Sesshin: Part II
October 11, 2010 by Yugen
Last night was the opening of the October 7-day sesshin, number two of the three sesshin that are the cornerstones of each training period at Yokoji. It has been a busy few days! As I mentioned in my last entry, we had a guest group booked in for this weekend just gone. A few people dropped out at the last minute and many of the residents weren't around, so the actual figures for cooking was more like 40 per meal, rather than the anticipated 50. We are used to catering for a lot of yoga and meditation groups. Many of the yogis that pass through seem to subsist on equal parts water, sunshine and rice crackers and are therefore fairly straight forward creatures to provide for. As long as there is plenty of salad and fruit, things seem to go smoothly. This group, as it turned out, were all men. And not only were they all men, but they were all men with man-size appetites. Luckily I had a crack team in the kitchen on Saturday morning (thanks guys) and we knocked out 3 meals which were proportioned (according to our usual portions) for about 60 people, and all of which were completely eaten by the retreat participants. Along with a large batch of cookies and about 10 pots of coffee. Jishin took back over on Sunday and made enough lunch for the guys plus all the usual Sunday program visitors. Which was a lot. They were a first time group, and I hope they might come back again, appetites and all.
For this sesshin, we have a few trainees for whom it will be their first 7-day sesshin and for some, their first sesshin at all. Looking at the schedule for sesshin, it seems like a fairly straight forward operation - turn up for the things listed and do them. Hard to see what can go wrong, really. But, the intensity is such that at any time, experiences varying from deep joy to deep sadness can come from out of left field. This morning I got very upset over what in the end didn't really amount to much - this took me by surprise. The emotion seemed to come out of nowhere and the echoes of it stayed with me for a few hours and then it passed. Weirdly, the last time I remember this happening was exactly a year ago during the October sesshin 2009, which I can pinpoint exactly as it related to a Facebook post from that time involving jars of tomato chutney! My point is that for me, sesshin is very powerful and almost mysterious in the way emotions, thoughts, memories and other experiences can suddenly come up and then pass away just as quickly. There is nothing quite like it that I have come across. Long live sesshin!