Sesshin: Vital Zen – Reflections

Sesshin retreat group

from Sophie Barraclough

Towards the end of November 2024, we had our annual Sesshin retreat. This year we were in the Peak District at the Nightingale Centre in Great Hucklow. The Sesshin was around the topic of Vital Zen and it was a combination of sitting and walking meditation, movement and energy work. Sophie Barraclough was one of the 40 participants. Here below, her answers to a few questions about her experience at the Sesshin.

How would you describe the Vital Zen retreat you attended in the Peak District in November?

Overall I found it a very positive experience. It was great to have a concentrated period of time with others, to devote to zen practice in this way. The venue was lovely and we were looked after very well.

The retreat was an opportunity to do some energy practices, how do you think these practices can be beneficial for practitioners? What benefits, if any, have you experienced yourself?

Up until now I have found the energetic practices quite hard to do / engage with. Because of the format of the retreat and the chance to really immerse myself and not have to do anything else, I was able to explore the practices in a way I have not done before. I came away feeling energised and revitalised. I think it’s vital for people to be balanced energetically and the practices we learnt can definitely help with that. I have slept really well since the retreat (better than normal).

The retreat also focused on the importance of grounding, how that, in your opinion, can be important in our life?

It’d essential as far as I can see, having that strong grounded base from which to operate from. One way this was described was that it’s like cultivating the strong roots of a tree – an essential part of being able to withstand the ‘winds of life’.

How did you integrate the experience of the retreat into your life?

I think I can often be out of balance energetically, which can manifest itself as a feeling of low energy, so going forwards, I am focusing on the energetic practices we learnt, to help me maintain / cultivate / establish the vitality needed to show up in this world. As with all theses things it’s about establishing a good habits via a daily practice.

Three words to describe my experience at the retreat

Gratitude / Inspiring / Life affirming (ok that’s four words!)