Wonderwell Mountain Refuge is a sanctuary dedicated to the cultivation of mindfulness, wisdom, and compassion. Through the transmission and preservation of authentic and ancient lineage teachings, visitors discover how the depth and profundity of these teachings are relevant to contemporary life. Located on twenty-five acres of rolling hills in Springfield, New Hampshire, Wonderwell was originally built as a summer home in 1911.
Tranquil and serene, surrounded by woods, meadows, gardens, and century-old stone walls, Wonderwell’s stately main building offers a comfortable and spacious setting in which the transformative potential of meditation—for work, community and daily life—can be explored and realized. Recently, due to its many unique features, the building has been recognized as a New Hampshire state historic site.
Since its founding in 2011 as a Buddhist retreat center dedicated to the cultivation of mindfulness, wisdom, and compassion for a better world, Wonderwell Mountain Refuge has provided a sanctuary for the transmission and preservation of authentic and ancient lineage teachings, as well as for the rediscovery of these teachings as profoundly relevant to contemporary life. Wonderwell Mountain Refuge is owned and operated by Natural Dharma Fellowship, a non-profit 501c3 organization dedicated to the preservation of the teachings of the Buddhadharma in the West. While grounded in the practices and teachings of the Buddhist tradition, Natural Dharma Fellowship’s mission is enhanced by retreats at Wonderwell that explore the realms of contemplative care, social justice, secular ethics, and activism.
Over the first five years of operation, Wonderwell hosted over 100 residential group retreats supported by dedicated staff and guided by experienced meditation teachers. The types of retreats hosted include:
- Silent group retreats to deepen in meditation practice, to steep in the timeless wisdom of the Buddhist teachings, and to cultivate the heart of compassion.
- Contemplative retreats for activists, educators, care-givers, artists, writers, couples, and families.
- Gatherings dedicated to exploring the intersection of Buddhist ethics with ecological sustainability.
- Yoga and mindful movement retreats.
- Events for local communities in and around Springfield, New Hampshire.
At present, Natural Dharma Fellowship’s vision, and the programming and development of Wonderwell, are stewarded by:
- Willa B. Miller, PhD, Founder and Spiritual Director of Natural Dharma Fellowship
- Elizabeth Monson, PhD, Associate Spiritual Director of Natural Dharma Fellowship and the Managing Teacher at Wonderwell
Both are fully authorized teachers within the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and are trained scholars of the Buddhist traditions and translators (Tibetan-English). Their work is supported by a community of over 30 meditation teachers, visiting teachers and mentors, who participate in creating a web of support for students who participate in Wonderwell’s retreats and trainings.
For the many volunteers and benefactors who support Wonderwell, as well as for the people who live and work there, caring for Wonderwell has become a practice of sacred stewardship. For all of these people, Wonderwell is not just a building; it is a community.
Although Wonderwell’s programming generally reflects the vision of Natural Dharma Fellowship and its teachers, approximately half of Wonderwell’s retreats are dedicated to supporting like-minded non-profits with harmonious visions. These include the Foundation for Active Compassion, Courage of Care, New London Hospital, the Hemera Foundation, One Earth Sangha, Valley Insight, and others.
A Historic Building
Wonderwell’s building sits on 25 acres of forested land on a quiet country road, flanked by large farms, nestled in a low spur of the White Mountains near Springfield, New Hampshire, a two hour drive from Boston. The main house was built in 1911 by the Stoddard Family of Washington DC, and was originally used by Mrs. Stoddard, a devout music lover, to host musical concerts during the summer months. The house sits high on a hillside with sweeping views of sky and mountains. On one end of the building is a Great Room, now the meditation hall, which can accommodate groups and has an oak balcony encircling the room above and two fieldstone fireplaces. Other features of this historic building include a large covered porch for outdoor practice, a kitchen with industrial appliances, dining facilities, 13 bathrooms, and 15 bedrooms of varying capacities sleeping up to 36 people. Learn about our efforts to bring this lovely historic building into the 21st century, as we embark on a campaign to raise $1.286 million to complete urgent renovations.
The property was purchased by the Alexanders in 1933, who named it Wonderwell because of the fertile well that produced water even during times of severe drought. The locals of Springfield still call it Wonderwell. In keeping with the original history of our property and its current identity in the Springfield community, we named our retreat center “Wonderwell Mountain Refuge,” a tribute to the fertile springs that still bubbles up. The original ‘wonderwell’ is still a visible feature at the front of the property.
The house is partially shielded from a country road by majestic, old oak trees, and is framed by well-established perennials, with lovely gardening spaces. Behind the house is an acre of open field, that gives way to gradually sloping forested land, with excellent trail system potential and sites for several retreat cabins. The back of the house faces west towards jaw dropping, sky-gazing views of Mount Croyden, over which the sun sets in the evening.
Springfield, New Hampshire is a small, rural town with a population of 1311. It is home to Lake Kolelemook, which has a public swimming beach, and to Gile State Forest, 7000 acres of protected woodlands, hiking and mountain biking trails, snow shoeing and cross-country skiing. Springfield is just 7 miles from New London and Little Lake Sunapee.
Here are a couple of links to information about the area: