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.
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 our virtual sesshin.
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.
We will chant a shortened version of the Tahoma Sutras. These are done in the order printed in the Virtual Sutra Book beginning with the Maha Prajna Parmita Sutra (Heart Sutra) through to the Four Great Vows. After this will be sampai (three prostrations), before we begin zazen.
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 opem 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.
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.
Before taking part in a Virtual Event at Tahoma please read this post:
Guidelines for Virtual Events
Download the sutra book here: Virtual Sutra book
To receive the links for the Virtual Events by email:
Tahoma Virtual Events mailing list.
Notes and sources for some Dharma talks will be posted here, after the end of session.
Typical Virtual Retreat Schedule
|5:00am||Choka (Sutras); sampai|
|5:40am||Zazen [short period]; Kinhin|
|7:00am||Breakfast / samu / break|
|10:00am*||Zazen [can be outside, weather permitting]|
|11:00am||Zazen [can be outside, weather permitting]|
|12pm||Lunch / break|
|2:00pm||Dharma Talk; Zazen; Kinhin|
|5:00pm||Dinner / Break|
|6:00pm||Uninterrupted Zazen; Kinhin|
|7:00pm||Zazen; Zazen; Kinhin|
|9:00pm||Kaichin / Yaza|
Events in Bold will be streamed, events in Italics are self-directed.
*For a “samu sesshin” we do an additional hour of samu. Otherwise it is another zazen period.