Why You Need to Go to Retreats

800px-Napoleon_retreat_from_Russia_by_AdamIt’s retreat season here in Brad Warner World. I am doing a whole slew of them over the next month and a half. Right now I’m in Germany about to begin the first in the series. The final in the series will be our big blow-out three-day Zen and Yoga retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center November 8-10.

Retreats are a vital part of Zen practice. While the core of Zen practice is daily sitting, it’s important to also attend retreats whenever possible. There is a depth of practice that only happens when you engage with yourself over a long period of time. One-day, three-day, five-day or seven-day retreats are all great ways to do this.

It’s almost impossible to really do a long sitting by yourself. The few people who managed to do it are almost all famous in the annals of Zen history simply for being able to do long sitting practice by themselves — Gautama Buddha, Bodhidharma to name two. Even Dogen never sat a long sesshin on his own.

I’m fascinated by the use of the word “retreat” for these long-form meditation things. Retreat implies that we run away from things. But that’s not actually what happens on a Zen retreat. It’s more like an attack than a retreat sometimes in that you confront yourself head-on and see what you’re really made of.

The idea of sitting and staring at a wall for a day or several days can seem like a depressing prospect if you’ve never done it before. But it’s not at all. I sometimes emphasize the boredom associated with Zen practice to try and counter some of the overly flowery and romanticized descriptions you get elsewhere. But it’s actually not boring at all. You get to see yourself as you really are and you can often solve some of your deepest, most troubling problems just by looking at them carefully. Solutions just sort of pop out at you. It’s kind of amazing.

I’m offering a number of opportunities for people who want to deepen their practice. Please take advantage of them!

– Oct. 2-6. 5-day retreat in Benediktushof. There is still time to sign up. Go to their website for details. The topic of discussion will be the Zen classic Song of the Jewel Mirror Samadhi. I will do dokusan (personal interviews/discussion) with all members who want to.

(Also, the movie about me, Brad Warner’s Hardcore Zen is having its world premiere at the Buddhist Film Festival of Europe in Amsterdam on October 5th at 6pm. Director Pirooz Kalayeh will be there.)

– October 7th I’m speaking in Frankfurt on  at Dogen Zendo. Info is here. Please stop by for a chat about Zen!

– October 9th I’ll be speaking at Dharma Buchladen in Berlin

– On October 11th, I’ll be speaking in Amsterdam.

– On October 12th, I’ll be speaking at Groningen University in the Netherlands.I think the details are somewhere on this page. But it’s in Dutch so I’m not sure.

– On Oct. 13 and 14th I’ll be in Bonn, Germany. The details about that are on this page. The 13th will be an all-day sitting and on the 14th I’ll do a talk in the evening.

– Thursday 17th October
In Conversation with Brad Warner and Jon Robb – The Punk meets the Monk
Manchester, UK

– 18-19 October Zen Retreat    /    20th October  Public Talk in Hebden Bridge, England


–  23 October 7pm, I’ll be speaking in London.
Caledonian Road Centre
486 Caledonian Road
London N7 9RP

– 24 October, 8pm, I’ll be speaking in Oxford

Merton College, Oxford
Hosted the Neave Society (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2203213006/)

**Oxford University students only**

– 25 Oct In Conversation 7pm-9pm  / 26 October Zazen Day

Merchant City Yoga Centre Glasgow, Scotland


– November 8-10 Zen and Yoga Retreat at Mount Baldy Zen Center in Southern California (1 & 1/2 hours east of Los Angeles)

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I’m self-financing all of these, so please feel free to help out a little by sending a donation! Thanks!

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9 Responses

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  1. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 1, 2013 at 9:42 am |

    “You get to see yourself as you really are and you can often solve some of your deepest, most troubling problems just by looking at them carefully. Solutions just sort of pop out at you.” – Joshu Sasaki

    “I’m offering a number of opportunities for people who want to deepen their practice. Please take advantage of them!”

  2. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote October 1, 2013 at 9:43 am |

    (sorry- ishinashini)

  3. sri_barence
    sri_barence October 1, 2013 at 2:01 pm |

    In the KwanUm school, shorter retreats are called, Yong Maeng Jong Jin, which (liberally translated) means, “to leap like a tiger while sitting.” I like the name, because it implies not only action, but vigorous action. In YMJJ, you’re not just sitting there, whiling away the hours – you are actually doing something vital and important.

    The longer summer retreat and the (even longer) winter retreat are called ‘Kyol Che,” which means ‘Tight Dharma.” I’m not sure what that implies, but I’ll bet it takes some stamina to go for three weeks (summer) or three months (winter). I’d like to do Summer Kyol Che some day. That seems interesting. Winter Kyol Che is scary…

    1. zucchinipants
      zucchinipants October 1, 2013 at 6:50 pm |

      Yong Maeng Jong Jin (용맹정진) actually means “brave devotion”…

      google translate says that Kyol Che (ê²°ì œ) means “payment”, which sort of makes sense…

      I think the kwan um people are being loose with the translation, figuring no one would look up the words!

      1. sri_barence
        sri_barence October 2, 2013 at 8:59 am |

        1. How did you get those translations? I wonder why they are so different from the ones I used?

        2. How did you get the Korean characters to appear? I don’t speak or read Korean, so I didn’t even try.

        3. Could there be alternate meanings for the characters, in the same way that Japanese uses kanji, katagana and hiragana?

  4. Mumbles
    Mumbles October 1, 2013 at 7:45 pm |

    Well, she-it, if you’re gonna go on retreat, ya might as well go all the way…


    “Why do you so earnestly seek
    the truth in distant places?
    Look for delusion and truth in the
    bottom of your own heart.”
    ”• Ryokan

    1. Harlan
      Harlan October 2, 2013 at 1:44 pm |

      Thanks Mumbles. Some good stuff. Early Christians seem to be a lot like early Buddhists.

      “An old man was asked, “What is the straight and narrow way?” He replied, “The straight way is this, to do violence to one’s thoughts and to cut off one’s own will. That is what this means, `Behold we have left all and followed Thee.'” (Mk 10:28)

  5. Amiga-Freak
    Amiga-Freak October 1, 2013 at 11:25 pm |

    C’ya this evening!

  6. Amiga-Freak
    Amiga-Freak October 1, 2013 at 11:26 pm |

    Looking at the server time – “Evening” in my timezone I should add 😉

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