"The 60th practice period at Green Gulch Temple has now begun." That's what we heard this morning! My first practice period. It always starts with Tangaryo, a ancient tradition of entering the temple, which also means sit all day long, otherwise known as 14 hours with 3 half hour breaks. I didn't think I could do it but here I am. This morning we had a wonderful ceremony bowing with all of the staff that will support us and guide us through our study. In the early light of dawn, stars still out, and a delicious warm breeze we all walked to the temples of Green Gulch to say hello. Kitchen, maintenance, office, farm, garden, temple. So beautiful.
What is a practice period? The short answer is that this is a time, 55 days, dedicated to practicing and studying zen Buddhism. During the growing season the farm is our center, during practice period, the zendo (meditation hall) is our center of life. We will not "leave the valley" as they say for these 55 days. We can hike, go to the beach but essentially we are minimizing outside distraction to "study the self." All 33 of us, young and older, will live in the main residence hall, Cloud Hall. We will sit 5-6 periods of zazen every day except on our one personal day, we will work about four hours each day, attend study hall, have a half day sit once a week and finish out this retreat time with a 6 day silent retreat in which we sit pretty much all day.
I know that this type of thing may not make sense to many people but I feel so lucky to have space in my life to take a two month retreat. A time to get know my innermost self or at least get a little closer. In the mean time I will not use the internet too often (just the occasional email check for important things) or phone (other than to check in with the parents of course) and do what I can to minimize the distractions and escapes that we all use to avoid being bored in order to realize that every moment is full and unique. We'll see. Wish me luck!