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Sesshin Guidelines

What to Bring

Toothbrush & toothpaste
Pillow and sleeping bag or bedding
Bath towel
Dark, non-patterned loose-fitting clothing for exercise periods
Dark, non-patterned clothing for work period
Dark, non-patterned shirt and socks (if needed) to wear under the robe during zazen
Soft-soled shoes for outdoor early morning kinhin on porch

What Not to Bring

Shaving articles
Hair Dryer
Cosmetics, non-medicinal creams, etc.
Reading or writing material
Personal food items


Sesshin is conducted in silence.  If you need to communicate something to the monitor, to your job supervisor or to a roommate, use the notepaper and pens provided.  If the matter is complicated, the monitor or your work supervisor may take you to a place out of earshot where you can handle the matter by whispering.  Make sure your cell phone is OFF and stowed before sesshin begins.  Give the Head of Zendo's number (773-318-3389) to anyone who might need to contact you in an emergency.  The phone is  checked for text and voicemail messages about 5 times a day, and you will be notified if you have a message.


Everyone is assigned a job for the duration of the sesshin.   All kitchen jobs report to the Head Cook; all other jobs report to the Head Housekeeper.  Go over your job description with your supervisor before sesshin begins.  During sesshin, do not leave your job until you have checked with your supervisor.

Formal Meals

Breakfast and dinner are formal meals.  You will be shown how these are conducted before sesshin begins.  Until you have memorized the meal chants, be sure to take a chant card to your place as you enter the dining area.  Keep to your practice while eating.  Do not look about the room, etc.


A system of bells, drum, umpan and mok-tok are used to signal events during sesshin.  The mok-tok is a wake-up or warning signal.  Three strikes on the big bell indicates that a formal round of zazen is about to begin and that you should be in or headed to the zendo.  The drum begins and ends a work period or signals the start of teisho.  The umpan signals mealtime.  You do not need to concern yourself with the clock time, and no one but those in oversight positions may wear a watch.


During sesshin the gaze should be lowered.  Do not be making eye contact or looking around.  While walking about keep the hands close to the body, preferably in a kinhin position (clasped at the sternum).  Do not just let the arms hang at your side or swing them.  Be mindful of your footfall, particularly during yaza (informal night sitting after formal rounds) and as you leave and enter the zendo during formal rounds (after your dokusan, for example).  Be attentive to your motions, and do not rush about.  Do not loiter, but do zazen or rest or do kinhin during the rest periods.

Sesshin Agreement & Liability Waiver

"I agree (1) that I will finish the entire sesshin or portion of sesshin for which I have applied, and, (2) understanding that sesshin is a period of strenuous traditional Zen training involving some 10 hours of formal meditation per day during which participants may be frequently struck with the kyosaku (encouragement stick), that neither the Chicago Zen Center nor any of its employees, officers, trustees, or trainees – nor any person acting as sesshin monitor or otherwise supervising, overseeing, or conducting any aspect of sesshin – shall be liable to me or to any other person for any loss or injury suffered by me in connection with my participation in sesshin, whether or not such loss or injury is caused by any act or omission of the Center or of any of the persons specified above."