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Message from Executive Director Michelle Latvala (August 2018)

[Please Note: Michelle transitioned out of the Executive Director role in January 2022]
Wow. Thank you for your input. Over the last several months it has been a beautiful process to see Spirit Rock directly reflected in your eyes—and utilize that as the basis for Spirit Rock 2025. Last fall we asked you in our in-depth survey: “What’s most important to you in practicing at Spirit Rock?” Collectively ~1500 of you reflected your shared values:

  1. QUALITY: The quality of programs we offer (99%)
  2. DEPTH: The excellence of our teachers depth of understanding of the teachings (98%)
  3. LAND: The contribution this land makes in supporting meditation practice (96%)
  4. DHARMA: Our mission as a Dharma center rooted in the Buddha’s teachings (93%)
  5. IN-PERSON: The strength of in-person transmission of the teachings in sangha with others (93%)
  6. INCLUSION: Spirit Rock’s commitment to actions that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion for all who wish undertake the practice (91%)

Given the radically different conditions surrounding Spirit Rock now as compared to our founding years three decades ago, and given the generational change within our teaching and practitioner sangha, we have used your input towards decisions caring for the long term sustainability of Spirit Rock for future generations. Together we have reaffirmed three critical foundational pieces—

  • Deep alignment with the dharma
  • Wisdom to serve ‘our part’ in the dharmic eco-system
  • Clarity in fully utilizing our community meditation center

in the next seven years spirit rock will:

  1. Maintain and deepen our commitment to Dharma in the modern and accessible forms characteristic of the Insight tradition—the Buddha’s path at the core of all the programs we offer
  2. Create the possibility of residential retreats to be among the mix of offerings in our Community Meditation Center by building new residence halls
  3. Further support seclusion in practice by eventually offering single rooms for all retreatants
  4. Build new dining facilities to support everyone on the land, whether here for a short or long program
  5. Serve our larger network of Dharma communities by training the next generation teachers and leaders stepping forward to teach in their communities
  6. Offer shorter retreats and commuter retreats to ensure accessibility for those with limited evening-household flexibility—yet still committed to retreat practice
  7. Create explicit community-building forms to support kinship even amidst silent practice, and further support the sense of active sangha that develops in our training programs
  8. Support our teachers who have been asking for more opportunities to teach retreats and training programs within their beloved Spirit Rock, not having to go elsewhere

These are directions: our North Star is the Dharma.

We remain grounded in our vision—supporting your realization of the Buddha’s path of liberation through direct experience.

Changes will be gradual, thoughtful, and with care. Thank you for your input, your care, and your practice.

Much gratitude, Michelle Latvala


Responsive, Caring and Clear:
Spirit Rock Strategy 2025

Spirit Rock Meditation Center is a spiritual training institution in the Insight tradition grounded in the Buddha’s teachings in the Pali discourses.

  • Our vision: Bring people to a depth of realization of the Buddha’s path of liberation through direct experience.
  • Our mission: Provide practitioners with teachings to manifest wisdom and compassion in all aspects of their lives, for the benefit of all beings.
  • Our offerings: We achieve this purpose through providing Dharmateachings and Insight meditation retreats, programs, trainings, and study for new and experienced students from diverse backgrounds.


The Plan

 Step One: Our Values-Based Ten Building Blocks

Spirit Rock exists to bring people to a depth of realization of the Buddha’s path of liberation through direct experience, right here and right now in the modern world. Being Dharmic and being responsive—these are essential aspects of fulfilling our mission in having the greatest impact on practitioners’ daily lives and contributing to the wider fields of psychology, the environment, social justice, and more. With that intention, Spirit Rock adopted these building blocks for decision-making, with the Dharma as ‘North Star’ and foundation. We undertook this strategy process as part of our Dharma practice: taking refuge in the truth of the way things are, in the possibilities of freedom, and in the communities of practitioners and teachers who continue to show us the way.

