After reading Eika's post I am inspired to detail a few suggestions regarding to going to a new zen center for a retreat.
IF I HAVE POSTED THIS BEFORE, PLEASE FORGIVE ME (and skip to more interesting topics).
The great thing about retreats is that everything is planned out and organized by others, all one literally needs to do is follow along. I have been to retreats at several different places, often it being my first time there, adn they are all the same - zazen, kinhin, zazen, chanting service, breakfast, break, samu, etc. The order might be slightly different, but again, you just follow what everybody else is doing, and it all happens. That being said, there are a few suggestions I have. But I think the most important thing (and usually the hardest) is to be kind to self, not beating self up if I don't bow at the right time or other little things. Firstplease know that no one there is thinking "what an idiot, doesn't everyone know that it is three bows after the Heart Sutra, not four!" Try to give yourself the kindness you naturally give everyone else. That said, bows are usually done singly or in threes.
- First (to me most important) find out who you go to if you have a question or a problem. This will not be the teacher (as one might expect) but rather a senior student who is in charge for that particular retreat. Often called the Shusso. And when they someone says, "oh it's Jinho for this retreat" restrain the urge to strangle and quietly ask "um, how do I know who Jinho is?" The second issue is how to communicate with this person. Some places wish you to write notes and give it to the person, so as to better maintain silence. Otherwise (please note the routine) go to the Shusso, do a small standing gassho bow (this indicates to the Shusso that you need their attention) ask your question very quietly (possibly sort of whisper it half way to their ear or something), receive your answer, do another small standing gassho bow (as a way of saying thank you and goodbye) and leave. Before asking a question, take a minute to think if you really need to ask the question or maybe it can wait or get resolved later.