March 15, 2024

Before the Ecstasy, the Laundry—Is IMS’s 30-Day Volunteer Program Right for You?

For more information about IMS’s Month-long Service Program and to apply, click here.

Jack Carter spent a month as a facilities department volunteer at IMS in December of 2016. Previously a registered nurse in the emergency department at New York City’s Mount Sinai-Beth Israel Hospital, Jack sat a dozen retreats at IMS and spent three months in residence at the Forest Refuge before filling out IMS’s volunteer application. Volunteering for a month seemed like a good way to take his involvement to the next level. And it was. “I had a nice little room and did minor carpentry repairs, painting projects, and cleaning, as well as tagging along with a very good builder and carpenter on staff at the time. I went to the meditation hall for the Dharma talks. I made good friends. They feed you every day. It was perfect.”

So perfect that when it was over, Jack rented out his apartment in New York City and moved to Barre. He worked in a local emergency room, volunteered at IMS, sat retreats at the Forest Refuge. Then he applied to work at IMS.

Jack isn’t alone. Since the volunteer service program launched in 2007, some 200 volunteers have done 30 days of service in the housekeeping or maintenance departments. The pandemic shut the program down when IMS was forced to close its doors in 2020, but it is now accepting applicants again. Volunteers shovel snow; clean common spaces, yogi rooms, and offices; paint or perform light construction projects; garden; help with lawn or trail maintenance; do the laundry; wash windows; or give tours or bell-ringing trainings to yogis on opening day. Volunteers work 30 hours a week for a calendar month, with two days a week off. The rest of the time, they sit in the meditation hall, spend time with paid staff, eat in the dining hall, participate in retreats, or have regular interviews with the resident teacher. No prior work experience is required, though accepted applicants need to have an established meditation practice and have sat two or more week-long retreats at IMS within the last decade.

Years after his volunteer stint in 2019, Jack was offered a paid position as a retreat support staff member at IMS. He is in the same role today, responding to the medical, emotional, and logistical needs of yogis on retreat, often after hours. He lives in the house across from the Retreat Center, affectionately known as “HATS” (“House Across the Street”)—and doesn’t have any plans to leave. “Along with the retreat at the Forest Refuge,” Jack says, “doing the volunteer program changed my life.”

IMS Director of Operations Pete Baker says the program has changed many lives, and he is glad IMS has re-launched it. “Volunteers have the chance to meditate a lot and they all have a retreat background, so the position typically attracts practitioners—often retirees, young people out of college, or college students during the summer. Multiple very successful employees started out this way.”

To learn more about IMS’s Month-long Service Program click here.