(For our multi-day retreats, please check this page).
The half-day meditation schedule includes zazen (seated meditation), chanting (with traditional wooden drum called mokugyo), a talk on Zen practice and dokusan (private interview with the teacher). All day sits include rest periods and samu (a work period or meditative activity that supports our individual healing while contributing towards one movement*).
Ma (Japanese for space or gap) in a pine-tree screen which is a national treasure of Japan.
7:00 Bows and Chanting
7:20 Zazen (three 25 min periods of seated meditation with stretch breaks)
9:00 Rest or Kinhin (walking meditation)
9:15 Zazen (two periods of meditation with a stretch break) with interviews
10:20 Teisho (Dharma talk) + discussion
11:30 End of the morning
If you are considering attending for the whole program, please know it does get easier and easier to focus when we commit and don’t have to plan our next activity. With right attitude and some preparation, the body’s rigidity can also surrender more and more easily with each sit. Even when the body is tired, sustained practice hour after hour on a single day melts our thinking mind’s fixations and ideas. What we taste in an hour long session on week nights can not give us a life-changing glimpse of our boundless and compassionate zero-mind!
Donations: As always, all our activities are free of any fixed costs because we believe in financial inclusion. If you have resources of time, energy or money, you can find time to donate them here.
A word about Zen talks: True Zen spirit requires that there is not much planning of the Teisho (dharma talk in Zen tradition). Traditional Rinzai Zen talks are simply about allowing the big unconscious mind to speak through us. There certainly can’t be too many notes.
*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.
All day sit schedule
7:00 Bows and Sutra Recitation
7:35 Bathroom break
7:45 Zazen* (three 25-30 minute periods of meditation with stretch break in between)
9:15 Bathroom break and snacks, as needed
9:25 Kinhin (walking meditation): Outdoor if possible
9:50 Zazen (two 25-30 minute periods of meditation with stretch break in between)
10:50 Bathroom break and snacks, as needed
11:00 Teisho (talk)
12:00 Bathroom break
12:10 Silent Packed lunch and silent rest period
1:30 Kinhin (walking meditation): Outdoor if possible
1:50 Zazen and dokusan
2:50 Samu (Silent work period and a rent for living on the planet)**
3:40 Tea and bathroom break
4:00 Afternoon sutra recitation
4:30 Zazen and dokusan
5:30 Sharing circle
6:00 Closing Song/Chant and Tea
6:15 Additional zazen (if and as desired) (until 8 pm)
What to bring for in-person sitting:
Packed lunch for yourself or potluck (that can be heated in microwave, if needed. We will eat in silence after brief chanting. Please RSVP to ensure you know that we have a potluck)
Sleeping bag/yoga-mat and pillow if you wish to doze off during the rest period.
Water bottle and medicines (if any)
Jacket and other woolens for outdoor walking meditation
Your reading glasses for chanting
Snacks for sharing with everyone during break period (optional)
Your favorite cushion (we have many 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?
What would you like your work period to look like? (Optional, See notes on changing traditional work-period here)
Part-time participants: Please let us do our best to arrive during a break period (e.g., 7:35, 9:15, 10:50 AM or 12:00, 3:50 or 4:20 PM etc) 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, water bottles and food in the living area before coming downstairs to the meditation room.
**These work periods are called samu in Zen tradition and focus on silently bringing the clarity, equanimity, energy and compassion from our seated meditation practice to chores in our daily lives. Participants are encouraged to continue their focus on their breathing or on their koans while engaging in simple and often repetitive tasks that do not involve too much discriminating thinking or analysis. Traditionally, samu revolves around maintaining/cleaning the sitting environment (e.g., meditation room or kitchen) or tending to the garden or farm (if any, for food and healing). In addition to these traditional tasks that were central to the lifestyle of poor monks in Asia, we invite you to discuss the possibility of designing a task for yourself that is healing for yourself while contributing towards “one movement” towards ecological and socio-economic sanity — that is serving our world towards justice, joy, equality and kindness. One could potentially choose any activity that can be done at the venue with available supplies and does not distract others. Here are a couple of examples: silently fixing bikes for homeless people, working on art pieces that allow expression of how you are feeling (and perhaps are used later to raise money for climate or social action). Please keep in mind, though, that sometimes working on our own healing is what is the most powerful way to serve everyone. If you have not ever done long meditation sessions, perhaps you should choose a simple silent task that doesn’t involve too much planning.