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Mindfulness in Sesshin


1.  KEEP SILENCE AT ALL TIMES:  Please do not speak or make physical gestures to anyone.  In deference to other people, always try to avoid making any unnecessary sounds.  You are expected to be silent everywhere. If you have any questions or problems, please address them to the teacher or monitor. Please refrain from phone calls or texting unless it is a matter of serious importance.


2. KEEP YOUR EYES LOWERED: Eye contact is distracting during sesshin. You will be connected to others at a deeper level anyway. Be self-contained. Carry your silence and attention to your movements during each moment of the sesshin.


3. BE MINDFUL IN EVERYTHING YOU DO: Let the sesshin flow. Pay no attention to little interruptions or irregularities in the schedule.  There will be work chores, and you will be given specific tasks.  Take these assignments as part of practice and be fully present in each task.


4.  BE ON TIME FOR ALL SCHEDULED ACTIVITIES: The bell will be used as signal for group activity.  You are expected to be at the zendo 5 minutes before zazen. Avoid coming to the zendo late since it is distracting to others.  Please inform the monitor if you are unable to sit at any given period of time.


5. ZENDO PROTOCOL DURING SESSHIN:  Please refer to Maria Kannon Zendo Protocol 


6. KENTAN:  Each morning at the beginning of the first sitting, the teacher will enter the Zendo and walk around to check individual postures, and the “presence” of each sitter. Participants will be seated in the zazen position facing the center.  Kentan, in its literal sense, means inspection of the mat. The teacher will first light incense and then make three prostrations. When the teacher is done, the monitor will announce “Kentan.”  The teacher will then approach the monitor and bow after which the teacher will walk slowly in front of each sitter. As the teacher approaches you, place your hands in the gasshoō position. Immediately after the teacher passes to your right or left side, move your hands down back to the mudra position. 


7.  KINHIN:   As you do Kinhin, walk to the pace of the person in front of you; do not lag behind at your own pace. (You may exit the Kinhin line to use the bathrooms. As you return, join in the Kinhin circle.) * Format for kinhin:  After first clap, walk slowly; 2nd clap, walk briskly around the zendo several times; 3rd clap, walk briskly back to your mat.) ** Format for position of the hands: Rest your left hand on the cave of your chest with your right hand on top of it.


8.  DOKUSAN: After the person who has finished dokusan exits the door, give the signal and walk lightly to the door and bow at the door with the exiting person. Go to your position on the mat before the teacher, and after you have sat down, put your palms together gasshō as your respectful greeting to the teacher. At the end of dokusan, and you will do another gasshō while still on your mat.  Slowly rise, walk normally to the door, and before you leave, do another gasshō. Do all movements in the dokusan room slowly & with mindfulness.



9.  TEA CEREMONY:  (See Maria Kannon Zendo Protocol)


10.  NO READING OR WRITING: Except for those who are working on specific tasks which are assigned by the teacher, please do not write or read during sesshin. If you need to read, please do so discreetly.


11.  PROPER CLOTHING: Please wear loose, solid-colored (pastel allowed in the summer) clothing at all times. Shorts are allowed in the summer as long as they are knee length.  Do not use any perfume, after-shave lotion, cologne or anything that would be noticeable to others. (No tank tops please.)


12.  MEALS: All meals will be taken in the dining area. Eat with mindfulness. It is suggested to try to eat 1/4 less than you normally do. In the dining hall, try to maintain a straight back, and correct posture. Avoid eye contact with others. Don’t gesture to others: if two people reach the same place at the same time, simply allow one to proceed and the other to follow. Limit gestures at meals. Keep yourself inwardly contained.


13.  CORRECTING OF POSTURES:  Occasionally, the monitor will go around to correct posture and offer a “thump” on the shoulders.  If you want to get the thump, place your hands in the gassho position to signal to the monitor that you want one. You should not bow. If you do not want a thump on the shoulder, simply touch the monitor’s hand on your right shoulder, using your left hand


14.  CHANTING:   Palms are held  together in the Gasshō position when chanting, except for the Heart Sutra.  Listen to the one leading the chant and to the beat of the mokugyo, and chant accordingly.



  • Wait for the sound of the gong before you rise in the morning. Turn digital alarm watches, beepers  or other electronic devices off in the Zendo (unless for medical reasons or otherwise agreed to by the monitor).

  • Please avoid eating outside formal group meals but feel free to serve yourself hot and cold drinks from the kitchen at any time during breaks from zazen.

  • Try to maintain Kinhin posture while moving around the grounds, especially as you walk to and from the teacher’s room.

  • Place shoes in a careful manner in the designated place before entering the Zendo and keep all personal items away from your mats.

  • When in the Zendo, you should maintain as correct a posture as you can, especially during Teisho, tea ceremony, meals, etc.

  • Always let the teacher rise first.  When the teacher comes in and all is seated, teacher bows and all shall respond with a bow.

  • During Zen chores, be sure to check the list in dining area for your specific assignment.  Volunteers are always needed after meals especially in cleaning the kitchen area.



Kentan – “inspection of the mat”, inspection by the teacher

Zazen – sitting meditation

Kinhin – walking meditation

Dokusan – one-to-one interview with the teacher

Teisho – “recited offering”, Zen talk addressing practice issues

Zendo – meditation hall or chapel

Gassho – bowing with hands together slightly beneath your nose as in prayer

Makugyo – wooden snake hit for rhythm when chanting

Han – wooden board struck  in the evening after chanting


*Copyright, 1997, Maria Kannon Zen Center

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