Looking for a quiet retreat but not quite ready to commit to a monastic life of daily 5 am meditation? Green Gulch Farm is one of three sites owned by the San Francisco Zen Center. Nestled in a valley in the Marin Headlands, Green Gulch is about 30 minutes from San Francisco but feels much more remote.
Green Gulch offers guest accommodations for simple getaways. Complete silence is not required (except at the beginning of mealtime and during specific retreat sessions), but if your idea of privacy includes your own bathroom and extends beyond a rice paper screen between the guest rooms and the common area, you may want to look elsewhere.
From Top: The Lindisfarne Guest House Central Living Area, Guest Room, and Guest Room Exteriors (Photos: Travis Stansel)
Nightlife also ends early, as lights are generally off at about 9 pm, and the loudest thing around might be a chorus of frogs or the surf from nearby Muir Beach.
For those wishing to dip a toe in Zen practice, though, guests are welcome at Zazen (sitting meditation) sessions throughout the day, although some basic knowledge of practice forms is recommended and is taught at public beginner’s classes on Sundays.
Guest accommodations are available in the Lindisfarne Guest House, a timber-framed octagonal building constructed with traditional Japanese wood joinery. The rooms are simply furnished, and quiet (and mutual respect) is encouraged through the use of rice paper partitions between the rooms and the central public area.
Lindisfarne Guest House (Photo: Travis Stansel)
More child-friendly accommodations are available in the Wheelwright Center, which also houses a conference center.
Vegetarian meals are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and yoga classes and tea ceremonies are also available.
But do be aware that Green Gulch is both a working organic farm and monastic training center. Most of the people you’ll encounter there are resident practitioners and Zen students, so a certain level of decorum is expected.
Perhaps, though, after a day of hiking nearby headlands trails or through Muir Woods, a quiet night and early morning might just be what you need.