Attending a Sesshin

If you have never attended a sesshin or Beginner's Mind with us before please call us and speak to the registrar to discern if participating in a sesshin is appropriate for you: (503) 728-0654.

What is "sesshin"?
Sesshin is an intensive, silent, group meditation retreat within which each practicioner is engaged in directly seeing into the nature of life and death. It is also an opportunity to deepen our meditation practice and embody a clear mind and open heart.

What to expect

Sesshin are held in silence. After the opening remarks and are made the first night, we enter silence and maintain it until the closing announcements on the final day. During sesshin we meditate together between 8-12 hours a day. We usually meditate in 25 minute periods. The periods are usually separated by a wiggle bell. The wiggle bell is a chance to adjust your posture or change sitting equipment. Kinhin (walking meditation) usually follows two 25-minute periods of zazen, and lasts for 10 minutes. We provide meditation supplies (chairs, benches, and cushions), but you are welcome to bring your own if you prefer.

Meals are formal and in silence, and eaten in formal oriyoki style. They are eaten at tables in our cafeteria. We supply oriyoki sets, although you are welcome to bring your own if you have one.

There is a morning work period that lasts roughly 90 minutes. During this period participants engage in simple work practice, such as cooking, cleaning, gardening, sewing, etc. There is a break after lunch and a break after dinner. Also included in the daily schedule is an afternoon dharma talk (teisho), and an interview with the teacher (sanzen).  Click to see an approximate sesshin schedule.

Please arrive between 5-6 pm the first night, and go to the office for registration.

Part Time Attendance
Part-time attendance is only available for members of ZCO. If you would like to attend sesshin part time, and are a member, please contact the registrar to arrange the details.

Proper Attire
At the monastery modest, subdued clothing is appropriate. We ask that shorts, sleeveless shirts, or shirts with advertising or logos not be worn, especially in the meditation hall. This is to support the dignity of spiritual practice and to lessen distractions. Because many people are sensitive to scents, please do not wear perfume or cologne, or other strongly scented materials in the meditation hall.

What to bring
Personal toiletries (we have a supply of toiletries including ear-plugs if you forget anything)

Slip-on shoes or sandals

Bedding  (optional - we provide towels, blankets, and linens, but it helps with our laundry if you bring your own)

Flashlight (optional)

Oryoki bowls (loaner sets are available)

Clothes for outside work, including gloves & outdoor shoes (we have a supply if you forget)

Please do NOT bring
Pets

Non-prescription drugs (allergy medications, vitamins, and supplements are allowed)

Alcohol

Radios, ipods, etc.

Reading material

Cell Phone & Computer Use
During sesshin we encourage all participants to keep their computers and cell phones powered off for the duration. The phone number for the monastery is 503-728-0654, and is checked daily. Please arrange for those who might need to contact you in case of an emergency to use this number, rather than your cell phone.

Food
The food served will be healthy, vegetarian food. The food may contain eggs and dairy products. Wheat free and dairy free food will be provided if requested. If you have specific food allergies please email the registrar registrar@greatvow.org or call us and explain.

We are always grateful to receive food donations. Fair Trade coffee, herbal teas, fresh produce, peanut butter, walnuts, almonds, and other nuts are especially appreciated.