Spirit of Zen - Meditation & Somatic Movement Retreat

Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

14 reviews
Jun 14 - 19, 2024
Group size: 25 - 31
Spirit of Zen - Meditation & Somatic Movement Retreat
Salt Spring Island, British Columbia

14 reviews

Jun 14 - 19, 2024
Group size: 25 - 31

About this trip

Spirit of Zen ~ Meditation & Somatic Movement Retreat

with Melissa Berry Appleton & Suniti Dernovsek

June 14-19th, 2024

Stowel Lake Farm, Salt Spring Island

Join Melissa and Suniti this June for our annual retreat on Salt Spring Island. Stowel Lake Farm is a thriving organic farm, retreat center, and community, located on 100 acres of mixed forests, fields, rocky outcrops and rolling hills. The food, the facilities and the land are an exceptional venue to meet all the right elements of retreat. 

This retreat is in the spirit of Zen, Buddhist lineages, and tending to the body with love. It will be about the simple treasures of practice and how they relate to our everyday lives. Beautifully bare bones. Primarily a meditation retreat, our time together will include a blend of traditional yoga postures, somatic movement, silence, stillness, connection, breath, sound, the ground and deep rest. Together we are gently resurrecting bodies of goodness. 

Spirit of Zen was designed to offer a good taste of Buddhist tradition, ritual and form of a Buddhist meditation retreat while also considering accessibility for those who feel more monastic forms of retreat present barriers to attend. We offer this retreat with the heart of a householder, deep respect for the complexities of 21st century living and those who have experienced trauma.

Suniti and Melissa met leading a Zen retreat in the Canadian alpine with Michael Stone. Endless giggles, creativity and liberating conversations keep them coming back together. Suniti and Melissa share curiosities about relationships, marriage, intimacy, parenthood, aging, work, community life and broadening perspectives in tender ways. 

*Please be sure to read all details of the retreat before registration.

Commitment to Learn & Grow

This retreat welcomes diversity in gender, race and form.  

There will be two bursaries offered by Melissa and Suniti at a 50 percent reduced rate to people of the BIPOC and LGBTGQ+ community as a means to remove financial barriers to participation for those whose lived experience is perpetually laced with institutional bias and discrimination. This opportunity is made possible by the generous donations made by the local spring meditation practice period participants in Kelowna. Stowel Lake Farm has graciously offered an additional two, 50 percent reduced rate spaces at the time our retreat reaches 25 registrants. 

Please send an e-mail to melissaberryappleton@gmail.com if you would like to be considered for a bursary. Individuals representing marginalized people who are actively engaged in outreach or social justice initiatives are highly encouraged to apply, in the hopes that these teachings may ripple out to the communities in which you serve.

Each year, we work to provide education on inclusivity for our retreat guests. Diverse attendance has enriched our gathering immensely over the past five years. We have learned to continually educative ourselves and be reflexive to the needs of our guests. We make mistakes, and learn to recover quickly, never being deterred. I am deeply grateful for those who have been my teachers along the way.  

We would love to share this time with you.  May it benefit all beings.   

Bowing, Melissa and Suniti


Arriving & Departing

The first three days of retreat offer an immersive daily schedule of sitting, sound, movement, farm work, rest and good food. Each day will offer a period of silence, afternoons to walk, rest, or even connect with new friends. Tuesday offers a lighter schedule to explore and enjoy beautiful Salt Spring Island . Practices will be offered on both ends of this day. Those who stay back at the farm have the option to continue silence and immersive practice. Options are created to provide personal agency and care.

We ask that you arrive no earlier or later that the arrival time of 3-5 p.m.  Flights, ferry schedules and shared car rides should be scheduled early enough that they will not impact arriving on time.  Late attendance has a way of delaying settling in for both teachers and attendees. Closing circle is a beautiful way of honoring each other and ends on the last day of retreat at 12 noon.

We ask that you take some time to really consider your ability to attend the full length of retreat, entering, experiencing and commencing all together. 

Noble Silence begins at 7:30 p.m. each day when the bells call us into evening practice. This silent period is intended to nourish us through a period of deep listening to our bodies, hearts, minds and the land in the midst of practice.  Silence can be fertile ground for wisdom and compassion. Many people are surprised by their ease with silence, and note the incredible benefit. Silence continues each day all the way through to the end of work practice period. Afternoons are an opportunity to connect with each other in more casual ways.


3-5 pm || arrival

5:30 pm || orientation

6 pm || dinner

7:30 pm || gently entering practice and meditation (silence begins at 9 p.m.)


