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. Our theme will be Zen’s Chinese Ancestors: from Huike, who received transmission from Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who brought Zen to China in the sixth century, to Rujing, who passed Soto Zen practice to the Japanese monk, Dogen in the thirteenth century, to the great women ancestors, named and un-named, who were not included in the lineages. The history of Chinese Chan (Zen) is rich with legends, stories and koans of Chinese Zen masters and their students. During practice period we will deepen our acquaintance with these vivid characters. We may discover that their struggles to awaken and follow the bodhisattva path in this world of suffering were not so different from our own. A recommended reading list will be posted soon.
Kate and Michael will lead the opening weekend retreat September 25-27. Kate will lead a day retreat on Preparing for Death on October 19. Practice period culminates in our annual Loon Lake six-day residential sesshin November 19-15, led by Founding Teacher Zoketsu Norman Fischer and Mountain Rain’s Guiding Teachers. 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. Sangha leaders who have been shuso for past practice periods, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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: