Hein (fub) wrote,
Hein
fub

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Sesshin

Today, klik packed her bags and her cushion. We collected a fellow zen-student and I drove them to Nunspeet, for a sesshin -- a zen retreat. This will be the third that klik attends. Originally, she was scheduled to graduate the zen teacher program during this sesshin, but that was pushed back half a year due to various reasons. Still, she wanted to go (again).

The first time was in this hotel too, so we knew where everything was. She was set up pretty fast, and so we still had some time to say our goodbyes. During the sesshin, you're not supposed to have contact with 'the outside': attendees are encouraged to turn in their mobile phones. In fact, you're not supposed to have contact with anyone: talking is forbidden, and you should even avoid eye contact with others (except for the master, whom you speak every day).
The schedule is pretty harsh, from 05:00 to 23:00 (though there is also an 'intensive' program that starts a hour earlier and goes on for another hour later), with up to 8 hours of 'zazen' (zen meditation). The idea is to break you down and allow you to build yourself up again. From what I've seen the previous two times she attended a sesshin, it works quite well.

Central point of the week is the 'zendo', the place for the (indoor) zazen. During the setting up, you claim your spot by placing your cushion where you want to sit.

The zendo
This is a view of the zendo. An altar has been erected at the head of the room. The bookcases are part of the standard decor of the room. You can see the cushions in front of the bookcase to the right.

Zen altar
A close-up of the altar. A scroll with a wooden buddha statue in front of it. Lots of incense, too.
Also note the two wooden sticks lying in front of the statue. They're used for two things. One is hitting the altar to accentuate a certain sutra (calling for the buddha of mercy, if I recall correctly). The other is to hit the meditating students on their back during the meditation: twice, once on both sides of the spine. This will warm the back muscles, allowing them to relax a bit. Sitting upright without any back-support for 8 hours per day, six days long, will mess up your back in such a way that being hit with a stick is a welcome change of pace!

I'll collect klik on Friday morning, when the sesshin is done. I took the week off as well, and I'll be doing some bookbinding and cartonnage. I don't find it easy to adjust to being alone for a week, but history shows that I always manage quite well.
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