In September and October we ran two online sesshins. The aim was to replicate, as far as possible, a physical sesshin, with extended sitting periods, interviews, work periods (samu) and services. There were also suggestions provided for meal preparation and other shared samu activities.
The feedback for both these events was very positive. Whilst everyone missed the physical event, and the typical opportunities it provides for social walks and chats, the general view was that the online experience had a similar feel but also its own unique flavour.
The spirit of sesshin was maintained by making this a closed group once it was underway and by encouraging everyone to attend as many of the sessions as possible each day. This sense of commitment, support and shared effort was an important ingredient in giving the Sesshin a structure and identity separate to the normal weekly schedule.
In future we will also include an introductory or refresher session which will cover the basics of ‘Zendo’ and interview procedure.
Anyone is welcome to join Sesshin although we would normally prefer folks to have completed at least some of the normal introductory sessions.
If you are uncertain about the benefits of online sitting, joining an online sesshin will settle the matter for you (one way or another!). It is a great way to maintain and deepen our practice with a teacher and with the Sangha, particularly during these times of restriction on contact and travel.
The following poem sums up my impressions of both a traditional Crosby Sesshin and the online version.
‘My roommate’s alarm’
My roommate’s alarm
crashes into a peaceful dream
With the delicacy of an early warning klaxon.
Ten minutes early, he likes to be ahead of the game.
Grumbling and stumbling
across the cold, dark courtyard,
I make my way to the outside loo.
On the way back, this ascending monkey
looks up to the heavens to see Venus and Jupiter.
Gold discs in a dark blue satin sky.
The universe is indeed vast and wide,
but for now,
I put on my robes and go in search of tea.
Dark shapes and bleary faces
gathered reverentially around the sacred urn.
The blessing of hot tea and humanity.
In the Zendo, long shadows from the single candle
point up the high rafters
and stonework of the ancient barn.
“All evil karma” we intone and atone and atone again.
We enclose the silence
as it envelops this timeless place until…..
The sound of a temple bell and the voice of a distant Ino
zoom across the darkened miles.
Back in my room,
back in the moment,
the Path lies straight ahead
Where else is there to be?
Suigen, Autumn 2020.