Retreats

Zen Retreats are powerful.  They are not easy, but they can bring out a strength and clarity we never knew existed.

Sometimes in the midst of our day-to-day struggles, we find it hard to progress in our contemplative studies.  In retreat, a consistent, intense effort can be applied to practice, and considerable progress made in terms of our spiritual insight and determination.  

In a sense, a retreat is an opportunity to live as a monk for a short period of time, where you can gather your strength, and then return to face your job and family with fresh energy and insight into your individual purpose.

Except for working retreats, a typical schedule looks like this:

4am - 9pm

Morning Sitting
Simple breakfast
Rest
Late morning sitting or work practice (manual projects inside or out).
Lunch
Short break
Work Practice
Dinner
Rest
Evening sitting  
Lights Out

Sleeping on mats on the heated floor of the meditation hall, we awaken early, to the sound of the wooden moktak (clapper), temple-drum, and bell.  We fold and put away our bedding, go downstairs & use the washrooms, arriving back into the meditation hall within 15 minutes (before the wakeup ceremony ends).

We meditate 2-3 hour/session (6-10 hours per day) depending on the experience of the group, 35 minute meditation rounds with 10 minute walking breaks in-between.
Occasionally during sittings, personal interviews are given by the head monk to help guide and assess our study.
All meals are prepared, taken, and cleaned up together.

The schedule is kept by the timekeeper, who hits the clappers to begin or end each period.  
Generally during retreats silence is kept unless a relevant question or emergency comes up.