  1. Alignment with and advancement of our MISSION to bring people to a depth of realization of the Buddha’s path of liberation through direct experience
  2. Reflection of our deepest VALUES embodied in the Eight-Fold Path
  3. Profound support for the goals and intended outcomes of our DIVERSITY*, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION (DEI) plan and our interdependence
  4. Increased opportunities for deepening TEACHER ENGAGEMENT for all teachers, especially the next generation, in offering their deepest Dharma
  5. Greater COHERENCE to what Spirit Rock offers by bringing all parts of our program offerings in deeper alignment with our mission
  6. Cultivating care for conditions that deepen the transformative CONNECTION & SACREDNESS practitioners feel with Spirit Rock
  7. OPTIMIZING THE INTERSECTIONS of our deepest mission, our competencies, and our fiscal health
  8. Financial SUSTAINABILITY throughout our facilities, including the lower campus
  9. CLEAR YESes & NOs: Renouncing the historical over-extension of Spirit Rock staff and broader leadership by making explicit, courageous, and realistic commitments to actions we’ll take—and those we will not address—in the next five-seven years
  10. LEARNING COMMUNITY: Using active processes of curiosity, humility, collaboration, learning, un-learning, and adapting as we create and implement this plan

*FROM OUR DEI PLAN DEFINITION: Diversity—acknowledging and valuing difference based on race, sexual orientation, gender, gender expression, ability, age, class, wealth, education, background, opinions, experience, and other social and economic differences. See spiritrock.org/about/diversity-DEI-plan to see our full plan.

 Step Two: Context of Changing Conditions & Realities

Before beginning the process of imagining the wisest path forward for Spirit Rock, we needed to get clear on the changing conditions around us. This is essential as practitioners—facing the realities of changing conditions—that have unfolded since our founding over three decades ago.
Below is a summary of changing conditions that Spirit Rock is navigating at this point in our life cycle:

1. Context of generational succession of teachers:

  • The founding generation of teachers are now in or close to their 70s
  • We are catching up belatedly on teacher expansion and diversification
  • Views about dana or paid teacher compensation vary amongst teachers
  • Spirit Rock teachers offer their own daylongs and classes elsewhere

2. Radically different conditions than founding years:

  • Explosion of Dharma and mindfulness opportunities for teachers to teach elsewhere
  • Increased number of urban community centers for practitioners to practice elsewhere
  • Congestion, traffic, and lack of transit to our semi-rural campus
  • Cost of living high in the Bay Area equals increasing expenses for staff and teachers
  • Spirit Rock systems lag behind our practitioner needs and expectations
  • Online Dharma classes available at practitioner fingertips

3. Practitioners are showing us what’s important to supporting their practice by what they’re attending (and what they’re not) in our Retreat Center and Community Meditation Center:

  • Attendance increasing at retreat center, while under capacity in community center
  • Diversification by race & age more effective at retreat center than community center
  • Reports of ‘mission drift’ at the community center while clearer at retreat center
  • Revenue through the retreat center subsidizes the community meditation center
  • Practitioners report deeper sense of sangha community development in training programs, more so than community center programs

 Step Three: Input from YOU—Our Sangha

Staying true to our mission and values, we strove for wide and deep input along with appropriate levels of consensus throughout the development of the strategic plan. Spirit Rock’s Board of Directors sought comprehensive input from all levels of staff, communities, teachers, and community members through dedicated in-person meetings over six months in addition to online surveys.
This incredibly helpful input—from you, our community of practitioners!—directly led to the development of our strategic direction for 2025. We’ve included excerpts from the data collected below:


• Online 50-question survey for individual input sent to ~70k community members
• Direct responses and input from ~1500 community members
• In-person input gathered from community members on our committees & Board
• We asked: “What’s most important to you in practicing at Spirit Rock?” You told us:

