When you stay with us, you don't need to spend on anything -- all your meals and basic needs are provided for, from meals and bedding, to local outings.
FALL/WINTER 2022: Still some gardening, harvesting and processing foods (canning etc), going more into forestry and fire now
COVID UPDATE -- We only accept fully-vaccinated Workawayers.
NOTE: 3 to 4 weeks minimum stay.
We are a center focusing on environmental stewardship and provision of affordable retreat facilities, run by a volunteer community of lay (ie not monastic) Buddhists, with between 10 and 15 people on site full-time, and five times a year the community grows to 40-70 people for multi-day Buddhist events. The rental groups who come to us run their own programs -- our regulars include veterans, permaculture activists, 12-steppers, mindfulness for teens, various religious communities, and college leadership programs including for minority cohorts. Many Northern California retreat centers are too expensive and inaccessible for many groups -- we are fortunate to have been able to set up a retreat space that is affordable for all.
DAILY SCHEDULE -- our normal schedule is 9am-1pm Tues-Sat, plus another hour in the afternoon. We regret we are not able to adapt this for someone's online school or work schedules. Some part-time work outside our work hours is viable, but please discuss ahead so we understand your expected bandwidth usage.
Our focus is on simple living, developing a personal spiritual practice, and creating a place of refuge for all who come to this place. We are very much focused on developing our food sources, and issues around fire ecology and land restoration (ask us for our website), and welcome people who are interested in these areas, especially those in seasonal work like wildland firefighters, US Parks Service staff, and trail crew. We have fireline-trained members of staff and encourage all interested volunteers to participate in our controlled burns, as well as try the free nationally-recognized online training. We also organize outings to work with local tribal and community agencies focusing on land restoration.
We are on 485 acres of woodland, homelands of the Kashia Pomo tribe, with open spaces, rolling hills and forests of redwoods, madrone, pine and oak, and are committed to protecting this land and all nature on it as best we can. We believe that finding a quiet place of natural beauty for reflection and community-building is crucial for the health of individuals as well as society as a whole, and part of our mission is to make this a place where people feel inspired, nurtured and strengthened, better able to then share the best of themselves with their families and communities.
IMPORTANT NOTE: We are in a fairly remote rural location. If you prefer busy places and want to be in or near towns and regularly visiting cafes, stores, museums, etc, we are not the place for you! Our center is for nature-lovers...
PLEASE READ OUR WHOLE PROFILE IF YOU ARE STILL INTERESTED! We don't do interviews, so please read to the end, plus the reviews, to find the information you need. Thank you! We are happy to answer any questions if you don't see them answered in the profile.
Help with Eco Projects
DIY and building projects
Creating/ Cooking family meals
Help around the house
While each volunteer arrives at the center from a different background and with different perspectives, there is a shared understanding that here is a community which offers a unique opportunity to learn about oneself and one’s relation to others and the environment. We welcome volunteers from all walks of life, any work background, any gender or sexual orientation, as we believe that diversity makes for a richer and more powerful community. Residents come from all over the United States, as well as from South America and Europe, and while the core community is Tibetan Buddhist and participates daily in the group practices, being Buddhist is NOT a requirement. We have had volunteers from a wide range of faith backgrounds -- active, atheist, lapsed and none -- and encourage each person to pursue whatever path makes sense for them.
MEDITATION Spiritual instruction and support are available from the lama-in-residence who is a Tibetan Buddhist master, and some senior students can also provide guidance. Volunteers are welcome to join in the group's twice-daily practice and make use of the center’s shrine-room and library. The library has an extensive collection of books on Buddhism, Hinduism and Asian arts, and also selections of books on other religions, psychology, healing and ecology. Volunteers can attend the center's Buddhist events free of charge.
FIRE-ADAPTED COMMUNITY We are constantly learning about and implementing practices to make our property safer while understanding how wildfire and controlled burning have traditionally been a key part of maintaining a healthy landscape. Our local volunteer fire dept (on-site) provides helpful guidance for our forestry work, and two staff members are trained in basic wildland fire-fighting (FFT2). We do pile-burning as much of the year as is safe, and do small units of broadcast burning. If this is an area of interest for you, we are a great place to work and learn!
