Retreat! 2014

MtBaldyWe are once again holding a Zen retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center not far from Los Angeles. The dates are May 9-11. If you register by April 15th, you get a discount. The registration page is here.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, Zen retreats are a very good way to deepen your meditation practice. They’re a good opportunity to get a quick and relatively painless taste of the Zen monastic experience.

I think that sometimes people get the impression that I disparage monastic Zen practice. But I don’t. I do think there’s an unfortunate tendency for people to hear about monastic practice, assume that the only real Zen is monastic Zen and then simply give up on even trying it out because they can’t do the monastic thing.

Dogen himself is responsible for some of this. Some of the later essays in Shobogenzo seem to be saying that only monks can truly experience what Zen is all about. This contradicts earlier essays that say that anyone can experience what Zen is all about if they just practice zazen.

Those later essays were written to be read as sermons to monks at the monastic centers Dogen ran. I think they were intended as encouragement for what must have been an almost unimaginably difficult way of life, especially compared to the way most of us live in the West in the 21st century. It was cold, it was remote, it rained all the time, there were no restaurants or bars nearby to escape to, there wasn’t even WiFi! It was a tough life.

But that’s just one way to practice. Practicing at home as part of your ordinary lifestyle is also valid.

And it’s good to step away from that for a short time and submit to at least a few of the austerities of monastic practice. Up on Mt. Baldy there is no WiFi and your cell phones will not work. To me, that alone is always a tremendous source of relief. There are no distractions. Everybody is there to practice. The group supports each other. We’re all going through the same thing.

Personally, I can’t do more than a single period of zazen at a time when I’m home by myself. I suppose I’m physically able and there are days when I have the time. But it’s just too difficult. However, when I’ve been with a group of people who are all committed to practice I’ve done seven days straight! It’s amazing what you learn that you’re capable of on retreats.

Our three-day schedule is easy-peasy by Zen standards. You can see it at the bottom of the registration page. I know we’re doing the schedule right because at every retreat I’ve ever run the really gung-ho Zen nerds complain that it’s far too easy and the people who’ve never experienced a retreat before – or who have only done some of the (to me) far too easy ones people like Thich Nhat Hanh run – complain that it’s much too hard. That, I think, is the definition of the Middle Way.

I really like the monastic life. It’s my dream to be able to establish a place where I can lead a variation of monastic style practice on a long-term basis. It takes so much effort and so much money to run a place like that, though, that I tend to doubt it will ever happen. For now, retreats like this are the closest I can come.

I’ll be leading a few more retreats this year in Germany (Benediktushof has just confirmed one for Oct. 12-17), Norway, Finland, and the UK. Those will be great too. I encourage you to attend. I don’t have any prospective retreats in the USA this year other than Mt. Baldy (write me at if you want to set something up). So you Americans who want to do this, here’s your chance!

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This blog comes to you for free with no commercial interruptions. But it’s your continued donations that make it possible. I’m doing my taxes now and my book royalties for last year didn’t even cover 1/3 of my rent, let alone any other expenses. Most of the rest comes from donations to this blog. Thank you!

Registration is now open for our Zen & Yoga Retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center May 9-11, 2014

The events page is now updated! Take a look at where I’m gonna be!

You can see the documentary about me,  Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen, at the following locations:

– April 17, 2014 Los Angeles, CA

– April 20, 2014 San Francisco, CA

ZERO DEFEX will play on May 16, 2014 in Akron, OH

If you’d like me to do a talk or retreat in your city, write me at I’m especially interested in places that are accessible by train from Philadelphia. But I’ll consider any reasonable offer.

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29 Responses

Page 1 of 1
  1. boubi
    boubi April 11, 2014 at 10:52 am |

    My best whishes.

    BTW have a look here

    1. boubi
      boubi April 11, 2014 at 10:53 am |
  2. sri_barence
    sri_barence April 11, 2014 at 2:17 pm |

    I did this retreat last year (that’s me in the picture, 2nd from the left, wearing Korean-style gray robes). Although I may be something of a Zen nerd, I did not find the retreat too easy. I didn’t think it was too hard either, so I agree that it was right in the middle. Some things were very different from the Kwan-Um School retreats that I usually do. No surprise there.

    Brad’s interview style was unlike any I’ve seen so far. Not just because he doesn’t do koan-interviews, but because he just does something no other teacher I’ve met does. The effect is exactly the same as doing a kong-an (koan) interview. Or maybe I just decided to react that way. Who can say?

    I really liked the feeling of Mt Baldy. The air was incredibly clear and smelled terrific. The Zen Center is comprised of several different buildings, so we had to walk from one to the other for the various activities. I enjoyed the exercise. The mountainside is covered with huge rocks (boulders even) in some places. But there are also many huge trees, and surely plenty of wild animals.

    I won’t be able to make the trip this year, but if you can, I encourage you to go. It is well worth the effort.

  3. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 11, 2014 at 5:46 pm |

    “…what Zen is all about…” Hmmmnnn… What IS Zen all about?? Having a monastic experience? A sort of one (ie; a retreat)?, home practice? Carrying on Japanese/international tradition? Just Sitting? Zen: What’s in a name?

