Roots of Compassion Retreat
May 17 - 22, 2024

Roots of Compassion Retreat

In person in Bow (Samish Island)

5-day retreat

The sunset view from Samish Island Retreat Center.
Join us for a 5-day guided silent mindfulness and compassion retreat in the style of Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at a beautiful retreat site on Samish Island in the Samish River delta of Skagit County in Washington state (roughly 90 minutes north of Seattle). The retreat will be a deep exploration of the roots of mindfulness and compassion practices, both experientially and through a series of talks on Buddhist teachings and connected ideas from philosophy, poetry, and the sciences.

THEME: Joyful Compassion

In this years’ retreat Tim will explore the Zen poetry and teachings of the 18th century Japanese poet-priest Ryōkan. Ryōkan was famous for living a simple, joyful life and being warmly available to all of those around him. We’ll explore stories and poems modeling living a life of openness, joy, and connection, and how these qualities nurture compassion.

Ryokan playing with children

One evening a thief visited Ryōkan’s hut at the base of the mountain only to discover there was nothing to steal. Ryōkan returned and caught him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.” The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away. Ryōkan sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”


May 17 – 22, 2024
Friday, 4pm – Wednesday, 12pm


Tim Burnett & Catherine Duffy


Samish Island Campground and Retreat Center


$595 – $1100 (or $149 – $275/month)

  • Sliding scale: Choose what’s right for you.
  • Payment plan option: 4-months, no-interest.
  • Limited scholarships available: No need to apply; just choose a scholarship tuition during registration.
  • Lodging – An additional surcharge applies for some lodging options.

Registration closes at 11:55pm on Wednesday, May 15.

Tim Burnett on the Roots of Compassion retreat.

The insights I received during the retreat and now, two weeks later, are centering on choosing more compassionate freedom for myself and how it spills into my life and work. I feel this tremendous blessing could only have surfaced in the deep and loving container co-created by the teachers and my fellow retreatants.  I’m quite certain the benefits will be exponential.

Margaret K.

Bozeman, MT


Please review our current COVID policy before registering. We currently require verbal confirmation of a negative COVID home test result taken before your arrival on the first day of the retreat.

Cancellation Policy

For retreats at Samish Island Camp:

  • Cancel up to 15 days before the event begins: Receive a full refund less the $40 non-refundable processing fee.
  • Cancel between 14 days and the event start time: Receive a refund of 50% of the tuition paid.
  • Cancel after the event begins: No refunds.

*Note: If the tuition is paid on a payment plan, payments will continue to withdraw until the amount due is paid.

I don’t have adequate words for the wonderful days spent at the Roots of Compassion retreat. I was filled with love and an awareness of beauty. Even through the silence I felt a deep connection with the group members and with my loved ones in my life. It challenged me in important ways and changed me forever.

2022 Roots of Compassion Participant


The beautiful Samish Island Campground and Retreat Center, maintained by the Community of Christ at the east end of Samish Island, (the “island” is accessible by road) offers stunning views, deep quiet, and simple accommodations. Mindfulness Northwest has been offering retreats at Samish for many years. More details about the venue can be found here.


Tim Burnett

Tim Burnett

Executive Director and Guiding Instructor at Mindfulness Northwest, Tim has been leading multi-day retreats in both the mindfulness and Zen Buddhist styles for many years. Ordained as a Soto Zen priest in 2000, he apprenticed with Zen teacher Zoketsu Norman Fischer and is the Guiding Teacher of Red Cedar Zen Community in Bellingham. For these retreats Tim loves offering a universal (“secular”) mindfulness retreat experience while also plumbing the depth of Buddhist texts and philosophy that form one of the deep roots of this work. You can explore an example of Tim’s teachings at a prior retreat. Tim is a certified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction instructor with the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and has been teaching MBSR for over a decade; he’s also a certified Mindful Self-Compassion instructor with the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion.

Catherine Duffy

Catherine Duffy

When a family member was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in 2012, Catherine began studying and practicing mindfulness. The mother of four grown children — one of whom lives with developmental disabilities — and a grandmother, Catherine continues to learn the value of pausing, taking a breath, and inviting quiet moments to reset and refresh. Her supportive teaching helps participants find a place of calm amid the challenges of everyday life. Catherine is a certified Mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Teacher with Mindfulness Northwest, and a Certified Mindful Self-Compassion teacher with the UCSD Center for Mindfulness.


The retreat starts with check in from 4 to 5pm on Friday, and closes at 12pm on Wednesday, with breaks after each of the delicious meals provided. We’ll rise early, beginning each day of practice at 6:30am, and go steadily through each day in silence and contemplation, closing at 8:30pm. A more detailed schedule can be viewed here.



Simple accommodations and tasty, nutritious meals are included in your registration. The wonderful cooks at Samish can always accommodate gluten free, dairy-free, nut-free and vegetarian diets. If your dietary needs require bringing your own food, fridge space is available, as is a microwave.

Most rooms are comfortable single-occupancy rustic cabins sharing the campground bathhouses. There are Male & Female bathhouses, as well as an All-Gender bathroom with showers, and All-Gender single-occupancy toilets in the dining hall. There is an option for motel-style rooms with a shared en-suite bath for a surcharge. RV and tent camping are also available (water and electrical hookup provided). More information about accommodations here.


A tree full of apples next to a row of colorfully painted cabins at samish island mindfulness retreat center.


Note that Samish is very lightly staffed allowing it to be more affordable than most venues. This helps us to hold registration fees at an affordable level. Every participant helps out with camp chores such as washing dishes and cleaning the buildings at the end of the retreat.


