Periods of focused practice alternating with lighter practice periods are an ancient and vital part of Buddhist, and especially Zen, tradition. At Dharma Rain, most of our regular sesshin (retreats) take place during the more intensified fall and spring Ango practice periods of our liturgical year.
In sesshin, we have an opportunity to focus on deep meditation and inner reflection. It allows us to step outside of our everyday life and slow things down so that we can look and see more clearly into the self. It is a powerful practice difficult to describe accurately, but, like zazen itself, it has palpable effects over time.
In addition to several hours of zazen each day, the shared silence, moving through forms together as a group, work practice, formal meals (oryoki), and ceremonies gradually create a container for together-practice and a strong sense of sangha. The longer retreats include the opportunity for private interviews with teachers, lectures, and special ceremonies, as well as longer periods of meditation.
You can learn more about what happens at a retreat and the forms you are likely to encounter at Sesshin (Retreats) Forms and Zendo Forms. However, part of the experience of practice is to encounter “not knowing” and to explore how we are in relation to the unfamiliar. This is how we learn about ourselves. So don’t attempt to master the forms before your first retreat. Come with curiosity and receptivity to the experience, whatever it might be.