To everyone coming to sesshin for the first time,
There are no formal instructions answering "What should I bring to sesshin?" and "How can I prepare for my first sesshin?" Big Joe recently asked some of us what should he know before coming to sesshin. He also asked, "Should I sleep more?" (May be he meant because I'm going to be sleep deprived during sesshin?). Well....even though we do get up (much) earlier... it is actually not true that sesshin deprives us of sleep. If we add up 6 hours of sleep at night (10:30 PM- 4:30 AM, see full schedule at the bottom of this page) and three half an hour long naps after each meal, we get atleast 7.5 hours everyday. When we come to sesshin for the first few times, we can even longer naps after meals because no one minds if we need to head straight to our dorm rooms! The truth is, however, as we keep going to more and more sesshins and the need to sleep goes down as the days pass. Some of you might have seen May's post two months ago -- in an email to me she had said, "it is much easier to get up at 3 during sesshins than outside of sesshins". It helps to not come to sesshin totally wiped out but we don't really need to sleep more before sesshin! :)
Bring along: In terms of what we do need to bring, here is what I can think of: Change of clothes (we try to choose modest non-distracting clothing), a pair of slip on sandals or slippers, personal items such as toothbrush and soaps etc, alarm clock to get up at the right times after breaks. Murray Grove management gives plenty of sheets and towels.
Cost: Our group might be the one to offer the cheapest sesshins in the country! The cost (including meals and stay) is $20 per day for college students, $30 per day for students who have graduated recently and might not have full time jobs or financial difficulties and $40 per day for people with full-time jobs. By the way, if you are in financial crunch but want to come to sesshin, please discuss it with Kurt.
Food: We prepare delicious fresh meals every day - so we don't need to worry about bringing any food items from home. We eat from what are called 'Oryoki bowls' (with chopsticks if you like; pictured on top). It might seem weird at first but it is rather beautiful and simple way to eat meals. Usually Gary explains the meal rituals to newcomers. Tea is officially served only twice a day but You can bring your favorite herbal tea bags if you like -- there are some common flavors available. There is also some instant coffee and honey around!
Room: We share room with one other person of the same gender in the dorms and the bathrooms are common.
What to do when not sitting or sleeping: Help in the kitchen if you like (there is always something that needs to be done) or take a walk! Kurt has often said that it is not a good idea to bring books or music. There are some trails in the woods surrounding the Murray Grove area and you could bring sneakers to walk in the evenings.
Also, it is good to know that the area can get quite a high density of Deer-ticks that can carry the bug that causes Lyme disease. So please cover your body when you walk outside and check yourself for ticks if you have stayed out for long. No one in our group has gotten sick from this before -- but it is good to know!
So, if May 2009 is your first sesshin - welcome to the adventurous journey ..one breath at a time!
If anyone else would like to add to the list fo things to bring -- please do!