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Thread: At home Sesshin

  1. #1

    At home Sesshin

    Hi all

    I imagine this has been asked before so please feel free to direct me to older threads dealing with the same topic.

    My kids are away with their mother for a week in August (at a Theravadin family camp incidentally) and I would like to take the time to do a five day (probably) at home Sesshin. I have done at home retreats before but not Sesshin which will be different. I have also never attended a Sesshin before whereas I know the format of other retreat types. I want to sit as much as I can but due to my chronic illness have to balance what I would like to do with what is physically possible/sensible. A 4.30 start is not feasible and an afternoon nap might have to be scheduled in.

    So, questions:

    1. From what I summise, Sesshin seems to largely consist of 40-50 minutes of Zazen followed by 10-20 minutes kinhin which is repeated between mealtimes with a short break after meals. Is this pretty much so?

    2. Previously on at home retreats I have listened to one predetermined dharma talk each day as part of the practice. Is this a good idea or is it best to leave the mind with as little mental stimuli as possible?

    3. I have previously journalled at the end of each day about practice, how I was feeling etc for future reference. Again, I have heard this be both recommended and not. Any thoughts?

    4. Regarding food - is it good to have pretty much the same thing each day and plan this in advance? I know this is usually done in a ritualised way during Sesshin. How best to incorporate this?

    5. Any other advice concerning conditions around the Sesshin? I will be leaving most electronic devices off (laptop, tv, radio etc) but have to have the cell phone on in case of my ex-wife or mother needing to contact me. I will not be reading dharma or other material. Contact with other people will not be sought but I might have to talk to the postman or someone knocking at the door!

    Thank you in advance


  2. #2
    Hi Andy,

    I have been on quite a few but never done an 'at home, so I can give you some answers to your questions from my experience.

    1. A typical day is broken up into between 6 & 9 sessions of zazen. These are usually 2 x30 to 50 minutes interspersed with a 10 minute Kinhin.
    2.Most sesshins in my experience have dharma talks (teisho) but some do not.

    3. I have done this when on retreat and found it useful.

    4.Again in my experience, and others here will have different views. It is not necessary to have the same thing everyday but it is best to keep it simple. In the monasteries I have been to and other retreats food has always been vegetarian. Altho' in Theravada monasteries the monks eat what is offered in alms but guests can choose. There is always the meal chant except perhaps for snacks after a dharma talk.
    5. Your plans seem spot on here.

    Here is a schedule of a sesshin that I have. It is a Rohatsu schedule so a little more intense than some. I have others somewhere that I have been to that are not so intense. I'll dig them out if they are useful.

    5:30 Wake up bell
    6:00 Zazen
    6:30 Kinhin
    6:40 Zazen
    7:15 Kinhin
    7:25 Zazen
    8:00 Service
    8:20 Breakfast
    9:00 Break
    9:30 – 11:00 Kitch-Prep
    9:50 Zazen
    10:20 Kinhin
    10:30 Zazen
    11:00 Kinhin
    11:10 Zazen
    11:50 Service
    12:10 Lunch
    12:50 Break / Soji
    14:20 Tea in D Rm
    14:50 Zazen
    15:40 Kinhin
    15:50 Zazen
    16:30 Kinhin
    16:40 Zazen
    17:20 Kinhin
    17:30 Zazen
    18:00 Service
    18:15 Dinner
    18:50 Break
    {19:30 Dharma Talk or
    19:45 Zazen}
    20:15 BthRm Break or Kinhin
    20:25 Zazen
    21:00 Kinhin
    21:10 Zazen
    21:40 Refuges

    Hope this helps



  3. #3
    Hi Karasu,

    If it is helpful, we still have our 2-day Rohatsu Retreats available for live sitting at any time. There is also preparatory material to get started (on making an "at home" Oryoki set and the like). Here is last Rohatsu ...


    ... and the year before, which still should be visible. Time schedules are as stated ...

