May 12th-16th: Virtual Sesshin Tahoma Zen Monastery
We are holding a five day sesshin at Tahoma Zen Monastery with four blocks broadcast online throughout the day. All are welcome to tune in the broadcasts (links below) as they are able. While we hope that some are able to adopt the Sesshin Spirit and participate as if they were here in person, we encourage everyone to use this time as best serves them. Anyone can join in for any of the periods on any of the days as they are able.
How to best take advantage of the Virtual Sesshin Think of the sesshin just as you would one that you are attending in person. Leave behind non-essential activities. Maintain sesshin spirit throughout the day and avoid media, non-functional conversation, casual entertainments and other distractions. During the samu period engage mindfully, as you would at the monastery, in cleaning your residence, working in the garden, perhaps even into the community. Sesshin always comes down to ones aspiration, commitment and dedication. Fully throw yourself into the practice, vow to awaken during this sesshin, turn off your notifications and just sit.
Sesshin Approach This sesshin’s theme is Empty Awareness and is oriented around solitary practice. In this time of quarantine, stay at home orders and lockdown we are not able to practice in person with the sangha and interact with the teacher. In Zen working with the teacher is essential, at the very least, as a check on where we are at. Other practices such as koan study depend completely on engagement with the teacher. But there are myriad practices that are very fruitful on ones own and can be consistently used in conjunction with working with a teacher. This has been the orientation of all of our recent instruction and we will continue and deepen our exploration of this approach in this sesshin.
Outside Practice One of the essential approaches we will work with is Being Outside. In classical Ch’an there was little distinction made between landscape and practice and there were myriad practices to move beyond that sense of separateness we feel from the natural word. Some of these practices will be explored and there are times on the schedule for working with these practices. If you are able to walk around outside, in your neighborhood, or in a nearby woods, beach or field, we encourage you to take advantage of that and engage in these practices. During the outside seating, we encourage you to take your phone or other device and sit on a deck, porch or just in front of a window.
Adapt to these as you are able: use your windows, porches, decks, backyards as you have them. Put on a mask and walk around your neighborhood. Maintain Physical Distancing. Your safety is the upmost importance so do everything as it makes sense. We would encourage a physical practice that can be done inside, if there are no outside options available: Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga, Stretching, etc.
Choka (Sutras) We will chant a shortened version of the Tahoma Sutras. These are done in the order printed in the Tahoma Sutra book beginning with the Maha Prajna Parmita Sutra (Heart Sutra) through to the Four Great Vows, skipping the Enmei Jukko Kannon Gyo. After the Four Great Vows we will chant Dai Segaki for the victims of the virus pandemic. This can be found in our supplemental chant book. After this will be sampai (three prostrations), before we begin zazen.
Kinhin Kinhin, (walking meditation), periods will be held every fifty minutes, except when a block ends. This practice is one of both mindfulness as well as its own empty awareness practice. Do this as you are able, walking around the room, or through your house, or outside even. Keep the volume up on your computer or device to be able to hear clappers and announcements. This is of course the time for bathroom breaks. As with all of these practices you will get out of this what you put into it.
Technical Considerations We are using Zoom Meeting software for this Virtual Sesshin which is available for all devices and platforms. Zoom is meant for virtual meetings and we are pushing its limitations for these events. It manipulates audio when it gets too loud and tries to eliminate background sound. Look into your audio settings and turn on ‘Original Sound’ and turn off noise-cancelling options. Be sure to keep your microphone off at all times. You do not need to display your own video and it will help with bandwidth to keep it off. If you set a profile picture that image will be sent instead of video and is a nice, low bandwidth option.
The most important thing is to simply accept that there will be technical difficulties. Sometimes the sound will drop out or the app will crash. We must just roll with it and put our training to use in not being pushed around by it. We will do our utmost to keep things flowing and reset things as there are issues. But when in doubt, just keep sitting and mind the schedule. We can’t help with technical issues during broadcasts but do email with any questions.
Choka (Sutras); sampai
Zazen [short period]; Kinhin
Breakfast / samu / break
Outside Zazen [on zendo deck, weather permitting]
Lunch / break
Dharma Talk; Zazen; Kinhin
Dinner / Break
Uninterrupted Zazen; Kinhin
Zazen; Zazen; Kinhin
Kaichin / Yaza
All times Pacific Standard Time. Events in Bold will be streamed, events in Italics are self-directed. Download the full schedule here: May Sesshin Schedule.
Tahoma Status for May, 2020 Washington State’s Stay At Home policy has been extended through May as we ramp up testing. We are following the mandate and there is no public zazen and no in person events through the month. As certain milestones are met Washington will progress through Four Phases of opening’ each phase allowing for a wider range of activities with increasingly larger groups permitted. When we arrive at Phase Two we will open up for daily zazen with limit of five (5) people in the zendo. When we reach Phase Three we will open again for Zazenkai, though still without the communal tea. Phase Four allows for gatherings of fifty (50) people which we are not expected to reach until August. It is not certain whether physical distancing will still be in place for these larger events, but if they are we will have to really consider what kind of events we can hold here and how to stay in alignment with the guidelines.
Between the two resources linked above we can tell where Washington is at and how far it has to go to reach the next phase. We here at Tahoma are constantly monitoring the situation and are working on how best to serve the sangha within these guidelines. As always for the most up to date information on the status of the Monastery, sesshin and other events, please continue to monitor this website. Also consider joining our email list: Monastery Messages.
