Cephas Hakugyu Lloyd
Writing this a few days after the end of the first long sesshin that has been conducted under the banner of Zen Peace Centre and all I can say is WOW!!. It was rather a leap into the unknown, Jitei and Fay had previously sat online sesshin with Zen River, where the zazen periods were broadcast via YouTube live, but here the whole sesshin was conducted through Zoom. This meant that we were actually in each others presence the whole time, which meant no sneaking off for a quick cuppa during Zazen. You may laugh, but human nature being what it is this was a real benefit.
When you compare the schedule to a typical in-person sesshin it was really stripped down and, I must admit, rather daunting. The sesshin essentially consisted of four 3 hour blocks of sitting and walking meditation with an hour break in between blocks for meals, per day. This gave little opportunity for the normal run of mental activity to gather much momentum. In a Zen River sesshin there would normally be quite a few other activities included in the daily schedule. Oryoki meals, services, work periods and a rest/exercise period. All of these do not readily lend themselves to online sesshins, but maybe we could incorporate some of these elements in the future.
One element which we did manage to retain was an informal private chat with Jitei via messenger to talk about how things were going and I know we were all most grateful for that input. Jitei also gave some inspired guided meditations. In my opinion it was a brave move by Jitei, offering such a full-on zazen experience, and a testament to the faith he has in the sangha. Thank you to everyone who participated in whatever way they could and big respect to everyone who went further, longer and deeper than they ever had before.