Practice Period

What Is Practice Period?

Chao Chou:

A monk asked: What is zazen?

Chao Chou: It is not zazen,

Monk:Why is it “not zazen?”

Chao Chou: It’s alive; it’s alive!

Practice period is a time to deepen one’s commitment to practice by taking on a some more formal practice. It can also be characterized by an intention to practice with a precept such as not harboring ill will or a paramita such as generosity or patience. Practice Period is deeply nourishing.

In the Buddha’s time, during the rainy season the monks would gather together to practice and study as a group. This time of reflection continued in monastic practice in China and Japan. It has traditionally been 90 days long. This is the length of a practice period at Tassajara. At urban Centers practice periods often last 6-8 weeks and end with a sesshin. Often, a “shuso” or head student helps the person leading the practice period and deepens their own training.

Accompanying this explanation is a calendar with the practice events for the practice period. Please review it and then fill out the statement of intention if you would like to participate in some way. Before filling out the intention statement, please think about what is realistic for you. It is useful for practice period to be a stretch but not if it is unrealistic. So, do not to commit to more than you can do. Better to commit to a bit less and do extra than to commit to too much and then feel bad.

Practice Period is a good time for you to commit to more zazen for yourself, mornings. On Saturday mornings, there is a longer early zazen period, an hour, with a short interval in the middle. That means you can sit through or stand or change position during the interval. We will have oryoki breakfast on Saturday mornings. On Wednesday evening October 24 for the check-in before the Full Moon Ceremony, we will use a Council format, with a “talking stone” held by the person talking.

The Practice Period will end with a five-day sesshin, November 14-18. If you cannot come during the days you work, please consider coming morning and/or evening to encourage those sitting and to deepen your own practice during those days. Then, sit the days you can. On Friday evening, November 16, there will be a Shosan Ceremony, all in the Practice Period are encouraged to come ask the teacher a dharma question. On Sunday, November 18, the Practice Period and sesshin will end with a Shuso Ceremony, in which students and visiting former shusos ask the shuso dharma questions that reflect their practice. Please try to come to this ceremony if you are in the Practice Period whether or not you are in the sesshin. It will begin at 3:30 p.m. and be followed by a reception.

The class, on Wednesday evenings, will be an introduction to the life and teachings of our great Chinese ancestor, Chao Chou. He is famous in the koan collections as one who illuminated the teachings with his words, and did not need to shout nor to hit anyone. His students were able to joke with him, and he laughed, demonstrating a great sense of humor.

On October 20, we will have a Sangha Samu Day to take deep care of our temple. We may have a special Memorial Garden project and we will work in the garden. Don’t forget our wonderful Sejiki, November 7, honoring the Hungry Ghosts, along with the party that follows. The party is also Practice Period Skit Night so come prepared to share your talent. More about this later.

On the statement of intention, you might want to think about a theme for yourself, such as “right speech” or something in your daily life. It is also fine to simply stay with your breath and body. At the end of the statement, there is a question about any other commitment you may wish to make. Some of you might want to commit to sitting at home because of commute difficulties etc. Or you may need to use Zoom. We will again use a system of “practice buddies” during this Practice Period. This means you will draw the name of someone with whom to be accountable for sitting each day and/or for study and/or for practice with intention. We will have a brief orientation meeting to discuss oryoki and buddies on Wednesday October 3 after zazen is over at 6:10. Oryoki ironing training will be on the 5th in the mid-afternoon but private lessons also available.

Please see me or call if you have any questions or you want some support in deciding about what commitment to make during the Practice Period.

Practice Period Calendar 2018

Regular schedule:

Tuesday:  6:20 a.m. (formal) and 5:40 p.m. (informal)*

Wednesday: 6:20 a.m. and 5:40 p.m. (both formal)*

Thursday: 6:20 a.m. (formal)

Friday:  5:40 p.m. (informal)

Saturday: 7:00 a.m.-11:45 a.m: one hour zazen, with interval, service and oryoki breakfast; continuing with 9:30 zazen and Saturday program

Special Schedule:


5 Oryoki ironing and other instruction 3 p.m. Zazen 5:40 p.m.

6  One Day Sit (6:30 a.m.-8:45 p.m.) PP Open and shuso enter at 7:30 p.m.)

10 Class: After service at 6:00 p.m., Way Seeking Mind talk by Shuso , Class will last from 6:45-7:45 p.m.

17 Class after service at 6:10, short break, and class from 6:30-7:30

20 Sangha Samu Day 9:30a.m.-3 p.m.

24 Full Moon Ceremony/Class Zazen 5:40-6:00, Council/check-in 6-6:20, Ceremony 6:20-6:45. Class 6:45-7:45

31 Class after service at 6:10, short break, and class from 6:30-7:30


3   Soji a.m.

7   Sejiki/Skit Night    4:45 p.m. altar prep/5:40 zazen/6:20ceremony/6:45 skit night

14-18  Sesshin  (6:30 a.m.-8:45 p.m. except Sunday ends with Shuso Ceremony at 3:30 p.m.)

14    Full Moon Ceremony (no check-in, silent reflection)

16 Shosan Ceremony 7:40 p.m. (All in Practice Period are welcome)

18 Shuso Ceremony 3:30 p.m. (All in Practice Period are welcome)

*Formal sitting means more formal clothing and service, usually 40 minute period. Informal means less formal clothing and no service, usually 30 minute period.

Statement of Intention