Today I'm about to start a three-day zazen retreat in the city of Bielefeld, Germany. After this I have one-day zazen retreats coming up in Essex, England on November 5, Antwerp, Belgium on November 13th and
Manchester, England on November 19th.
I'm not sure what people expect when they sign up for a Zen retreat with me. This has been my on-going concern throughout this tour.
A typical zazen retreat involves a lot of zazen and not much else. These days, though, you have a lot of what seem to me to be sort of "zazen lite" retreats. I blame Thich Naht Hanh. His most popular retreats, as I understand it, involve very little actual zazen practice but include a lot of fun activities.
This is certainly not the worst way a person can spend a day. And perhaps one or two of the hundreds of people who come to that kind of a retreat will take up a more serious practice. Which is not a bad thing.
But it's not a Zen retreat. At least not in the traditional sense.
The point of zazen is to do just one ridiculously simple activity in a very, very thorough way. You can explain all anyone needs to know about zazen practice in a couple of minutes. Here it is on line with a pretty girl demonstrating. Now you everything essential about zazen practice. I'm not trying to be funny here. This really is all anyone needs to know.
On this tour I've been trying to deal with numerous and widely differing sets of expectations. Some people are very hardcore about their Zen and view me as being way too easy. Some people are scared to death of zazen. They're like people at a swimming pool sticking their toes in and then screaming about how cold the water is. It's all they can do just to get through a half an hour of sitting, let alone a full day of it.
The only way to solve this problem is for me to simply do what it is that I do and let people decide for themselves if it's for them or not.
As I said earlier, I may, in future, devise a more introductory type retreat for those who are terrified of zazen. But for now, for the rest of this tour, I'm sticking to a somewhat more standard approach.
I think some people who read my books are shocked that I'm fairly traditional in my approach to the practice. But I always have been. And I think that comes through in the books if you read them carefully. So please don't be shocked if you sign up for a retreat with me and it's not a bunch of slam-dancing (aka moshing) and guys in monster costumes. More likely you'll be looking at a wall for a long, long while.
Here are the schedules for the upcoming retreats:
NOV. 5 ESSEX
11:10-11:15 Prepare for Service
11:30-12:30 Dharma Talk
12:30-1:30 Silent lunch
1:30-2:00 Work or Free Time
3:20-4:00 Tea (silent)
4:45 Chanting Refuges
NOV. 13 ANTWERP
09.30 - 10.00 aankomst/arrival
10.00 - 10.30 introductie/introduction, zazen+kinhin instructie/instruction
10.30 - 11.00 zazen
11.10 -11.20 kinhin
11.20 -11.50 zazen
11.50 - 12.10 koffie- or theepauze/coffeebreak (silent)
12.10 - 12.40 zazen
12.40 - 12.50 kinhin
13.00 - 14:00 lunchauze/lunchbreak
14.00 - 14.30 zazen
14.30 - 14.40 kinhin
14.35 - 15.00 zazen
15.00 – 16.00 lezing en vragen/talk and q and a
16.00 - 16.30 zazen
16.30 - 16.40 kinhin
16.40 – 17.00 afsluiting/conclusion (chanting refuges)
NOV. 19 MANCHESTER
10:00-10:30 intro to Zazen
11:40-1:00 Dharma Talk
1:00-1:45 Silent lunch –or folk can go and get lunch
3:45-4:00 finishing talk