Sesshins and Retreats
Sesshins are extended periods of intensive, silent zazen for experienced meditators. They are held in seclusion, follow a rigorous schedule, and last from two to seven days.
The traditional sesshin day begins at 4:00 a.m. and ends at 9:30 p.m. There are ten hours of formal zazen each day; informal zazen is encouraged during breaks and rest periods. Other elements of sesshin are walking meditation, chanting, prostrations, work, exercise, and vegetarian meals. Dokusan (private instruction with Sensei Henderson) is offered three times a day, and there are daily teisho (Zen talks).
Because of the demanding nature of a traditional sesshin, only people who have been sitting regularly should apply. Attendance at a Workshop and at least one all-day or a short sesshin (two to three days) are prerequisites. Other types of sesshin are less rigorous. See below for more information.
Types of Sesshins
- Traditional 5 and 7-Day Sesshins (as
described above), are for experienced Zen practitioners. One
5-day and one 7-day sesshin are held each year at the Toronto
Zen Centre. With a strict and demanding schedule, only those who
have had the experience of attending an all-day sitting and a
short sesshin may attend a 7-day sesshin.
- Work Sesshins are offered once a year in the
spring. These sesshins, with fewer hours of formal zazen and a
much longer work period, focus on garden and kitchen work. Work
sesshins are ideal for learning learn how to continue
concentration in the midst of activity.
- Jataka Tale/Working Person Sesshin is held
once a year. At this sesshin the weekend is full time, but from
Monday through Friday, the only structured hours are early
morning and evening. During the day people leave to go to work
or pursue other activities such as writing, art, childcare, etc.
Storyteller and long-time Buddhist practitioner Rafe
Martin gives daily talks on the Jataka Tales. There is an
additional $70 flat fee for attending this sesshin to cover the
guest teacher’s honorarium. An article describing one
participant’s reaction to this special sesshin (in Vermont) can
be found here.
- 5-Day Meditation Retreat is held in January or June.
This is ideal for those who want to have unstructured time for
meditation. Anyone, even those with no prior sesshin experience,
may apply to a meditation retreat.
- Algonquin Canoe Trip Sesshin is held in September in the week after Labour Day. It is generally around 5 days long. This sesshin is for those experienced Zen practitioners who are also up to the challenges of paddling a canoe, portage, and camping in the wilderness while still maintaining a regular sitting practice with others. See photo gallery from the 2010 sesshin.
End of Sesshin Photos
2013 Jataka Tale Sesshin