Intensive Meditation

About Extended Sittings

SESSHINS are extended periods of intensive, silent zazen.

They are held in seclusion, follow a rigorous schedule, and last from two to seven days. Sesshins afford meditators the opportunity and challenge of total immersion in practice. Roshi Graef currently conducts sesshin in Vermont and Costa Rica.

Because of the demanding and intense nature of sesshin, only people who have been sitting regularly should apply. Attendance at a Workshop and at least one all-day sitting or a short sesshin (two to three days) are prerequisites for attendance at seven-day sesshins.

The sesshin day begins at 4:00 a.m. and ends at 9:30 p.m. There are ten hours of formal zazen each day; informal zazen is encouraged during breaks and rest periods. Other elements of sesshin are walking meditation, chanting, prostrations, work, exercise, and vegetarian meals. Dokusan (private instruction with Roshi Graef) is offered three times a day, and there are daily teisho (Zen talks by the Roshi or guest teacher).

RETREATS are loosely-structured periods for silent meditation.

They last two or three days and are held once a year in Vermont and once a year in Costa Rica. Personal retreats can take place any time there is availablility in the Zen Center's schedule or whenever the retreat cabin is available.

Retreats are open to anyone who has received prior instruction in meditation. The schedule is open and flexible with only a 90-minute work period required each day. Retreats are ideal for those who want to have unstructured time for meditation. Anyone, even those with no prior sesshin experience, may apply to a meditation retreat.

JATAKA SESSHINS led by Roshi Rafe Martin are unique.

At Jataka Tale sesshins the weekend is full time, but on weekdays the only structured hours are early morning and evening.

During the day people are free to leave to go to work or pursue other activities (writing, art, childcare, etc.). Guest Zen teacher Roshi Rafe Martin gives daily talks on the Jataka Tales and leads discussions on them during the weekend. An article describing one participant’s reaction to this special sesshin can be found here.

July/August 7-day Sesshin Information

General Sesshin Information

Shortcuts to Having a Strong Sesshin, by Sunyana Graef, Roshi

“Going to sesshin is a bit like preparing oneself prior to taking a journey to a distant land. You need appropriate clothes, you need to know a few survival phrases, and you need to have passing familiarity with the culture. In the same way, when you come to sesshin, you need to dress correctly, you need to know a few terms, and you need to know what is expected of you.” Read More . . .

The Jataka Tales Come to Vermont, by Josh Kelman

“This was not your ordinary sesshin. The schedule had three full time days and four more going to work each day. And in place of teisho, Rafe Martin told Jataka stories complete with background, commentary and discussion. The Jataka tales, stories of the Buddha’s past lives, opened up before us and we entered them”. Read More . . .

  • March 15-17—2-day retreat
  • April 20-27—7-day sesshin
  • May 16-19—3-day sesshin in Costa Rica
  • July 27-August 3—7-day sesshin
  • October 11-16—5-day Jataka sesshin
  • December 7-14—7-day Rohatsu sesshin