Sesshin (from the Japanese ses, “collect”, and shin, “heart-mind”) is an intensive period of meditation practice. During sesshin, we follow a strict schedule that allows us to more deeply enter our breath and focus on this very moment.
Hoen-ji offers four three-day sesshins each year. During sesshin, our regular schedule is suspended and our doors are closed to visitors.
If you are new to sesshin, consult with a senior practitioner before registering. Part-time registration is allowed, but full-time registration is encouraged and given priority over part-time registration. If you are attending sesshin part-time, please be sure to secure a schedule for the particular sesshin you are attending in order not to disrupt meditation sessions.
If you have attended sesshin with other centers, you may wish to consult with a senior practitioner regarding how sesshins at Hoen-ji are different and the relationship you have with any other teachers.
On-site, hostel-style overnight accommodations are available. Showers are not allowed during sesshin (to conserve water); summer sesshin may be an exception, and a shower schedule will be posted.
What to expect
- Expect to be physically, mentally, and emotionally challenged. Sesshin offers relatively few opportunities for rest, long periods of meditation that are likely to result in physical discomfort, and prohibition of many of the physical and emotional creature comforts that adorn everyday life.
- Expect to withstand physical discomfort during meditation. Most discomfort experienced during meditation arises naturally; often, it is a symptom of emotional discomfort. Do your best to breathe through what is not comfortable for you. It is likely that, if you are feeling discomfort, others are as well. Cultivate stillness, particularly for those who are also uncomfortable. Of course, if you feel you are in danger of breaking a bone or otherwise seriously damaging your body, please tend to yourself. If you have a condition whereby sitting completely still for 45 minutes is likely to cause damage to you, please consult with a senior student before registering for sesshin.
- Expect to embody silence with your voice and your actions. If an emergency arises, please notify a senior student; you can expect to speak with Shinge Roshi in dokusan (private interviews about your practice); and some work assignments may require you to coordinate activities verbally. As a general rule, refrain from any unnecessary speech; you may be surprised at how little is truly necessary.
- Expect to attend everything on the schedule.
- Expect to pay close attention to the conduct of senior students and others around you. Much of sesshin includes intricate forms; while they may not be explained to you explicitly, we strive to harmonize our actions, and you should be aware of and prepared to follow the actions of those senior to you.
- Expect to have no contact with the outside world. You may bring your cell phone with you, but turn it off before sesshin begins. The Zen Center’s phone is regularly checked during sesshin. In the event of an emergency, you can leave your contacts our telephone number, as well as include it in an away message on your voice mail.
What to bring
- A sleeping bag, pillow, and toiletries, if staying overnight
- Comfortable, loose-fitting clothing for meditation (refer to Zendo Procedures for guidelines concerning clothing that is not acceptable). It is helpful if this clothing can be layered
- Clothing for work assignments (indoor cleaning and/or outdoor work)
- Prescription medications
- A clean pair of white socks, which are sometimes worn during ceremonial chanting
- Slip-on shoes
- Optionally, you may bring an offering of light snacks (e.g., crackers, cookies, nut butters) which will be served throughout sesshin. You may also bring an offering of food to the kitchen; contact firstname.lastname@example.org in advance of sesshin to determine what items are needed.
What not to bring
- Food containing meat
- Any alcohol whatsoever
- Any illegal drugs or substances
- Weaponry of any kind
- Musical instruments, CD players, digital music players, etc.
- Scented toiletries
Typically, the schedule for sesshin follows the format outlined below:
6:00pm: Arrival and settle in. Be in the Zendo (meditation hall) well before 7pm.
7:00pm: Opening ceremony
7:30pm: Zazen (meditation); orientation for new sesshin participants
8:10pm: Kinhin (walking meditation)
9:00pm: Kaichin (end of structured zazen); retire or yaza (unstructured meditation)
Friday & Saturday
5:00am: Kaijo (wake-up bell; be in the Zendo before 5:20)
5:20am: Fast Kinhin
5:30am: Choka (morning chanting service)
6:45am: Sarei (tea), zazen
7:30am: Shukuza (formal breakfast)
8:00am: Nittensoji (temple cleaning)
10:00am: Zazen, dokusan (individual meetings with Shinge Roshi), kinhin
12:00pm: Saiza (formal lunch)
12:30pm: Rest period and/or work-practice
2:00pm: Zazen, kinhin
3:00pm: Teisho (talk by Shinge Roshi) or Dharma Talk (by senior student), kinhin
4:00pm: Zazen or yoga
5:00pm: Yakuseki (formal supper)
6:30pm: Tedai Denpo (lineage) chanting, zazen, kinhin
9:00pm: Kaichin, yaza
Follows schedule for Friday and Sunday until 2:00pm
2:00pm: Zazen, dokusan, kinhin
4:00pm: New members ceremony, closing ceremony
4:30pm: Group photograph, dismissed