Insight Retreat Center

How the IRC Lottery System Works

How the IRC Lottery System Works

On Playing the Retreat Lottery

The best strategy for getting into the retreats you want and working with the lottery: 

Identify retreats that you are willing to attend if you are selected and apply to all of those.  Conversely, avoid applying to retreats that do not interest you or you would not be able to attend if you are selected.

It’s Like a Raffle Drawing

Each time you enter a lottery, you get 1 ticket.  If you get accepted, you give up your ticket.  Each time you don’t get accepted, you keep your ticket.  Once you get accepted, you give up all the tickets you accumulated, and start over again with one ticket for your next retreat lottery.

Just like a raffle, your chances of winning are determined both by the total number of tickets that have been given out and by the number of tickets that you hold.  If the total number given out is low, or you hold more tickets, your chances of winning go up.

If an applicant is not selected in the lottery after applying for a retreat, the probability of getting accepted increases with each subsequent retreat they apply for.

For retreat lotteries, the number of tickets is equal to the number of applications received by the cutoff date. This averages about 115 applicants.  We have about 38 rooms available. 5 Service Leaders and several others bypass the lottery due to special circumstances. *  Those who don’t win the lottery end up on the wait list. If you hold about five tickets in a lottery, you have a good probability of being selected.

Retreats with less familiar teachers attract fewer applications.  Since we still have the same number of rooms, a greater percentage of  applicants are accepted, which increases your likelihood.

Waiting List

  • The tickets only affect if you “win” the lottery or not.  They will not influence your position on the Wait List, that’s random.
  • You still keep your “tickets” if you drop out of the wait list.  You only forfeit them if you’ve been accepted and then cancel.
  • Apply Only to Retreats You Intend to Attend

Apply Only to Retreats You Intend to Attend 

Applying for a retreat you do not intend to attend may temporarily give you an extra ticket, but if you are accepted and subsequently cancel, you still forfeit all the tickets you were holding at the time of the lottery.  In your next lottery, you start over with a single ticket.

Flexibility on Short Notice

If you are on a wait list and can be flexible and take a retreat on short notice (such as the week before), you may often be able to take the place of a late cancellation and get in.

*Exceptions that may bypass the lottery (or move someone to the top of the Wait List) may include:

  • Five Service leaders who serve the retreat:  Kitchen Mentor, two Managers, and two Cooks.
  • Buddhist Retreat Teachers & those in training (trained by IMS, IRC, or Spirit Rock) –  it’s part of the IRC mission to support dharma teacher training.
  • Life Transitions: Sometimes, a teacher, at their discretion, will make an exception for a yogi going through an exceptional life transition, such as a terminal illness.