CONSTRUCTION / MAINTENANCE We have staff with varying levels of skill, and are always happy to meet people with more skills! Our buildings are mostly redwood and steel constructed in the 1960s and internally sound, but they need a lot of external care. We have a large shop space, a wide range of tools and a tractor.
PERMACULTURE The center maintains an organic vegetable garden and orchard where we follow principles of permaculture. Several times a year we host Earth Activist Training courses under the direction of Starhawk and other eco/spiritual leaders, and our staff can join a number of EAT workshops on request.
We consult with permaculture and other experts to find the best and healthiest ways to sustain the forests, waterways (and fish) and roads on this land.
LANGUAGE LEARNING Our native English speakers include graduates from Oxford and Cornell, and a former editor and English teacher, and we have a passion for language in general, from the informal to the literary and tiny details of grammar. We also have speakers of Portuguese (Brazilian), German, French and Chinese (various levels) in residence. Language learners are welcome! We also have poetry writing and sharing evenings for all who are interested.
Forestry/clearing and landscaping (from a fire ecology perspective) -- EXPERIENCE PREFERRED BUT NOT REQUIRED (experienced and certified chain-saw users welcome)
Cleaning butterlamps (brass votive lamps that hold oil)
Harvesting and processing foods eg canning, preserving
Construction and maintenance
Carpentry work (we have tools and fully-equipped shop)
Much of our work focuses on forestry, gardening/harvesting and burning. Generally, Workawayers also help with what is needed on any large property -- housekeeping, meal-prep, dish-washing, cleaning, gardening, construction/maintenance and landscaping. We also make our own bread and kombucha and people take turns learning that. While everyone shares in basic tasks like housekeeping and dishes as you would at home, there is also the chance to focus more on certain areas – be it trail-clearing, house-painting, or whatever. If you don’t have experience in an area, we are happy to train you up if viable.
A volunteer's specialist skills are always welcomed when applicable!
Please note that we do not need assistance with desk-type jobs, eg computing, bookkeeping, etc, or social media.
The center uses low- or no-chemical products throughout the property, wherever possible.
Chinese (Mandarin): Intermediate
This host offers a language exchange
This host has indicated that they are interested in sharing their own language or learning a new language.
You can contact them directly for more information.
Small, clean single room (bed, desk, chair, shelving/cupboards) with access to shared bathroom (separate men, women, all), in a building with up to 10 other residents, and a very friendly Labrador who is in the house several hours a day. Bedding and basic toiletries supplied. Double room available for couples. Sorry, no pets.
NOTE: until COVID is not an issue, new arrivals stay in semi-isolation (separate sleeping area, but working together, and dining together but distanced) for 4 days. These temporary accommodations are clean and spacious, with great wifi, and you won't be lonely! -- see our reviews to learn more...
All meals provided -- mostly vegetarian/vegan. Breakfast and dinner are self-serve from supplied food; lunch is cooked for staff as a whole 5 days a week; the other 2 days (usually weekends unless we're hosting a group) people cook for themselves using what is available. We mostly eat together. We provide healthy, basic 'home-cooked' substantial meals mostly with gluten-free and vegan options, and standard fruit and vegetables are supplemented whenever possible with organic fruits and vegetables from our garden. Teas (including herbal) and coffee are provided as standard beverages, with dairy and soy milk for cereal and to add to tea/coffee. And we make kombucha and bread most of the year -- Workawayers are welcome to join/learn! We do not offer expensive extras such as specialist nut milks, gourmet coffee, designer cheeses, organic juices, grass-fed beef, etc -- if these are a necessity for you, please bring your own.
Please note that drugs or tobacco (including e-cigs, vaping, etc) and entheogenic (psychedelic/hallucinogenic) 'plant medicines' are NOT allowed anywhere on the property at any time. Alcohol can only be consumed occasionally and strictly outside work hours.
