Meditation, forestry and fire — a work-study personal retreat

Meditation, forestry and fire — a work-study personal retreat

25 hours work a week, in exchange for room and board
Looking for a supportive environment where you can deepen your practice or work on accumulations?
Fancy living in the stunningly beautiful California coastal redwood hills?
Want to balance retreat hours with healthy outdoor activities and helping retreat center activities?
Want to learn about forestry and fire ecology, and make a real difference to a unique eco-system?

Ati Ling may be the place for you. We offer diligent, sincere practitioners of Buddhadharma the opportunity to stay at the center full-time, doing 25 hours work a week in exchange for room and board.

Ati Ling is located on 485 acres managed by the Padmasambhava Peace Institute, and part of PPI’s mission is to restore the forest which like much of California’s land has been damaged by over a century of federal and state mismanagement and which is now also vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Watch the PPI – Ati Ling sangha in action! 
“Fuego surge alumbra ya, y en tus llamas brote una canción, que palpita alegre en mi corazón.”
“Fire, arise, illuminate now! And in your flames a song springs forth, that beats happily in my heart.”

And for a video summary of the steps from clearing to burning, watch our ‘Ring of Fire’ movie.

Working in the forest and learning about fire presents the perfect conditions for practising mindfulness, and understanding karma and interdependence. We cultivate respect for all beings in the environment, and understand how every action we take has an impact.

We have been running a cultural work-exchange program for over six years through the Workaway platform, and have successfully hosted hundreds of volunteers from all over the world who come to live in this beautiful part of the USA and help with our forestry and prescribed fire program. We work with hand or power tools and our resident sangha include certified wildland fire-fighters — we love training people to join burns, use a drip-torch and generally learn how to take care of the land.

All residents at the center participate in assignments such as: helping with meal prep, making bread/yoghurt/kombucha, clearing in the forest, housekeeping and cleaning/preparing butterlamps.
Those who are interested to learn about prescribed fire and join with burns are most welcome, but this is always optional.

What we offer:
Private room with twin or double bed, desk, chair and storage cabinet (all linens and towels provided)
Shared bathroom, shared kitchen, shared lounge
Three meals a day — breakfast and dinner are self-serve, and lunch is prepared by residents taking turns
Large dedicated shrine-room and dharma library (all schools/lineages), accessible 24 hours
Support of a dedicated Tibetan Buddhist community who have been in residence since 2004
Chance to join twice-daily puja with resident sangha
Many outdoor areas, open and sheltered, for walking or practising
Structured day and structured work program following a regular time-table
Excellent wifi service (minimum 75 Mbps)
Opportunity to socialize with people from around the world who are staying at the center short-term
Outings to local beauty spots and places of interest

What we ask for:
Three week minimum commitment (longer stays can only be considered after the initial three weeks have been completed)
Sincere practitioners who have already have some kind of regular dharma commitments
Good physical health (able to lift 20 lbs) and stable mental health
Work hours 9am-1pm and one more hour in the afternoon — occasionally this changes for burn days or with rental groups but you will never work more than 25 hours a week (days off are usually Sunday and Monday)
Appropriate work attitude — being punctual, focusing on the task at hand
Respect for our strict no-smoking, no-drugs rules, and minimal use of alcohol
Regular participation in personal and communal area housekeeping
Respect for ALL guests at the center, regardless of their background/practice
Ability to live simply in a remote area, away from busy town life or tourist attractions
Must like/love dogs — our Labrador is often in the staff house where you stay

Links with more information:
Our Workaway profile, including with reviews: Land restoration and fire ecology at a Buddhist center in the beautiful coastal hills of Northern California, USA (
Trailer for a documentary made by Frederick Marx (“Hoop Dreams”, “Journey from Zanskar”) about veterans at a retreat at PPI: “On Black Mountain”

How to apply:
Write to with subject “Work-study retreat” briefly explaining your interest, your dharma practice history including previous solo or group retreats, teachers or centers you are associated with, and which dates you are interested in. Please also detail any relevant work experience, your general health status, and any other relevant information — all information is kept strictly confidential.
If you are already on Workaway, use that platform but also let us know you saw us here, and briefly cover the above points.