Here's what retreatants have to say about Silver Springs Mountain Retreat:


I'm twenty-eight years old, a Buddhist, and have been practicing meditation for many years. I came to SSMR in October to do a Tibetan Ngonchro retreat. It’s early May now, and I have just finished. My practice included 100,000 full prostrations and 400,000 recitations in the performing of Guru Yoga, Mandala offerings and Shantideva sadhanas. To exert that much effort on something so economically valueless, I needed to be free from social mores. SSMR afforded me that solitude and protection.

I enjoyed the freedom from the sound of engines. The world is quite different without that false music or the whine of electricity regulating one’s natural experience of time.

I stayed in Heart Cabin for 5 months. It is a truly exquisite little place. There is a lot of light so one gets the benefit of the natural day/night rhythms - a necessity when one is alone. The woodstove works well and the cabin is well insulated, roomy, with a high ceiling. The well water is pure and delicious. Propane runs the refrigerator, the oven and range, and the  cabin is rodent proof, a real plus.

Don’t trust the weather. During the winter it dropped to zero in December (the coldest in living memory), and was balmy in January and February, and  then snowed almost every day in March, reaching an accumulated depth of 34 inches in the deepest place. That’s waist deep!

But much of the time the weather was quite pleasant, and there were many sunny days. Regardless of the month, when the sun is out the temperature gets into the 50’s in the shade, and sometimes it’s even hot in direct sunlight. But if clouds come it can snow at any time too. This year it snowed 3 inches on May 1st. (It melted very fast.)

During my retreat I took walks almost daily through the forest. Here are the flora and fauna I observed.


Western white pine ( ponderosa)
sugar pine (huge cones)
incense cedar
Pacific yew
live oak
Douglas fir
white fir
maul oak (canyon live oak)
white oak
black oak    wild alder

Plants and Flowers 
native grass 
squaw carpet
mountain violet
leopard lily
wild rosedandelion
many other unknown varieties


gray squirre l(huge)
red squirrel  (chickaree)
mule deer (black tail deer)

There are said to be black bear in the area but I didn’t observe any, similarly mountain lion but not observed.


mountain quail
California quail
band tailed pigeon (sounds like owl but in day)
red shafted flicker
red-breasted sapsucker
hairy woodpecker
pileated woodpecker
red-shafted woodpecker
screech owl (hoot-hoo-hoo-hoo fading away, like a ball bouncing to a stop)
saw-whet owl (incessant oi-oi-oi-oi 2 per second)
great horned owl (mellow hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo)
red-breasted nuthatch
mountain chickadee
brown creeper
hawks (but no positive identification)
varied thrush
stellar jay, scrub jay
Oregon junco
Townsend’s solitare
common crow
turkey vulture
ducks (no positive identification)
migrants: golden-crowned kinglet, golden-crowned sparrow
Audubon’s warbler, wild geese (heard at night in early April)

As far as practice is concerned, if one has a choice in the matter I recommend doing manta style meditation rather than “What am I?” practice as taught by Ramana Maharshi. One of my teachers gave me this advice, as the latter can make a person a bit crazy when all alone. I also recommend limiting one’s reading to a single text. I chose Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, again upon being so advised but it took me several months to get the guts to store my other books. Don’t wait. I  promise you. It’s better to be unburdened.’

Moments in May Without Recourse to Words

How can I make enough offerings
to return the love this place has given me?
How can I turn into language
the sight of a pileated woodpecker
not seen since November?
The first of the wild flowers I waited for
thrill me with their delicate hues,
their tiny ephemeral beauty beyond words

To sum up, my retreat was the most meaningful experience in my life and I heartily recommend six months on the mountain to anyone who has the guts to try it.

— Alex Turner  1991


By a wonderful series of events, I was lead to Silver Springs Mountain Retreat, almost a mile high in the mountains of Northern California, and at the beginning of winter I moved into a lovely 16' x 16' cabin nestled in tall pines and firs. I filled the cupboards with all the food I would need until April, and although I am not a woodsman and have minimal "survival" skills, still there was very little fear once the retreat began. I felt guided the entire time, and rather than feeling lonely, I cherished the opportunity to live with less distraction and outward-temptation, enjoying being alone with the Divine Beloved.

