Down the centuries, the Zen tradition has found that concentrated periods of time, devoted exclusively to practice can effectively lead to great openings and shifts of awareness. With wholehearted practice you will experience kensho or satori – the enlightenment of Zen, in which you will “astonish the heavens and shake the earth.”
Zenways runs a variety of Zen retreats from longer residential sesshins (formal Zen retreats), to shorter 3-day Breakthrough to Zen Retreats, to one-day non-residential retreats throughout the year.
A sesshin is a formal Zen retreat, usually lasting 5 days – sometimes longer. It includes periods of sitting meditation, walking meditation, sanzen (private Zen interviews), working meditation, and sometimes yoga.
upcoming sesshin retreats
Trip to Japan and Zen Sesshin
Sesshin (5-day retreat) – Vital Zen
Testimonials and experiences
Click here to read some experiences from past retreat participants
All our Zen retreats are suitable for beginners as well as more experienced practitioners who wish to deepen their study. They are designed for adults who are able, for the retreat period, to devote themselves solely to the activities of the retreat. If you have been suffering from severe mental health difficulties, a less intensive retreat format may be more suitable for you. Please discuss with us. Our retreats are not suitable for children.
A Typical Sesshin Schedule
Our retreat schedules will typically begin early and carry on into the evening. You are asked to participate fully and whole-heartedly with all activities. Every activity can be adapted in the case of physical difficulties. We keep silence as much as possible during the retreat and ask you to speak only when necessary, for example when you have to clarify the scope of work or need an extra blanket or something unexpected has cropped up. This helps you to keep awareness and focus as much as possible. Be mindful and offer your help to others unobtrusively. Remember that if you chat you may destroy your own and others’ chances of deep insights.
Breakthrough to Zen Retreats (BZR)
These 3-day retreats are designed specifically for you to find out your true nature – to find out who you really are (enlightenment or kensho in Japanese). This intensive format is suitable for those with no prior meditation experience, but can also be very powerful for those who have an ongoing or developing practice.
We offer BZRs throughout the year, both in-person and online. For more information about these retreats see here.
Our day retreats and practice days are often based around the teachings of important Zen masters, or focussed on specific topics within Zen.
Past retreat days have been based around:
- Mirror Zen – a practice from medieval Japan originated by Zen nuns
- Who are you really? – the practice of working with a koan
- Empowering your practice – Zen practice and vitality
- The teachings of Nantembo Roshi
- Compassion within Zen
The day will typically include a talk, meditation, a work period, a bring-and-share lunch, and a chance for sanzen.
Zenways Family Gathering
In the Zen school, the anniversary of the Buddha’s Enlightenment is traditionally celebrated on 8th December with a retreat held in the days leading up to 8th known as Rohatsu. In Zenways, we celebrate Rohatsu with an all-night meditation retreat starting in the evening of December 7th and finishing on 8th in the morning. This night of intense, focused practice is beneficial to both experienced Zen practitioners and beginners.
It is said that the Buddha sat down beneath the Bodhi tree and made the great resolve, “Though only my bones and sinews remain and my skin and flesh wither away, I will not leave this place until I realise complete enlightenment”. He practiced through the night.
In the Denkoroku (The Transmission of the Light) Zen Master Keizan picks up the story: “Shakyamuni Buddha realised enlightenment on seeing the morning star, and said, “I and all beings on earth together realise enlightenment simultaneously.”” After this great realisation, he spent the forty years of the rest of his life helping others to find what he’d found. This is the essence of Zen – to find the happiness that doesn’t depend on external conditions and to be a useful person in the world.
Information about booking for our Rohatsu event is usually sent out by e-mail in the autumn each year.