Sesshin is a Japanese term that translates literally “to unify the mind.” This is a concentrated practice retreat … which includes meditation, working together, chanting and walking. Teachers are available for face-to-face instruction and koan practice throughout the day.
People are encouraged to participate in as much of each retreat as their personal schedule allows. There is some room for staying at the Center during sesshin. Some participants prefer to sleep at their own home. Even though it is possible to do each sesshin with your own schedule, you are encouraged to make a strong commitment to your schedule to have a strong experience.
During most sesshins, participants bring simple food to prepare. Kitchens are available and there is 20 minutes to prepare breakfast and 30 minutes to prepare lunch. We eat together for breakfast and lunch. We don’t eat dinner together. There is an hour and a half to prepare and eat dinner.
Since there are many different ways that each of us is participating in sesshin, consider the below guidelines to determine what your donation will be. Please keep in mind that there are many expenses associated with maintaining the Zen Center and offering sesshin. There are also many members who are giving a lot of volunteer time to make this sesshin possible.
Sesshin Fees per day:
Sesshin: $15 | Housing: $15 | Meal (if provided) : $5
Sesshin: $25 | Housing: $30 | Meal (if provided) : $5
Part Time Participants
Consider the donations made by the full time participants to determine your fee.
We also ask that you give a donation (Sanskrit dana) to the Zen Center in appreciation for the teachings. Sesshin fees are very low to encourage all to attend, but the fees do not cover the costs. Please add a little gift (dana) to your sesshin fees in gratitude.
For Information about Sesshin please email the Events Circle.
During the day there is usually a talk (teisho) and an opportunity for private face to face interaction with a teacher. We also do some chanting of sutras and gathas during sesshin. At night some participants go home to sleep and others stay at the Zen Center. In the same way that we keep returning to Now during all sesshin activity, we maintain concentration as we go to sleep and when we wake up.
In this container we have the opportunity to watch what arises and let it go. We have the opportunity to see the transitory nature of our thoughts and feelings. When one sits long and hard enough, at some point, all of this disappears, we forget our self and open up to our true nature. We have the opportunity to have the same experience as the Buddha and all the Buddha ancestors of all time.
After sitting for a while we can experience very strong, negative emotion such as fear, anger, grief, loneliness etc. So it is important to prepare yourself mentally for sesshin. Even though you may not be following the whole sesshin schedule make up your own schedule before hand and VOW to follow it. It may mean lying down during zazen. For first timers it may mean spending a period walking in the garden.
Vow to yourself that you will complete your schedule and do not be deterred because you are not experiencing clarity or joy or peace. STAY WITH IT!! Use this opportunity to study the self. Be sure and talk to the teacher and the Senior students if you are having a difficult time. We are here to help you have the very best sesshin experience.
Sesshin is a wonderful opportunity to deepen our practice and to realize the enlightened way. We have already gone to the trouble of clearing our calendars, taking time off from our daily affairs and making other preparations to participate in sesshin. The teacher, volunteers, and other participants have all made an effort to prepare for this sesshin, make sure that it runs smoothly and give us this opportunity to open to the Way. It would be a pity to waste this opportunity.
The sesshin guidelines, sometimes called precautions, come to us from years and centuries of practice. They are meant to help us make the most of this opportunity to practice. By practicing these guidelines, we show a great amount of respect for those who are practicing with us and for ourselves. Let’s all do the best we can to make this the most powerful sesshin possible.
Participate in the whole schedule (as you have committed to it). Use the exercise period for exercise, even when there is no organized exercise activity. (Take a walk around the block. Do some stretching. Do something active.) Don’t sneak off to take a nap.
- Avoid all unnecessary talking. If you need to talk to someone, do it away from others and as quietly as possible. Social greetings (hellos, thank you, etc.) are not necessary during sesshin.
- Avoid unnecessary distraction. Walk with eyes lowered and hands in sashu (right hand over left fist held at the sternum). Of course, always be mindful of where you are walking so that you don’t run into things or other people.
- Avoid reading and writing except that which is related to your practice or assigned work. It is a good idea to not check email, voicemail, etcetera if you can avoid doing so.
- Keep your living space neat and orderly during sesshin.
In the Zendo:
- Dress appropriately. Wear clean, modest, dark colored clothing with no obvious lettering. Priests should wear their robes. Do not wear shorts, short skirts or revealing tops in the zendo.
- Arrive on time. It is ideal to be in your seat five minutes before the start of a period of zazen.
- Remain still during zazen. Breathe quietly. If you need to change position, do it quickly, quietly and enough to fix the problem.
- Do not blow your nose or sniff in the zendo. You may keep a tissue with you to wipe your nose. If you sneeze or cough, please cover your mouth with the crook of your arm.
- Kinhin (walking meditation) is an extension of zazen. If you need to exit to use the restroom, you may do so at the beginning of slow kinhin or during fast kinhin when you come to the door. Return promptly after using the restroom and rejoin fast kinhin when your place in line passes. Do not leave just to take a break.
- When going to dokusan, leave as quietly as possible. Return to the zendo promptly after finishing dokusan so that the next person and/ or the Jisha know that you are done.
- Maintain zazen posture during dharma talks. Try not to put your knees up. If your legs are hurting, it is fine to sit in a chair.
- If you will not be sitting during the next period of zazen, please put your chair or cushion back where you got it.