SRMC is world-renowned for our mix of integrative programs for both new and experienced students from diverse backgrounds. Spirit Rock’s programs are designed to foster personal experiences of freedom for anyone with a willingness to develop his or her own practice. Programs include residential retreats, Dharma-study classes, daylong retreats, advanced practitioner programs, and teacher training. Our programs are grounded in the essence of the Buddha’s teachings in the Pali discourses.

Q: What is Spirit Rock’s vision for its Community and Campus?

A:  From the first days of Spirit Rock’s planning, we envisioned serving a growing community and we planned permanent structures accordingly. Spirit Rock has earned an international reputation in our twenty-five year history as a leading center for Dharma in the West.  Buoyed by neuroscience research supporting the positive effects of timeless mindfulness meditation practices, Spirit Rock is at the root of this mindfulness movement and more and more people are coming to Spirit Rock for these foundational teachings and practices and because of the quality of our teachers and the diversity of our programs as well as its beauty; all conducive for practice.

In order to meet the needs of our growing community Spirit Rock must move forward and finish the long-term plans for the retreat center so we can continue to offer retreat experiences as well as many programs that integrate the Dharma into our modern secular lives.

Q: What is happening at Spirit Rock?

A:  Nearly 25 years have passed since a generous donation allowed our founders to purchase the 412 acres that we now occupy. This amazing parcel of land was acquired from the Nature Conservancy, who used the proceeds to preserve rainforests in the Amazon basin. When we first opened the center, we held day-long retreats in a large tent containing 200 red chairs donated by a Chinese restaurant in Santa Cruz. Our Monday night meetings were held at the Fairfax Community Church, but soon these were overflowing.  We decided to rent some trailers so we could begin serving our growing community on the land.  The trailer on the left of the meadow was originally our caretaker and one additional employee lived until around 1996, when it was converted to offices. The trailer on the right contained the Spirit Rock offices. Seven trailers were put together to create the existing Community Meditation Hall, about 3,000 square feet in total. It is now time to replace these old temporary structures with new more efficient permanent green facilities.

Q: Why is Spirit Rock undertaking a building campaign?

A: With ever increasing numbers of people seeking access to the teachings and practices offered at Spirit Rock we must build a strong campus to support our residential and non-residential programs. The temporary trailers in the meadow have been used as our lower community meditation hall and offices for our administrative and programs staff since 1991. Now they are well past their intended lifespan and are in a state of decay requiring constant repairs. We also have a critical shortage of office spaces, meeting rooms and community spaces. Staff is working in less than optimal conditions while the demand for more programs is increasing.  The next phase of construction will provide new facilities and community spaces that will greatly improve the overall infrastructure for efficient day-to-day operations while providing much needed spaces for our programs.

The lower campus will be upgraded and will provide a large Community Hall, additional meeting rooms, staff offices and facilities for our various programs, residential quarters for teachers and on-site staff, and parking. The new complex will meet our current needs to replace old temporary buildings and also expand our capacity to efficiently serve the needs of our growing community.

Q: What is the construction for?

A: We’re in the process of fulfilling a vision that originated 25 years ago – to create a permanent Community Hall. Thanks to the support of thousands of our sangha members, we’re building a light-filled Meditation Hall with two additional classrooms, centralized administration offices and a resident staff/teacher village. During construction, we will be able to run 100% of our programs without interruption.

Q: Why build?

A: We have both residential retreats (for people who stay on-site in dormitories up the hill) and non-residential programs here at Spirit Rock. For more than 20 years we’ve been holding our non-residential classes and events in temporary trailers in the meadow. We now offer more than 500 daylong, classes and retreats in a year. The growing need for the wisdom of the Buddha’s teachings around mindfulness and compassion practice continues to grow and we need to have permanent facilities to serve our community.

Q: How long will it take?

A: We expect to complete phase I of the project in summer 2015.

Q: Why did you install a gate?

A: It is common practice to offer some basic security measures for the equipment and materials used on a construction site. To support our building partners, contractor and sub-contractors for this $16 million project, we installed a gate at the main entrance to the driveway. The gate will remain open during Spirit Rock business hours (6:00am – 9:30pm) and vehicle access to the property will be available during non-business hours, if needed. As always, all are welcome at Spirit Rock.

