There And Back Again

Five days of sesshin, literally “to touch the heart and mind,” an intensive Zen meditation retreat. I think there is one spot, perhaps a quarter of an inch square on my left knee that isn’t sore. And of course the physical demands of a Zen retreat are nothing compared to facing the workings of one’s mind. The worst of times. And, absolutely, the best of times. Deep spaces. Profound silences. Intimate moments, one after another. Old, old friends, and some new ones, sitting together and sitting together with the larger community of practice around the country, around the globe, all of us honoring Rohatsu, the eighth day of the twelfth month – the time we honor that morning of our dream time when Gautama Siddhartha, having lived in opulence, and rejected it, having lived in privation and self torture, and rejected it, sat silently, attentively, and in the morning looking at Venus rising, woke up…


I see…

The whole world and I…

We awake


And, now, I’m back.

A flurry of meetings, and cancellations to turn my attention to a death within the congregation, and a memorial, and the celebration and mourning of another life.

All one…

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  • Robyn

    There is nothing better than sesshin. Except, perhaps, the end of sesshin!

  • Mike

    It’s sad to say, but I feel I must say it. Sesshin has changed quite a bit since first introduced in the 60′s and 70′s here in America. There is a deliberate attempt to lessen the intensity of sesshin by introducing various “options”, like yoga/movement groups (in the afternoons usually, when everyone is a little tired of sitting?), causal times to talk and be introduced to one another, long walks in the surrounding areas, as a group. Along with shortened sittings, later rising in the mornings and earlier to bed. Maybe it reflects the aging majority that practice zen, but I don’t think so. It has more to do, as one American roshi told me, with the fact that newcomers are turned off by too much sitting, discipline and other austerities–and zendos can’t survive without the support of newcomers, so we have to adjust to their needs. But I advocate a return to disciplined, 7-day, silent, no afternoon breaks—just zazen practice, dokusan and kinhin, let the chips fall where they will.

  • Jeanne Desy

    Perhaps I should be grateful that I have lived long enough to have pain all over my body without even going to Rohatsu.

  • Madhu

    Beautiful song, always loved your choice of music. Thanks.