5 Days Compassion Cultivation and Meditation Retreat in California, USA

  • Vajrapani Institute, 19950 Kings Creek Road, Boulder Creek, California 95006, United States


Immersion Meditation Retreat California

What is compassion? What blocks it? Are there limits to compassion? Is there a difference between empathy and compassion? If living from compassion is all its cracked up to be, why is self-compassion so difficult? This special immersion retreat will answer these probe real-world questions. You will learn through instruction, meditation, mindfulness, and experiential exercises how to cultivate the daily-life skills needed to strengthen your qualities of compassion, empathy, and kindness.


  • Meditation sessions
  • Compassion cultivation training
  • Mindfulness and experiential exercises
  • Delicious vegetarian meals daily
  • 4 nights’ accommodation
  • Use of retreat facilities

Skill level

  • Beginner

  • Intermediate

  • Advanced

  • 5 days with instruction
  • English
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Enjoy the peaceful forest in one of Vajrapani Institute's 30 campsites. Campsites are conveniently located near heated outdoor showers and an out-house. All campers are welcome to use the showers and toilet facilities at the Potala Lodge, the restrooms at the main building, or the outdoor showers at the ridge. Please bring your own tent and camping equipment. Please note that camping is closed between October and April due to heavy rainfall and strong winds.

Main dorm

The women’s and men’s dorms are located in the Potala Lodge. The women’s dorm sleeps 14, and the men’s dorm sleeps 12. Shower and toilet facilities are the same levels immediately next to each dorm. Sheets and pillows are provided. Please bring your own towel and additional blankets or sleeping bag.

Semi-private dorm

The semi-private dorm is a four-person room located in the Potala Lodge on the second floor. Shower and toilet facilities are located right next door. Please bring your own towel and additional blankets or sleeping bag.

Private room (sharing available)

Located on the first floor of the Potala Lodge, Vajrapani Institute's private rooms are warm and cozy. Shower and toilet facilities are located on the second floor. All bedding is provided, but please remember to bring your own towel.

Private cabin (sharing available)

Each 192-square-foot cabin has everything you need. The private cabins share full indoor bathroom facilities. There are also nearby heated outdoor showers. All bedding is provided, but please remember to bring your own towel. Please note that private cabins are not available for pay-it-forward retreats.

In this retreat, you will learn about research demonstrating the benefits of training compassion and skills for sharing these practices with others.

What is CCT?

The Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) protocol is a course developed in the Center for Compassion & Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, School of Medicine.

The course, designed by Thupten Jinpa PhD in collaboration with contemplative scholars, psychologists, and scientist practitioners at Stanford, explores teachings and practices to strengthen self-compassion, extend compassion to others safely, find peace in challenging relationships and courage in difficult circumstances.

Course liaison guide

Every retreat needs a course liaison. Because the staff is busy cooking, cleaning, and organizing, the course liaison is the “go-to” person for communications between the Vajrapani Institute staff and retreatants, including questions and concerns that inevitably arise during the retreat. They also help manage the working meditation jobs performed by the retreatants. You are a vital resource for making the retreat run smoothly.

Vajrapani Institute is very much appreciative of your contribution to ensure the success of your retreat experience. In addition, you will create amazing merit (positive potential in your mind) by offering service to a dharma center, the teachers, and fellow students. You will practice dharma off the cushion and gain real-world skills to effectively help people in a loving and nurturing environment.

Day 1

  • Arrive around noon to have lunch, meet with the staff, and be briefed on the upcoming retreat.
  • Assist with the registration process.

During the retreat

  • Field questions of retreaters as they arise.
  • Check in with the kitchen, housekeeping, and office staff as needed.
  • Check to see that retreatants completed their working meditation jobs.

At the end of the retreat

  • Facilitate the final clean-up in cooperation with appropriate staff.
  • Ensure that working meditation jobs are completed.

Why Vajrapani Institute assigns working meditation jobs

  • Allows retreaters to give back to Vajrapani Institute and each other, creating merit or “positive spiritual potential.”
  • Creates an opportunity to put the teachings into practice as a group and to see work from a new perspective.
  • Builds a sense of community and interdependence as everyone does their part to facilitate a successful retreat.
  • Assists the Vajrapani Institute staff to better serve large groups.
  • Should any problems arise, feel free to ask one of the staff for help. Vajrapani Institute staff are happy to be of service to you.
  • Robert Cusick

    Trained at Stanford University in the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE). He is a Certified Stanford Compassion Cultivation Training instructor and teaches CCT at Stanford University School of Medicine and in multiple other venues. He studied in the Soto Zen tradition while in residence at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, in the Ridhwan School’s Diamond approach with A. H. Almaas (Hameed Ali), and at Spirit Rock Meditation Center with Jack Kornfield, Gil Fronsdal​ and others.

  • Monica Hanson

    Monica Hanson is a senior teacher at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE), Stanford University. She has taught the Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) program for the public at Stanford School of Medicine since 2011 and with Stanford students since 2010. Monica is also a member of the leadership team at CCARE that co-developed and launched the Compassion Cultivation Teacher Training Certification program in 2011. In 2013, Monica lead a research study for Stanford Medicine Neuroscience and Pain Lab, examining the effects of compassion training

This retreat will take place at Vajrapani Institute in California. It is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Boulder Creek, California at the end of a five-mile dirt road on the border of Castle Rock State Park. While secluded, it is relatively close to the San Jose and San Francisco airports.

