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Sesshins & Retreats

About Sesshins

Sesshins are extended periods of intensive, silent zazen for experienced meditators. They are held in seclusion, follow a rigorous schedule, and last from five to seven days.

Because of the demanding and intense nature of sesshin, only people who have been sitting regularly should apply. Attendance at a Workshop and at least one all-day sitting or a short sesshin (two to three days) are prerequisites for attendance at seven-day sesshins

Toronto Zen Centre Zendo

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, rest periods, and late evenings. Other elements of sesshin are walking meditation, chanting services, prostrations, work periods, daily vegetarian meals and calisthenics/exercise. Dokusan (private instruction with Roshi Henderson) is offered three times a day, and there are daily teishos (formal talks on Zen) by the teacher.


Newcomers may only apply for the first three days of a 5 or 7 day sesshin — after which they may request to stay for the remainder. Other types of sesshin involve different aspects and features. 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. Please review the Requirements mentioned above.

WORK SESSHINS are held 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 Zen teacher Roshi Rafe Martin gives a daily teisho 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. Specifics of the daily schedule and the special application form are available 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.

Sesshins Details