If you are on prescribed drugs for some reason, our center may not be the best fit for you -- please talk to us about any potential issues. We absolutely do not use this as a reason to rule someone out automatically. But because we are in a remote area, working with fire and power tools, we do need to have a clear picture about a team member's overall health. Please ask if you have more questions about this, and know that all such information is treated in confidence. Thank you!
We request people come to stay for at least one month. Please don't contact us if you are only able to stay for a week or two, as we won't be able to host you. Arrival days should be Tuesday-Saturday, 9am to 6pm.
Living in community can be challenging as well as enormously rewarding. The trick is learning to see even the challenges as an incentive for personal growth and the development of new skills, and we encourage everyone to work to their greatest potential. Many of the current long-term staff arrived clueless about various aspects of the work needed here -- but as a team we have been able to pool our resources and make things happen. Whatever skills we can share, we are happy to, and we enjoy continuing to learn from each other and from whoever passes through!
We are looking for volunteers with:
- a commitment to or interest in community life, including both the group and solitary aspects (although we live and mostly work and eat communally, people should also be comfortable doing their own thing and being alone)
- an interest in supporting the center as a place of retreat for themselves and others
- concern for the environment and interest in land stewardship
- the ability to work with clear direction alone or as part of a team
- the ability to communicate clearly with others
- a responsible attitude towards handling their workload, arriving at work on time (ie ready on the job at 9am, so others aren't waiting around for you)
- willingness to carry out tasks to the best of their ability and able to work different hours (not more, just flexible) on occasion
- good physical health and stamina, and able to easily and safely lift 25 lbs
- ABSOLUTELY NO ALCOHOL, DRUG OR TOBACCO HABITS (including vaping and edibles), and not in recent recovery from addiction. (Yes, marijuana is legal in CA. No, it is not allowed in any form on our property. Please do not apply to volunteer with us if even occasional use is important to you. Also, we respect people’s need to use marijuana for genuine medical purposes. But if you are taking marijuana for a health issue, that same issue will probably make work here too challenging.) Some residents occasionally drink alcohol, but we have guidelines around usage. Ayahuasca, peyote or other hallucinogens or psychedelics are also not allowed; we fully respect their use as sacraments or tools in specific contexts, but our center is not one of those contexts.
- respect for the fact that the buildings, accommodation, facilities and food at the center all come from the hard work and generosity of others over many years, and so you are not working ‘for free’, but enjoying the benefits of what those people have offered
- a willingness to observe the principle of not taking life, which includes not killing annoying insects such as mosquitoes and ticks!
- openness to new or different cultural habits, traditions or identities
- a smartphone able to run WhatsApp, which is our primary means to communicate work plans, safety announcements, expeditions, etc
Also please note: our center is remote and with sometimes challenging conditions. Just as physical fitness is required, a certain degree of mental fitness is also needed. If you rely on regular use of psychiatric meds, this may mean our place is not a good fit for you, so please check with us beforehand if you have questions about this.
What probably won’t work is if you:
- need to constantly use social media and be on your phone while supposedly working
- need to listen to music for much of the day
- feel the urge to go into town a few times a week or party every weekend
- find it hard to be on your own for any amount of time
- get upset by people around you speaking their own, non-English, language at times
- are looking for a ‘free’ place before/after the trimming season
- believe the only correct position on politics or social theory is your own
- have an inherent problem taking instructions from a woman/man/someone younger than you/less fluent in English than you, etc
- have issues around food, group meals or large-scale meal prep -- there's a lot of food involved in community living, and we see eating together regularly as supportive for a spiritual community
- need uppers or downers to get through a normal day
- have some deep issues that need addressing probably with professional help, and hope just being in a Buddhist center will effortlessly resolve things. We wish it could! But usually...no. This is not a 'therapeutic community' as people sometimes expect. We are fully supportive when people can acknowledge, work with and/or get help for their problems -- that's what we're all trying to do! And there are many excellent local resources we can refer people to, and now of course also online resources. We are not therapists, though. Our own primary tools are practising Buddhadharma, using outside help as needed. There is a religious teacher here who can give guidance, but we are not able to host someone who primarily relies on drama or avoidance tactics to get through life and their stay here.
