Spirit Rock is one of the two largest Buddhist retreat centers in the U.S. It focuses on vipassana meditation of the Theravada tradition. It is located in Woodacre, California, just north of San Francisco in Marin County.
In 1974 the sitting group which would evolve into Spirit Rock Meditation Center held its first retreat. The group took the name "Dharma Foundation" in 1976, holding its first group-sponsored retreat in Yucca Valley, California. The group renamed itself "Insight Meditation West" in 1984 and the first Monday Night classes began taking place. In 1996 the organization became Spirit Rock Meditation Center.
The community continued to grow and develop a permanent Dhamma center. In 1987, 410 acres of undeveloped land was purchased in the San Geronimo Valley of northern California from the Nature Conservancy, who used the funds to preserve rainforests in South America. In 1990, a large temporary meditation hall, administrative office, and caretaker's quarters were completed. In 1994 a kitchen/dining hall was built that seats over 100 people.
In 1997 the ground breaking ceremony for the residential retreat center was held. The residential retreat center opened in July 1998, and currently hosts retreats that range from two nights to two months. Since 1990, attendance at Spirit Rock has increased enormously. Hundreds of people now attend classes, daylong events and residential retreats each week at the center in Woodacre. In addition, over 10,000 people have given generously of their time and money to help develop Spirit Rock since its inception.
In the first 20-year history, several historic events have taken place at Spirit Rock:
- The Dalai Lama attended a conference of international Buddhist teachers in 2000
- Alice Walker spoke at the African American retreat in 2002, which brought together for the first-time teachers, community leaders, and practitioners from around the nation.
- Vietnamese leader, Thich Nhat Hanh has taught at Spirit Rock, as well as Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and many other well known Buddhist teachers.