The only reading material I brought with me were books by my Guru and dearest friend, Swami Amar Jyoti.  These, along with no news of the outside world greatly strengthened a sense of spiritual reality and slowly melted some of the ego's attachments to "outer" living that can bring so much suffering.  

One joy of the retreat was learning to grow and really enjoy the vitality and sweetness of sprouted seeds – alfalfa, mung bean, and lentil were my favorites. And though I soon ran out of baked bread, I did make a kind of crepe pan-bread which was quite satisfying.  But most meals were very simple: dried fruit and nuts for breakfast, and a soup or stew eaten partly in early afternoon and finished at the end of the day. 

After three months of alternating rain, snow, and thaw, February brought three weeks of exquisite balmy clarity. Sitting at an overlook gazing on Mount Shasta 94 miles to the North, I was able to strip and absorb the sun many days; afternoons brought long walks on old logging roads and rambling explorations on trails into undiscovered areas.   But then at the end of the month, as if Lord Varuna Himself (the Hindu God of the waters) had just returned from vacation, the skies darkened and the snows came, day after day, first one foot, then another, pausing for a day or two, then more snow pretty regularly until mid-April.

I tried to keep the path to the outhouse, shower-area, and workshop shoveled, and soon the piles of snow on either side were taller than this body.  But it too was a time of great joy, sitting before a large window watching the snow falling, practicing prayer and meditation, then exercising the body with shoveling and snowshoeing over the pristine white fluff.   How amazingly different my world appeared!
I know the above is really a very superficial description of a wondrous period of retreat, but I do not know how to describe the important inner processes and transformations.  It's a  bit like being a newlywed after a sweet and deeply-bonding honeymoon: one can describe what happened outwardly, but the deep intimacy and joy in oneness cannot much be talked about, both because there are no words to convey the truest meanings, and also because of the sacred and sweetly private nature of such love.   Thus I felt a continuing commitment to change and to evolve into what every religion has described as the fulfillment of a human birth

— Richard Haskell    2006   


In my earlier years I lived in many retreat centers and ashrams and studied with such teachers as Chogyam Trungpa, Soen-Sa-Nim, Tew Bunnag, Kobun Chino and Suzuki Roshi. 1991 I took up permanent residence in SSMR. The beauty and serenity are a great support to my spiritual practice. At one time or another I have stayed in all the cabins, my favorite being Hawk’s Nest with its spectacular view of Hayfork Valley, the Trinity Alps and Mount Shasta.

I stock up on dry goods, grains and powdered milk and a good supply of firewood and pass my  winters in blessed solitude. In earlier years I made an occasional trek to town on snowshoes - twelve miles - for additional supplies, but I no longer do so due to advancing age. Months pass in silence during which I am blessedly alone for contemplation. Some seasons I’m snowed in for weeks at a time, while others, like 2015,  there was no snow to speak of. I understand that this year a hardly couple will be wintering here and will be available for assistance if required.

— Robert Mirsky    2017


I have spent two winters on the mountain myself, awed to be constrained in my familiar world by the necessary surrender to the deep drifting whiteness.

My attempts to grow winter vegetables in a cold frame didn’t work out. Too much daily work to keep it in tune with the weather. I enjoyed the birds and animals going about their lives in these conditions natural to them. Rested from the season of laborious work. Tried several times to go out in my 4 wheel drive to visit my sweetheart, chains on all four tires and a load of firewood in back to give the beast weight and traction but the snow was too deep and wouldn’t let the tires make contact with the road.

Anyone contemplating a long winter retreat here should be mentally and physically prepared for the possibility of being snowed in for weeks at a time.

During the brief days and long nights I meditated and read, wrote poetry and a long story about a very troubling experience. The act of writing was very healing, cathartic, the title “Joie de Vivre.”

This is what I needed and I loved the months of unbroken silence and solitude.

— W K Dolphin    2017


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