Winter Seichu Formal Training Begins
Hello friend! It’s been a while since we’ve posted an update, so let’s catch up.
First, some business:
MBZC will be hosting three dai-sesshin retreats this winter training season. Our first dai-sesshin, Rohatsu (Dec. 15-22), is full. If you live nearby, however, and would like to attend a public talk given by our teacher during Rohatsu or any of the other retreats this winter, please call or email us for details.
February 8-14: There is still room in this retreat; there is space in our March 4-10 retreat as well. Please RSVP via email if you are interested in attending. Attendance for retreats will be more limited than usual this winter, so don’t wait until the last minute to contact us about coming to a dai-sesshin!
* Note: if you are coming to Rohatsu or our February dai-sesshin, the day after each retreat ends there will be a ceremony in the morning. Book your return flights accordingly, i.e. late afternoon/early evening. (We cannot promise that we’ll be able to get you to the airport if your plane flies out on the morning of a ceremony.)
* Please book all arrival flights into Ontario no later than 7pm.
* Please arrive for every retreat at the latest in time for Banka/afternoon chanting (3:10pm) on the day of Hashun-kyuji.
* If we are picking you up from or taking you to the airport, there is a one way fee of $15.
* MBZC does not accept new students — i.e. students who have not previously done sanzen with Joshu Sasaki Roshi — for dai-sesshin retreats without a strong recommendation from an osho/priest affiliated with Sasaki Roshi.
As you may know, the MBZC yearly calendar is split into four seasons: in the winter and summer, when our teacher Joshu Sasaki Roshi is on camp, we practice formally. In the spring and fall Roshi hosts retreats elsewhere, while the fulltime MBZC residents stay here on camp and engage in “seikan” semi-formal training.
Roshi arrived on camp a few days ago, and today marks our second day of winter seichu formal training. The fulltime seichu participants this winter are: Dokan, Gento, Myoren, Kendo, Genkai, Bindu Dexter, Kazumi Tanaka, Patrick Mair, and Andrea Binder. (We also have a cat, Kara, on camp, though it pains me to even mention her. Her girth, which is substantial, is matched only by her uselessness. We’ve taken to setting mousetraps in the inji cabin, where she sleeps, as she seems to suffer from acute mousephobia and steers clear of all rodents.)
Winter and summer seichu training periods can be pretty intense — they are animated by a spirit of total commitment to the practice. There’s little to no personal time or space; the participants learn to function and live as a unit, or a “dharma family.” Working, sitting, and eating in silence together, we come to know each other quite intimately. The practice is difficult, but life-changing.
During seikan semi-formal training in the spring and fall, we get some time to process the work that we did during the formal training season. We have visitor’s days, where locals can come and check out the center, we work around camp, and we host workshops. One of the ways the center gets income in the off season is to provide support for various meditation groups who rent the facilities (we cook/clean for them etc.). There are a lot of people who consider MBZC to be their spiritual home, even if they only come here for one weekend a year to attend a workshop.
Marvin Treiger and his wife Cathy have been leading BodyMind meditation seminars for over fifteen years at MBZC. This past fall, MBZC’s fulltime residents — Dokan, Genkai, Bindu Dexter and I — cooked for and cleaned up after Marv, Cathy, and their retreatants as they engaged in meditation practice, dharma discussions, and silent meals for a weekend. Marv is a lively trickster of a teacher with a sharp intellect, a broad Cheshire grin and political convictions that don’t always jive with left-leaning Buddhist practitioners. If you’ve got a bonnet, chances are he’s trying to sneak a bee into it. We love him for this, as do his many devoted students.
We also hosted a yoga workshop given by Leeza Villagomez and the Yoga Den studio this fall. It’s been close to a decade since we’ve seen Leeza and crew, and we’re happy to have them back! (We expect to see them again: they were wowed by our homemade ‘Third Eye Chai’, which featured, amongst other secret and salubrious ingredients, freshly grated ginger and cardamom.)
The MBZC staff was also able to take family visits this past fall; and Dokan spent two weeks in New Mexico at the Bodhi Manda Zen Center, where he did some work on the hot water system there. Dokan, Genkai and Bindu also spent time in Northern California at Mount Cobb Saisho Zen-ji this fall, where Roshi was hosting an extended practice period. Meanwhile, on October 8th at Rinzai-ji, I underwent the Suiji Shiki ceremony and became a Zen osho or priest. It was a spirited, challenging, and wonderful ceremony thanks in large part to Roshi’s powerful energy and extemporaneous understanding of how a ceremony should be conducted.
Yes, it was a busy fall seikan semi-formal training period — and now it’s come to an end. We just finished formal morning chanting, and darkness is lifting on camp. There is a serious chill in the air, along with the plaintive wails of the new puppy just acquired by a cabin occupant across the way. (No, the mountain we live on is not 100% perfect and peaceful year-round: we’re plagued by useless cats and noisy dogs.)
We’re extremely fortunate to be here this winter doing our Buddhist practice with a 104-year-old Rinzai Zen Master, who somehow manages to continually be at the top of his game, year in, year out, even as his health weakens. For those of you who are practitioners, we hope to see you this winter, and for those of you who can’t make it out here, Happy Holidays and best wishes for the New Year.
PS – If you’re wondering what to get Roshi or MBZC for the new year, here is a link to gift ideas:
Find wish list: Type firstname.lastname@example.org