    Or is it an ineffable (just one of infinitely many, like just about everything) that snake oil preachers talk about as if it were indeed “something” tangible? Is it an excuse to “slack off?” Or is it just something to do and talk about doing/not doing… “…what Zen is all about…” Hmmmnnn… ?

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot April 12, 2014 at 5:32 am |

      What IS Zen all about..

      DESK CLERK: Good evening, Sir! Welcome to the only Nice Motel in town. How long will you be with us?

      BABE: Just for tonight.

      DC: Ah! Very well, Sir. You’ll find it’s very Clean here. just fill out this card.

      SOUND: A crowd laughing and chatting in the background. Bar music.

      BABE: Oh, thanks. Oh, look-it’s dirty. Somebody’s already used it. There’s a name on it

      PC: That’s all right.

      BABE: Well, I couldn’t get you to believe my name is “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith,” could I?

      DC: Well, of course you could! It’s Nice to have you with us, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. [Rings bell] Front! EDDIE: Hey! Aren’t you Mr. and Mrs. John Smith from Anytown, USA?

      JOE: I’m Joe, boy, and this here’s Ed.

      EDDIE: Hi, fella!

      BABE: I’m not really Mr. and Mrs. John Smith

      JOE: That’s OK. I’m not Joe

      EDDIE: And he’s not Ed! Hey, fella, how about bending a couple in the DooDah Room? If you catch my meaning!

      JOE: If ya get my drift!

      BABE: Thanks, fellas, but I’m kinda tired. Hey, Desk Clerk-can I have my key, please?

      DC: Sure! What about G7? Hit it, Jimmy!

      music: Piano under-score begins.

      JOE [Singing]: “I can tell by the pie on your tie,

      EDDIE [Singing]: “You’re an American! Well, so am I

      JOE [singing]: “Hi, bub! How are ya? How do ya’ do?

      BOTH [Singing]: “And while we’re on the subject

      And while we’re on the subject

      (And while we’re on the subject)

      How’s your Old Wazoo?”

      BABE: What’s that all about?

      DC: What’s it all about, Mr. and Mrs. John Q Smith from Anytown, USA?

      JOE: Well, it’s about this long

      DC: And about that wide

      EDDIE: And it’s about this country

      DC: About which we’re singin’ about!

      EDDIE [Singing]: “I was born an American!

      I was raised an American!

      And I’ll die an American,

      In America, with Ar-me-ni-ans

      JOE: Yes, we’ve got a lot of everything in this land of ours

      DC: And a lot of places to put it in

      JOE: And maybe that’s where you fit in, Mr. and Mrs. John Q Smith from Anytown, USA!

    2. minkfoot
      minkfoot April 12, 2014 at 5:34 am |

      Alternatively, it’s about diddy-wah-diddy.

  4. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer April 11, 2014 at 8:12 pm |

    Yes I was at this retreat also. It went fine.

    Other than the screaming.

    I’d be in this picture to but at that point I was levitating somewhere in the rafters…special zen powers I guess.


    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot April 12, 2014 at 5:42 am |

      A retreat isn’t successful without at least one screamer and a couple of sobbers.

      1. Mumbles
        Mumbles April 12, 2014 at 7:43 am |

        Not to mention (but here we go:) reamers and robbers.

  5. sri_barence
    sri_barence April 12, 2014 at 6:13 am |

    What screaming? There was no screaming. Also no special Zen powers either. Which retreat did you go to?

    1. Alan Sailer
      Alan Sailer April 12, 2014 at 1:14 pm |


      I was at the retreat right next to the one you went to. I even saw you.

      Although, come to think about it, maybe the screaming was all in my mind…

      As far as the levitating, that absolutely happened.

      I’m not at Minkfoots level, I can’t levitate the entire earth.

      But myself?

      No problem, I can levitate non-existent things like you wouldn’t believe…


  6. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 12, 2014 at 7:36 am |

    Man, you missed out. Musta been in the privy during all the hub-bub. Did you get a badge? The special Zen Badge of Honor in exchange for your retreat fees? What retreat did YOU go to?


    Now, look at one of your (not just you sri, everyone’s welcome) hands, your right hand. While staring at it say either out loud or just in your “mind” the word HAND. Say it over and over again until the association of word with image fades completely.

    The word Zen is like that without an image attached. It’s already empty.

    -P-diddy-wha?-diddy- – – – – —–

  7. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 12, 2014 at 7:38 am |

    Man, you missed out. Musta been in the privy during all the hub-bub. Did you get a badge? The special Zen Badge of Honor in exchange for your retreat fees? What retreat did YOU go to?


    Now, look at one of your (not just you sri, everyone’s welcome) hands, your right hand. While staring at it say either out loud or just in your “mind” the word HAND. Say it over and over again until the association of word with image fades completely.

    The word Zen is like that without an image attached. It’s already empty.

    -P-diddy-wha?-diddy- — – — – –—

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles April 12, 2014 at 7:41 am |

      Mr/Ms. Moderator, Sir/Ma’am, I do believe this comment tried to post twice with an extra link, please delete the duplication or if not my apologies to all.

