Practice Period is a time in which Zen students practice intensively together. Historically, practice period started with the rains retreats of the early Buddhist monks and nuns when they could not travel due to heavy rains. During that time they settled down for more intensive practice. Annual practice periods have been an essential part of Zen practice for a thousand years.
Although we don't live in monasteries, each winter in the spirit of those in monastic practice, we settle our busy lives in order to intensify our practice. We bring our mindfulness and Dharma practice to the foreground of our lives more than usual.
In some years we have at the center of our practice period a head student, or shuso, who serves as the center of the sangha wheel giving classes, Dharma talks, and meets privately with practice period students over tea.
However this year we are will collectively "be shuso" - supporting each other in fully showing up in our seats in the zendo, at work, at home, and in our lives.
We will also be guided this year by a theme: Zen Pioneers in the West. And we'll explore the teachings and life stories of several pioneering early Zen teachers in North America.
A weekly Wednesday evening 6pm study group will study a reader (to be provided) with short Dharma Talks and biographical sketches of several pioneering teachers.
Recommended (optional) supporting texts for this topic are:
- James Ishmael Ford, Zen Master Who? A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen. (Wisdom 2006)
- Rick Fields, How the Swans Came to the Lake. A narrative history of Buddhism in America. (Shambhala 1992).
Note that during Practice Period the 7pm-9pm schedule will include three periods of zazen meditation and more opportunities than usual for dokusan with Tim and practice discussion with the other teachers.
Six weeks go by quickly. To help stay connected to practice period you may choose to work with a practice period partner. We can help you find one. Someone you get together with or call regularly during practice period to discuss how it's going with your intentions and practice. When you sign up please let us know if you'd like help finding a practice partner.
We start with an opening ceremony on Wednesday January 27nd, 7pm - 9pm, at the Dharma Hall and a Saturday retreat on January 30th, and concluding with a three day sesshin March 10-13 and a final ceremony on Sunday March 13th at 11am. Practice Period often includes classes and extra zazen meetings. See the full list of events below.
For most participants it's also a time to practice more at home, to study, or to take on a special focus in their practice lives.
Please use the registration form below to state your intentions in writing. There will also be an opportunity to say something about your intentions for practice period at the opening ceremony on January 27nd.
Please tell us in the form if you are participating at a distance and would like to be assigned a practice leader who will check in with you during practice period. We will do our best to post weekly updates from the Zen Pioneers Study Group on the website to support distance participation.
Also let us know if you would like help finding a practice partner to stay in touch with.
Practice Period Events, all at Red Cedar Dharma Hall unless otherwise noted (click title names for details)
- Practice Period Opening Ceremony - Wednesday, January 22nd 7pm - 9pm
- Practice Period Opening Sesshin Saturday, January 30th 6am - 9pm
- Zen Pioneers Study Group - Wednesdays 6pm-6:45pm, February 3rd - March 9th
- Introduction to Zen Meditation Practice - Mondays 6:30pm - 8:00pm, February 8th - 22st
- Mid-Practice Period Check-in & Parinirvana Ceremony - Wednesday, February 17th, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
- Sunday Simple Sit - Sunday February 21st, 9am - 5:00pm
- Buddhism in Bellingham panel - Whatcom READS! - Friday, February 26th, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
- Introduction to Buddhist Meditation with Ruth Ozeki and Tim Burnett - Whatcom READS! - Friday, March 4th, 11:30am - 1:00pm
- Principles of Buddhism with Ruth Ozeki and Tim Burnett - Whatcom READS! - Friday, March 4th, 1:30pm - 3:00pm at the YWCA Ballroom
- Public Dharma Talks: Zoketsu Norman Fischer & Nomon Tim Burnett - Friday March 11th and Saturday March 12. Norman's talks at 10:30am, Tim's at 2:30pm.
- Three Day Sesshin with Zoketsu Norman Fischer & Nomon Tim Burnett - Thursday March 10th 7pm - Sunday March 13th 2pm. Includes the Public Dharma Talks and the Closing Ceremony.
- Practice Period Closing Ceremony - Sunday March 13th, 11am - 1pm.
And consider renewing or expanding your commitment to our regular practice times during Winter Practice Period:
Wednesday Night Practice 7pm - 9pm - is especially important during practice period. During this time we offer three periods of zazen with walking meditation in between. A weekly opportunity for a deep immersion in silence. Dokusan with Nomon Tim Burnett will be available.
Noon Practice Noon-1pm. Consider if you are able to arrange your schedule to attend our increasingly popular sit from noon to 1pm on Mondays and Fridays.
Saturday Morning Practice 6am - 8:30am. Deep quiet, 3 periods of meditation, and the full morning service which is seen as a central and important ritual in Soto Zen.
To sign up for practice period:
Fill out the registration form to sign up for practice period, stating your intentions and if you are interested in distance participation. Click Register on the left to begin the process. Note that separate registration is required for the two retreats and the class.
A note on fees: there is no overall fee for joining. There are registration fees for the classes and retreats (register separately) and participants are encouraged to make donations to the sangha or the teachers they work with.