The center has in place anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and a Code of Conduct, which all prospective volunteers are briefed on, and which are used as the basis for promoting the well-being of every resident and the integrity of the organization's operations.
A NOTE ON IDENTITY… Religion, sexual orientation, racial background, gender identity, class, temperament, family history, nationality, education -- all are seen as part of the multiple layers of identity that any spiritual practitioner at some point has to examine in an honest and constructive manner, as part of the training. We try to learn how to observe without judgement, and also -- very importantly -- try not to define ourselves or others with limiting labels. You can come here and be yourself, whatever that 'self' is. While people will respect whatever you wish to share or not, our main concern is to live, learn and work together in a peaceful, honest and productive way. Everyone here has their own 'stuff', some visible, some not, and we are all just trying to work on that, by looking honestly at ourselves, connecting properly with each other and being of service in the world. Also, we hope that people have the humility to know what they do NOT know, and that while we cannot always fully understand another's experience, we can and should take responsibility for educating ourselves where needed.
Please note that while we mostly use no- or low-chemical products, we do NOT have a no-perfume/scent/chemical policy.
We have a very affectionate chocolate Labrador in residence, who is always willing to snuggle, play or take volunteers for a walk.
We ask for 25 hours work per week. Usually you would work from 9am-2pm, but there is some flexibility around this, eg depending what events are going on at the center, other hours can be agreed. Please note that during busy times, eg burn days, you may be scheduled for more than 5 hours on one day, but will have fewer hours elsewhere -- and never more than 25 hrs a week.
In terms of outdoor leisure, there are many beautiful places to hike around the property, secluded spots for yoga and meditation, and a paved driveway 1.5 miles long that is fantastic for walking/running. Plus, our center is in cyclist heaven - major cycle races pass right by us every year, as the gorgeous local routes are hugely popular for amateurs and professionals alike.
Local tribal and environmental groups regularly host work days with a learning component that are open to the public.
There is no public transport locally. The nearest buses start from Monte Rio and Guerneville.
If you have a car, or want to hitch a ride with other residents on their days off, we are located 30-40 minutes from the stunning Sonoma coastline and the Russian River resorts such as Guerneville, Monte Rio, and Jenner. You can camp, surf (NOT swim), kayak/canoe, hike and go hot air ballooning within one hour of here.
Just over an hour away by car are the towns of Santa Rosa and Sebastopol which offer a full range of cultural activities from traditional to alternative -- and Sebastopol is small, with many friendly and accessible societies and groups. San Francisco and Oakland/Berkeley are two and a half hours away, and easily accessible from Santa Rosa by bus/train/ferry etc.
APPLICATION: We ask that you read our WHOLE profile and reviews before applying, and only write to us if you are comfortable with the policies outlined.
CALLS/ZOOM/VIDEO CHATS: We don't do interviews, as we have many applications, and people are only coming for a short stay, not contracted employment. Our own profile and reviews are fairly extensive, so we expect you to use those details to decide whether or not our center is a good fit, plus you are also always welcome to write questions about anything that is not addressed in our profile. We look forward to hearing from you!
There is no public transport to our center. We can pick you up from Santa Rosa, Sebastopol or Guerneville (number 20 bus runs from Santa Rosa). Nearest airport is STS, Sonoma County Santa Rosa (connections through Alaskan/Horizon and United Airlines), and further away are Oakland OAK and San Francisco SFO. There are bus connections from the airports to Santa Rosa ( and Golden Gate Transit). Amtrak and Grayhound also go to Santa Rosa. Please plan for a Tues-Sat arrival if you need to be picked up, by 6pm. And check out the Clipper card for Bay Area transport that includes using the Smart train to get from the city to Santa Rosa. Thank you!
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
We have a surprisingly good wifi connection for a remote area. Please explain your specific needs/preferences.
Vanlifers (without pets) are welcome! Vehicles should be well-maintained and all rules such as no smoking etc still apply.
More than two
Maximum 25 hrs a week
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