Q: Will this construction make it difficult to park?

A: As always, we encourage carpooling to lessen the impact of all vehicle traffic on the land and in the area. During April and May, construction will require increased diligence for carpooling for Monday nights and some weekend events. And while the parking lot may look different, we will be able to accommodate everyone who wants to attend weekly classes, weekend events and residential retreats.

Q: What do Spirit Rock’s long-term development plans for the campus include?

A:  There are several phases in the Master Building Plan first approved in 1989 which will complete the overall founding vision for the campus.  These plans were recently updated to reflect more environmentally sustainable green practices. We will be focusing on Phase One in our immediate fundraising goals.

Phase One Includes:
•  Permanent Community Meditation Hall
•  Gateway and Administration Building
•  Part of the Staff and Teacher Village with staff resident housing and visiting teacher  housing
•  Improved parking capacity and entrance kiosk

Phase Two Includes:
•  Completion of Staff and Teacher Village, including resident teacher housing
•  New Dining Hall with retreat and staff/teacher dining areas, and outdoor seating areas
•  Convert existing Dining Hall into a multipurpose facility
•  Build two new residence halls – 24 single beds each
•  Restore the meadow to a walking area with a stupa, a Buddhist monument

Phase Three Includes:
•  The Hermitage and Hermitage Commons, including 18 huts for long-term practice

Q: Who will be managing this development?

A:  Since 1996, Hart Marin has been the contract developer providing complete project management and long-range planning for SRMC.  With their team of experts, HartMarin prepared The Spirit Rock Master Plan Amendment, a comprehensive update to the 22-year old approved Master Plan, incorporating state-of-the-art green development practices. The redesign carries out the principles of cost effectively improving the social conditions at SRMC while protecting the environment. The next phase of the Master Plan Amendment sets the standard for carbon-neutral, environmentally sensitive development in San Geronimo Valley. This revision to our Master Plan led to a review process by the country building commission that has taken four years to date and has been fully approved by both the County Planning Commission and The Board of Supervisors.

Q: What is Spirit Rock’s policy toward land stewardship?

A:  SRMC takes its role as stewards of this beautiful piece of land seriously. The changes we requested to our 1989 approved Master Building Plan will protect sensitive riparian areas. We are removing invasive species and also planting native species, and we are using sustainable design to maximize water in our landscaping. Through a comprehensive Resource Protection Plan, Spirit Rock proposes to carefully monitor and control environmental impacts on the campus.

Q: Is this building project ‘green’?

A: Yes. Spirit Rock staff and teachers value and embrace green practices in all aspects of our day-to-day operations including this building project. This was named “the greenest project” in West Marin by a local elected official because we are implementing so many green practices. We have taken every step to mitigate any potential harm to our four-legged, feathered, scaled and finned neighbors. We are installing solar, replacing wetlands and protecting riparian zones (areas around creeks and streams) among other efforts.

Q: What are Spirit Rock’s green practices?

A:  Spirit Rock’s Master Development Plan was approved in 1989 and updated in 2011 under our own initiative with state-of-the-art environmentally sustainable components. SR is environmentally conscious and incorporates green practices wherever possible in all aspects of our day-to-day operations as well as in our future building design and construction. We use solar energy, electric vehicles and bicycles. We compost, reuse and recycle and chose clean air alternatives to reduce our environmental footprint.

From a solar farm to electric cars to constructed wetlands, the Spirit Rock Master Plan Amendment sets the standard for carbon-neutral, environmentally sensitive development in San Geronimo Valley.

Highlights of our Green Development:

Our goal with the Spirit Rock Master Plan is to provide the most environmentally sound
project of this type ever seen in Marin County.
• To achieve balanced energy use, we have integrated alternative energy sources (i.e. solar) into our design.
• To improve water quality, we will upgrade the septic system and incorporate a grey water treatment process.
• To protect wetlands and riparian zones as well as avoid unstable soils, we are modifying the site plan.
• To reduce traffic, we are preparing a transportation management plan.
• As a foundation of our sustainable development practices, we will build energy efficient environmentally sound buildings.

Q: What kind of solar project are you implementing?