  • The quality of Spirit Rock’s programs (99%)
  • Spirit Rock’s teachers’ depth of understanding of the teachings (98%)
  • Land and natural habitat of the campus (96%)
  • Our mission as a Dharma center rooted in the Buddha’s teachings (93%)
  • Getting teachings directly in-person with fellow practitioners (93%)
  • Our commitment to actions that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion for all (91%)

• We asked: “In addition to our current Retreats, Programs and Facilities, what program formats will be important for Spirit Rock in the next 5-10 years?” More than half of you told us:

  • Getting the teachings in person with teachers and fellow practitioners (93%)
  • Meditation retreats (83%) and having single rooms (82%)
  • Dharma talks or teachings available online (82%)
  • Participating in our retreats at a second center if it allows more retreat offerings (69%)
  • Ongoing trainings over months staying overnight (68%) or commuting (54%)
  • Professional trainings that integrate Dharma teachings with workplace/daily life (54%)
  • Retreats where I can stay at home or in local accommodation overnight (53%)

• We asked: “Is Spirit Rock following practices you support & find financially accessible?” You told us:

  • The practice of offering dana at retreat end: for those who’ve sat retreat here and provided a yes or no to this question, 71% said yes to continuing teacher dana for retreats; in contrast, only 31% of you recommended continuing staff dana, and instead asked us to investigate possibilities for changing that practice even if it meant retreat sliding scale fee increases
  • Accessibility of sliding scale and scholarship: 78% of you report you can generally afford to practice here due to our sliding scale; for those who reported concerns in affordability, 88% of you feel supported in securing scholarship or work exchange to practice here

…and so much more! Thank you deeply for your input that gave shape to how we moved forward.

 Step Four: Forming the Strategic Direction: Both an Affirmation & A Response


  • To deepen Spirit Rock’s commitment to depth of practice within the Insight tradition by creatively repurposing current facilities and thoughtfully designing new ones to serve our community campus-wide as a retreat and Dharma training center.
  • Spirit Rock will become a two retreat-center campus, eventually holding residential retreats and Dharma training programs in our community meditation center.
  • Holding true to our founding spirit, Spirit Rock’s joint centers will continue to offer Dharma that is accessible, relevant, integrated, and transforms our ways of being in the modern world.

We are excited for many possible transformative impacts of this direction!

  • Our practitioners will have increased access to the programs they’ve told us mean the most to them: retreats and Dharma training programs
  • Our staff will be able to focus their considerable efforts on more consistent operations in supporting practitioners campus-wide
  • Our teachers, both current and next generation teachers, will have increased opportunities for teaching the Dharma offerings they’ve expressed are highest priority for them: retreats and Dharma training programs
  • Our existing facilities will be transformed and new facilities developed to better serve Spirit Rock as a retreat and Dharma training center

 Step Five: 20 Strategic Commitments

The Board has adopted 20 Strategic Commitments to be implemented by Spirit Rock over the next five to seven years in order to realize the Foundational Strategic Direction. These commitments are clustered into four areas of focus:

  • Commitments to Community
  • Commitments to Staff
  • Commitments to Teachers
  • Commitments to Facilities

In a five to seven year time frame, the intention is to actively at least begin all of the strategic commitments. Some of these commitments will be started and completed, while others will be started and continued over many years beyond 2025. Other commitments may be started, and potentially discarded as we discover more about their feasibility. We will remain grounded in our values as a learning community and our practice in being responsive to changing conditions. Onward!

I/ Community
Our Strategic Direction is in the service of sangha—in deepening it in the ways and forms that practitioners tell us are increasingly meaningful for them. We are affirming and evolving ways of deepening kalyana mitta—spiritual friendship—for people to have transformative experiences at Spirit Rock. We acknowledge interdependence, losses and gains, and ongoing learnings around inclusion while committing to the following, with the care of our Governing Teachers Council & Programs Staff:

