Retreat: What is a Sesshin?

NBZ Sangha member, Erica Mulford, shares a reflection on sitting her first sesshin. We so often get asked what is the purpose of our practice, what do you hope to achieve from a week of Zazen? Accompanying her reflection are photos by A. Jesse Jiryu Davis of NBZ sangha members on retreat with the Village Zendo:

"This is it" we heard time and time again. "This is it" stood for days of excitement, the days of fatigue, the days of laughter, the days of sorrow.
"This is it, what else can I tell you?" With this statement a young man once upon a time got "it" after years of struggle, years of search, he woke up and saw the truth. The Year End Sesshin provided the opportunity to directly experience what exactly "it" is. In a room flooded with silent stillness and a permeation of deep wisdom, most of the takeaways were skillfully implanted under the radar of mental comprehension. The Year End Sesshin was a lovely and powerful way to celebrate/enter the new year. 

Image description: A black and white photo of Giyu, Oshin, Erica, and Mandy smiling, facing the camera, sitting at a long dining table.

Image description: A black and white photo of Giyu, Oshin, Erica, and Mandy smiling, facing the camera, sitting at a long dining table.

For a while I did not know what my practice was. What exactly are we practicing in meditation? What are we trying to obtain? After speaking with several teachers throughout the retreat, the message was clear--don't try to get anywhere or to become anything, just come back to your breath time and time again, come back to your actual experience of this moment, for "turning away and touching are both wrong."  This answered another question of mine from when I was a little girl "mom, why do we desire not to follow our desires?" perhaps the message disclosed by the teaching is that the deepest desire lies in neither turning away nor touching such a desire, but coming back to what's actually real now. 

This one week retreat of distractionless stillness as well as the guidance of loving teachers, is an experience that will continue to emanate knowledge as it abides within; constantly revealing snippets of vast understanding. This is it, what else can I tell you. 

Image description: black and white photo of Giyu, Oshin, Mandy, and Erica sitting huddled together on stone steps in front of an old building. They are smiling and their hands are draped on each other.

Image description: black and white photo of Giyu, Oshin, Mandy, and Erica sitting huddled together on stone steps in front of an old building. They are smiling and their hands are draped on each other.