7 am ||  meditation

8 am ||  breakfast

9:30 am ||  meditation

11 am ||  Dharma Story

12:15 pm ||  lunch 

1:15 pm ||  work practice on the farm (2:15 p.m. bowing out of work practice to end silence)

2:15 pm ||  free time 

4:30 pm ||  Yoga

6 pm ||  dinner

7:30 pm ||  meditation forms

8:30 p.m.  ||  closing chant


*while this day offers the freedom to go out and see the farmers market and more, some guests may choose to stay on the farm and remain in a period of silent practice. Time to lay out in the grass, rest, write or enter the practice hall.

7 am ||  meditation

8 am ||  breakfast

Island exploration or personal practice

1 pm ||  lunch

3 pm || Yoga

4:30 pm ||  meditation & dharma story

6 pm ||  dinner

8 pm ||  fireside gathering in the orchard.


7 am ||  meditation

8 am ||  breakfast

9:30 am || meditation

10 am || closing circle 

12 pm ||  lunch & departure


Melissa Berry Appleton, Seikai

Melissa is a Buddhist Chaplain, lay ordained in the Soto Zen Prajna Mountain Order, student of Roshi Joan Halifax and Matthew Palevsky. Chaplaincy is a way of coming alongside the ways people suffer, while supporting the restoration of goodness in their body, heart/mind, and world. She is a Chaplain at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, Interior Health Care Physicians, and an educator to Third Space Charity graduate interns and Masters of Clinical Counselling Psychology candidates. A good deal of her work centres around supporting front line workers, care providers, people in great transitions, burnout, and addiction recovery.

Her current work explores the domestic monastery, community life, ritual/ceremony, cultural anxiety, trauma, addiction, consumption of information technology, time, and the greater impact on the future of our world.  How does self-care and spiritual formation serve as a collective 'we care' ultimately unfolding our greatest aspirations for parenting, partnership, intimacy, ecological connection, social justice, meaningful work, and influence on generations moving forward.

It has been a great privilege for her to study with some of the world's most renown educators in yoga, movement, Buddhism and academia. This year marks twenty five years of practice and ten years of university at her great age of fifty. Melissa loves the art of collaboration and has had the honour of working with amazing community leaders, Buddhist Practitioners, Clinical Counsellors, Yoga & Movement Specialists, and Wilderness Guides.

Melissa is not enlightened, nor does she seek to be. She is married, has three teens (two off at University), a big black lab, a mid life crisis shepard puppy, and a home tucked into the woods with chores and repairs that are never complete. Previous work includes music & recreation therapist, human resources coordinator, addiction counsellor, and director of a charity. But then everything changed. Everything is still shifting and moving today. 


Suniti Dernovsek

An inspired yogini, choreographer, performer and movement educator, Suniti's clear, vibrant, and embodied presence reflects dedicated years of contemplative practice, meditation, and dance. With keen attention to subtlety and precision, Suniti's teaching offers a unique blend of fluidity, creativity, and awareness.

Suniti began studying yoga in 1999 with Iyengar teacher, Janet Lilly. She met her Buddhist teachers, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche and Lama Padma Drimed Norbu around that same time. Since moving to Portland in 2004 she has studied a variety of yoga traditions. She completed the Dharma Yoga Teacher Training and a Yin Immersion with Uma Kleppinger in 2006 and a 500-hour teacher training with Tiffany Cruikshank in 2010.

Suniti received her BFA in dance from University Wisconsin Milwaukee in 2003, where she had the opportunity to work with many talented choreographers. She is currently the co-artistic director of Bobbevy; a Portland based Dance Company. With over 10 years' professional dance experience, Suniti's brings her love of movement, fondness of detail and creativity into her yoga teaching. She teaches weekly yoga classes and retreats through The People's Yoga in Portland, Oregon.

Registration & Dana

This retreat is offered in the spirit of Dana.  Registration fees cover the cost set by Stowel Lake Farm for accommodations, food, facility use at Stowel Lake Farm and basic administration fee.


In honour of our Buddhist lineage and teachers, Suniti and Melissa offer this week of teachings freely because they are considered priceless. In the Buddhist tradition we practice dana, or generosity, by making monetary offerings for the teachings. Dana is not payment for goods or services rendered; it is given from the heart. Your generosity is a gift that supports not just the teachers, but also the Sangha, the larger Dharma community, and your own practice.

On the last day of retreat you will have an opportunity to express generosity by way of donation to Melissa and Suniti.

Nourished by the Farm

Our incredibly talented kitchen team provides a seasonally inspired farm to table experience, featuring our own fresh organic produce. In direct collaboration with our farmers, retreat meals are prepared simply and beautifully to feature the natural flavourful vitality of fresh whole food ingredients. Meals are served buffet style including options for dairy free, gluten free and vegan. This is one of the many things that keeps people returning to retreat year after year.


