Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQs

Experience with meditation is not a prerequisite for attending retreats at Springwater. We welcome people who are new to meditation. There are no required beliefs or assigned practices—you may explore meditation in your own way. At the same time, there are many resources to support you, including resident teachers who are available for meetings. You may attend one of our retreats, or participate in an all day sitting. On the opening night of retreats, there is a new person orientation where first-time participants may ask questions, meet the retreat teacher(s), and get to know one another.

One of our retreat leaders, Sandra Gonzalez, writes “You don’t need any preparation or training—all that is needed is interest, curiosity and an openness to explore a new way of being with yourself here and now.”

During retreats we can explore what Sandra mentions and any other questions about meditation can be brought up both private meetings and group dialogues. If you are new to meditation and have any questions about Springwater Center, please feel free to contact us.

Here at Springwater, we often use the phrase “meditative inquiry” in place of meditation or sitting. Meditative inquiry implies a living, dynamic, moment to moment presence, an exploration of the world and oneself—of the world that is oneself. Meditation is not repetitive and is not dependent on any technique or method. In this spirit, is it possible to approach one’s quiet meditation and one’s more active life with curiosity, interest, and wonder? To question and to be questioned, to see that there is truly nothing that cannot be met and nothing that cannot be inquired into. Please see the full article on meditative inquiry for a deeper perspective on why we use these words.

Here at Springwater, there are no required beliefs or assigned practices—you may explore meditation in your own way. You may wish to continue with a previously learned practice, or simply attend to what is happening with no particular method. The essence of meditation at Springwater is being together in the simplicity and openness of silent awareness. Attending moment-to-moment to what is happening within and without, in a spirit of wonder, curiosity, and discovery. You may read this piece on meditation by our founder Toni Packer for a deeper sense of meditation at Springwater.

Outside of retreat, our daily schedule is simple, spacious, and flexible. You may establish a rhythm that works for you, opting to make use of the sitting room, spend quiet time in nature, rest, read, or explore our miles of trails. Timed sittings can be a support for quiet meditation and inquiry, and attendance is optional. Experienced teaching staff is available to meet with if you have any questions or uncertainties about how to make use of your time here.

Our retreats are led by Teachers who worked for many years with our founder, Toni Packer. Each of the people who lead retreat at Springwater brings his or her unique way of putting words to the work of meditative inquiry. Teachers are available for private meetings and participate in dialogue groups where visitors can look into questions or concerns together.

Springwater Center seeks to make retreats possible for people who are unable to afford the full cost of our programs. The Retreat Assistance Fund is available to cover up to 50% of retreat costs for people on limited incomes and/or experiencing financial difficulties. Outside of retreat, volunteering is a great way to partake in the life of the center with minimal financial commitment. All Day Sittings also offer a one day retreat experience for just a $25 requested donation.

Click here for our daily schedule outside of retreat.

Outside of retreat, we offer guest and volunteer stays while we engage in the necessary work to keep the center operating. Our residential staff works from Tuesday through Saturday, with lunch served at 12:30pm on these days. There is timed sitting meditation from Tuesday through Saturday mornings, and on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. During the working day, volunteers work alongside staff in the upkeep of the center while guests are asked to contribute an hour of time each day. Otherwise, guests and volunteers are free to spend their time as they wish. Many choose to make use of the meditation hall, walk our trails, and spend time engaging with one another. There are resident teachers who are available to meet privately with guests and volunteers.

Please see this list of independent groups interested in the work of Springwater Center.

In support of maintaining silence at the Center at key times, and also because both staff and guests can have allergy issues with pets, we ask that pets not be brought during any visits or guest stays.

Retreat FAQs

During retreat, we enter into silence as a community to create an atmosphere of stillness and inquiry. This includes being silent throughout every day, including meal times and rest periods. Each day there is a morning talk given by the teacher(s) of the retreat and a dialogue group in the afternoon. There are also opportunities to sign up for private meetings, both with teachers as well as with other participants.

Not at all. Almost every retreat we have at Springwater includes people who have never been to a retreat before, and in many cases never meditated before. Prior to the opening orientation program, there is a chance for newcomers to meet in a group with those leading the retreat. This is an opportunity to ask questions; get to know each other; or explore interests, curiosities, uncertainties, and fears. Then, during retreat there are opportunities to meet with teachers and bring concerns to the daily dialogue group.

We have an extensive network of nature trails that traverses our 200 acres of country land. The trails wind through meadows, woods, a stream, and a pond. There are also wooden benches placed throughout the trails for rest and quiet sitting.

Part-time attendance is welcome and encouraged for those who are unable to attend the full length of a retreat. We do, however, require that first-time participants begin their attendance on the opening night of retreat so that they may receive an orientation to the retreat format as well as to the physical spaces of the center. Returning participants are welcome to arrive on any day of retreat.

Please see our fees and information page for details about our cancellation policy.

Meals at Springwater are vegetarian, with a menu that includes dairy and eggs served on the side. Alternatives for those who fellow a vegan diet are available. See Food and Accommodation for more information.

Many guests come to Springwater with various dietary needs. Generally, they are able to eat much of our main menu, which always has vegan and gluten-free options. For those who need to supplement the menu with personal food, there is a guest refrigerator available to store personal items. See Food and Accommodation for more information.

There are several options for making phone calls if needed: a phone booth in the main building, going to one’s car, or taking a walk off of the property. There is wifi available in designated areas so as to provide an atmosphere of collected silence in common spaces. Guests wanting to take a break from electronic devices can choose to leave them locked in their vehicle for the duration of their stay.

There is no particular dress code at Springwater, although it is a good idea to bring clothes that are comfortable for sitting and seasonally-appropriate. Weather can be quite varied here in Western New York, with cold winters and precipitation possible all year round. Outdoor shoes are not worn inside, so bring soft-soled slippers or sandals for indoors. Bring appropriate footwear in case of wet, muddy weather. Bring a hat in the summer for protection against deer flies. During retreat we are unable to offer machine laundry to our guests, but we have facilities for hand washing as well as drying racks or lines for drying outside in warmer weather.

Please bring needed pharmaceuticals and toiletries. Please be respectful of the sensitivities of participants, and do not use scented toiletries, sprays or perfumes. Participants who have special dietary needs are welcome to bring food to store in the personal food refrigerator. We provide bug sprays, but you may bring your own if you prefer a specific formula.

Please do not bring pets, alcoholic beverages, illegal drugs, incense, candles, or other combustibles.