Sesshin Guidelines

Guidelines and reminders are not necessarily given in order of importance.

* All group activities are required : Zazen, Teisho, meal, samu (work practice), and the exercise period.  If you need to be excused from some group activity, please communicate with one of the jisharyo. Generally, serious medical reasons are  the only acceptable excuses . If you need to miss sitting periods for medical reasons, you may be asked to sit on the gaitan.

There is flexibility in samu assignments- from kitchen help to manual labor to light cleaning.  Samu is an integral part of the daily schedule. Everyone participates.

* Please refrain from socializing during the sesshin and maintain Noble Silence. Functional conversations pertaining to work facts and short questions are permitted. Leave social talk about outside events for before and after sesshin.

*We ask married couples to step out of their normal relationship and direct their entire energies toward “RESOLUTION OF THE GREAT MATTER.”

*It is customary to refrain from reading and writing during Osesshin. Notes may be taken in daily Teisho (dharma talk) and to briefly record your sanzen (dharma interview).

*TELEPHONES: Telephone use will be limited to EMERGENCY USE ONLY. Tahoma’s only number is (360)331-4142.  Messages will be relayed to sesshin participants only if they concern emergency situations. PHONES WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE FOR BUSINESS OR CASUAL USE DURING OSESSHIN. Please observe this restriction with your own cell phones, as well. You can use your smart phone as a clock but on airplane mode. Please maintain the spirit of retreat and get your business into enough order to permit an uninterrupted week of intensified practice. Please ask for your loved ones’ and/or business associates’ cooperation in this. Please plan to be un-plugged!

* ZENDO: PLEASE, NO SOCKS, HATS, GLOVES, WATCHES, JEWELRY, STRONG FRAGRANCE, FOOD, OR WATER in the zendo.  NO COLORED NAIL POLISH, HANDS OR FEET.  If you need to carry a timepiece with you, please keep it in a pocket, not worn on your wrist.


Clothing should be appropriate: dark, plain colored clothing loose enough to permit comfortable sitting. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are not appropriate. If you are ordained, robes should be worn in the zendo and for such activities as teisho and tea with the Roshi. Exceptions to the rules about wearing socks in the zendo can be made for medical reasons. Please speak with one of the jisharyo.

If you need to change position in the zendo during a round of sitting, please do so as unobtrusively as possible. Please make every effort to keep position and breathe quietly. IT IS PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE TO STAND FOR AN ENTIRE ROUND OF ZAZEN. This means finding a comfortable standing position and holding it for the duration of the time period. This does not mean standing up and sitting down again during one period. The position you take should be for the entire round.

During teisho, it is OK to stand, especially if you are trying to keep awake. You may sit down again, discretely. This is different from a round of zazen.

During a round of zazen, you may stand, but you should keep the same still position for the entire time period.

During the stretch breaks between rounds, please do not stretch your legs straight out into the zendo. Please stretch them to the side or stand up to stretch.

If you need to change positions frequently during sitting periods, you will be asked to sit on the gaitan (visitors’ mat).

*ZENDO ABSENCES: If you need to be absent from the zendo for any part of the day during an osesshin, you should:

  1. Inform one of the jisharyo when you will be gone and when you will return. (Otherwise, they will go to look for you.)
  2. Fold over tanbuton cushions to the back and place the zafu on top.

For a chair, a rectangular support cushion can be folded back to signify temporary absence

If you will be absent for a day or more:

  1. Inform jisharyo of departure and expected return
  2. Be aware that your cushions, jihatsu, and tea cup will be removed from the zendo for the duration of your absence

UPON RETURN TO THE ZENDO FROM ANY ABSENCE, YOU SHOULD BOW TO THE JISHARYO SEATED AT THE END OF YOUR TAN (row) before returning to your place and settling your cushions.

If a medical condition causes you to be absent from the zendo, please inform one of the jisharyo where you will be.

* JISHARYO: There will be several jisharyo (assistants to the head monk). They will be introduced at the orientation meeting. Their job is to keep things running smoothly so that everyone can concentrate completely on zazen. They take care of such things as opening and closing doors, turning lights off and on, etc., etc. If you need to miss a round for any reason, please let one of the jisharyo know. If you are unaccounted for during any round of zazen, one of them will go to look for you. If you have a question, need, or problem, please contact one of the jisharyo. If possible and appropriate, the situation will be taken care of. The jisharyo may ask you to comply with any zendo rule.

*KEISAKU: The orientation will include a demonstration if you need to know how to ask for the keisaku (the so-called “encouragement stick”). The keisaku will be administered only to those who request it.

DO NOT ENTER THE ZENDO WHEN THE KEISAKU IS MOVING. If you are unable to see whether or not the keisaku is moving, the head monk will direct you.

*SANZEN: The route from the zendo and the waiting areas will be pointed out during the orientation meeting. There will also be a demonstration of the bows to be made upon entering and leaving the sanzen audience, if you need to be refreshed on this point.

If you are one of the 3 people next in order to leave for sanzen, stay at your cushion during kinhin. Please RETURN DIRECTLY FROM SANZEN TO THE ZENDO. A short toilet break is okay, but it is not an opportunity for a nature walk or any other activities.

* KINHIN: The kinhin (walking meditation) routes will be decided by the head monk. Please make every effort to maintain concentration while moving. If you need to use the toilet, please go at the beginning of kinhin, if possible, so that the kinhin time does not need to be extended for stragglers. Bow when entering and exiting the kinhin line as well as when someone bows into line in front of you.

