Awakening to the Sacred Moment
Create a Space
If you wish, you can light a candle and place a flower or an inspiring image near you.
Make sure you have access to the chants and other reading material (see below).
If you are new to meditation see How To Practice Meditation on our website.
Being on retreat requires spending most of the day in silence, minimizing communication with others, and refraining from news and entertainment. Try to structure your retreat day with simplicity. Put an away message on your email and silence your phone.
Setting Your Intention
When you begin the retreat, take a few minutes to consider what is calling you to this time of deepening practice. It may be to benefit yourself and those around you, to deepen your compassion in difficult times, to release your fears, or become more loving in order to contribute more to our world.
Being guided by the 5 Precepts and the 6 Perfections. The Precepts and Perfections are alive in one’s experience, not an outward “signing up for” or “belonging to.” It is a natural process of awakening to your original nature, which is undefiled.
The 5 Precepts: The Precepts are vows of ethical conduct taken by a Zen practitioner when he/she is ready to make a commitment to conduct that benefits others.
Not to kill but to nurture life.
Not to steal but to receive what is offered as a gift.
Not to misuse sexuality but to be caring and faithful in intimate relationships.
Not to lie but to be truthful.
Not to intoxicate with substances or doctrines but to promote clarity and awareness.
The 6 Perfections (Paramitas): Practicing the Paramitas is to practice in accordance with selflessness and non-attachment, and for the dual benefit of self and others.
Generosity – Giving freely, without self-oriented motivation. It includes the gift of wealth, the gift of the Dharma, and the gift of fearlessness.
Morality – To refrain from harmful deeds, to cultivate virtue, and to benefit all sentient beings.
Patience – Patience with those who wish to harm us, patience with regard to the environment, and patience in enduring the dharmas. When we practice the three kinds of patience we are actually contemplating emptiness.
Diligence – Making vows is essential to the Buddhist practitioner. They can be small, great, or ultimate. A small vow can be just for a day; a great vow can be over a span of time. The highest form of vow is an ultimate vow that is made continuously, and that is to attain Buddhahood for the sake of others.
Meditation – When there is no wandering thought in the mind, that is the wisdom of Zen.
Wisdom – When one’s wisdom eye has opened, we have a mind that is not self-centered. One can apply this wisdom to the benefit of people and the environment. One has no specific view of the world. There is only this wisdom that one uses to perceive and understand the world.
You can use any of the Precepts and/or Perfections to set your intention. You can recite them in your mind or write them down on a notecard and place it by the candle or image. Regularly, during the day of your retreat, remember and reaffirm the intention.
Welcome Whatever Arises during Sitting Zen
When you meditate, especially for long periods of time, difficult energies will naturally arise. Worry, restlessness, sleepiness, frustration, irritation, and doubt are among the most common. Repeating thought patterns and unfinished business of the heart will also arise. The wind causes waves on the surface of a lake, but as the wind subsides, so do the waves and the lake becomes calm and clear. The mind is like this. Receive what arises with loving awareness and with compassion for self and others, then let it go. Do not cling to anything. What is your original face before you were born?
Welcome Whatever Arises during Working Zen
Our Zen practice doesn’t end when we get up off the cushion. Be mindful and welcoming of whatever arises during this period of activity. If you are alone during this time, it can be enormously helpful to read teachings from your favorite Zen books for support and inspiration. Go for a walk, do laundry, wash dishes, do tasks that are fluid, and stay present.
If you are with a partner, family, or children during your Working Zen time, ask, “How can I help?” Pay attention, don’t-make, don’t-know, and see what is right there in front of you. Remember you are on retreat, and with a clear mind, just reflect and compassionately listen. Life is your teacher now. Sitting, standing, walking, working, all of it is your practice.
Materials from the website for study and use during the retreat:
- The 6 Perfections (Paramitas): download this commentary by Chan Master Sheng Yen
- The Heart Sutra and the Four Bodhisattva Vows: download the Heart Sutra
- The Great Dharani: Video with lyrics to chant along with
- More reading: Diamond Sutra, 10 Ox herding pictures, Trusting in Mind