In less than two weeks, I will be leading yet another Three Day Zen and Yoga Retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center. This one is April 13-15, 2018. Sign up now for the early bird discount (none of your retreat fee will go to me, by the way)! Signing up sooner also helps us a lot by letting us get an accurate idea of how many people are gonna be there.
Retreats are one of the core elements of Zen practice. While daily sitting is the main thing, it’s good to also attend retreats whenever you can. If you’re interested in deepening your practice, it really only happens when you engage with yourself for an extended period of time. Retreats are all great ways to do this.
It’s super difficult to do a long sitting by yourself. The rare individuals who managed it are famous in the annals of Zen simply for doing long sitting practice by themselves — Gautama Buddha, Bodhidharma to name two. Even Dogen never sat a long sesshin on his own.
I think it’s kinda weird that we use the word “retreat” for these long-form meditation things. Retreat means running away. But a Zen retreat is not running away. It’s more like an attack than a retreat because 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 might seem depressing if you’ve never done it before. But it’s not at all. I sometimes write about the boredom of Zen practice. But I do that to try to go against some of the flowery romanticized descriptions you get elsewhere.
Zen is not boring at all, actually. You see yourself as you really are and can often solve some of your most troubling problems just by looking at them carefully. Solutions just sort of pop out at you. It’s kind of amazing.
If you sign up for a “Zen and Yoga” or “Zen and Calligraphy” or “Zen and Lacrosse” or “Zen and whatever” retreat at some places I’ve spent time at, what you’ll get will be a lot of yoga or calligraphy or lacrosse and a small amount of (almost always optional) Zen. The idea of such retreats is to get you in the door with the hope that maybe 10% of those who sign up might come back some day.
On the other hand, some Zen places go to the opposite extreme. They expect even first-timers to sit for as much as ten hours a day and will, quite literally, hit you with a big wooden stick if you so much as scratch or sniffle.
We offer a genuine Zen retreat with the yoga added to soften the impact of so much sitting. We offer three and a half hours of seated meditation on the longest of the three days along with about two hours of yoga (split into two sessions) and lecture/discussion periods. Meals are eaten in silence as a way of continuing the meditation during the meals. There is also a Zen style work period of 40 minutes, which is yet another opportunity to practice meditation with movement.
During the sitting periods, I also offer personal consultations with all participants (dokusan). Just think of it, folks! You’ll be able to sit with me in a room and talk!
This is the perfect amount of sitting for both beginners and long-time practitioners. It’s not too much for beginners to deal with and it’s not so little that people who’ve practiced for a while feel cheated.
Three and a half hours of staring at a wall can seem like a lot to someone who has never done zazen at all. In fact, it is a lot. That’s the idea. One of the most effective ways to do Zen practice is to do it longer than you imagine you can endure. If ten minutes is your limit, do fifteen. If you’re too angry or too stressed or your mind is racing too much for you to do 40 minutes, then do 45 minutes.
That last bit, the part of your practice in which you feel like you can’t possibly go on any longer, is the best. It’s like exercising. You have to push a little. You’re bothered by your overactive mind because you give in too quickly to whatever it demands of you. This is true for me and for everybody else too.
When you learn in practice not to give in so easily, you train the mind to be still when it doesn’t get exactly what it imagine it wants. By not scratching every single itch that comes up and not shifting around each time you feel like it, you learn something incredibly valuable. You learn how to be fine with the things that come up even when you don’t really like them. And you also learn how to enjoy the things you like that much more because you can stay with what’s actually going on.
We’re also pretty liberal at our retreats. If you have to miss part of it, nobody’s going to bug you about it. If you’d rather go hike up the mountain while the rest of us are sitting, we’re not gonna tell you not to. We may wonder why you signed up for a Zen retreat instead of just driving up Mt. Baldy and hiking on your own, but that’s about it.
So if you’re interested in taking your practice a step or two beyond what it already is, please click on the link below and sign up. Our discounted early-bird special rate is available for a few more days. But hurry up!
Here’s my Patreon page!
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IT CAME FROM BEYOND ZEN and SEX SIN AND ZEN are now available as audiobooks from Audible.com! You can also get DON’T BE A JERK, Hardcore Zen, Sit Down and Shut Up and There is No God and He is Always With You in audio form — all read by me, Brad Warner!
April 13-15, 2018 ZEN AND YOGA RETREAT at Mt. Baldy
May 24-27, 2018 FINLAND RETREAT
May 29-30, 2018 VIENNA, AUSTRIA
June 1, 2018 MUNICH, GERMANY TALK
June 2, 2018 MUNICH, GERMANY DAY-LONG RETREAT
June 3-8, 2018 BENEDIKTUSHOF RETREAT near WURZBURG, GERMANY
June 10-13, 2018 DOMICILIUM RETREAT near MUNICH, GERMANY
June 17-20, 2018 HEBDEN BRIDGE, ENGLAND RETREAT
Every Monday at 7:30pm there’s zazen at Angel City Zen Center (NEW TIME, NEW PLACE!) 1407 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!
Every Saturday at 10:00 am there’s zazen at the Angel City Zen Center (NEW PLACE!) 1407 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90026 Beginners only!
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