This information will give you an overview of the retreat before registering or before arriving to the retreat. Feel free to contact VSI via email if you need more clarification after reading this information. We hope the information below and information at orientation will answer your questions; however, if you have any concerns after orientation, please feel free to write a note and post it on the bulletin board and the Retreat Manager will answer it as soon as possible.
This is a silent retreat for persons of all levels of meditation experience. It includes sitting and walking meditation. It may include sessions of mindful movement; i.e., Yoga or Qi Gong, if volunteers are available to lead. If you’d like to volunteer, please sign up at the sign-up table at the retreat.
Instruction is through:
The retreat is designed to be an intensive learning experience and may heighten emotions. Please keep this in mind if you have experienced emotional distress or are under psychiatric care. You will be asked to read and sign the Waiver of Liability and Authorization for Emergency Medical Treatment when registering.
Special instruction is available for newcomers during the retreat with a Co-Teacher. In addition to a newcomer meeting with Shinzen and the Co-Teacher on the first day, newcomers are also pre-assigned online sessions with Shinzen the first few days. VSI facilitators (senior students trained by Shinzen) are often available for one-on-one interviews as well. For more information, newcomers may view the following YouTube clips:
Welcome New Students Welcome First-Timers
All dharma talks and technique instruction sessions are recorded by VSI for archives or future sales, but will be sent to all retreat participants as a bonus after each retreat. You are most welcome to bring your own recorder as well to place near Shinzen to capture any session. If it is necessary for you to use a microphone, please be sure it is a stand-alone one, as Shinzen will already have two microphones clipped to him.
Arrival & Departure
Please give yourself time to check in, sign up for volunteer tasks, and to settle in. Meals are NOT provided on the arrival day if the retreat begins in the evening, but tea/coffee and light snacks will be available. Meals are provided if the retreat begins in the morning. If you are arriving late (current students ONLY), please let us know in advance. Early arrival the night before may be available for an additional cost. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about availability. No discounts are given for arriving a day or so late or leaving a day or so early (and ONLY for current students).
See Daily Schedule for details.
As a support in providing a safe environment, and also as an exploration of our relationship to life, we agree to five traditional guidelines (Five-Fold Sila), or precepts, for the period of the retreat:
1. I undertake to refrain from causing harm to living beings.
2. I undertake to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. I undertake to refrain from telling lies or harmful speech.
4. I undertake to refrain from sexual misconduct (in the context of the retreat, this implies no sexual activity).
5. I undertake to refrain from using intoxicating substances.
In the spirit of Dana (generosity), VSI offers financial assistance to people unable to attend retreats due to limited financial resources. Student assistance is for a portion of the fees only, not the entire retreat, and is granted for double occupancy only. Financial aid up to $300 may be offered. When registering, you are required to pay a deposit (usually half the total fee) when you select the Student Assistance choice on the registration form. Further information is also collected on the form so we can help you. After registering, VSI will contact you to discuss the financial aid you require and available options to pay your balance (i.e. via posted checks, credit card payments) over a 3 month period.. In order to help as many people as possible, we ask that only those who would not be able to attend without a scholarship apply.
We encourage financial aid recipients to volunteer service during the retreat. Tasks may include staffing the registration desk, helping with set-up and clean-up. As one’s financial situation changes over time, we encourage donating back to the program so it can be a revolving fund available for others.
We offer no more than one scholarship per person per year. In addition, we give first consideration to persons who have not received a scholarship in the past 18 months.
It is extremely important that we maintain good personal hygiene during a retreat to help minimize the passing of germs that are inevitable during colds, coughing, and/or sneezing. We can’t always control normal coughing or sneezing, but as a precaution, you are expected to use a barrier other than your hands if this happens. This means using your shawl or blanket to cover your face should you need to cough or sneeze.
All participants are asked to wash their hands frequently with soap and water during a retreat out of respect to others. As an added precaution, hand sanitizer will be placed throughout the center and is especially to be used before going through the meal lines. If you feel unwell during the retreat (i.e., develop a cold or flu), it is better for you to isolate yourself from others for a while, rather than join sessions in the zendo or group process. If you arrive with a cough or develop a cough while on retreat, please ask the retreat manager for a face mask to wear in the zendo or, if you prefer, do sitting in your room for a few days to lessen the spreading of germs. Throat lozenges will be available in a basket outside the zendo.
Please also read Noble Silence