    You will also find a booklet of retreat pointers for our "at home" online retreat ...

    ... plus a Chant Book to download ...

    Also, especially with your physical condition, heed the note:

    OF COURSE, EVERYTHING IN MODERATION ... if the sitting ever feels too much, be sure to walk lots and lots of Kinhin (even if during a sitting period). And if the whole retreat becomes too much, or you feel ill, you may slow down ... , spread things out, shorten the sittings ... or STOP! Be sure that you have someone close by whom you can call, or who can check on you from time to time. If there is any question about health, do not take any chances!
    Let me know if you have any other questions.

    Gassho, and good sitting! Jundo

  4. #4
    Thank you both. That is very helpful. I may well use the two day Ango recording for the first two days and the two schedules are very useful.


  5. #5
    Let me mention that Taigu and I strongly encourage folks ... if you can find the time ... to go for retreats for a weekend, but better a few days or full Sesshin (even a full week or two if you can) at places, and "traditional" (i.e., very Japanese style) retreats and Sesshin are good experiences. There are several good places to experience that in North America and Europe, and it is good to be in a place where one can rub shoulders with others, living together for a few days. If someone can't go to a bricks and mortar location for such a retreat, we have our Annual "All Online" two-day Retreat too (each December, via live netcast) at Treeleaf Sangha ... traditional (yet "fully online" ... and available to sit any timeless, all year round) ...

    ... but this is a case where it is actually good to go to a retreat center and practice with folks for a time (if at all possible ... which it ain't for everybody).

    Taigu and I strongly encourage folks to go for retreats for intensive sittings, Sesshin, of many days ... even a week or two or longer ... waking early in the morning, sitting late into the evening. All Zen Teachers that I know do. Why? I usually write this:

    Now, someone might ask too, "if each moment is all time and space, and Zazen is 'good for nothing', what is the purpose of an intensive Sesshin?" Well, I often say that, sometimes, we need to practice a bit long and hard, morning to night ... sitting and wrestling with 'me, my self and I' ... all to achieve nothing to attain, and taste the good of 'good for nothing'! Going to Retreats, Sesshin and such is a powerful facet of this Practice and not to be missed.
    At most Zen Sesshin I know, folks sit many times a day, for 30, 40 or 45 minutes at a time, two or three times back to back, in many sets each day. Most intersperse work periods, lecture periods, eating periods, break periods, sleep period, chanting periods ... but all are one, continuous flowing Zazen in its wider meaning. Most still have lots and lots of sitting on the Zafu sitting (especially in Soto Zen).

    It is really not a matter of long or short, start or finish ... and thus it is very good to sometimes sit long. I truly recommend it as integral to this Practice. We sit long and hard sometimes because it truly is not a matter of quantity or the clock or anything to gain!

    Strange, huh!?

    It is also not a matter of place ... and we should "sit Zazen" too in the hospital bed, death bed, nursery room, grocery line, city bus. Nonetheless, we go to the Retreat at the Zen Center or temple or monastery to sit in a room on a Zafu, precisely because it is not a matter of "where" or "place."

    Strange, huh!?

    However, if people can't go to a Sesshin because of a physical limitation or other impossibility, that is okay too! If really it is not possible, sit right where one is (or if in that hospital bed, have one's sesshin reclining right there!)

    Strange, huh!?

    If one sits with greed and desire to attain, than it does not matter if it is 5 seconds or 50 hours or 5000 years ... a waste of time.

    If one sits free of greed and desire to attain, than a second is a second of Buddha, 5000 years just 5000 years of Buddha.

    This we sit each day ... beyond and right through-and-through the ticking clock. If done with greed, 50 minutes 14 times a day is much too long and much too short AT ONCE! ... what Sawaki Roshi called "sitting with a thief's mind".

