Retreats are held in complete silence, i.e., no conversation, other than in the morning teaching meetings with Shinzen (called “group process”), the online session with Shinzen, and in selected meetings held privately out of earshot.
This helps conserve energy for the work of meditation – energy which is ordinarily dissipated through talking. There is an intimate link between the forces that drive conversation (“external dialogue”) and the forces that agitate the mind (“internal dialogue”). Maintaining silence at retreats aids in clarifying and working through these forces, thus helping to develop an abiding state of inner calm.
Please observe noble silence meticulously and if approached by a retreatant about this, accept their reminder with loving-kindness. If you need to remind another retreatant about noble silence, please do so with loving-kindness.
Some people interpret noble silence to include avoiding eye contact. If you find this too impersonal, certainly feel free to make eye contact which radiates loving-kindness. Please be aware however, that if some retreatants avert their gaze, they are not being unfriendly!
As part of the noble silence, retreatants may choose to refrain from writing and reading except for materials directly related to the practice of meditation, such as the handouts from the literature table.
To aid in Noble Silence:
- Turn off beepers and alarms on digital watches. Do not bring watches or clocks that “tick” into the Zendo.
- All questions regarding housekeeping, retreat protocol, the dharma, etc. can be communicated in writing and posted on the bulletin board in the Tea Room, except for serious emergencies. Please check the board for responses. This also ensures the retreat organizers are not unnecessarily disturbed from their retreat.
- If you must communicate with someone in an emergency, please tap them on the shoulder to get their attention and leave the hall. Special needs or questions can be directed to the Retreat Manager for the day whose name will be posted in the Tea Room.
Zendo Protocol & Etiquette
An optimal environment for meditation:
- On entering the Zendo, please leave shoes outside.
- Except for emergencies, retreatants should not enter or leave the Zendo while a sitting is in process. You may enter the Zendo when the light outside is green. If you arrive late and the light outside is red, do not enter the Zendo. Sitting periods begin with three bells and end with one bell.
- Please keep all food and drink out of the Zendo, other than water bottles and throat lozenges.
- Since external order can help in our quest for internal peace, we ask that all chairs be kept in the back (or along the sides) of the room. To preserve a sense of decorum, please keep your sitting area organized and tidy by folding blankets, fluffing cushions, etc. when you leave the Zendo.
- Although you may move if necessary during a sitting period, this should be done very slowly and silently so as to be virtually undetectable by other meditators. Also, always feel free to stand in place to help you ward off sleepiness. In order to preserve an atmosphere of sacredness, do not lie down in the Zendo unless instructed to as part of a guided meditation, or yoga session. Individuals with medical conditions are of course an exception.
- Do not wear perfumes/after shave or strong-smelling lotions, and remember to turn off beepers, alarms on digital watches, etc.