After further deliberation and consultation Harada Roshi has determined that it is no longer feasible to conduct our May practice period as planned. The May 2020 practice period at Tahoma Zen Monastery is cancelled. We look forward to training together again in September.
Rozan Lenny Gerson Registrar, Tahoma Zen Monastery
Governor Jay Inslee has official put in place a ‘Stay at Home‘ order in order to try to contain the rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus. Residents of the state are now required to stay at home except for essential trips. Visits to religious institutions have not been deemed essential. While our practice is essential, it is incumbent upon us to practice on our own. To sit for our own well being and the well being of others. I trust that everyone will be mindful during this time and observe the Washington State guidelines for social distancing when one is out.
This order will last for the next month at a minimum. We will continue to update here and via the mailing list as the situation develops. But for now there are no events, no public zazen and no other activities planned here through May. We will offer various events virtually as they make sense. Again this website will contain the most updated information regarding that.
From the Washington State Governors Office
Gov. Jay Inslee spoke directly to Washingtonians to announce he will sign a statewide order that requires everyone in the state to stay home. The order will last for two weeks and could be extended.
This Stay Home, Stay Healthy order is similar to orders that other governors, in places such as California and New York, issued last week.
This proclamation will: • Require every Washingtonian to stay home unless they need to pursue an essential activity. • Ban all gatherings for social, spiritual and recreational purposes. • Close all businesses except essential businesses.
“The less time we spend in public, the more lives we will save,” Inslee said.
The proclamation states it’s still safe for people to go outside as long as they remain at least six feet from each other. Grocery stores, doctor’s offices and other essential businesses will remain open. People can still participate in activities such as bike rides, gardening, and dog walking — as long as they follow social distancing rules.
We see so many news daily changing. Of course we cannot ignore them. Yet there is no news about our breathing, that is why it is up to us to make efforts. If we get moved around by the information. If our breathing become shallow, the blood flow becomes stagnant as well. That is why we need not to ignore the information we receive through our eyes and ears, but to lengthen our breathing. 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds…. 20 seconds… the more we lengthen our breathing, the further it can be lengthened… The breathing does not happen by itself, but it is us who is creating the breathing. Looking at this carefully, we see how we use our consciousness towards outer matters, yet if our awareness which faces within becomes weak, our essence becomes empty and we easily get confused. Our consciousness becomes shallow and we get pulled around by outer information.
With each breath, exhaling down to our lower abdomen and actually feeling that taughtness in our belly. That is how we should breathe.
From the olden days it is said that in our breath dirt accumulates. You may wonder how can dirt accumulate in the breath which cannot be seen? Greed, hate and delusion. Delusion is that darkness of mind, when our mind becomes small and has not width or depth to it. This is called: Dirt of the breath.
Our breathing needs to be wide and expansive. We bring our attention back to the breathing and not looking for anything outside. Letting our breath become smooth and calm. Peaceful. Thus it needs to be expansive, needs to be majestic so that it can reach the end of the universe. Practice to let your breath expand to the other side of the world.
When our consciousness is facing outside, that is when we lose this essence in our breath. If we only follow along with outer information and do not deepen our breathing, then we are ruining our own life energy. That is a foolish thing to do.
That which supports our life is not information but our own breathing. We need this fresh breath that can reach all the cells in our body and refresh them. There is no need for a high philosophy but simply face within and align your essence.
Please do not stop your efforts, use your breathing to invigorate yourself. Then you can face with a calm mind the outer information. For this I am praying.
This event has concluded. There were some technical difficulties that we should have ironed out for next week. Do check back then for the updated link and information. If you’d like to be notified by email with the link for a virtual event please send email to email@example.com
Sunday March 22nd at 8am PST we will broadcast our Zazenkai from the Tahoma Monastery Zendo. Do please join us if you are able to. In this time of fear, worry and uncertainty it is important to sit deeply and to commune with our fellow sangha members. Caution precludes us from doing so in person, so we will host this sangha gathering via the internet.
This is the first time that we are hosting this so be prepared for some hiccups. Do download the Zoom Client for your computer or device. You can click on the Join Meeting Link below and it will walk you through installing the software. Do get yourself setup before the meeting. You can join the meeting early; you will simply wait until the host (Tahoma) starts the meeting.
All microphones will be muted by default, please keep them muted during the meeting. Due to the limitations of the internet, different connections, computer speed, bandwidth etc we cannot keep everyone in sync for chanting if everyone is broadcasting. So chant along with the densu (chant leader) and then follow the prompts from the jikijitsu (time keeper) for the rest of the service.
We have put together a PDF of the chants we are going to do at zazenkai if you would like to chant along. Along with the usual Heart Sutra and Song of Zazen we will also do Dai Sagaki chanting for the dead and dying. As usual we will conclude the service with the Four Great Vows. Download the pdf here: Zazenkai Chant Book.
The service will proceed as follows: 8am Offering of incense Han Sutra Chanting: Heart Sutra, Song of Zazen, Dai Sagaki Zazen ~20 minutes 5 minute break for Exercise, stretching, etc. Reading/Talk Zazen ~15 minutes Chanting of the Four Great Vows
We will unmute the channel at the end of the service and we can chat for a few minutes before concluding. Remember to keep the channel muted throughout the service as you can be heard by everyone.
We will not be able to provide technical support during the service. Feel free to contact us afterwards if you’d like some help for the next weeks service.
This event has now ended and the connection info has been removed.