  1. PROGRAMS: To creatively repurpose the community meditation center primarily as a retreat and Dharma training center in gradual phases toward innovative non-residential retreats with explicit community-building forms, training/extended study programs, and eventually residential retreats
  2. CURRICULUM: To develop a core curriculum that reinforces pathways to practice and integration of Dharma with daily life, including some shorter-duration* programs and some new to-be-determined program formats that serve our strategic direction
  3. TRAINING: To increase our offerings of Dharma training programs including collaborations with Insight communities, continuing education/certification programs, and partnerships with private and public-sector organizations to further contribute to the fields of education, psychology, healthcare, business, and more through the Dharma
  4. TRANSIT: To study increased transportation support tied to public transit hubs, as well as potential partnerships with local lodging providers that will support increased accessibility for multi-day non-residential retreats and trainings
  5. DIGITAL: To develop and execute specific digital strategies that will reinforce our on-site depth of programming and increase accessibility to the teachings, including digital teachings on our website, podcasts, post-retreat sangha support, and expanded reach for Jack’s founding teachings through partnerships
  6. FUNDING: To create, strengthen and implement a comprehensive fundraising program with necessary infrastructure to engage our entire community sangha to fund this strategic plan, including a robust Legacy Circle estate giving program

*2-hour to 1-day programs often referred to as classes and day-long retreats

II/ Staff
Staff are integral to realizing our mission and a rich part of the direct Spirit Rock Experience for our practitioners and teachers. Staff translate our mission into the operations of leading, managing and getting the daily work done at Spirit Rock. Staff accomplishes this efficiently, within the values of the Eightfold Path, and ensures responsible daily stewardship of Spirit Rock’s incredible resources.

  1. SPIRIT ROCK EXPERIENCE: To empower the entire staff to create an exceptional experience for our practitioners informed and supported by:
    • staff knowledge, experience, and subject matter expertise
    • practitioner feedback and data
    • training staff-wide in hospitality, service and Insight language
    • strengthening communication and decision-making processes
    • ongoing access staff-wide to practice opportunities
  2. TRAINING: To ensure staff members receive training in support of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion plan as part of supporting an exceptional Spirit Rock experience for all practitioners
  3. TECHNOLOGY: To assess and improve technology systems and work-flow processes that support our staff, teachers and practitioners within the context of the Spirit Rock experience
  4. COMPENSATION: To review and evaluate compensation for all staff, including reviewing and evaluating compensation structures for dana staff using a process that includes retreat managers and cooks
  5. HOUSING: To review and evaluate whether Spirit Rock should continue residential staff housing on-site using a process that includes current residents
  6. STAFFING: To assess appropriate levels of staffing and skill sets needed for the changes called for in this strategic plan that adequately reflect our organizational maturity and commitment to sustainable workloads

III/ Teachers
Teachers are central to realizing our mission. There has been a shortage of retreat teaching opportunities due to limited space on the calendar, leading to a critical dispersal of next generation teachers. We are at a key time-limited point in succession while we still have our first generation of teachers and are able to bridge to the next generation of teachers. A primary intent of our Strategic Direction is to increase opportunities for teaching the types of Dharma offerings that are of the highest priority to most current and incoming next generation teachers.

  1. TEACHERS: To develop a succession and diversification plan to attract, develop and retain teachers to
    1. teach at Spirit Rock
    2. serve in teacher governance leadership roles at Spirit Rock
  2. TRAINING: To ensure Teacher Council members receive training in service of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion plan to skillfully support all practitioners in their practice and Spirit Rock experience
  3. ACCOUNTABILITY: To improve processes of communication, direct feedback, and accountability in the teacher body in alignment with mission, values, and DEI
  4. COMPENSATION: To review, evaluate, and investigate current and new compensation systems for teachers in the lower campus facility as it shifts to a retreat and Dharma training center

IV/ Facilities Development
The land and buildings at Spirit Rock are an important part of creating the container for program participants. The recommended strategic commitments call on us to reconsider some of the plans encompassed in our current Master Plan, raise the funds to build new facilities and to re-purpose existing facilities.

