The tradition of the intensive practice period goes back to the time of the Buddha when, during the rainy season, the Buddha and his disciples gathered in one place to meditate and study together. As our own rainy season approaches here in the Pacific Northwest, we will hold our 19th annual Mountain Rain practice period.
In Zen monasteries intensive practice periods traditionally last for three months, but ours is shorter, designed to support participants to intensify and strengthen their practice while living in the midst of family and work responsibilities. This year's practice period will be led by Guiding Teachers Myoshin Kate McCandless. and Shinmon Michael Newton and our theme will be Living in Samsara: Suffering and Resilience.
Samsara is the realm of sickness, old age and death, of greed, hatred and ignorance. It’s the realm of dukkha, the pervasive suffering and dissatisfaction that is characteristic of human life. The eightfold path taught by the Buddha is a way to freedom from suffering. But it can seem like that freedom is countless lifetimes away from our lives as they are right now. Yet the bodhisattva path is to live in samsara, vowing to awaken with and for all beings. The Zen teaching of non-duality, challenges us to realize that samsara is not separate from nirvana—we can awaken right now, to just this life as it is. During practice period we will explore a range of teachings, practices and perspectives that can help us to cultivate the resilience to live in this world of suffering with an open mind, a caring heart, and the capacity for appropriate action. A recommended reading list is available in PDF form. Please click here: Reading list.
Kate and Michael will lead the opening weekend retreat September 21-23, and on October 13 Kate will lead a day retreat on 10,000 Joys, 10,000 Sorrows: Caring for those Approaching End-of-Life. Practice period culminates in our annual Loon Lake six-day residential sesshin November 10-16, led by Founding Teacher Zoketsu Norman Fischer. Sesshin follows the ancient rhythms of the monastic daily schedule, including meals with oryoki, the traditional three bowls used by Zen monks.
This year we will not have a shuso or "head monk" for practice period. Instead we will invite our former shusos to give dharma talks on the theme. Wednesday evenings will be dharma seminars, with two zazen periods, followed by an informal talk and small/large group discussion, and some written reflection. A detailed schedule of talks will be posted closer to the beginning of practice period.
How to Participate
There are no specific requirements for participation, though we encourage you to register (see below). It helps to structure your practice period and affirm your commitment. Various possible components are listed below as suggestions. Please take into consideration your family and work commitments and decide what commitments will best nourish your practice.
· Home sitting practice
· Practice at the Mountain Rain zendo, or with your local sangha
· Dokusan (individual meetings) with Mountain Rain’s teachers and practice discussion with sangha leaders. (See below.)
· Participation in a practice period dyad/triad. (See below.)
· Participation in practice period retreats
· Participation in weekly dharma seminars
· "Zen Arts" practice (This can be broadly defined as any art/craft practiced with mindful awareness.)
· Family and/or work as practice
· Engaged Buddhist practice (service/activism)
· Commitment to simplify or restrict personal lifestyle
· Specific personal mindfulness practices
Practice Period Dyads/Triads
We'd like to encourage local and long-distance participants to join a Practice Period Dyad/Triad. This is a small group of two or three people who ideally will meet at the beginning, mid-point and end of the practice period for discussion and support, in person or by phone/Skype. If you would like to join a dyad/triad please sign up on the registration form below. You can form a group with someone you know, or we'd be happy to match you up.
For those who live at a distance, dharma talks and seminar talks will be made available on the website soon after they have been given. Our practice leaders, Nin-en Susan Elbe, Dai-I Flo Rublee, Joko Claire Talbot, Jakushin Todd Slobogean, and Jikai Vicki Turay, all of whom have been shuso for a past practice period, will serve as practice mentors by phone or e-mail for long-distance participants. Specific guidelines will be given, but we recommend three contacts through the practice period. Please indicate on the registration form below if you would like a practice mentor. Availability may be limited, depending on how many requests we receive. Dokusan by phone (discussion about your practice) with guiding teachers Shinmon Michael and Myoshin Kate is available by request. If you would like to schedule a phone dokusan please contact the teacher directly if you have their personal email, or email email@example.com and the teacher will contact you to arrange a time.
Dana: Dana is an ancient Pali word that means generosity. It is an important part of our practice and has many aspects, one of which is supporting teachers so that they can give their time and energy to sharing the dharma with the sangha. Dana is completely voluntary and the amount is up to your discernment, considering your circumstances. Dana cheques to the teachers or practice leaders can be made out to the individual, and sent to Mountain Rain Zen Community 2016 Wall St. Vancouver, BC V5L 1B1. Also e-transfers can be made by email once you have the teacher’s or mentor’s personal email.
This registration form below will help you plan your practice period and clarify your intentions in advance. Anyone is welcome to participate in the events during practice period, but if you register as a participant, it will affirm your commitment, and you will receive weekly email updates, resources and suggestions for discussion. Participants are invited to send in reflections, questions, photos, or poems to share with other participants, and we’ll post them in the weekly newsletter.
Practice period is a wonderful way to strengthen and nourish your practice, supported by the sangha. We hope you’ll be able to participate in whatever way is best for you.
Please click the link below to open the registration form: