July 04, 2011 by Yugen
We just finished our first sesshin since the Spring Training Period. In the summer we have two or three weekend sesshin which typically start on the Friday night and finish on Sunday morning just before breakfast. We used to start on the Thursday night, but most people wouldn't make it until Friday night anyhow, so we simplified the schedule to take in just the weekend. We then have the regular Sunday morning schedule, which effectively takes the close of activities to after lunch. In essence, these sesshin are glorified zazenkai, or 'day(s) of zen'.
So is it worth it?
For the Yokoji residents the schedule isn't very different from what we would be doing during a regular weekend. However, the simple fact is that sitting, working, eating and living as a group, even for a short space of time, is powerful. For the participants who come up for the weekend, they are able to drop in to an organized schedule where everything is taken care of for them and focus on the simple yet tricky task of just being - following the breath, the sensations in the body, the sounds of the birds twittering and the jays screeching. For most folks this seems to be a breath of fresh air amidst whatever their usual workaday routine is. A weekend isn't a long period of time in which the body and mind can really settle down, but it can be enough. For the residents, and this is repeated time and again during the sharing circle at the close of sesshin, the opportunity to sit with a room full of people and share the energy that is developed as a group is extremely valuable. It is a truly supportive environment. Sesshin can be a remarkably intimate experience, with people whom there is no verbal communication and who are virtual strangers. Many people comment on this unexpected phenomenon - the person who you have just sat next to for numerous hours of zazen and whose last name you don't even know somehow feels closer than people you have known for years. As Tenshin Roshi often says; 'We do this practice together'.
We have one final sesshin of the summer before going in to the Fall Training Period. The sesshin takes place August 5th-7th and we are taking bookings now. Go to www.zmc.org/events for details and the sign up form if you would like to join in.