*WAKEUP: There will be a wakeup bell each morning. If you are setting an alarm for a nap or to begin zazen early, please take others into full consideration and take precautions not to wake them. If you are leaving or entering a sleeping area at an unusual time, please go quietly in a manner that will not disturb others.

*ILLNESS: Please take good care of yourself. If you regularly take prescription medications, please continue to do so throughout the osesshin. Osesshin schedule can be strenuous. Please maintain your health. Stay rigorously hydrated.  DRINK ENOUGH WATER. There are bathroom breaks every hour during sitting.

Take precautions not to spread colds and flu through the sangha.  WASH YOUR HANDS FREQUENTLY. IF YOU ARE SNEEZING OR COUGHING, PLEASE COVER YOUR MOUTH. COUGH INTO YOUR SLEEVE TO PREVENT SPRAYING GERMS INTO THE ROOM. If you become too sick to sit, please speak with one of the jisharyo before absenting yourself. High fever, projectile vomiting, and violent diarrhea are considered acceptable reasons to leave the zendo.

Sanitizing efforts are made during samu in routine cleanup and during food preparation & serving.

First Aid kits are located in several strategic spots.

If you are coughing or contagious, you will not be permitted to work in the kitchen.

There will be an acupuncturist available for treating acute physical problems which interfere with zazen. If an acute situation arises, speak with one of the jisharyo and an acupuncturist will be asked to help you during a samu period.

If you are dangerously allergic to insect stings, please let one of the jisharyo know at the orientation meeting.

*IF THERE IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, get the designated staff member (for example, jisharyo, head monk) to help. Keep calm. Dr. Ann Cutcher is usually at Enso House and can help with most medical problems. Enso phone number will be posted.  911 response to Tahoma is usually under 10 minutes. Often there are medical professionals in the zendo. Staff will ask them for help if it is appropriate.

*CLEANUP: Cleaning up after the sesshin is important, and is really the final stage of the retreat. It offers a good opportunity for transition “back into the world”, performing necessary chores while maintaining sesshin energy. Please plan to stay until the monastery has been restored to its normal order.

*SHOES: Please get in and out of your shoes as quickly as possible. When removing, putting on, or storing shoes, be considerate of the people following you. Traffic jams at doorways occur very easily. If shoes are muddy or very wet,  mats for people to wipe their feet. You will be asked to select and label a spot for your shoes on the shoe rack outside the zendo. If this spot does not work for traffic flow, select a different one.

* LAUNDRY: No laundry is done during osesshin. The exception is that the kitchen may do washing as necessary. During month long training periods laundry will be available during the afternoon of transition days.

* BATHING: Traditionally, there is a bath only on day 4. At Tahoma, we are not so strict, but showers are very few and their use should be limited. Showers are designated for men or women. Please be sure to keep the bathrooms clean and neat. PLEASE BE CONSCIENTIOUS ABOUT MAKING NOISE. Tahoma’s plumbing is not notable for its quiet. For instance, the women’s bathroom shares a wall with the laundry, where someone will be sleeping.

*TOILETS: There will be designated men’s and women’s toilets, “unisex” and portable toilets. The monastery is on a septic system, so please be very careful not to dispose of anything other than toilet paper in the toilets.  Please keep the toilet areas clean.

* KITCHEN: The cooks make every effort to provide healthy, nutritious meals. Please inform the kitchen if you have a serious food allergy. This does not include dietary ‘preferences.’ At each meal, we will try to provide the option of plain rice and vegetables, for those who want a non-dairy, vegan, or non-wheat diet.

The kitchen will be, as much as possible, an extension of the zendo, run with necessary talking only and as quietly as possible.

Daily kitchen wash up helpers will be announced, by sitting section on the “Tan” (sitting platform of tatami mats) in the zendo. Jikijitsu tan is the side of the zendo where the head monk/ timekeeper sits. It includes those sitting along the wall and middle section of that side of the room. Tanto tan is the side of the zendo where Harada Roshi and Daichi Roshi sit, including the wall tan (platform) and middle tan.

Please stay out of the kitchen unless you are working there or have business there. Those working in the kitchen are doing their best to sustain their own deep concentrated practice.

* JIHATSU: Traditional nested bowls are used for all meals during sesshin. If you need to be shown how to use them, a demonstration will be given. When handling the jihatsu for meals, please do so as quietly as possible. Jihatsu will be supplied by Tahoma, though you may use your own, if you prefer.  Jihatsu video:

* SAMU (work period): Daily jobs will be assigned. The work period is opened and closed with the striking of the taku (wooden clappers). Samu is an opportunity to carry your concentration from stillness on the cushion to the activity of a job.

* BREAKS: Tea will be available in a designated area during breaks. Please clean up after yourself. Please maintain silence and concentration during any breaks. During Kosesshin quiet small talk is permissible.

*VISITORS: There will be visitors for teisho, meals, and/or tea with Roshi. The jisharyo or one of the sesshin organizers will greet visitors and help them get settled. Please integrate visitors as smoothly as possible, without disrupting your focus, concentration, or the energy of the sesshin.

* NETTLES: Stinging nettles are abundant and thriving on the monastery grounds, during spring, summer, and fall. If you are not familiar with the nettle plant, please ask someone to point it out. The welts raised by nettles are irritating, uncomfortable. If stung, immediately rub the underside of a nearby fern (brown spots on underside of leaf) on affected area for immediate relief.