  1. MEADOW: To re-evaluate preliminary design of Spirit Rock entry, stupa and meadow improvements to ensure congruence as the lower campus facility shifts to a retreat and Dharma training center
  2. PRACTITIONERS: To repurpose some or all of the existing and future master plan square footage in the village, dining hall, and hermitage for housing practitioners, keeping in mind financial accessibility
  3. DINING: To design, fund, and start building adequate kitchen and dining facilities for the entire campus
  4. SINGLE ROOMS: To design, fund, and start building more dormitories with all single rooms, and transition existing dormitories to all single rooms

 Step Six: Coherence and Prioritization

This strategic plan is very ambitious and achievable only if Spirit Rock’s staff, teachers, board and community remain focused on the strategic commitments articulated here. Careful prioritizing and sequencing of the 20 strategic commitments over the next five to seven years and taking actions to achieve them—in addition to the significant work involved in our day-to-day retreats, programs and operations—is critical to the success of this plan.

It’s meaningful for all members of the community to understand that a plan of this nature requires an enormous amount of effort and focus from our whole sangha. Many other actions and opportunities of value and merit were considered—and ultimately deferred—to ensure sufficient focus on what we chose.

We used your input to tell us what was ‘less important’ given that we had to make choices, and with transparency, here are some of the directions of merit that Spirit Rock will NOT include between now and 2025:

  • FACILITIES: Not building more than we’ve already committed to building in Strategic Commitments #16-20!—so that means not building any more staff housing, nor teacher residences, nor triggering updates to the long-term master plan for Spirit Rock.
  • PROGRAMS: Not further expanding shorter-duration program formats—2-hour to 1-day programs often referred to as classes and daylong retreats— in the Community Meditation Center, yet continuing some of these types of offerings there ‘in the mix’ along with making room for more retreats and trainings.
  • TEACHERS: Not focusing on changing the current teacher dana practice in the retreat center nor investigating more retirement support for teachers at this time; yet instead focusing our financial support efforts for teachers on (1) creating more opportunities for teachers to teach the types of programs they are most interested in teaching and (2) investigating new compensation models for teachers in the Community Meditation Center as it shifts to a retreat and Dharma training center.
  • SANGHAS: Not actively take on a coordinating role in connecting the larger network of Insight sanghas where many of our Teacher Council members teach, yet instead partnering with those sitting groups and teachers to use our facilities to create retreat and training opportunities for them here at Spirit Rock.

This list of actions Spirit Rock will not take at this time, while expansive, is not comprehensive. More NOs are likely to be defined in response to this as we begin implementing the 20 commitments. Thank you for your mature care and understanding!

 Step Seven: Staff Leading the Strategic Plan Process 2018-2025

The Board of Directors asks Spirit Rock’s staff to take the lead in developing, shaping and animating this plan from mere commitments into beautiful, actualized results. Staff will create scaffolding for this plan, ensuring that commitments are taken on by Spirit Rock at a pace that is steady, intentional, financially sustainable, and in close connection with our practitioners. Staff will work together in functional cross-departmental groups in partnership with our committees—our Governing Teachers Council, Diversity Working Group, Finance Committee, Executive Committee, and Governance Committee—to develop year-by-year plans to support the Dharma in all the forms set out in this strategic plan. Spirit Rock is blessed to have such a talented and dedicated staff support our sangha!


Deep Bows—

On behalf of the Board of Directors and Strategy Work Group, thank you, dear community members, for your input and dedication to the Dharma that helped us arrive to this plan!

The Spirit Rock Board of Directors >
The Strategic Working Group: Bob Agoglia (consultant), Sally Armstrong, Dana DePalma, Andrea Fella, Konda Mason, Nikki Mirghafori, Bill Park, Lyle Poncher, Michelle Latvala, Phillip Moffitt, Nisha Shah, and Rachel Uris.

If you have any additional questions or reflections about Spirit Rock's strategic plan please contact sangha@spiritrock.org.




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