Periodic extended sits on Saturdays 7:30 AM to 12 PM
7:20 – 7:30 Assemble
7:30 – 8:00 Chanting and Formal tea
8:00 – 9:00 Zazen* (Seated meditation; One stretch-break)
9:00 – 9:10 Bathroom break
9:10 – 9:25 Walking meditation (Kinhin) (Outdoor if possible)
9:25 – 10:25 Zazen (with one stretch break)
10:25 – 10:30 Bathroom break
10:30 – 11:20 Teisho (Talk) or Silent group sharing using body movement
11:20 – 12:00 Zazen & optional dokusan (meeting with the teacher)
What to bring for a half-day sit on Saturdays
— Your reading glasses for chanting
— Jacket & woolens for outdoor walking meditation
— Water bottle and medicines (if any)
— A light stomach (eating light helps us breathe more fully from hara).
— Light snacks for yourself [or even sharing with everyone during break period (optional)]
— Your favorite cushion (we have mats and cusions but you are welcome to bring yours)
What to let us know
— Allergic to incense or any food ingredients that might be included in snacks?
— Need a chair to sit?
Part-time participants: Please let us do our best to arrive during a break period (e.g., 9:10, 10:30 AM) so that we cause minimal disruption of the quiet atmosphere in the meditation room. Our floors and bathroom doors are noisy: let’s use them gently. Let us also leave our jackets in the living area before coming downstairs to the meditation room.
Donations: As always, we believe in gift-economies. All our activities are free of cost. We do really welcome donations to build scholarship funds for students/activists who can’t attend long retreats otherwise.
*If you haven’t done long periods of meditation before, please consider getting basic instructions on posture and breathing from hara. Long meditation sessions can be tiring for our physical bodies and our thinking minds (which is excellent). The result of the this tiredness is that deep memories including troubling psychological issues that are usually hidden from our conscious mind, bubble up. When such issues arise, they are often associated with body sensations that are not pleasurable. Some of us who follow the mindfulness of sensations as a practice technique are able to compassionately but non-judgmentally watch these sensations evolve or be held in a wider consciousness of space around us. Some of us, however, feels very agitated by emergence of unsettling memories and resulting sensations. Breathing from our hara can be extremely helpful in such circumstances. Breathing from hara activates vagus nerve.
Vagus nerve is the longest nerve of autonomous nervous system. It helps us “rest and digest” (parasympathetic) as opposed to “fight or flight” (sympathetic) and controls our emotions. It innervates much of our viscera (all of our internal organs) with the notable exception of the adrenal glands. It is the critical nerve in the expression and management of emotions in both humans and animals, connects central nervous system with autonomous nervous system and considered to a gateway between our conscious thinking minds with our subconscious and intuitive minds. When the mind is strongly excited it instantly affects the state of the viscera (the whole body) through Vagus nerve leading to unpleasant physical sensations. It is these physical sensations that are unbearable for those among us who are anxious. Some people can become more agitated when they are taught be mindful of their physical sensations. Artificial Vagus Nerve Stimulation, through electrical impulses via a surgically implanted pacemaker like device, shows promising results in reducing depression, anxieties and even conditions such as epilepsy and obesity. Here is what do we can to calm the Vagus nerve ourselves: holding the breath and tensing of abdominal muscles (including during laughter, coughing and even sobbing). Meditation traditions that focus on abdominal breathing might not have consciously utilized this understanding of Vagus nerve in their practices but it works. Anyone who has ever gotten Zen meditation instruction knows how much importance is given to deep bated breathing from abdomen (Tanden, Dantian or hara) which induces deep stillness and energy. Yes, working with hara alone without overall compassionate mindfulness can lead to spiritual bypassing and many kinds of problems that we have heard about. Simply breathing from hara can not be of assistance in itself. It can be a transformative tool for some people in a safe, caring and energized environment.