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6
    Hi guys,

    Sounds like my usual day as a "stay at home" dad Our house ( and the whole world) is my temple and I'm all six temple stewards ( Roku Chi) all rolled into one. It's just the way we look at everything we do that makes the differrance. With more sitting and a bit longer days, it is almost a Sessin and that is how I try to look at it every day.

    ( Pun intended here)

    Getting up
    Sitting 30 min
    Preparing breakfast
    Bring kids to school
    More cleaning
    Treeleaf sangha ( Dokusan, sewing, etc.) and other social activities
    Out to get the groceries and run errands
    Picking up the kids
    Tea and quality time with the kids
    Wife comes home
    Cocking dinner
    Doing the dishes
    Putting the kids to bed
    Organizing the house after kids
    Tea and quality time with wife

    For example, I mention cleaning ( eventhough things never become dirty) especially here because cleaning is a great way to practice! Clean body and house filled with happy people, is a reflection of a clean mind ( See Shobogenzo chapter seven: Senjo). The act of cleaning is both purifying and the puryfied mind. Now, that is just very cool! Since I read that chapter I don't mind cleaning anymore .

    Of course I forgot many, many of the little things that go one around here. A normal day, like most of us. Nothing special but if you look at it right, it’s all practice! And that is what is meant by living Zen I think?





  7. #7
    WONDERFUL, your "Dad-Sesshin Schedule" Enkyo! Yes, all Practice. One man chants, one man sings children's bedtime lullabies. One man bows to Buddha, one man bows to pick up kid's toys on floor.


    Gassho, J

  8. #8
    Yes, wonderful, Enkyo. Dad Sesshin!

    I am just about to go do some cleaning practice with the dishes. Nothing special yet all of life is there.


  9. #9
    Very nice - thanks, Enkyo!


    no thing needs to be added

  10. #10
    So true Enkyo, so true ... this is wonderful.


  11. #11

    Present action indeed.


    Last edited by Myosha; 07-08-2013 at 03:48 PM. Reason: stupid spelling correcter, detector,checker. . .
    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  12. #12
    Everyday Zen!


  13. #13
    Thank you Jundo and Enkyo. Gassho.
    Heisoku 平 息
    Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. (Basho)

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    WONDERFUL, your "Dad-Sesshin Schedule" Enkyo! Yes, all Practice. One man chants, one man sings children's bedtime lullabies. One man bows to Buddha, one man bows to pick up kid's toys on floor.


    Gassho, J
    Oh I can so relate to that. The issue for me, is learning to recognize picking up toys, or any of these other daily routines as part of the practice. And Enkyo, your house must be so clean, if you want more "practice" by all means, come and clean mine!! I can't stand having a dirty house, I know it's an attachment, but it's one that I just don't think I can get rid of


  15. #15
    I have just completed a do it yourself home sesshin. It was three days in a shed/ summerhouse at the top of my garden away from the house and family. I kind of followed the routines of the Rohatsu but without the oryoki or dharma talks. I did sleep there as well.
    I ate with the family as there were things I had to do but the rest of the time was zazen which I sat in sessions of 2 periods of 30 mins followed by slow kinhin. I sat 5 of these sessions a day. It was a worthwhile experience as it it dispelled the worries I felt about not being able to sit so much.
    On the first day my upper back started aching but after a night on a camp bed my shoulders separated and my neck released which was wonderful. The continual sitting kind of flipped my experience, as shikantaza became the 'norm' and not-sitting the unusual!
    The second day was calm and bright but by the evening I realised my knees were in some pain. I hadn' t realised but the zafu I had been using had slowly compressed so was no longer supporting me above the floor! I retrieved my drill cotton zafu for the remainder of the sitting and my knees recovered.
    I feel that in sitting this retreat I can face a longer sesshin and look forward to deepening my practice further. Waking early at sunrise and sitting as the world unfurls is amazing. My only advice is to not plan too strictly and make sure you do the sitting. Have a go!
    Last edited by Heisoku; 08-21-2013 at 11:23 AM.
    Heisoku 平 息
    Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. (Basho)

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