  • Students of mindfulness and compassion interested in deepening and maintaining their practice
  • Mindfulness teachers who’d like to strengthen their understanding of the Buddhist roots of contemporary mindfulness
  • Those who have taken a course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion, or Mindfulness for Healthcare Professionals.
  • Adults age 18 and over



Before sitting a multi-day retreat we recommend that you have teacher-led experience with mindfulness or related contemplative practices. Please contact us if you have questions about whether this retreat will be appropriate for you.



This retreat meets prerequisite requirements of a 5-day silent, guided retreat for the following teacher training programs:


About Our Multi-Day Silent Retreats

An aerial photo of the Harmony Hill campus, featuring multiple white cottages in grounds filled with lush gardens.The daily schedule at our multi-day silent retreats includes gently guided sitting and walking meditation, morning teachings, mindful movement, and the body scan, as well as compassion cultivation and loving-kindness meditations.


All are welcome! We are honored to support each participant in their meditation practice regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, race, color, gender, gender identity, sexual identity, age, physical ability, political affiliation, or religion. Our retreats are suitable for beginning through experienced practitioners.

We are committed to offering support for any accessibility needs you have as we are able. Please contact us prior to registering for a course.


Before sitting a multi-day retreat we recommend that you have teacher-led experience with mindfulness or related contemplative practices. Please contact us if you have questions about whether this retreat will be appropriate for you.

IS RETREAT RIGHT FOR YOU?  Meditation retreats are not right for everyone. If you have a history of trauma or acute psychological issues, consider checking with a mental health professional to decide if intensive retreat practice would be supportive. If you have questions or concerns about whether a retreat is right for you, please contact us at



  • Mindfulness and compassion practices are offered in four blocks daily: early morning, morning, afternoon, and evening.
  • Participants are expected to attend all sessions and follow the printed schedule you will receive on site as fully as possible.
    However, we are flexible and always willing to work with you on what your body and mind can reasonably do. Speak with the retreat teachers if you have concerns about following the complete schedule.
  • After the initial orientation and introductions on the first evening, our residential retreats are held in silence.
  • Participants are expected to follow guidelines around silence and participation:
    • not speaking to other participants including close friends or partners you are attending with
    • not using technology of any form
    • not reading books, magazines, flyers, or any reading materials
    • reducing interpersonal contact through the eyes or other body language
  • Necessary communication with the retreat teachers can be done via a notes station or by taking them aside.

The intention of silent retreat is to settle deeply into your own experience and to not interact with others, allowing everyone space to have the retreat they need to have -- including you!


Participants are expected to be sensitive and responsive to these guidelines and the needs of fellow participants as fully as possible.

  • Do not take photos or make recordings of other participants or the teachers.
  • Do not use alcohol or mind altering drugs of any kind.
  • Emergency contact information to share with loved ones will be sent to you. Venue staff and Mindfulness Northwest instructors will make sure you receive incoming messages promptly while your phone is off. If you are expecting an urgent message please let your instructor know.
  • Instructors are available at all times to offer support, including conversation if needed.



Please arrive at the retreat at the beginning and stay until the end, as:

  • Arriving late will cause stress as you will miss the orientation.
  • Leaving early means you are offloading your clean-up chores on other participants and missing an opportunity for closure.
  • Please stay on campus unless invited to take an off-campus break by the instructors.
  • Several of our venues keep costs down, reducing your registration fee, by asking that event participants wash dishes, sweep floors, clean bathrooms, and do other chores around the facility. Final clean up chores before leaving are also done.
  • Participants are asked to do chores as fully as they are able. If you have physical limitations, we will help you find a suitable chore assignment.


  • Face masks ​​– please check our COVID policy for our current guidelines around masking. While masks may not be required at your training, it's always a good idea to bring some.
  • Extra COVID tests, in case you develop symptoms during the retreat.
  • Warm clothes in layers (sweater, jacket, raingear etc) Outdoor walking meditation will be a component of this retreat, rain or shine.
  • Shoes that are (1) fine walking in damp grass and (2) slip-on if possible. We take shoes on and off frequently. Slippers for the practice room can also be nice to have.
  • Toiletries and overnight things including a towel.
  • Bringing your own bedding (pillows, sheets, blankets or sleeping bag) is required at most of our venues. Please check your registration confirmation email for this information.
  • A flashlight can be helpful but venues are generally reasonably well lit. Sometimes there is walking between buildings in the early morning and evening.
  • A yoga mat if you have a favorite. We are able to bring mats to share.
  • Meditation cushions / supplies – if you have a meditation cushion(s), a bench or other sitting gear, feel free to bring it. We are able to bring a limited supply of cushions. Note that there are plenty of chairs available.
  • An extra blanket or two for the meditation hall – nice for body scans and resting.


Lodging assignments will be available on check-in at the course venue. You will have a room to yourself at most of our venues.


Silent mindfulness retreats can be psychologically powerful. It's not unusual to experience significant shifts in your mood and energy levels right after a retreat. We recommend that you closely monitor your "mental hygiene" by avoiding over stimulating environments or influences directly after the retreat (i.e. parties, loud events, violent content, harsh substances or emotionally straining company). You can support the integration of your retreat experience with activities like journaling/drawing, mindful movement, spending time in nature or even a shower/soak in a bath. If you feel "off" several days after your retreat we encourage you to seek out support. Don't hesitate to reach out to us at to connect with one of our teachers.

Register for this program

Registration is closed for this program.