Attending an Event

What to expect

Upon arriving at Great Vow for an event, please check-in at the office, located in the center of the building. If you've arrived for an overnight retreat you'll complete registration, receive a dorm assignment, and be shown to your quarters. Dinner is served around 6 pm, and tours are offered after dinner. You are welcome to arrive anytime after 4pm on the day of the event, with the understanding that registration begins at 5pm.

For all overnight events you'll awaken the next morning and begin the day with meditation. Meditation instruction will be offered for anyone new to meditation. We provide meditation supplies (chairs, benches, and cushions), but you are welcome to bring your own if you prefer. For specific wake-up times and other details see the schedule link on the page of the event you're attending.


The guest dorms are large rooms with curtains and dividers arranged to create roughly ten semi-private spaces. Depending on how full a retreat is, you may have more or less space to yourself. There are also four private rooms, which are reserved for honored guests, or people with specific health issues. If you have a health issue and would like to request a private room, contact the registrar directly - - Each guest dorm has a restroom.


The food served at all events is healthy, vegetarian food. The food may contain eggs and dairy products. Wheat free and dairy free food will be provided if requested. If you have specific food allergies please indicate that in your account details.

Food donations are always encouraged. Fair-trade coffee, peanut butter, chocolate chips, dried fruit & nuts are especially appreciated.

Proper Attire

At the monastery, modest, subdued clothing is appropriate. We ask that shorts, sleeveless shirts, or shirts with advertising or logos not be worn, especially in the meditation hall. This is to support the dignity of spiritual practice and to lessen distractions. Because many people are sensitive to scents, please do not wear perfume or cologne, or other strongly scented materials in the meditation hall.

What to bring

  • Personal toiletries (we have a supply of toiletries including ear-plugs if you forget anything)
  • Slip-on shoes or sandals
  • Bedding  (optional - we provide towels, blankets, and linens, but it helps with our laundry if you bring your own)
  • Flashlight (optional)
  • *Oryoki bowls (loaner sets are available)
  • *Clothes for outside work, including gloves & outdoor shoes (we have a supply if you forget)

*Sesshin and Beginner's Mind only.

Please do NOT bring:

  • Pets
  • Non-prescription drugs (allergy medications, vitamins & supplements are allowed)
  • Alcohol
  • Radios, ipods, etc.
  • *Reading material 

*Sesshin and Beginner's Mind only

Cell Phone - Lap-Top Use

During any overnight retreat, but especially Sesshin and Beginner's Mind, we encourage all participants to keep their cell phones and lap-tops powered off for the duration. The phone number for the monastery is 503-728-0654, and is checked daily. Please arrange for those who might need to contact you in case of an emergency to use this number, rather than your cell phone. Not using these devices is an important part of creating a strong container for the retreat.

--For info about attending a sesshin click here--