      I was levitating and screaming trying to adjust my badges on my Zen tunic when I wrote/tried to post it. No excuse, I realize…

      1. Fred
        Fred April 12, 2014 at 9:02 am |

        Oh yeah, well I can do zazen sitting in a chair. How’s that for special powers?

        Sometimes when no one is around, I make the chair levitate.

      2. minkfoot
        minkfoot April 12, 2014 at 9:20 am |

        Pshaw! I can make the whole damn earth levitate!

  8. DanielP
    DanielP April 12, 2014 at 11:02 am |

    Hi Brad,
    Even if it’s not yet absolutely confirmed can you please give some information about the UK event (I would be happy to do a retreat there) :
    When will it approximatively be (oct. /nov. 2014) ?
    Who will organize it (Yoga Manchester, Hebden Bridge zen group , …) ?

  9. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 12, 2014 at 8:07 pm |

    “The fundamental point is enlightenment…” (anonymous?…)

    “In the buddha way, you should always enter enlightenment through practice.” (Dogen, Gakudo yojin-shu)

    “…When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point. When you find your way at this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point; for the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others’.

    …Accordingly, in the practice-enlightenment of the buddha way, meeting one thing is mastering it–doing one practice is practicing completely. Here is the place; here the way unfolds. ” (Dogen, Genjo koan)

  10. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 12, 2014 at 8:29 pm |

    I keep telling myself, it’s like falling asleep to where I am in the movement of breath, freedom of sense is intrinsic to falling asleep in the movement of breathe right where I am.

    The empty hand grasps the hoe handle
    Walking along, I ride the ox
    The ox crosses the wooden bridge
    The bridge is flowing, the water is still

    mind breathing from the soles of my feet to my head-top, walking along; mind breathing from my head-top to the soles of my feet, walking along. Mind breathing in the pc like an ox on a wooden bridge. Mind like a mile-high wall, there really aren’t so many things.

    Only remember the name of that which has no name.

  11. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 12, 2014 at 8:31 pm |

    with the movement of breath

  12. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 13, 2014 at 6:17 am |

    To expound and propagate concepts is simple,
    to drop all concepts is difficult and rare -Nisargadatta Maharaj

  13. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 13, 2014 at 9:45 am |

    To discover relationships in symbols that allow for the recollection of that which has no name has a place. Because it has a place, falling asleep to where I am is possible even with the activity of thought and specific thought.

    To propagate the vocabulary and science of a practice connected with the experience of human nature was the compassionate life of Gautama the Shakyan of India. The experience of cessation of (volition in) perception and sensation was Gautama’s signature attainment, and although the cessation was clearly difficult and rare in the attainment and the understanding concerning the significance of it even more so, yet he invited all humanity to the table:

    “Let any intelligent man come to me, any man who is also without guile, not a deceiver, but an upright man. I will teach him. I will show him the Dharma. And if he practises according to my instructions, to know and realize for himself even in this very life that unsurpassed holy life for the sake of which clansmen go forth from home to the homeless in its perfection, he too shall know and realize in seven years. Do I say seven years? Why, Nigrodha, even if he do so, as I have said, for six, five, four, three, two years, even one year, half a year; five, four, three, two months, even one month… nay, if he so practise for seven days, Nigrodha… such a man coming to me shall so realize…

    Now this I say, Nigrodha, not desiring to win pupils, not wishing to make others fall from their religious vows, not wishing to make others give up their ways of life, not wishing to establish you in wrong ways or to make you give up ways that are good…” (Digha Nikaya, iii. 56-7)

    Weird, eh?

  14. Mumbles
    Mumbles April 13, 2014 at 1:18 pm |

    It was sixty years ago today, A. Crowley taught the band to play…

    1. CosmicBrainz
      CosmicBrainz April 13, 2014 at 2:55 pm |

      I don’t like it all…

      Now I understand why I was never drawn to magick, occultism, or anything like that.

      Evola and A. Crowley have always disturbed me. I don’t even like the music they influenced, such as Current 93 or Coil.

      It’s kind of on the opposite spectrum of Zen…

  15. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 13, 2014 at 5:21 pm |

    If I didn’t have John to give me hell, who would? Ah ha ha ha!

    oh, Fred. Fred would. And boubi. and Grand Canyon. In fact, the majority of the people on this thread, with the possible exception of Anne MH.

  16. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote April 13, 2014 at 5:27 pm |

    like boubi said, I’m beginning to think everybody’s listening–I should run out in the street and shout “Warner’s a f*&*@kup and he knows it!” so they stop watching me… yeah, that’s it

    making jokes at the expense of the challenged, tut tut Mr. Foote, you should know better!

    Muir Woods

  17. Muddy Elephant
    Muddy Elephant April 14, 2014 at 6:26 pm |

    Hope your “variation of monastic style” dream comes true Brad.

    Someday I’ll make it to a Mt.Baldy retreat. I grew up in the nearby valley: Upland. My memories of Mt. Baldy are seeing snow for the first time (though now I live in Minne”snowta” ugh!) and the beautiful smell of pine trees.

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