Online Retreat Guidelines
for Sesshins and Weekend Sittings
During a Sesshin or Weekend Sitting, the bodily co-presence of practitioners helps us to remain committed and focused. Therefore, it can be challenging to practice in one's own space. However, being connected through Zoom helps. Despite the physical distance, we can let the presence and discipline of others be a support for our own intention.
Here are a few aspects to consider when setting up your online retreat experience. Not all aspects apply to all practitioners equally, but please take the time to consider each point carefully in relationship to your particular situation.
The main practice during Sesshins and Weekend Sittings is to follow the schedule completely. Arrange your situation so this is possible.
- Log into Zoom five minutes before the scheduled time of the Zendo activity you plan to join.
- Online participants are expected to be present for all zazen periods marked in bold on the schedule as well as the dharma talk.
- Print out your schedule and consider posting it in your practice space, bedroom, and kitchen.
- You may participate in as many zazen periods as you wish.
- The service (bowing and chanting practice) is optional for online participants as you may need this time for food preparation.
- Use the work period for necessary cleaning and/or food preparation. It is customary to do mindful physical work during a Zen retreat. To the best of your ability, maintain your practice of breath and posture during this time—and all times during the day.
- Likewise, use your meals as an opportunity for mindfulness practice.
- As much as possible, maintain silence during your home retreat. Limit your talking (and internet use) to what is necessary and functional, and refrain from reading and writing.
Download and print the chant cards you need for the retreat: (1) robe chant (before the first period of zazen), (2) service (if you decide to participate), (3) dharma talk.
- If possible, establish a dedicated space. Ideally, that's a separate room in your home or a particular area of your living space.
- Make sure your internet connection is reliable.
- Think about where to place your camera. You may want to consider different locations for zazen meditation, service, and dharma talks. For zazen, some practitioners prefer not to face the camera, but to place it at a 90 degree angle instead. This is a way to avoid being distracted by the screen during meditation.
- Identify an area that is suitable for walking meditation. This may be a path in your retreat space, a hallway, or an outdoor location without traffic.
- Before the retreat begins, sit in your practice space, try it out, and see if anything needs to be adjusted. Clarify your intention and commit to it.
- Write a meal plan in advance so that you do not have to decide what to prepare at each mealtime.
- Select simple foods.
- Do all shopping and time-consuming food preparation before your retreat begins.
Cohabitation with spouses, partners, children, and housemates
- Have a conversation about mutual expectations before your retreat begins and agree on supportive practices and boundaries for all parties.
- Discuss the practice of silence and how to get support for limiting your speech to what is necessary and functional.
- Share and then post your retreat schedule, so that others understand your flow of daily activities and how it may relate to theirs.
- Plan your pet care in advance.
- Consider alternate times to use the kitchen (and dining room) to avoid overlap at mealtimes.
- Expect that your home is not a serene retreat container. Maintain a mental posture of acceptance and flexibility, so that all parties are supported in their activities during your retreat.
- Ensure that you have a working computer, tablet or phone with a stable internet connection.
- Have the retreat Zoom link handy on your computer at all times.
- Review Boulder Zen Center's Online Zendo etiquette.
- As with speech, limit your use of the internet to what is necessary and functional.
- Consider setting an “out-of-office” reply on your email and phone accounts.
- Let people know how to contact you in the event of a true emergency. It is common to arrange an alert signal such as three “urgent” texts or calls in a row to indicate a pressing issue.