  • Hiking trail nearby
  • Mountain walking / trekking nearby
  • Balcony
  • Café nearby
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Garden
  • Lobby
  • Meditation garden
  • River
  • Smoke-free property
  • Studio
  • Terrace
  • Yoga studio
  • Hair dryer
  • Internet access
  • Local market
  • Tour assistance nearby
  • Wireless internet

The meals are fully vegetarian and nutritionally balanced to offer you a supportive retreat experience. Breakfast includes hot porridge, stewed fruit, granola, boiled eggs, and toast. Lunch includes the largest meal of the day that includes a grain, vegetable dish, vegetarian protein, and salad. Dinner is a lite meal with soup, salad, cheese, bread, and gluten-free crackers. They also have hot tea, pour-over coffee, and fresh fruit available at all times.

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Drinks

The following dietary requirements are served and/or catered for:

  • Gluten Free
  • Other dietary requirements on request
  • Vegetarian
(If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation)
  • 4 nights' accommodation
  • All meals
  • Retreat fees
  • Airfare
  • Airport transfers
  • Personal expenses

Arrival by airplane

Please book your flight to arrive at Mineta San José International Airport (SJC).

Arrival by taxi

There are taxi cabs that can service you when getting in and out the retreat. Some are Dave’s Cab, Ruben’s Airport Shuttle, and Gary at SLV Taxis. The following taxi services offer transportation options from both San Jose and San Francisco.


  • Review by Laura Mak

    "We had a wonderful experience at Vajrapani Institute. Our teacher was amazing! We felt so much good energy around, truly grateful for everything"

    Vajrapani Institute Facebook page, edited

  • Review by Janet Fouts

    "Time off the grid in the redwoods with others seeking peace and finding themselves in silence. The staff is unfailingly kind and friendly, the food is good, and the facilities are comfortable, even in the dorms. Hiking to Lama's ridge or the peace trail was heavenly. I will be back. #Grateful"

    Vajrapani Institute Facebook page, edited

  • Review by Kara Ferguson

    "This place is full of serenity and joy. I've been riding my mountain bike up here for years and visiting the stupa and it always brings a sense of peace."

    Vajrapani Institute Facebook page, edited

  • Review by Nickolas Poulin

    "Absolutely wonderful place. The grounds are very secluded and quiet. There are plenty of inspiring areas with stupas and the like, as well as a small hiking trail that runs alongside a gentle stream. If you want a more energetic hike, the property is adjacent to and has a trail connecting it to a state park with unlimited hiking opportunities and spectacular views in all directions."

    "I stayed in the dorms and everything was clean and comfortable, including the dorm's shared bathroom. There are also semi-private accommodations as well as private cabins in a fully silent area on top of a beautiful ridge. Anyone staying there also has access to outdoor showers that are fully enclosed other than the large opening on one side looking over a small valley and into the surrounding mountain ridges. Set up just right so that you have your privacy but can still feel like you're outdoors. Although its a bit cold in the early morning, the hot water will keep you warm if you are an early riser and inspired to take a shower with a view of the stars or the sunrise!"

    "The food was fantastic (vegetarian of course, but plenty of dairy and eggs) and they customize their menu to ensure everyone has multiple choices so that whether you are vegan, have allergies, or are simply avoiding certain foods, you will have plenty. I have allergies to lentils and soy which are staples of most vegetarian diets and I still had no problem filling my plate with a variety of foods. They serve the food buffet style, though I hear that people renting the private cabins have their meals brought up to them three times a day!"

    "What really made the difference for me, however, was the staff. Every staff member was truly happy to be there and took pleasure in helping each and every one of the guests. Even during silent portions of my retreat when I would walk through the dining area and glance at a staff member working in the kitchen, they would greet you with a genuine smile. The administrative staff especially, was so full of joy, that they were inspirational."

    "Finally, my retreat was guided by the Venerable Tenzin Chogkyi, whom I can not thank enough. Her ability to communicate the teachings was top notch. She was mindful of everybody's emotions, always cheerful, and constantly making people laugh. At the same time, her explanations were very meaningful and thought to provoke, she showed the most sincere empathy for anyone with emotional pain and suffering, and constantly adjusted her game plan based on the feedback and questions of everyone present. I would consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from her again in the future."

    Vajrapani Institute Facebook page, edited

  • Review by Jamie Woods

    "I have both taken a week-long intensive retreat course, (Cultivating Emotional Balance), and found space to do a solitary eight-day retreat spent doing ngondro accumulation practice. Both times I was impressed by the wonderful staff and the peaceful calm of the setting. I highly recommend breaking out of your daily routine to enjoy a quiet weekend in one of the retreat cabins, taking a class, or planning a longer meditation retreat, perhaps in the Most Secret cabin. I am certain you will feel better for making a connection with this wonderful center."

    Vajrapani Institute Facebook page, edited

California, United States

Vajrapani Institute is a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center located in the Santa Cruz Mountains, offering private retreat cabins and group meditation courses.

Speaks English

from --

5 days / 4 nights


Arrival: Wednesday May 3, 2017
Departure: Sunday May 7, 2017

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