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silent retreat: lucky you!

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zazen-outlineWord is going around at work is that I’m either leaving hospice in December or going on a monastic retreat. Two coworkers even gave me farewell cards. But … as I’m not leaving, it must be a retreat. What do you do there, people ask. Invariably their eyes roll upwards with mock envy: “O how wonderful” and “Good, you’re getting some rest.” Wish I did, because I’m deeply tired after each shift.

There’s an exhaustion at a deep level: physical yes, and spiritual I imagine. I usually sleep for a few hours after work and, unless it was an evening shift as today, I’ll start the day anew. Very soon my/our daily schedule will look like this. And please–no writing, no reading, no talking, no eye or physical contact, no speech. Just each moment, each breath; paying attention to what’s arising from within and what’s appears right in front of you.

3:50   Wake up bell

4:30   Zazen (4×25-min. sitting meditation with 10 min. of walking in between)

6:20   Chanting and bowing

6:50   Breakfast (oryoki)*

8:00   Work period begins

10:00 Cleanup and end of work period

10:30 Zazen

12:30 Lunch (oryoki) in dining hall

13:30 Rest period (unless you’re on kitchen clean-up or dish-washing)

15:00 Zazen

15:25 Teisho (public discourse/talk by a teacher)

16:20 Kinhin (walking meditation, outdoors if weather permits)

16:30 Zazen

17:20 Chanting and bowing

17:30 Dinner

19:00 Zazen

20:50 Tea in the meditation hall

21:15 Closing chant

21:20 Yaza (optional sitting into the night, indoors or out); sleep if you must

22:00 lights out (unless you’re lined up to take a shower)

3:50   a monk running up and down the hallways with an old schoolhouse bell.

* Click here to watch a youtube demonstration of eating oryoki-style.

NB: Due to generous contributions by blog-correspondents and a bit of advance planning by me, you’ll find new posts almost daily while I’m in silence.

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