Service Retreats at the Retreat Center

Service retreats help us bring meditation practice into whatever we engage in outside of the meditation hall.

A service retreat at IMS involves five hours of silent service-as-practice activities each day. During this time, participants are encouraged to relate with similar openness to arising events, relationships, thoughts and feelings as they do during sitting and walking meditation. The deepening of this presence of mind throughout all the activities of daily life is just as important as the process undertaken in formal sitting and walking practice.

There is much to be done at IMS. We depend on residential service retreatants to help us operate, particularly in our Housekeeping and Kitchen departments.

Participation is limited to experienced IMS meditators (minimum of one prior 7-day retreat at IMS) and requires a high degree of self-reliance. Since the tasks can be physically demanding, a moderate level of physical fitness is required.

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

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.