Joining the Gaia House residential service community

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Joining our residential community for a period of service can be an incredibly special and unique experience. The opportunity to experience practice and work within a Dharma community setting can provide a rich base for combining practice with everyday life.

We welcome enquiries and discussions for future roles in the following areas:

Kitchen – The main purpose of the Kitchen position is to ensure that well-balanced nutritious vegetarian/vegan meals are provided for retreatants at Gaia House. The numbers vary widely from 25 to 100. The meals are cooked either by the non-residential cooks or by this role.  There are also general duties that are shared with the rest of the residential service community.

Household – The main purpose for this position is to ensure all preparations are made for the provision of a clean, safe retreat environment. This includes participation in the cleaning of the house, support to retreatants in their work periods, room allocation, laundry, shop, and plants.

General Retreat Support roles – The main purpose of this new flexible role is to support the running of our retreat programme in a variety of ways, this might include supporting our the residential community on opening and closing days, being on-call or supporting in the Kitchen or Household departments when preparing for a new group retreat.

Maintenance & Grounds – The main purpose of the Maintenance/Grounds position is to support the smooth running of the house and its grounds.  To undertake a wide variety of basic maintenance related tasks, i.e. control of hot water and central heating, fuses, lighting, minor DIY repairs etc.

A period of transition and change in 2022 and 2023

We are currently working on developing and improving the residential model to allow for more space to practice alongside offering service supporting retreatants.  This means that anyone joining our team may be asked to adapt to fit in with these developments as they evolve.

Are you interested?- How to apply

For a general discussion about the roles and to find out the current recruitment timetable register your interest by contacting our HR Manager, Sarah Abdy on hrmanager@gaiahouse.co.uk.

The gift of service

Everyone who supports Gaia House with work offers service to the charity’s mission. Alongside the non-residential community and with the support of the teachers and trustees, our residential community looks after our retreatants and retreat space, playing an essential role in ensuring that Gaia House can continue to offer a safe, comfortable and nurturing environment able to offer refuge and inspiration.

A strong commitment

Being part of the residential community is very different from being on a silent retreat. While residential life can be peaceful, bringing joy and friendship, it can also bring hard work, relational challenges, and solitude. The role is an intensive learning and growing experience and requires a strong commitment.

To join the residential community at Gaia House you need to be committed to:

• A regular meditation practice – usually sitting for at least one session per day. We ask the whole service community to sit together each morning.
• Exploring practice in the context of everyday life whilst living and working in community
• Being responsible (as a team) for the smooth running of the house and the implementation of policies as set out by the Trust
• Making Gaia House your first priority during your period of service – long-term training courses and other activities outside Gaia House cannot be accommodated within the rota system
• Adherence to the Gaia House Code of Conduct, which includes living by the Five Buddhist Precepts whilst at Gaia House:

The Five Precepts

1. A non-harming relationship with all living beings
2. Only to take that which is clearly given
3. Not to engage in unskilful or harmful speech
4. To refrain from harmful sexual conduct
5. To refrain from the intake of drugs, cigarettes and alcohol

Period of service

As we emerge from the covid-19 pandemic we are now ideally looking for a minimum 1-year period of service which might be extended subject to a review and agreement by both parties. A shorter period may be considered but further discussions would be needed.

Applications from People from Outside the UK

We are working towards supporting people to join our residential community are not UK citizens.  Currently there are complex, lengthy and expensive visa processes with no guarantee of acceptance. There are also limitations on visas with a maximum 12 month timeframe and a restriction on being able to accept any form of payment which doesn’t align with what we offer our residential community members. If you are a British Citizen, have “Right to Remain” or other UK status that enables you to work or live in the UK you are welcome to submit an application.

Supporting practice

A central part of the experience is the opportunity to bring practice to daily life experience. All members of our service community are expected to have regular sessions with our Staff Support Teacher. There will also be opportunities to attend ‘Dharma Practice Sessions’, where the service community gets together to explore Dharma themes also led by our Staff Support Teacher.

You are also invited to join in with our “in-house” or “online” group retreat programme free of charge throughout your time with us during your time off; this will depend on the type of retreat and any specific requirements.

Following your service, community members’ benefit from free retreat time calculated according to their period of service to the house. This helps provide continued support for practice and a long-lasting connection with Gaia House.

You will have regular check-ins with a member of the management team as well as regular sessions with our Dharma Support Teacher.