Our charming & cozy accommodations are all located close to the main facilities. Well built, beautifully crafted, and maintained. Guests will enjoy clean, comfortable bedding with duvets and towels. The yurts have heat and power. 

Getting To Stowel Lake Farm

Stowel Lake Farm on Salt Spring Island is just beautiful.  Check it out here ~


You are probably travelling by ferry my friends - possibly by bike, foot or car.  If in the event you leave your car behind, we can pick you up and drop you off at the ferry.  We will arrange pick up times one month prior to retreat. Pick up is available at Fulford Harbour only. All other harbours will require your own transportation methods.

What to Bring

- Bring layered clothes for varying temperatures inside and outside - last June was hot!

- Swim suit for ocean dips.

- Flashlight

- Journal and pen.

- Hat, sun screen.

- Loose, comfortable and modest clothing.

- Outdoor wear for helping on the farm.

- Darker shades of clothing without logos and print for meditation (black, navy, grey, brown).


A deposit of 500 dollars is non-refundable. There will be no refunds on final payments past April 10th.  We highly recommend considering insurance for unforeseeable circumstances. If there is a waitlist for retreat, or someone to take your place, you will receive a refund minus a 100 dollar administration fee.  

Available Packages

Private Room

A beautiful private room with shared hallway bathroom.

Shared Delux

Two separate beds and a bathroom within the room.

Shared Regular

Two separate beds and a shared bathroom in the hall.

private yurt

A cozy yurt with beautiful bedding just steps from the bathhouse.

Shared Yurt

A cozy yurt with two single beds, beautiful bedding, just steps from the bathhouse.

Camp out on the Farm

Bring your tent and camp out on the farm.

You have access to the beautiful bathhouse, incredible facilities and meals.

Delux private room with bathroom

Your Organizer

Melissa Berry Appleton
14 reviews
Melissa is a Buddhist Chaplain (Soto Zen), lay ordained by Roshi Joan Halifax, Upaya Zen Centre. She is a Master Clinical Counselling Psychology Candidate, meditation, yoga and somatic movement teacher. Currently a Chaplain at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, educator with Third Space graduate interns, and provides support groups for physicians of Interior Health BC. Her work takes deep interest in care providers and centres around burnout, stress, trauma, moral despair and system theory resilience and flourishing. ​​


This was a wonderfully nourishing experience. Melissa and Suniti's teachings and energy provided a good reminder of all that is important in life. I have been able to 'return to my cushion' with regularity and greater resolve...... the outcome being that I am more present in relationships and daily life. The retreat center was beautiful with stunning gardens and architecture, the delicious meals were freshly prepared (much of it grown on Stowel Lake Farm) and the other participants were a joy to get to know. I would highly recommend a retreat with Melissa and Suniti!
By maria z for Spirit of Zen - Meditation & Yoga Retreat on Oct 09, 2023
The essence of this experience; the practices, the farm, the people, the birds and bunnies, all are continuing to live and breath in me. The opportunity to rest in the sunny fields, help out on the farm, be fed by food and spirit, and practice sitting and moving together was transformational. Attending Spirit of Zen with Melissa and Suniti is a gift.
By Jessica E for Spirit of Zen - Meditation & Yoga Retreat on Sep 26, 2023
Melissa and Suniti created a great container in which to retreat, grow and learn. Thoughtful, supportive, challenging. I unreservedly recommend them if you're considering going on a future retreat.
By Susan M for Spirit of Zen - Meditation & Yoga Retreat on Sep 19, 2023
This is my second time at Stowel Lake Farm Retreat with Melissa. The food is truly a highlight of staying at the Farm. The grounds are gorgeous and tranquil, the accommodations warm and comfy, and there is plenty of time and space to be alone. This retreat is the perfect balance between silent meditation, contemplation and somatic movement to embody practice and regulate the body. Really value attention to fostering an inclusive, safe community. Evening Dharma talks are provocative. Perfect week of attention to mind, body and spirit under the guidance of two fabulous teachers.
By Lynn B for Building Buddha Body - A Meditation & Movement Intensive on Sep 19, 2023
Had such a beautiful experience on this retreat with Brian and Melissa. It was a true vacation for the mind, body, and spirit. Friendship is the whole practice. Much gratitude to all of you, and especially to Brian, Melissa, and Jenn.
By Naomi M for True Nature - A Meditation & Yoga Vacation Retreat on Oct 04, 2022
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I’m so grateful to Melissa for the thoughtful and powerful way she leads retreats, meditation, and movement practice. I particularly appreciate her trauma-informed approach to yoga. I’ve learned so much from her and I look forward to what the future will bring. I treasure Melissa as a wonderful and highly skilled teacher, chaplain, and leader.
By Naomi M on 08 Jul, 2021