WHAT TO BRING
WHAT NOT TO BRING
Toothbrush & toothpaste
Pillow and sleeping bag or bedding
Dark, non-patterned loose-fitting clothing for exercise periods
Dark, non-patterned clothing for work period
Dark, non-patterned T-shirt (if needed) to wear under the robe
Soft-soled shoes (no boots or hard heels) for outdoor early morning kinhin
Cosmetics, non-medicinal creams, etc.
Reading or writing material
Personal food items (unless needed to take with medication but clear this first)
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. If you do not trust yourself to leave it alone, you may deposit it with the monitor for the duration of sesshin. Prior to sesshin you will be given a phone number to share with anyone who might need to contact you in an emergency. That phone is checked for text and voicemail messages about five times a day, and you will be notified if you have a message that requires your swift attention.
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.
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. You may also want to familiarize yourself with the meal chants before coming to sesshin; see the "Meal Chants" section of the pdf of the Rochester Zen Center Chant Book. 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.