Paul Renn: Volunteer Profile
Thirteen years ago a friend invited my wife to go on a five-day retreat. I had no idea why anyone would want to do that. I had never done meditation. My wife came back and was describing her experience to me. I had no reference point, so I did not fully understand how sitting without talking could be profound. The following year I did a five-day retreat for beginners and my thought was that it would be a relaxing, peaceful five days of disconnecting. Was I in for a surprise! I hadn't cried like that since I was four- or five-years-old. The insights and experiences were like nothing I had had before. It was incredible.
My wife and I discovered Fairfax from going to Spirit Rock retreats. It seemed like a magical little town to us, but logistically it seemed impossible to live there. We did eventually move to Fairfax, after our daughter Velia was born, and after two years in Marin I realized I had never been back to Spirit Rock, except for an occasional walk on the lower grounds. I wanted to reconnect to the incredible community where I had had some of my most profound experiences. I contacted the volunteer office to see if there was a day or two of work available, not realizing that there was a Dedicated Volunteer program where I could earn hours toward a retreat. I was asked if I wanted to be a DV after a couple of weeks. It will be a year in March that I have been volunteering as a DV.
It’s a wonderful feeling to volunteer my time. I've learned how hard the kitchen staff works to keep retreats running smoothly and yogis fed. Also, it's pretty funny behind the scenes. I had this impression while on retreat that everyone on staff is very serious and talks very little. We actually laugh, joke and talk about everything from current events to the local economy.
Volunteering at Spirit Rock is almost a mini-retreat in a sense, though I don't work in silence unless yogis are nearby. Coming to this beautiful land for a couple of hours a week, there is a sense of peace for me. My cell phone shuts off and I can focus on the job at hand, helping Matt put away fresh and dry goods. The people I work with are wonderful. We connect with our common experience of meditation. How often do we get a chance to work in such a beautiful environment with such nice people in our lifetime? It’s a little nicer than an office.
Spirit Rock relies on the generosity of our many volunteers. We offer a range of volunteer opportunities from one-time projects to ongoing service. Check our website to find out more about out volunteer program or contact our Volunteer & Community Coordinator at Volunteering@spiritrock.org or (415) 488-0164 x224.