8:15 pm – Dharma talk or recording
8:15–9:30 pm – Meditation practice

Participants can arrange for a more substantial evening meal, if needed, to help support physical work. Anyone here for up to two weeks may take one full day each week without service duties, to take full advantage of formal practice. Those here for longer periods may take three full retreat days every two weeks, to be scheduled with the service supervisor.

During teacher-led courses, service retreatants join other participants in opportunities to discuss meditation practice with the teachers. In between these retreats, the IMS Resident Teacher may meet with service retreatants, depending on the length of stay.

Service retreats are offered without a daily fee and require a non-refundable processing fee of just $50. 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.

Familiarity with meditation practice and the IMS retreat environment is particularly important. Applicants must have sat at least one 7-day IMS retreat.

To apply for a service retreat, please complete the service retreat application form.

Service Retreat Application (download PDF)
Service Retreat Applications (interactive PDF)

Send your completed forms, together with the $50 processing fee (payable to IMS) to:

IMS Retreat Center
Attn: Service Retreat Program
1230 Pleasant Street
Barre MA 01005
Phone: 978-355-4378 ext. 175
Email: registration@dharma.org

All applications will be acknowledged within two weeks. Please call or email us with any questions.

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