What is life actually like at the Monastic Academy?

It depends on how you look at it.

One way to look at life at the Monastic Academy is that it is challenging. The meditation periods are long; you get little sleep; you don’t have time to do much outside of the program; you spend a lot of time with a small group of people.

Another way to look at life at the Monastic Academy is that it is heavenly. The meditation periods develop mindfulness, which leads to happiness and compassion independent of conditions. The mild sleep deprivation provides an opportunity to break through drowsiness once and for all. Not doing much outside the program is fine because mindfulness and non-profit work are completely fulfilling (and you do get some free time every day, so that you can walk, nap, draw, etc.). You are surrounded by an ever-smiling, supportive community.

Is the Monastic Academy religious?

This is a tricky question and deserves close analysis.

The Monastic Academy does not ascribe to a particular system of concepts and practices (e.g. Vajrayana Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam). Instead, we draw concepts and practices from a variety of traditions (e.g. while we do lots of seated Buddhist-style meditation practice, we also spent a week studying St. John of the Cross’s poem, The Dark Night of the Soul). To be clear, we use concepts and practices from religious traditions (e.g. we chant and bow), but we do not draw from one tradition only.

An underlying current that makes this discussion uncomfortable surrounds belief. While residents wholeheartedly engage in religious practices, there is no emphasis on believing in anything specific. Instead, what the Monastic Academy explores is how to remain deeply open-minded and consistently question assumptions. A quote from our teacher, Soryu Forall address this tension skillfully:

A definition of spirituality is ‘seeing beyond one’s own limited perspective.’ Therefore, within the context of spiritual practice: if you believe in god, that belief will be stripped away from you; if you don’t believe in god, that belief will be stripped away from you.

What is the meditation instruction like?

The meditation instruction at the Monastic Academy strives to combine aspects of old school, industrial-strength Asian monastic training with modern, pluralistic, and conceptually clear pedagogies.

Soryu Forall, our guiding teacher, did most of his training in the Rinzai Zen tradition, which is the origin of the old-school, monastic influence on our training program. The Zen influence is seen in many aspects of the training, including: one-on-one interviews between teacher and student, a focus on practice in motion (e.g. while doing chores or walking), and a somewhat strict and cold tone during retreats (But do not despair! This tone comes not from stiffness and disdain, but from elegance and a profound love and belief in the student’s – perhaps unrealized – magnificent abilities.).

The modern, pluralistic influence is seen in many aspects of the training, including: permission to explore a wide variety of meditation techniques from all spiritual traditions (e.g. breath practice, noting, compassion, non-dual practice, yoga, and Native American ceremony); opportunity to engage in creative activities such as art, music, and dance; extremely clear conceptual frameworks for what mindfulness is, how to practice mindfulness, and why to practice mindfulness; Dharma Talks that cover both traditional Buddhist topics and non-traditional contemporary topics (such as psychological research and funny stories).

How is the food?

Ben, our cook, works magic in the kitchen. Stews and curries! Fresh salads, nuts, and fruit! Baked goods! Homemade kombucha and sauerkraut!

There are two meals a day. Strictly speaking, our meals are vegetarian, but we aim for a vegan diet. In practical terms, this means that we do not purchase dairy or animal products, with the exception of honey. We do eat dairy products if they are donated. However, residents are welcome to buy their own meat or dairy products. We buy local and organic food whenever possible. This is greatly facilitated by Vermont’s thriving local/organic food system.

We are happy to make any reasonable dietary accommodations.

How much does residency cost? Do residents get paid?

Accepted residents pay a $6,000 one-time training cost. However, there is significant financial aid available for those unable to pay the full amount. After the first month trial period, the resident and the Academy will discuss whether the resident will continue. If the resident continues, he or she receives free room and board, and a monthly living allowance. Health insurance is not covered by the Monastic Academy. Most residents receive healthcare through medicaid.

Do I have to take a vow of celibacy?

No, you do not. However, in order to maintain a safe and trusting environment, we ask residents to refrain from forced, coercive, or non-­consensual sexual contact, or any form of sexual harassment.

Are there vacations?

Residents can take four free days a month, twenty days of vacation per year, and one retreat off. Free and vacation days can be scheduled at essentially any time (provided that the resident’s responsibilities are taken care of, and the vacation does not substantially inconvenience the organization). Additionally, each year, residents may do one meditation retreat at another center, for up to seven days.

What's the daily schedule?
Where is the Monastic Academy located?

The Academy is currently located in Lowell, VT. The property includes breath-taking views of the Green Mountains, hundreds of acres of forest and field to explore, three ponds, a large garden, and a sauna.

How long do I have to stay?

Accepted residents participate in a one-month trial period, after which the Academy and the resident discuss whether the resident will continue. That being said, applicants should have an intention to stay for at least one year.

Do I have to have experience with mindfulness meditation or non-profit work?

Nope, but you should be excited to learn!

I have health problems that may require accommodation. Will this be ok?

Absolutely. The Monastic Academy will make any reasonable accommodation for residents’ health needs.

The world desperately needs awakened leaders.

Will you answer the call?

Center for Mindful Learning

CML offers various innovative programs including mindfulness in schools, coworking for a month, and the monastic academy.