This support package is in place to help you experience the full potential of your stay at Gaia House, in terms of both your own personal and spiritual development, as well as providing a much-valued service to others.

At home in the house

You have your own dedicated wing within the house, which includes a meditation room and a shared living/dining room. You will have your own bedroom and there are four bathrooms shared amongst the group. There is also a designated area of the garden for private use. For those without a car, a Gaia House car is available to borrow when it is not needed for house business. There is a charge per mile for private usage to cover running costs.

Monthly stipend and dana

In addition to board and lodging our residential community members receive a monthly stipend (currently £163pm) and a share of any donations (dana) given by retreatants for the residential service community.

The Gaia House rota

Currently, the rota allows everyone 11 days off per month. The rota is created by the Retreat Manager and is based on the needs of the retreat programme and to support the centre being open 365 days of the year. Rota requests are submitted in advance of the rota and taken into account and met where possible. The rota request system also offers support for longer term planning of leave. The system aims to support you with your particular needs whilst ensuring that the needs of Gaia House are also being met.

Visitors and guests

In the current covid-19 climate we are able to welcome back visits by guests of our residential community. Any visits will need to happen outside of any residential retreats being offered. Any guests that do stay are asked to contribute a small sum of money for each night stayed.

The current application process

Before applying to become a member of our residential community you will need to have completed a minimum of one week’s silent meditation in the last 3 years in the Buddhist Tradition, but not necessarily at Gaia House.

If you are invited to submit an application, this will be reviewed by our HR Manager, Sarah Abdy, and our Staff Support Teacher, Laura Bridgman.  If successful at this stage you will be invited to join 2 online zoom interviews, one with Sarah who will be joined by our Retreat Manager, Laura Ruiz.  The second interview will be with Laura Bridgman.  Success here will enable us to invite you to Gaia House to take part in a 3 day residential try-out.  This is a valuable opportunity to meet with the current serving members of the community, shadow some of the key teamwork that is needed, hopefully see the retreat centre at work and meet more of the non-residential team.

Following the try-out there will be a community meeting and we will come back to you with the outcome.

You will be asked to take regular lateral flow test both prior and during your try-out and you must follow any specific Covid requirements. Gaia House also continues to ask the working community and retreatants to wear face coverings whilst moving around the house.  Further details will be given/discussed at this stage.

A Probationary Period

If offered a position there will be an 8 week probationary when your period of service would be confirmed. Support and reviews will be held throughout the probationary period.

Get in touch if you are interested to find out more

If you are interested in joining our residential service community or would like more information, please email our HR Manager, Sarah Abdy at hrmanager@gaiahouse.co.uk.

We really look forward to talking to you!

Read an account by Rachel Davies, currently our Programme Manager, of her experience as a former member of the residential service community.

 

Ramiro“Becoming a coordinator has changed my life. It has been an incredible opportunity to explore what service and life in community means. It’s been challenging at times, but the care and support received overpowers whatever difficulty one may encounter; when approached with awareness, support and the right view, everything can be converted into an opportunity to practise and grow. Here I’ve felt not only part of a team, but part of a much bigger project: that of the awakening of all human beings. It’s been a real privilege to be part of this.”

Ramiro Ortega
Household Coordinator
July 2012 – August 2014 and April-September 2015

Mark Ovland reception“No one type of person signs up to serve the Dharma at Gaia House, and that’s one of the beauties of community life here. I shared the coordinators’ wing with such a diverse crew over my two years as reception coordinator and learnt so much. To take one’s temporary home (and office!) in an environment of practice and honest enquiry, with the wonderful and compassionate support structures that Gaia House has in place…it’s a rare and blessed gift. Although I have moved on, I still feel very much a part of the family and have made such deeply nurturing friendships as a result of my service.”

Mark Ovland
Reception Coordinator
August 2011 – September 2013

Tony-OConnor“Becoming a coordinator living and working at Gaia House was such a wonderful and precious opportunity to explore an integrated whole-life practice. Living, working and meditating at Gaia House created the space to explore community, service and formal practice in a more harmonious and balanced way. At times one or other of these would take more prominence but there was always a movement towards balance and integration of these diverse parts of our lives and lots of support along the way. It was a challenging and joyful, rewarding time, with the greatest challenge of all being how to create some echo of all I experienced as a coordinator in my life after leaving Gaia House – a work in progress.”

Tony O’Connor
Household Coordinator
January 2009 – June 2011 and June-July 2015