Retreat Practice – Spring 2015

Wagesa – received in Jukai ceremony

In Zen, a retreat is called sesshin, which means “touching the heart-mind.” Unlike daily home sitting or even our weekly sangha zazen on Mondays, sesshins offer us the opportunity to explore Zen practice more fully, more deeply, in the most tranquil and conducive atmosphere possible. It allows us to settle our minds to a degree that isn’t feasible under typical circumstances, and we get to do that together in an encouraging way.

Sesshin can be challenging, but if we hang in there, it serves as an anchor or cornerstone to our practice. If you have any interest in deepening your meditation, growing in your understanding of Zen, and meeting other like-minded friends who aspire to do the same, sesshins offer a unique opportunity to do this. There truly is no substitute for this kind of extended practice.

Here is some info on two upcoming opportunities to deepen your practice. Please get in touch if you have questions about any of the following.

I especially wish to draw your attention to the Nashville retreat, as it will provide the opportunity to get to know our guiding teacher, become a more active part of our overarching Zen sangha, and, if you so choose, participate in the jukai (5-precepts / refuge-taking) ceremony and receive a wagesa (vestment) and Dharma name.

March 20-21: One-day sesshin with the Mississippi Zen sangha

Arrive on Friday evening, March 20 for evening zazen, stay overnight at the Starkville Zen Dojo, and spend Saturday, March 21 in silent Zen practice. Drop a line if you’d like to share a ride leaving Friday afternoon (3/20). The Mississippi Zen sangha is a Soto Zen community in a lineage closely related to our own. See the schedule here. Also, please remember that we would be considered guests, not members of this sangha, and space is at a premium in Bland-Roshi’s dojo. In deference to his students and their Zen training, we can only attend if he has the space for us.

Resident monk and Zen teacher Tony Bland accepts donations of $20-$50 for those attending. Simple vegetarian food and overnight accommodations (generally on the dojo floor) will be provided. Bring loose, dark-colored clothing and a cushion and mat if you own them.

Advance notice is required, and accommodations are available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information or to inquire if space is available, email

Annual Spring Retreat, hosted by Nashville Zen Center

Like our group, Nashville Zen Center is one of several Silent Thunder Order communities spread across the U.S. and Canada under the guidance of our teacher Michael Taiun Elliston-Roshi. The sesshin will take place in idyllic Penuel Ridge in Ashland City, TN, over Easter Weekend (April 2 through April 5).

We are setting up Thursday night, and the retreat goes until Sunday at noon. The retreat proper begins on Friday morning (Good Friday, which many people have off from work.) Schedule will include zazen, dharma teaching, meals, and plenty of breaks. Carpool from Memphis will be available for up to three people. Inquire about carpooling here.

Retreat fee is $200 and covers the actual per-person rate for comfortable accommodations at beautiful Penuel Ridge and for the food lovingly prepared by Tenzo Dave, a professional chef. It also defrays the cost of travel and provides modest compensation to our compassionate teacher and STO Abbot Taiun-Roshi (aka “Sensei”), who will be traveling up from our home temple in Atlanta. He will lead the retreat and offer individual dokusan (practice discussion) with each attendee.

Sensei will offer a jukai ceremony (5-precepts / refuges) for those who wish to become official Zen practitioners. Let Elizabeth know as soon as possible if you plan to do this, and/or contact her for details about this option. Preparations have to be made if you wish to be included in this joyous event.

Please register by contacting Nyoze Nat Brown at, and pay via Paypal, or send a check to Nashville Zen Center at 8553 Sawyer Brown Road, Nashville, TN 37221. Prorated rates for those who cannot attend the entire retreat will be available, and reduced rates for those who are financially strapped are also available. Ask Nat for details.

According to our brothers and sisters of Nashville Zen Center, “It’s gonna be a rip-roarin’ good time!” Space is somewhat limited, so register as soon as possible.


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