Self and Work Retreats

Self Retreat

Self-retreats are for individuals who have an established daily meditation practice and are looking for deeper practice in a retreat center setting. The residential community meditates together every morning and evening. Beyond these group meditations, self-retreaters plan their own practice schedule each day and are responsible for buying/preparing their own food. Self retreatants will have their own room and access to either their own, or a shared bathroom and kitchen. Self-retreaters may enter/use any of the common areas (main house, including kitchen and zendo/meditation hall). 

Since there is not a resident teacher currently living at the center, we ask that longer term self-retreatants arrange to work with a teacher over Zoom/phone during their stay. If you are practicing with a small group, you can also contact us about arranging to come for a group retreat.

Once a week we gather to inquire and study a text. Occasionally, the residential community may host dinners and dharma activities; you are always welcome to join in if you’d like. We also ask self-retreaters to offer one hour a day of work to support the ongoing maintenance of the center. Typical work includes cleaning common spaces, laundry, administrative tasks, etc. 

Dhamma Dena relies on dana/donations to cover our costs and continue to freely offer this center to all those interested.  In the tradition of dana, you are invited to offer support for the center.

If you are interested in doing a self retreat, please review the Welcome Packet and contact us at

Volunteer Retreat

If you would like to practice in community and support Dhamma Dena, please apply for a volunteer retreat. Volunteer retreatants receive their own room and basic food staples for cooking (grains, beans, vegetables) and typically work for a maximum of 4 - 5 work hours per day, for five days in the week. Typical work includes cleaning, cooking, plant watering, or projects fixing or improving facilities. Throughout the week we gather to meditate, send metta, listen to a dharma talk, inquire and study a text and talk about our practice together. Occasionally, we come together for community dinners, and hikes. We welcome any community activity that you would like to offer/host/plan. Since there is not a resident teacher currently living at the center, we strongly encourage retreatants staying longer than a week to work with a teacher over Zoom/phone during their stay.

Sample Daily Schedule:

In the tradition of dana, you are invited to offer support for the center and teacher at the end of your stay.

If you are interested in doing a volunteer retreat, please review the Welcome Packet and contact us at

Dhamma Dena: Who We Are and What We Do Here 

(This text was written when Ruth Denison was still teaching at Dhamma Dena. Without a guiding teacher, this description of life at Dhamma Dena continues to resonate with our practice as residents and on volunteer retreats)

Dhamma Dena is a remote Vipassana Meditation Center spread out over a vast, spacious desert. There can be exceedingly high and low temperatures, soaring winds, and extreme dryness; all of which make for a very rough terrain. Here we are exposed to the rare elements, (earth, fire, air and water), which allow us to connect with the elements within and all around us. We are not separated from •anyone nor anything. This can be an intense place of inner study; a powerful place and time that can assist us in waking up. It is not a place of comforts. It is not meant to cater to our desires and social conditioning. Dhamma Dena encourages us to face the many aspects of our lives-the joys, sorrows, physical difficulties and other challenges. In this way, Dhamma Dena is not an escape, but rather a place to teach us how to meet our life just as it is, with grace, compassion and equanimity. 

Dhamma Dena is a retreat center that supports and strengthens mindfulness. While we are here, we are the community (sangha), both teachers and students; which is the supporting foundation of this center. This center is our spiritual home and is cared for by us. Here we assist in daily chores (such as cooking, cleaning, ringing of. the bells, and doing whatever needs to be done to maintain our center). In these activities we are strengthening and building our own mindfulness, helping the center and our community. As returning students we can orient newlings and make resolves to practice more mindfully in each moment whether walking to and from buildings, sweeping, washing clothes or dishes or floors, caring for the trash, saying blessings or keeping noble silence. 

While on retreat we follow the five precepts as well as the meditation and work schedules as much as our body and mind allow. In this way we support one another (sangha), the teachings (Dharma) and the practice of wakefulness (Buddha). Our practice may be difficult at times, but if we embrace it with patience and compassion and release our conditioning, the truths are often revealed. Our insights may come while washing the floor, sensing a fly in our ear, observing shapes and colors of the sun setting; tasting a grapefruit, or delighting in the understanding received of another meditator. 

Some powerful teachings at Dhamma Dena have little to do with the teacher. This is why our teacher, Ruth Denison, encourages us not to let a moment go by without noticing. Ruth's style of teaching is one of ongoing Dharma. Sometimes there are formal evening Dharma talks, but often the teachings are spread throughout the day in all activities, (ie. listening to the meal bell and sensing our hunger, entering the outhouse, stretching on the floor or lying in bed noticing the rising and falling of the chest before sleeping. 

The elements, the rustic center, the vipassana meditation practice, the working format; and the way of teaching are all here to enhance wakefulness and lessen greed, hatred and delusion. Without expectations, and with a commitment to engage fully, we can benefit from this precious opportunity to practice. In this way, we can truly embody our lives both on and off the cushion and on and off retreat, wherever we are.

Daily and Weekly Resident/Volunteer Schedule

Daily Group Meditations:

7-8am Meditation 

2-3pm Meditation (optional)

7-8pm Meditation

Daily Work Hours:

9am-12:30pm (~4 hrs)

Daily Meals:

12:30pm Lunch Served in the Main House, DIY Breakfast and Dinner

Daily Noble Silence:

7pm in the evening to 9am in the morning