A: One of the first visible features of the new lower campus will be the Spirit Rock “Solar Farm”, comprised of 336 SunPower 345w photovoltaic modules. When installed, the solar farm will generate enough power to fulfill the electricity needs of the entire campus. The system will eliminate between 2,400 and 3,600 tons of CO2 over 25 years, which is equivalent to planting 40 to 60 acres of trees.

Q: Why is the building campaign divided into Upper and Lower Campus phases?

A:  Our need to minimize the time that our retreat facilities are under construction means that all of the improvements required to support the retreat area must be made together. Since many of the lower campus improvements are needed in order to operate the retreat center more efficiently and provide permanent meditation, office and housing facilities, these must be constructed first.

Q: What is Spirit Rock’s building schedule?

A:  Depending on the financial support from our Community, we would like to break dirt as early as Summer of 2014 with construction of Phase One, which includes the Community Meditation Hall, Gateway and Administrative Offices, and part of The Teacher and Staff Village. The first phase will replace all the old temporary trailers in the meadow and provide a large Community Meeting Hall with two smaller additional meeting rooms, staff offices and facilities for our various programs, some residential quarters for teachers and on-site staff, and improved parking capacity and entrance kiosk.  These new facilities will greatly improve our efficiency and capacity to serve the needs of our community and the staff that support this center.

Q: How much does this cost?

A: This entire Capital Campaign effort has been a long and concerted effort with several phases of building in the past and planned for the future. With the generosity of this community, we are still raising funds for this current phase ($16 million) to build a light-filled Community Meditation Hall, administration offices and a residential staff/teacher village.

We utilized this phase of our master plan to do the very extensive and expensive permitting processes. After completing this phase of the campaign, as part of our master plan, we will continue to fundraise to cover our ongoing maintenance costs as well as build two new dormitories (for guaranteed single-room occupancy), a dining hall and a hermitage for long-term practice.

Q: Is the campaign also raising funds for endowment?

A:  Not at this time.  We are focusing the capital campaign on the necessary new permanent facilities so we can better serve our extended community, and also provide our staff and teachers with decent offices and housing that will increase the overall efficiency of operations and the  level of programs that we can provide our community. That said, we would love to have an endowment fund and it is a long-term goal of ours to have one.

Q: How many of Spirit Rock’s 412 acres will remain open space?

A:  As part of our Master Plan developed back in 1988, we made a commitment to develop less than 10% of the land so we could preserve this beautiful countryside and maintain the rural nature of the San Geronimo Valley.  In other words, Spirit Rock has given up over 90% of our land-development rights in favor of perpetual open space and agricultural easements which we have granted to the Marin County Open Space District and the Marin Agricultural Land Trust.

Q: What about the noise?

A: While some ambient machinery sound may travel, but it will not be continuous. Construction will take place on the lower non-residential campus during business work hours (Monday – Friday, 7:00am–4:00pm and occasional Saturdays) and Spirit Rock will be open throughout construction. As with all external aspects of our experience, the teachers will be guiding us in how to effectively practice with this too.

Q: Will this impact my silent retreat?

A: While construction and machinery sound is expected on the lower campus, it will not be sustained and should minimally impact those practicing up the hill on residential retreats. For those attending daylong retreats on the weekend, construction activities will rarely occur on the weekends. Conditions for meditation practice are rarely perfect and environmental sounds are just another subject for our mindful attention. Teachers will give guidance on how to use it as a basis for your practice. All of us at Spirit Rock look forward to supporting you on retreat. What will happen to the existing Meditation Hall?

The current Community Meditation Hall and trailers in the meadow will all be taken down and the meadow eventually will be restored as a walking area. We will not take down the trailers in the meadow until we open the doors of the new Community Hall, so will be offering programs throughout construction in our current Community Meditation Hall in the meadow.

 

Please contact Bobbi Perez, Capital Campaign Associate, if you have additional questions: sangha@spiritrock.org, or tel: 415.488.0164 x 283.
Thank you for your support for this vision!

Message from Sylvia Boorstein about the Sangha of Thousands of Buddhas

“Every wakeful step, every mindful act is the direct path to awakening. Wherever you go, there you are.”
 
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